As I watch our government blunder, giving away billions of dollars to banks, special interest groups and foreign governments and arguing over health care reform, it occurred to me that agriculture has totally lost its voice over the last 18 months.
I understand we have two wars going on and a recession, but why isnt there more focus being put on industries that are healthy and can expand and grow? The first one that comes to mind is agriculture, because it could solve many of the problems facing America for a lot less than investing stimulus dollars in government projects.
Agriculture also has a trade surplus. In 2009, the United States exported $96.6 billion in ag products and imported $73 billion, giving the U.S. a positive trade balance of $23 billion. Wouldnt expanding trade programs and making a real fair trade agreement for American agriculture make sense?
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If theres anybody out there who can take a farmer, a politician, a regulator, a corporate CEO and an environmentalist, sit them down on hay bales and get them to share their viewpoints, its probably Farmer John.
Hed be the ideal choice because hes got a foot in all of those worlds. Hes been farming for about four decades, hes the mayor of Half Moon Bay, Calif., hes chairman of the regional water quality control board, he hosts corporate outings on his farm and hes 27 miles south of San Francisco, home of some rather vociferous environmentalists.
His real name is John Muller, but he refers to himself as Farmer John. He even ran for election as Farmer John. Its a role he plays to the hilt, sometimes driving his John Deere to city hall three blocks from the farm.
But its not just for show. He
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Bob Jones hoped that this food safety thing would have been cleared up by now, but its more confusing than ever.
Produce growers today have to live up to a multiplicity of standards to keep consumers from getting sick or no standards at all, depending on who their buyers are. Industry groups are pushing food safety plans. Several bills are moving through Congress. FDA and USDA are developing rules. Even the White House has a food safety group. Everybody involved seems to realize that some sort of national, uniform produce safety standards are on the horizon, but nobody knows exactly when they will arrive or exactly what they will look like.
One thing is certain, however. Every outbreak and health scare whether its in spinach or something else draws more attention to the produce industry and puts more pressure on the federal government
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