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Stand Up For Agriculture

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Stand Up For Agriculture

Today is National Ag Day in the United States. The pinnacle of National Ag Week. The yearly opportunity to “build awareness for–and appreciation of–the role of agriculture in our everyday lives,” as the Agriculture Council of America (ACA) that has been organizing the event since 1973 puts it.

Why should we care? Because “eating is an agricultural act,” according to the famous quote by American author and organic farmer Wendell Berry. And we’re all eaters.

ACA has a point. Awareness for agriculture is sorely needed. Too few of us care about where our food comes from. We take its abundance for granted and our interest usually stops at our need for sustenance being met. Too few of us even care about what’s in our food. That’s the reason Ag Day/Week is a much welcome opportunity to cast a bright light on farming for all the public to see.

What kind of farming is being celebrated today, though? That’s where the story takes a bitter twist. Suffice to say that the ACA board of directors, and the list of the sponsors of the event, read like a Who’s Who of the industrial food system. The same one that brings us about 30 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions, hormone- and antibiotic-fed beef, genetically-modified corn and soybeans, processed food devoid of nutrients, toxic contamination of our watersheds, soil erosion, slavery in the fields, salmonella-tainted eggs, deforestation, destruction of agricultural biodiversity and traditional farming practices in the name of the global free market, speculative trading on commodity prices, etc., etc..

Needless to say, National Ag Day/Week is not used as the opportunity to educate the public about any of these vexing issues.

The good news is, there is another kind of agriculture and food system to reckon with. The one that provides us with carbon sequestration in the soil, enhances the microlife that plants feed off, nurtures biodiversity and ecosystems, upholds symbiotic relationships between plants and animals, conserves water, upholds traditional practices, sustains communities and local economies, and, lest we forget, offers us nutritious and tasty food. Such a system is actually the one that has been recommended by the panel of over 400 scientists that developed the IAASTD report (International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development) over four years of a worldwide collaborative project funded by the World Bank. The warning was clear: “business as usual [editor's note: read "industrial farming"] is not an option” if agriculture is to “reduce hunger and poverty, improve rural livelihoods, and facilitate equitable environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable development.” The report was ratified in 2008 by 59 countries (the U.S., Canada and Australia abstained despite being involved in the project). Yet its public policy recommendations have gone vastly unheeded by these governments since.

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Laetitia Mailhes

Laetitia Mailhes is a French-born journalist. After many years as the technology and innovation correspondent of the French "Financial Times" in San Francisco, she decided to focus on what truly matters to her: sustainable food and farming. Find more articles and videos on her blog, The Green Plate Blog.

58 comments

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6:42AM PDT on Jun 5, 2011

thanks

7:11PM PDT on May 7, 2011

Especially small-scale farming, ORGANIC & BIODYNAMIC!!!

8:09AM PDT on Mar 19, 2011

My contribution to this movement is to grow my own - I've had such success with my tomatoes (I call it my tomato forest) that I'm inspired to try growing more! I also buy organic when I can, so I vote with my money.

2:07PM PDT on Mar 18, 2011

good to know

1:19PM PDT on Mar 18, 2011

We need to stop treating farmers like the little man and more like the main man.

8:58PM PDT on Mar 17, 2011

so would this be the GMO Monsanto factory farm slaughterhouse federal subsidies manure runoff pesticides branch of agriculture or the produce grower selling organic veggies at market?

12:30PM PDT on Mar 17, 2011

More than ever do we need to encourage and support farms.
Growing food will become more necessary than ever.

11:44AM PDT on Mar 17, 2011

Corporate Ag. Food is unsafe to eat. Persistent pesticides, The Genetically modified seeds this is making childern and their families very sick and its a growing health problem in this country, I could'nt sleep at night if I know that the food I was growing and selling to millions of families in the USA with this kind of dangerous Ag. People could not be manipulated this way.

6:07AM PDT on Mar 17, 2011

We can all plant a container tomato/pepper/basil, etc plant this summer - nothing more organic and locally grown than that!

10:54PM PDT on Mar 16, 2011

Thanks Laetitia.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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