- Paperback: 212 pages
- Publisher: Watershed Media (February 21, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0970950071
- ISBN-13: 978-0970950079
- Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #587,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Food Fight: The Citizen's Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill Paperback – February 21, 2012
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This [is a] new edition of Imhoff's lucid explanation of the farm bill and the [many] issues it covers. I'm not aware of anything else that comes close to explaining this most obscure and obfuscated piece of legislation. I will use this book in my NYU classes and borrow the stunning illustrations for talks. - Marion Nestle, Food Politics blog.
"Daniel Imhoff's 'Food Fight' provides a better explanation of the Farm Bill, which Congress is currently fussing with, than anyone else." -- Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University
"The single best guide to the upcoming Farm Bill fight." -- Michael Pollan
"For the price of a few hours of reading and making marginal notes ... this book can be turned into a potent weapon of enlightenment. This is citizen's education at its finest." -- Chris Walters, ACRES USA
About the Author
For the past twenty-five years, Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the built environment.
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Another point about subsidies is that they block change. The giant subsidized interests can get research steered to their wants. They also block new initiatives, and of course they can outcompete any new or different farming, because the playing field is so far from level. We are thus locked into an increasingly dinosauric rural economy, with a few giant producers committed to an agricultural style that is less and less sustainable.
Oil is also heavily subsidized, and the combination of subsidized oil and subsidized commodities make food cheap in the short run--but in the medium term (let alone the long term) there will be trouble. Oil is already moving up in price, though "peak oil" is not yet. When that peak comes, oil prices will rapidly increase, and farming will have to change quite dramatically.
The environment also suffers. Conservation funding, already ridiculously small in the US, is routinely cut by Congress from funds allocated in farm bills. This is not just a matter of charismatic fauna; we are talking about the basics--soil, water, plant cover, and protection of prime farmland from urban sprawl. At the rates of urbanization that prevailed before the 2008 crash, California would have lost its last farm around 2050. As the book points out, simple national security should make us stop this.
Democrats who love government spending and Republicans who love even the worst big businesses have long agreed on funding this depressing farm economy, and only the more sincere of the libertarians (i.e., those who are not just Republicans who do dope but love subsidies) have really critiqued the farm bills. Imhoff does not tip us off about his politics; his excellent collection of proposed solutions include some libertarian ones and some more governmental ones.
This is one issue that could very well bring down the United States. Yet it remains obscure. Everyone needs to read this book.
The author gives a history and critique of each component of the Farm Bill. He is especially critical of how the allocations (and budget cuts) directed at farmers have shaped the agricultural landscape, creating perverse incentives to consolidate (subsiding agribusiness oligopolies) and to abuse the land. (The author doesn't quite say it, but nothing seems to cut the funding for conservation programs faster than their demonstrated effectiveness.)
This book does an excellent job of making comprehensible an opaque subject matter, and as such will be a useful reference (probably even after the passage of the next Farm Bill passes). If someone wanted to be critical, there are several areas that could be pointed out. First, as a revision of a book written for the 2008, it suffers from the same problem that often afflicts second editions, namely you're never sure how much they're actually updated. Judging from the data, it looks like this book has been substantially overhauled, far more than is usual for books. There is, however, one sentence that implies 2009 is in the future, and that's jarring.
The second issue is one that is inherent in the subject matter. The Farm Bill is so sprawling, so far reaching, so connected to global events and influenced by tens of millions of agribusiness lobbyist dollars, it's hard to see how the average person the street can have an impact. Toward the end of the book, there are some suggestions, like getting your city to adopt something like the Seattle Farm Bill principles, but the sheer magnitude of the bill seems to dwarf the proposed actions. Likewise, becoming engaged on this is something like a full-time job, making it hard for ordinary people to stay active. As a result, some readers will likely not be so much angered and inspired (as intended) but daunted and paralyzed.