If you want to know how screwed up government has become, all you have to do is look at the Farm Bill. It’s totally messed up and creates all kinds of bad economic incentives that make their way into your life in really messed up ways. Only 33% of Americans think the food industry is transparent. The politics around food and the lack of knowledge around it is why.
Marion Nestle is professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University and wrote an article in Politico. She says,
I came away from this experience convinced that agricultural policy in our country is not only hazardous to public health and the environment, but also to American democracy. Democracy requires informed citizens. I suspect that few citizens, let alone members of Congress, have the vaguest idea of what is in this bill and how it works in practice. Even lobbyists and congressional staff are likely to know only the pieces they are paid to understand.
Lots of people are really ticked off at government in the US. They are ticked off at all the choices they currently have for President. You can feel and see their anger. The Farm Bill is one evidentiary exhibit why.
Yesterday I was working down at the University of Illinois. I was speaking to all kinds of students and held some office hours. One theme that I like to invest in is unbundling of big vertical bureaucratic silos. Agriculture/Farming is a massive one and I think we are going to see some amazing things come out of that sector in the next ten years that will change the way people form their relationship with food. U of I has one of the best engineering, and agriculture schools in the nation. You have to think there is potential for some real magic to happen there.
My wife and I cook a lot at home. She makes kombucha, and has done a lot of research on gut bacteria and the foods that you should eat to have a healthy gut. Some of that revolves around eating certain kinds of food, and avoiding others. The research on it is relatively new but shows signs of real progress in combating all kinds of things. Food is a drug, and a weapon in our arsenal to try and stay healthy.
It’s amazing to me how the government infringes on people’s freedom when it comes to growing, processing and choosing to eat different kinds of food. For example, the state of Vermont is coming down hard on this farmer. Where is Senator Bernie Sanders on this? Why is he letting the government of his own state browbeat and bankrupt a small farmer?
The really interesting thing to me is how aggressive the government is when they go after farmers. They confiscate their livestock and take their land. They leave farmers penniless with no choice but to get out of the business. Food that is perfectly okay and has been consumed by people for centuries in Europe is highly illegal in the US. It’s harder to get raw milk than it is heroin.
This is an interesting issue politically. Joel Salatin likes to ask, “Am I a Democrat? Republican? Libertarian? Which one?”. I see people from both sides of the aisle speaking similar, but not exactly the same tunes on this subject. Michael Pollan would like to see a mandated National Food Policy. On the other side, small farmers just want to be left alone and be able to sell what they grow without interference by government. It seems like an issue where we might find some unification.
In Illinois, my wife and I went to a dinner for an organization that supports organic sustainable farming. There are two more dinners coming up that you can go to as well if you want to learn more about it. They are all inside the city limits of Chicago. If you want to support Angelic Organics and not go to the dinners, here is a link.
When we travel all around the country in our car, we stop in all kinds of small towns. We wonder, “What do these people do to make it?” I see debate about basic income and how jobs are going to be destroyed by AI and new technology. Why are we not changing public policy so that people can be creative with farms and innovate? That innovation will create jobs that can harness new technology instead of being fearful about it.
This is an issue that I think will grow politically as people become more aware. Right now, it’s a niche. Soon it could grow into a movement. Then, it will go mainstream. It’s also a place where I think startups are going to have an outsize effect, and we might start to see a lot more civil disobedience like Henry David Thoreau wrote about back in 1849.