Too many people involved in supporting policies that relate to agriculture do not make a distinction between industrial agriculture and family farming. This is especially true in government sectors, but it also applies to media outlets that report on it.
Industrial farming sucks the life out of rural communities. It does not add much by way of return to locals, instead sending money out of the community to corporate profits. Even the industrial farm inputs so often come from outside the local community and bypass local sellers of farm equipment, seed, fertilizer, etc., sending money to places outside the community where the items can be purchased for less and shipped in.
So “farming” and “agriculture” are terms that need consideration when supporting policies and reporting on them. The terms sound wholesome—they sound like “feeding us”—but when distinction is not made between industrial agriculture and family farming, policies often disproportionately benefit corporate agriculture, which is huge, and so the “benefits” to agriculture seem huge, while in fact the policies are driving farm communities—farmers and the rural communities in which they live and work—deeper in debt, while also driving flight from rural America to cities for opportunities that are shrinking in the country.
So what is my point? I have more than one to make.
Policymakers in government need to think about and be sure that policies they consider benefit rural communities where the agricultural crops and animals are raised. Are policies favoring industrial agriculture at the expense of family farms? When financial benefits accrue to “agriculture,” do they stay in the community and support rural development or do the benefits largely leave the community to line the pockets of corporate investors?
What is the impact of such policies on the health of the community? Do the policies support rural workers, local businesses, make food available locally, help keep rural America a place where families can live, or do they subsidize the growing of commodities and animal products that are shipped off to distant areas with little local community benefit?
Media outlets need to think about the distinction between industrial agriculture and family farming when they present their articles, and even the choice of headlines, in order to give readers and viewers (including politicians who also presumably consume and may be influenced by their work) the understanding that will serve the goal of helping us be good citizens with knowledge to make informed choices.
And to anyone else reading this, if you are not a policymaker or an editor or a broadcaster, keep in mind that when you see or hear “agriculture,” you may need to think a bit about what that word really means and how whatever policy the article you are reading or viewing may affect all of our futures.