Last week, I attended the American Farm Bureau (AFB) National Conference which was held in Seattle. The AFB hasn’t held its national conference in Seattle since the 1950s. Normally I wouldn’t head off to an AFB convention, but it was so close to home that I decided to go. It didn’t hurt either that the local agricultural bank I work with asked me to come and be a judge at one of the AFB contests.
I served as a judge for the Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet. Essentially, these are the future leaders of American Agriculture and they are competing in a mock policy meeting. The goal is for the participants to demonstrate their abilities to communicate and build consensus around a certain question that is asked of the group. Each group is made up of four to five participants. This is a big deal and the winner has had to win their state competition and then has to compete with the best from every other state at the national convention. The winner takes home a brand new Dodge 4×4 pick up. Needless to say, there were some motivated participants.
The question my group was asked to debate was (paraphrased): We know that the American food supply is the safest in the world, but how do we get that message out to the public?
This was a pretty loaded question and the participants (three men and one woman) discussed it for about 40 minutes. Afterwards, I was ushered off to a “secret” room to tally my scores and turn in my evaluations.
Sadly, I do not necessarily agree with the presupposition that America’s food supply is the safest in the world. I certainly do not believe that our system produces the healthiest food in the world. Our entire focus as a nation has been to direct national farm policy towards cheap grain and, consequently, cheap and empty calories. And because of this national policy we have created an industrial farm model that doesn’t value quality, nutrition or variety, but values quantity and control of our food supply. And I, personally, believe that this focus has weakened the safety of our food supply and the quality of our food supply to the point that it drastically impacts our educational systems and health care industries in America.
I would contend that if American farmers were producing healthy food we wouldn’t have a national healthcare crisis and we would not have children “bouncing off the walls” from being fed a high sugar and overly processed food diet.
Thankfully, the organic farmer has stood up and said, “We are going to grow food that is filled with health and nutrition!” It is not easy to farm organically, it takes more labor and applying minerals and compost to our fields cost more money. But, if we are going to have a healthy food supply, the soil has to have the nutrients available to grow and raise the healthiest fruits and vegetables Americans and everyone else in this world deserve to eat.