The Speech the Industrial Ag Lobby Doesn’t Want You to Hear

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Consumers are asking important and legitimate questions about what they are eating and feeding to their children. They want to talk about why industrial agriculture is the single largest contributor to water pollution nationwide.  In Iowa in particular, the effect is felt in lakes and streams closed to swimming and soil erosion occurring at ten times the sustainable rate.

Consumers also want the truth about the how GMO crops and the chemicals used to produce their food might threaten their health and the health of the environment.

And consumers want to know why the farm bill continues to send billions in subsidies to highly profitable farm businesses while programs to support healthy food, sustainable agriculture and clean water get crumbs. This occurs when the Center for Disease Controlreports that 28% of Iowa’s people are obese.

The Environmental Working Group has long advocated for a sane realignment of federal agriculture policy that focuses on health and the environment. On Tuesday, October 9th, EWG president and co-founder Ken Cook will speak at the University of Northern Iowa in a talk titled “Hunger Games: What is it about agriculture that’s eating consumers?”

Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that the industrial agriculture lobby is doing its best to impede the common sense conversation consumers are craving about a healthier path forward for agriculture and the communities it serves. In an email addressed to Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp obtained by EWG, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Environmental Policy Advisor Rick Robinson writes:

Director Gipp:

I hope the Iowa DNR does not use any of its limited resources to publicize the anti-agricultural propaganda of the Oct. 9 UNI event (flier attached). There are some well-intentioned folks in the Cedar River Watershed trying to build new coalitions and continue to make progress on very challenging issues. The approach the UNI event takes, unfortunately, is divisive, and the solutions to the issue of water quality are complex and require true collaboration - something the speaker from the Environmental Working Group is not proposing.

I wish they would have instead invited Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, you or the ISU science team to the event to discuss the results of the water quality research and some of the solutions underway, or perhaps including some folks from other watersheds that have made progress to discuss their strategies so that the event is focused on real solutions.

The DNR, other public institutions or the coalition should not be associated with promotion or funding this kind of negative rhetoric.

Rick Robinson, Environmental Policy Advisor, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation

What could possibly elicit Robinson’s knee jerk reaction to a speech by Ken Cook? Could it be Cook’s vocal advocacy for agriculture policy that focuses on healthy and sustainable food instead of churning out the raw materials for America’s industrial food system?

Could it be the growing awareness that voluntary conservation measures in Iowa have done little to clean up Iowa’s water or shrink the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone?

Or could it be taxpayers’ frustration with sending 40 highly profitable Iowa farms each a $250,000 crop insurance subsidy in 2011 with no conservation strings attached?

For those folks near the NIU campus on October 9th, stop by and join Ken Cook in the conversation the industrial agriculture lobby doesn’t want you to have.


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