Posted by: bridget | 15 January 2007

Congress Doesn’t Pass a Taste Test

Dan Barber describes the negative effects of Ag Committee policies – not just for business, but for gourmands.  The business theory is that Ag subsidies reward large agricultural corporations at the expense of smaller businesses.  Furthermore, inspection processes act as a de facto barrier to small businesses, as federal inspection stations are rare and difficult to get in to.  Of course, the pachyderm cannot help but note that this furthers the case for federalism.  If Congress were to cede some of its power to the states, local farmers and small businesses would prosper.  (From a constitutional perspective, the pachyderm cannot help but note that this is exaclty what the Founders intended to have happen by giving Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce: that states make their own regulations regarding food grown and sold there, but anything that passes through state lines would be subject to a federal inspection system.)

Barber goes one step further by (correctly) pointing out that mass-produced food just doesn’t taste good.  The rise of the organic industry is but one direct result.  (The pachyderm believes that increasing obesity is another, counterintuitive result: as foods don’t taste as good, it is more difficult to be sated.  Furthermore, the subsidies to corn, wheat, and soybeans make those products less expensive and discourage Americans from eating fruits, vegetables, and less processed foods.)  “That’s a shame, not just because a carrot that comes to New York from California gets singed with petroleum as it travels cross-country, but because at this time of year carrots pulled from the rich muck dirt of Western New York have 50 times more flavor than their West Coast counterparts.” Epicurean, environmentally friendly, and federalist – all in one.


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