Time Critiques Nation’s Food System

On the heels of “Food Inc.” comes “America's Food Crisis and How to Fix It," an article that appeared in Time magazine Aug. 2. The commentary is journalist Bryan Walsh’s take on the good, the bad and the ugly – scratch that, just the bad and the ugly – that is our country’s food supply.

Walsh describes the mechanics of the current U.S. agricultural industry as taking an unforgiving toll to the environment, animals and humans. He cites government subsidies, concentrated animal conditions, fertilizer/chemical treatments, antibiotic use and equipment output as contributing factors.

U.S. Food Policy blog posted about the article writing, “The report by Bryan Walsh is strongly worded, and the choice of sources for commentary seems daring.” Blog followers had mixed reviews.

One blogger wrote, “The Time magazine article is very far from objective journalism. It's an opinion piece, not credible reporting. It's rare to see such a one-sided article in a national medium. The article should be an embarrassment to Time.”

While another announced, “While I consider this article as ‘preaching to the choir’ as far as I am concerned, it's nice to see the mainstream media pick up on the food crisis in America. The way this article is presented, it spreads the tenements of the locavore movement without being too wonky or standoffish.”

To underscore the heightened interest of the subject even more, Twitter hosted a discussion session regarding the article Aug. 25. using its AgChat (#agchat) feature.

While Walsh does an excellent job lamenting about America’s “industrial style of food production,” he neglects to present both sides of the argument by citing the reasoning and advantages of our society’s food methodology.

The efficiency of the U.S. food system cannot be denied. Farmers today are producing more food on less land while 98 percent of farms are still family based, contradicting what most cynics try to make the public believe. The average farmer now feeds 129 Americans, compared with 19 people in 1940, according to Walsh’s article.

Responsible farming is thriving throughout the country. American Farmland Trust (AFT) is one of many nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting our nation's strategic agricultural resources by promoting conservation farming techniques and policies.

Walsh says demand for meat and poultry worldwide is set to rise 25 percent by 2015, while at the same time admitting that sustainable food is pricier than conventional food.

How are producers supposed to meet this demand in a manner that is both economical and effective with organic farming alone? It is simply not feasible.

Our country’s food formula is deserving of more respect than it has been given as of late. Most American farmers are at work daily providing an abundant, affordable food supply while actively engaging in sustainable agriculture practices.

The Hand That Feeds U.S. is an educational resource for urban media about the importance of U.S. agriculture to the security and future of our country. The project provides information relevant to our nation's farming industry, while also seeking to combat the current misinformation-campaigns about food prices and renewable fuels.

Located at its Web site is a series of unpublished letters to the editor from ag-industry members, refuting farming misconceptions that have appeared in recent noteworthy publications. We would encourage farmers to have their voices heard by also writing letters to the editor. The letters posted at the link above serve as a perfect template to help you get started.

Will hyper attention to our nation’s food system result in any industry changes? Should the federal government publicly declare its opinion? What can farmers do to educate consumers and the media?

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