by Marion Nestle
Nov 3 2023

Weekend reading: Farm Action’s analysis and policy recommendations

Farm Action, an organization devoted to stopping corporate agrocultural monopolies and building fair competition in rural America, has issued a short report, Balancing the US Agricuiltural Trade Deficit with Higher Value Food Crops.  

Its point (you have heard this from me repeatedly): the U.S. food system focuses on feed for animals and fuel for automobiles.  It ought to focus on food for people.

The current situation:

  • Most American farmland acreage is dedicated to animal feed and fuel production.
  • Over the last 5 years, American consumption of chicken and exports of pork continued to climb, increasing demand for soy, a key feed crop for pork and poultry.
  • Acreage of many key food crops including potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes, apples, and oranges has fallen precipitously 20-90% from peaks in the 20th century.
  • Exports fell and imports rose for vegetables, fruits, melons, and key food grains.
  • Across produce items, the US was or became a net importer of all 5 of the top vegetables by 2021.

What can be done:

  • At 2022 prices, just 3.5-4.4 million acres of higher value fruit, vegetables, and melons would be needed to generate $32.9B in sales, the 2022 size of the US produce trade deficit and more than the projected $27.5B
    overall ag deficit projected for 2024—this amounts to just 0.4% of US farmland.
  • This could be accomplished by approximately doubling the amount of land currently harvested for these crops.

Policy (Legislative) recommendations for farmers who grow food for people:

  • Improve crop insurance and risk management
  • Expand market access

These analyses make these fixes look easy.  Make them happen!