Monday, January 5, 2009

Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson's op-ed on farm policy

The piece in today's New York Times is also (mostly by implication) about rural policy.

Berry and Jackson call for a 50-year farm bill, suggesting that this will help de-politicize farm policy. They specifically argue that federal agricultural policy should be "based upon ecological principles." .

Their focus is on soil degradation and what we can--indeed, must--do about it. They argue that, like oil, soil is non renewable, and we must have a policy that leads or compels those who produce our food to be better stewards of the land.

Sometimes explicitly but always by implication, Berry and Jackson are criticizing agri-business. As such, they are also implicitly promoting small farms, which often equates with support for rural communities. Here are the two sentences in which they use the word "rural."
  • We must restore ecological health to our agricultural landscapes, as well as economic and cultural stability to our rural communities.
  • We need a 50-year farm bill that addresses forthrightly the problems of soil loss and degradation, toxic pollution, fossil-fuel dependency and the destruction of rural communities.

The well-being of rural America is also implicitly at stake where they argue that industrial agriculture has "largely destroyed cultures of husbandry" associated with "family farms and farming neighborhoods."

This piece serves as another reminder that for those concerned about salvaging rural communities, an important strategy is likely to be the link between rurality and sustainable agriculture. The former goal has not attracted much political attention, while the latter goal increasingly is.

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