Foodopoly reading and signing with Wenonah Hauter

Author and activist Wenonah Hauter visited New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville on February 13 for a discussion and signing of her new book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America. Ms. Hauter, the executive director of Food and Water Watch, comes from a farming family, and is a long-time strategist and organizer for sustainable energy and food production.

Foodopoly reveals the behind-the-scenes lobbying, politics, and corporate power directing our food systems, and argues that consumers and farmers alone cannot fix the problem; a fundamental shift in food politics is required, as well. From the Foodopoly site:

In Foodopoly, she takes aim at the real culprit: the control of food production by a handful of large corporations—backed by political clout—that prevents farmers from raising healthy crops and limits the choices that people can make in the grocery store.

This talk was also timely for me, as I just got an overview of US food and farm policy from my Intro to the US Food System course. Read my notes here.

Wenonah Hauter signing copies of Foodopoly

Wenonah Hauter signing copies of Foodopoly

What I learned from Wenonah Hauter

The Past:

  • The Reagan administration changed antitrust laws, made it easier for monopolies to form
  • In 1996 US joined WTO and NAFTA; those partnerships lead to pressure to deregulate farm policy
  • The 1996 farm bill led to drop in corn and soy prices, saving the big food producers billions
  • ’98 price collapse
    • Congress began subsidies for commodity crops to support farmers
    • Half of small/medium farmer income is from subsidies, so if we get rid of them, we need to fix antitrust policies that keep prices low
  • Subsidies are a symptom of a dysfunctional system, not a cause of it

The Present:

  • About 20 food production companies control most of the grocery store brands
  • They need cheap ingredients, so lobby strongly for reducing and maintaining the low price of inputs
  • Big 4 groceries: Wal-Mart, Costco, Kroger, Target
  • 1/3 of our grocery money goes to Wal-Mart. They may be making an effort to work with smaller, local producers, but logistically, it’s difficult for any suppliers but the very large ones to work them
  • United Natural Foods, Inc is largest US distributor of organic foods
    • Since corp went public, it has focused mostly on Whole Foods and no longer delivers to small buying clubs and co-ops
    • Possibly colluding w/ Whole Foods to drive consumers there?
  • We need to vote with our forks, but also with our votes: keep elected officials accountable

The Future:

  • Need to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement
    • US would “harmonize” laws with other (less-regulated) countries, like the EU did when the US and the EU made trade agreement, and the EU’s laws were weakened to harmonize w/ the US’s
  • Tyson and Perdue are trying to change the rules: to raise poultry in Asia, and increase speed of slaughter to 200 birds/min
  • Can’t fix food system without fixing our democracy
  • Need to undo Citizens United (Read more about that here: Overturning Citizens United)
  • Need to be citizens, not consumers
foodopoly-local-food-hub

Local Food Hub supplied local apples from Crown Orchard to thank guests for coming

Ms. Hauter was an excellent speaker (even with laryngitis); passionate, knowledgeable, and fluent in the topics discussed. If she comes to your area, I highly recommend you see her. I look forward to reading Foodopoly, and will surely post lessons learned from it on this blog.

For more information, visit the sites below:

Food and Water Watch

Food and Water Watch’s page about Foodopoly

Foodopoly site

Buy the book (or better, go to your local bookstore and buy it):

Book Review: “Depletion and Abundance” by Sharon Astyk

Guest post from Buzzy! Thanks, Buzzy!

For HP readers who loved Omnivore’s Dilemma, get ready to take your enlightenment to the next level!  I just finished reading “Depletion and Abundance” by Sharon Astyk, and not since Omnivore’s has my worldview shifted so dramatically.

Astyk starts with the forces of Peak Oil and Climate Change, and clearly explains why we are heading for a drastically different low-energy lifestyle.  She delves into many associated topics, like over-population, water shortages, food insecurity, unemployment, etc.  But, this is NOT a Doom And Gloom book, far from it.

post apocalypse

She asks three fundamental questions:

  • What is your fair share of the world’s resources?
  • What can you do now to help postpone the “long emergency”?
  • What can you do now to plan for your family’s success during the “long emergency”?

From there she paints a colorful picture of what low-energy lives can look like.  Why we need to go back to the concept of Victory Gardens, and why we need to go forward towards a more considered and fair use of resources.

victory gardeners

It’s hard to do justice to all the eye-opening ideas she introduces over a huge range of topics, so I will just close and urge you to go read it.  Now.  Seriously, nothing you have planned for today is as important as getting a copy of this book.  My plan for today? Starting seeds.

Special thanks to my cousin T (who championed local food at least 15 years before the rest of us caught on!) for the book recommendation!

BUY THE BOOK:

Rainy day movie: Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. is a chilling documentary full of disturbing facts about the huge corporations that run the American food system.

Hooray for local hero Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, a featured “good guy” farmer.

Quotes from the movie:

When we run an item past the supermarket scanner, we’re voting: for local not organic or not.

You can vote to change this system. Three times a day.

Buy from companies that treat workers, animals, and the environment with respect.

When you go to the supermarket, choose foods that are in season. Buy foods that are organic. Know what’s in your food. Read labels. Know what you buy.

The average meal travels 1500 miles from the farm to the supermarket. Buy foods that are grown locally. Shop at farmers’ markets. Plant a garden (even a small one).

Everyone has a right to healthy food. Make sure your farmers’ market takes food stamps. Ask your school board to provide healthy school lunches. The FDA and USDA are supposed to protect you and your family. Tell Congress to enforce food safety standards and re-introduce Kevin’s Law.

To learn more, go to http://www.takepart.com/foodinc

 

American Meat movie!

A movie about Polyface Farms and Joel Salatin! With Temple Grandin!

http://www.americanmeatfilm.com/ (We especially enjoyed the pictures of the animals. Not your average farm life!)

American Meat explores the complexities embedded in the highly debated practices of the American meat industry. As the economy drives a contraction of conventional chicken, pork and beef operations, we hear the innovative methods of the charismatic, Virginia-based farmer, Joel Salatin. Joel, who is a leader of the growing niche of people who are opting for animals raised outside and without the use of antibiotics, believes that if more people become sustainable farmers, the movement could fracture centralized commodity production. Conventional farmers argue that small-scale farming can’t expand production enough to adequately meet the demands of the nation. As the dialogue ensues, Salatin signs a deal with fast-food chain Chipotle in a surprising move, with widespread implications for the industry.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knNLZvphhfs&feature=player_embedded

“Know your farmer and just completely opt out of the system.”

Makes me want to give up my “Dilbert-cubicle job.”

More info:

http://www.indiegogo.com/American-Meat

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1482980/

https://www.facebook.com/AmericanMeat