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Food Writers Who Forget Rural America

Submitted by Food Democracy Now on January 7, 2013 - 3:12pm

Larry Mayer/Billings Gazette Ressa Charter is a Montana rancher who wants many of the things that New York Times columnist Mark Bittman writes about. The difference is that Charter knows the power of the markets in ag and how they affect farmers and rural communities. Bittman doesn't.

New York Times columnist Mark Bittman continues to write about food as if farmers and rural communities didn’t exist. 

Bittman’s column Wednesday was about “fixing our food problem.” Bittman finds quite a bit that needs attention. He writes that what we grow and how we grow it has “been a major contributor to climate change, spawned the obesity crisis, poisoned countless volumes of land and water, wasted energy, tortured billions of animals… I could go on.”

What the nation must do, Bittman commands, is to “figure out a way to uninvent this food system.”

Great! Maybe Bittman has something in mind for farmers and rural America. 

Well, you can read for yourself. The column is here. But you can take our word for it, there’s much more in this column about what should be done to improve the lives of farm animals than of the men and women who raise them.

What’s entirely missing from Bittman’s column — and what’s missing from almost all “foodie” writing — is any acknowledgement that the food industry has been rapidly consolidating, leaving farmers and communities powerless in an industrial system that is controlled by a handful of firms, from seed to grocery aisle. 

(We’ve made this complaint before. See Richard Oswald’s response here after Bittman wrote that changing the way a farm worked would be “simple.”) 

We remind Yonder readers that four years ago the Departments of Justice and Agriculture began an investigation of anti-trust in agriculture. The Obama administration held hearings on seed monopoly, meat monopoly and monopoly in the grocery business. Officials collected evidence from farmers and ag workers that their incomes and their lives were constricted by markets that were considerably less than free.

Then, nothing. The Obama administration took no action. All this happened without a peep from the New York Times or Bittman.

You can read a very good story on this entire debacle written by Tom Lutey of the Billings Gazette. It ran the same day as Bittman’s column. Lutey writes:

Straight to the source: The Daily Yonder.

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