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Why do I read this stuff?

I'm reading Gary Holthaus' (mostly) excellent From the Farm to the Table: What All Americans Need to Know About Agriculture and find myself burning with anger at stuff I already kinda sorta knew.  "Studies show that each year of rising agricultural exports has shown a corresponding net decline in U.S and Canadian farm prosperity" and "The traders and the corporations make more from it [farming] than the farmer does" (128-29).

That, of course, is only the beginning, he goes in to treatment of migrant workers, GMOs, and the joke that is NAFTA, WTO, and other puppet master organizations.  "Of all the grain that goes down the Mississippi on barges from the Midwest, only a tiny fraction goes to least developed countries, where hunger is the greatest...These grains are shipped to those who can best afford them, not to those most in need" (158).

"What can a layperson make of all this?  At least this: as farmers or consumers, we have to take with a grain of salt any claims that certain products will feed the world, or save the family farm, or increase production to to undreamed-of levels, thus increasing farmers' profits.  Skepticism should be the order of the day" (162).

"Nature always bats last" (180.

What, then, can states do when industry or commerce [or a sports team--SFM] says, "We need to have some tax concessions made or land donated or roads built for us, or we'll go elsewhere"?  Since such requests are the first sign that this industry will never be a responsible, contributing member of the community, sensible states and communities respond by saying, "We cannot do that.  However, what we will do is require an infrastructure tax so we can recover the expenses we will incur for the added costs required of our schools, our water and sewage infrastructure, our social workers, and our loss of social capital."  They might even add, "If you cannot afford to be a contributing citizen, we can't afford to have you in business."  If such an industry goes elsewhere, the community can heave a big sigh of relief and keep its tax savings in the bank or spend them on more worthwhile projects.  We should remind our Chamber of Commerce development committee that the purpose of economic development is not to create jobs but to create prosperity--for the community, not for an industry or two whose corporate profits go elsewhere (188).
I doubt there's one politician in Michigan with the backbone to say such a thing.  We certainly haven't said it to Hollywood--"Look, honey, we gots see-leb-ritties in town!"  There's more to this book--I'm on the chapter about NAFTA, WTO, CAFTA, and others and (confirmation bias). . . oooh, I'm feelin' apoplectic.  I'll write more when I finish.


Scot said…
Well, I finished it some time ago, but I'm not going to give any lengthy review. It is a worthwhile book for anyone who might be even marginally interested in what goes on in the ag world.

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