The (Real) Important Food Stories of 2010
One of the first things we noticed about The Atlantic’s list of the “10 Biggest Food Stories of 2010” is that there is no mention of either the people or the places that produce food. The only farmer (and only farm) the magazine mentions is First Lady Michelle Obama and her White House garden.
When it comes to “food policy,” according to The Atlantic, rural America doesn’t exist.
Instead, we see that the first story on the magazine’s list is “The Meat Trend.” Atlantic associate editor Daniel Fromson tells us there is a sudden “foodie passion for cured meats, braised veal cheeks, jammy bone marrow, and do-it-yourself butchering.” There is apparently a famous DIY butcher in Brooklyn.
In much of Yonder, butchering and curing meat isn’t so much a trend as what you do in the fall. Which got us wondering whether what The Atlantic considered the 10 biggest food stories were anything like what we’ve covered here at The Daily Yonder.
It’s probably not too much of a surprise that there is little overlap between The Atlantic's list and The Yonder. The Atlantic’s list of important stories includes “foraging,” for example. The story here is that there are now people roaming the countryside looking for mushrooms, ramps and even “weirder stuff.” (Weirder than a mushroom?) Also on the list are stories about reform of school lunch menus, the First Lady’s interest in food (and fat Americans) and the appearance of food trucks cluttering empty lots in every city.
White House photo by Samantha Appleton The list is heavy on New York City. Included among the ten most important stories about “food policy,” for example, is the fact that New York has six new upscale Italian restaurants.
We would agree with a few of Fromson’s picks. The egg recall was a big deal, as is the continuing saga of the food safety bill. The Atlantic included the long-running battle over genetically modified food on its list. That’s an important story about food policy.
In other words, we’d put three out of The Atlantic’s ten food policy stories on our list.
So, what stories are missing? Rural America, is the short answer. The magazine's list is void of just about everything having to do with life, commerce, power and politics outside the largest urban areas..
We’d like to hear from Yonder readers about what they consider the most important food policy stories of 2010, but here are some stories that are on our list:
In June, the federal Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) issued a set of proposed regulations that would remake the relationship between livestock raisers and meat packers. The new rules would give livestock raisers and rural communities new powers to confront a packing industry that is becoming increasingly concentrated.
Over 2,000 livestock raisers came to Fort Collins, Colorado, this summer largely to support the proposed rule. One cattle raisers’ group said the meeting to support the rules was “the most important day in the history of the U.S. cattle industry and in rural America.”
The rules have met heavy opposition from some members of congress and from the big ag groups. The regulations are still pending.
The GIPSA rules have received almost no attention from “foodie” groups — or coverage from publications such as The Atlantic.
• Peak Phosphorus
The world’s food supply depends on a mineral that is declining in production and is controlled by a cartel of companies and countries.
The decline in the production of phosphorus — not to mention the monopolization of this resource — is on our list of most important food policy stories.
• Food Monopolies
The Departments of Justice and Agriculture have been holding hearings all year on increasing concentration in the food business. There was a session yesterday in Washington, D.C., examining the increasing concentration of retail grocers.
The DOJ has said it may file antitrust actions in various sectors of the food business.
One of the areas where the DOJ may take antitrust action is with the seed business, where the Monsanto Company has control of most of the corn, soybean and cotton planted in the country. Farmers have been agitating for years against the virtual monopoly Monsanto has in these markets. Now the government is interested.
Meanwhile, this year there has been a pushback against Monsanto’s claims that its new corn seed produces higher yields. Farmers are finding that the new seed has no better yields than earlier models and the West Virginia attorney general is investigating whether Monsanto made false claims about its seed.
One of the most interesting business stories of the year has been the collapse of Monsanto’s stock price in the midst of this controversy.
• Dairy Implosion
The dairy business has been collapsing. Farmers are selling their herds. As small dairies go out of business, they are being replaced by mega-farms.
• Land Prices
As corn prices have jumped higher, so have rural land prices. Iowa farmland sold a few weeks ago for $13,000 an acre — and there is talk of a new land price bubble.
• Rural Grocery Crisis
Small town groceries are disappearing.
• BP and Gulf Coast Fishing
The BP oil spill disrupted ways of life and commerce that have existed on the Gulf Coast for generations. Shrimpers and oystermen are still struggling to find the product and markets they lost in 2010.
• HSUS Wars
The Humane Society of the U.S. is attempting to rewrite laws governing livestock state by state through ballot initiatives. State legislators are particularly concerned with how the HSUS might alter the way food is produced in their states.
• Grain and Grain Elevator Speculation
As a way to profit off the rise in commodity prices, Wall Street has been buying and building grain elevators in the Midwest. The result is a growing concentration of ownership of these local resources.
Okay, those are a few on the Yonder’s list of most important food policy stories. As you can see, not a one of these stories begins in Brooklyn.