Obama on Food Policy

Posted by Katherine | November 2, 2008 – 1:41 pm
Amber waves of grain
Amber, and waving [Micah A. Ponce / Flickr]

In a recent interview with Joe Klein, Obama mentioned an article about food policy by journalist Michael Pollan. Pollan was calling on the next president to consider food critical to national security, global warming, energy independence, and health care.

Shane, a recent grad of the University of Texas at Austin, is now serving in Iraq. Despite his 90-hour work week, he still finds time to follow the election back home. He’s “more interested in policy than politics” and so was taken by Pollan’s argument — and by Obama’s understanding of it.

Seriously, this is why I love the guy - he actually cares about being knowledgeable on policy. Obama frequently seems to unexpectedly bring up things I care about that aren’t important to most politicians, like intellectual property reform, tech policy, and now food policy. These aren’t calculated positions designed to attract the moderate voter - nobody in America cares about this stuff, except this tiny band of people like me. In fact, this may very well hurt Obama politically, since the farm lobby (which actually is the industrial agriculture lobby whose interests oppose actual farmers anyway) has a huge financial interest in maintaining the status quo.

Tom Laskawy thinks “wrecking the planet is a really bad idea” and is a member of a food coop in Philadelphia called Weavers Way. He even blogs for them. He, too, was “like, wow” when he read Obama’s distillation of Pollan’s article. It made him feel that “Obama gets the framing of food policy.” Tom thinks agricultural subsidies are at the root of our food-policy problems — but recognizes how hard they’ve been to reform. He believes Pollan and Obama might have the right approach:

Clearly mindful of past failures of reform, Pollan is putting the subsidy battle into a much larger context. In that effort I think he succeeded. You only have to read Obama’s encapsulation of the issue to see how much more powerful it becomes when you don’t use the S-word […]. And realizing that this issue could be top-of-mind for a President Obama is, for many of us, truly awesome.

Though Pollan argues that food policy is integral to the urgent priorities of economy and Iraq/Afghanistan, it’s still hard to imagine it a top agenda item in any new administration. Shane and Tom may have to be patient even if Obama wins on Tuesday. But hopefully not for too long.


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