Monday, May 05, 2008

Food Crisis Worsens

It seems a bit strange, but the San Francisco Chronicle is becoming the one major newspaper in this state that seems to understand what is happening to the world wide food supply and what needs to be done to fix it... starting with an overhaul of the current Farm Bill that only perpetuates the policies that got us into this mess to start with. It is their lead editorial today, headlined "A food crisis sweeps the globe."
Wheat fields get little rain in Australia. Rice in a Manila market stall jumps 20 percent due to shipping costs. Europe and the U.S. steer more acreage into biofuel-producing corn. Taken together these trends have produced the highest food prices in 30 years.

This "silent tsunami," as United Nations food expert Josette Sheeran calls it, has forced an estimated 100 million people worldwide deeper into poverty. Another 1 billion, many of them in Africa, are already skipping meals. In Haiti, people eat "mud cakes" made of dirt, sugar and food scraps.

It's a disaster that's brought misery, political strife, and few simple answers.
I don't have all of the answers myself. Some things are obvious: the end of subsidies for commodity crops, the end of corn based ethanol production, de-linking the president's proposed $700 Million request for world wide food aid from the Iraq War funding. (That is about as coldly calculated a proposal as I have see come out of Washington.).

More than anything, we need to see the Green Party admit that this is bad and getting worse. If there were ever two issues that cry for the Green Party to be talking about solutions, it is this food crisis and global climate change. Yet, for the most part the food issue is not even on a discussion agenda for anything other than "go buy at the local farmer's market".

California is one of the major agricultural producers in the nation. It is as key to our economy as as Silicon Valley. But, an urban focused Green Party is not paying attention and so, by default, the corporations win.

The House Committee on Agriculture has three members from California: Dennis Cardoza (18th CD), Jim Costa (20th CD ), and Joe Baca (43rd CD). All three are Democrats and all three, but especially Cardoza, have squandered the opportunity to make substantive improvements. Cardoza, admitting that he could not end commodity subsidies, fought long and hard to get even more subsidies for California Producers of "specialty crops".

The Chronicle knows where action is required.
Solutions come with very high price tags, both financial and political. The UN and World Bank believe aid programs costing billions are needed to jump start small-scale farming in poor countries. Biofuel projects may need to be scaled back to allow other crops to replace a major spurt in corn plantings. Then there is the politically loaded topic of home-country protections against cheaper imports, a reality that has held back African agriculture from both U.S. and European markets. Also, the present farm bill in Washington, loaded with grower subsidies, looks especially foolish in an era of high prices.
But, Cardoza is in a safe Democratic District, Costa did not have any opposition in 2006. We must all work for change and means letting our individual congress critters know that all is not right down on the farm.

We also need to be developing the expertise and knowledge to recommend Green solutions for a World Food Crisis.

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