Or maybe you pay for what you get. Either way, Marion Nestle pointed to an early-July write up from Politico’s Morning Agriculture. Politico gives details of the US government’s subsidies to farmers, likely to total more than $21 billion in 2019. The average for the past 10 years is $11.5 billion a year.
Federal payments are on track to account for 27 percent of farmer income this year. While that’s well below record levels from the 1980s farm crisis, it’s still the highest in more than a decade.
How do the farmers feel about that?
Things seem to be going the way of the land of the free trade.
[M]any farms are entirely reliant on subsidy‐based income; in 2016, for instance, 87% of total UK farm income came from CAP [Common Agricultural Policy, the EU’s farm policy] subsidies. However, the distribution of these subsidies is … highly skewed. For instance, in England in 2016, the top 10% of farms (in terms of farm income) received 47% of the £1.65 billion direct payment budget (approx. £45,000 each), whereas the bottom 20% of farms received only 2% (approx. £2,500 each).
That’s from a paper I read after a press release headlined Scientists and key figures develop vision for managing UK land and seas after Brexit raised my hopes. Academics brought together “major players” from the agriculture and fisheries industries to gauge their priorities. Overall, the conclusion is that government needs to pay more attention to the public goods that these industries deliver, “such as clean air and water, food provision and places for leisure, that belong to all of us”, and that these assets should be fairly shared. One conclusion of the “plain language summary” of the paper is that:
Farming and fishing should no longer be about maximising production, as was the case under the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies, but about protecting employment opportunities and the environment on which they depend in rural and coastal communities.
I couldn’t find anything about nutrition in there.
Undaunted, I turned to Geoff Tansey’s blog post about Resilience in the UK food system, which reports on a meeting this month in Edinburgh. Scotland seems to be taking changes to the food system much more seriously than other parts of the UK, possibly because, as Tansey reports, “food and agriculture are proportionally four times more important to Scotland than in the UK as a whole”. Geoff summarises the key presentations, but doesn’t link to the meeting itself, and he ends with questions – rather than answers – about resilience from the organiser of the meeting: “resilience of what, to what, for whom and over what time period”.
After all that wonkery, enjoy some thoughts from Cynthia Bertelsen on rice and Spain and the movement of peoples and their foods. I was particularly surprised to learn that in 17th century England, Italy and Spain, “rice sometimes seemed to be looked upon as a lower-class food”. I had always thought rice was a luxury food.
That’ll have to do, for now. I had hoped also to link to an article about trust in food, but I couldn’t get access, and I don’t like linking to things that aren’t freely available.
Photo by Ryo Yoshitake