Politics, not producers, steering agriculture

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Editor:

If a group of Americans who share a common vision cannot come together to use the democratic process, as pork farmers did, because it doesn’t fit the needs of a government agency or powerful lobbyists, our system of representative government is on shaky ground.

Agriculture is no longer a profession of farmers. It is a government institution fraught with bureaucrats, lobbyists and all the mud and muck of politics.

Many decisions regarding our food supply are now based on who has the most money and whose re-election is at stake.

We in Ohio have an example of what happens when industrialists rather than farmers call the shots. We should not, we must not, confuse Buckeye Egg with real farmers who are struggling to balance the demands of their profession and the demands of good stewardship (“Living in the Shadow of Buckeye Egg,” Farm and Dairy, March 15).

Buckeye Egg is a factory that was welcomed into our state by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and tax-supported agriculture bureaucrats. This operation was opposed by those who believe farming and the production of our food does not require the destruction of our natural resources and the creation of a plague on rural communities.

We are all victims of the agricultural policies of our government, both state and federal, that continue to promote companies such as Buckeye Egg.

On the same page as Farm and Dairy’s commentary about Buckeye Egg and the real estate agent unable to sell properties near this factory, there is a piece by Alan Guebert that touches on the subject of factory hog farms. His commentary on the USDA illustrates how farmers are no longer masters of their own domain.

Sadly, however, real farmers and honest stewards are treated as though they, too, are operating like Buckeye Egg.

The farm organizations, agencies and agricultural journalists who have defended agriculture policies of the last few years have taken farmers down a slippery slope. Now the farmer whose cleaning of the heifer barn perfumes the spring air is viewed in the same light as the factory hog farm or a disaster like Buckeye Egg.

Those who have challenged factory farming have, for the most part, been nonfarmers. Leading the fight have been people concerned with environmental issues, food safety, treatment of animals, protection of local producers and those who want to buy food through local distribution systems. Often these advocates were criticized by folks in the agriculture community as outsiders who just didn’t understand the issues. Isn’t it time that we admit the opposition was correct?

Real farmers, the honest stewards of the land, might consider coming to the table with those who care about the food supply, oppose government-controlled farming, want to limit the tax resources of state agencies and still believe that good, safe, wholesome food is best produced by real farmers not factories.

And given the opportunity, many consumers would be willing to place more of their disposable income on the retail counter if they could get the kind of food they want delivered through a system they could respect.

When real farmers sit down with the environmentalists and supporters of local products, they might discover they are sitting with those who respect them and those who want to preserve an agriculture that respects people, products, natural resources and rural communities.

Parker Bosley

Cleveland, Ohio

(The author is chef-owner of Parker’s Restaurant.)

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