Truth is, politicians are just as disconnected from agriculture, just as oblivious to the challenges facing the nation’s food producers as the public at large. We’re all so spoiled by a half century of success in ramping up farm efficiency and producing an affordable, incredibly bountiful food supply that our so-called leaders can’t even rouse themselves to pass an (allegedly) bipartisan farm bill to promote and protect one of the most critical pillars of our national security: The ability to feed ourselves.
We heard endless hours of virulent debate over the negative impact of raising taxes, no matter how minimal or how necessary. But did any of the hundreds of politicians so eagerly grubbing for votes ever bring up the issue of rising food prices? Does anyone think that a spike in the cost of the commodities upon which our food supply depends wouldn’t be ten times worse than forking over a few bucks more to Uncle Sam on April 15?
When one of the most crucial components of our national economy can’t even command a 10-second sound bite, it is shameful, short-sighted and deeply troubling for both animal agriculture and the larger food industry.
As a nation we cannot neglect our investment in agricultural research. We cannot play politics with the need for farm programs. We cannot dismiss the ongoing disappearance of our country’s best farmland to urban sprawl and industrial development. And we certainly can’t pretend that it won’t take a monumental investment of time and taxes to sustain our current agricultural productivity, much less recruit, educate and provide entry opportunities for the next generation of producers and growers.
All of that takes strategic positioning, it requires significant funding and it demands a commitment by everyone involved in food production to move agriculture higher up on the national agenda. Maybe in the end, it will take a crisis like none we’ve ever seen to finally make the politicians finally pay attention.
Let’s hope not.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.