I continue to believe, as I stated here, that:
The preservation of our independence and national security rests in our ability to revitalize family farming. A monopoly by commercial agribusinesses and corporate farms endangers our food to accidental and intentional contamination. Before 1940, only twenty percent of tomatoes were produced in California; today, ninety-five percent are. There is one hamburger plant which grinds fifty million burgers per week by itself. Another salad packaging plant, twenty six million servings of salad pass through its washers. One negligent employee, or worse, a terrorist could endanger millions of Americans. We have recently seen massive outbreaks of E.coli in spinach, salmonella in peppers and peanut butter. A great number of small and medium-sized independent farms are the only assurance of a safe and secure food supply.
My belief has been corroborated this last week by the largest egg recall in US history. According to this Washington Post article,
Just 192 large egg companies own about 95 percent of laying hens in this country, down from 2,500 in 1987, according to United Egg Producers, an industry group. Most of those producers are concentrated in five states: Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and California.
The security of our food supply is in great danger because of this unhealthy consolidation and centralization.
“I don’t think people have any idea when they see all these brand names in the stores that so many are coming from the same place,” said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, a food safety organization. “It raises the stakes — if one company is doing something wrong, it affects a lot of food.”
That magnified effect is illustrated by the current recall: Just two Iowa producers, Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, have been implicated in a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella enteritidis, with the companies recalling 500 million eggs sold under 24 brands. “The size of this thing is kind of amazing,” Lovera said.
Unfortunately, the response has been merely a call for additional regulation. While better enforcement is crritical, a better approach would be to encourage the re-localisation and re-regionalisation of food production, supply, and distribution.
If anything were to slow or reverse the consolidation of the egg industry, it would be a massive, costly recall, said economist Otto. “This might do it.”
Alabama continues to miss out on flourishing family farms and agri-businesses operating within Alabama because of this consolidation of agriculture. Revitalizing family farming will both develop real “green” jobs and provide a healthy, sustainable, and secure food supply. I believe Alabama is uniquely qualified and primed to become the food basket for America. In order to revitalize the next generation of aspiring farmers, we must work to put programs in place that encourage the goals we seek.
As I expressed here,
We need widespread ownership of farms, processors, and distributors. Let me rephrase, we need locally-owned farms, distributorships, and processors. Competition must be re-introduced within the markets, especially the agricultural sector. From the farms to the processors to the distributors, Alabama can lead the way with our historic tradition of great agriculture. With the proper policy, Alabama can create an environment which could reignite an entrepreneurial spirit for aspiring Alabamians across this state.