Industrial Agriculture: Food Revolution Or Farmland Welfare

2933 words - 12 pages

Industrial Agriculture: Food Revolution or Farmland Welfare
Delton Quarles
DeVry University

Industrial Agriculture: Food Revolution or Farmland Welfare
Modern grocery shopping has become a pick and prod, mix and match free for all. Americans constantly find themselves attempting to diversify their palates, always looking for new foods or recipes to try, but where does all this food come from? In the documentary King Corn, former U.S. Agricultural Secretary Earl Butz states that the average American family only spends about 15% of their annual income on food (2007). Mr. Butz calls this low expenditure on food one of America’s best kept secrets, but what is the real cost of this ...view middle of the document...

Ironically Fritz Haber, the German scientist who made this revolution possible, never intended to change the world through food cultivation, but intended to make more efficient poisons and bombs for World War I through the artificial enrichment of nitrogen. From his professional need to make weapons of destruction, Haber stumbled upon a revolutionary way to make soil reusable year after year more quickly than could ever be achieved naturally; for this discovery Haber was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1920. (Pollan, 2006).
In 1973 Earl Butz deregulated the industrial corn market on behalf of the Nixon administration. This deregulation was the catalyst for how Americans relate to food and the relatively low cost that it can purchased for to this very day. Butz basically overhauled the entire agricultural industry in one fell swoop, making economics and political posturing the driving force behind industrial agriculture, instead of the need to feed the population safely or healthily. Instead of growing only enough food to feed the U.S. population, farms were producing more corn than Americans could consume on their own; this led to the exportation of grain to foreign countries, which became a substantial portion of U.S. agricultural economics (Windham, 2007). Butz told farmers two things, he wanted corn planted “fencerow to fencerow” and “to get big or get out.” In many cases these new policies all but destroyed the small mom and pop farm operations of the time (Pollan, 2006, pg.52).
Industrial corn is what makes inexpensive food possible in the United States. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan breaks down how economics is the driving force in all industry and the food industry is no different; with the help of George Naylor, a corn farmer in Iowa, Pollan picks up the basics of planting, harvesting, and selling corn on the open market (2006). Pollan details in his book that the corn he has been planting is not the everyday corn on the cob you find at your dinner table, but it is a lower grade of cheaply produced corn that is mostly used as feed for livestock. This fact was again verified in King Corn when film maker and amateur corn farmer Aaron Woolf, attempts to eat the corn he has grown in a field and finds that it is totally unfit for human consumption (2007).
Industrial corn has been described as an environmental scourge exasperated by a guaranteed market price in the United States. U.S. agricultural policy encourages the overproduction of grain even in the face of a surplus. This has not only caused health and environmental problems in the U.S., but also economic issues abroad. The exportation of this cheap commodity grain has artificially depressed the global market price for it. Why buy grain from a local small farm when you can import it in bulk for lower cost from U.S. industries, effectively leaving local producers to sell their crops at prices far below production cost value (Eubanks, 2009).
Animal husbandry is another important...

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