Key Issue Ignored by Presidential Candidates: Food

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Key Issue Ignored by Presidential Candidates: Food

'Presidential candidates should seize the opportunity to improve the nation's food and farm system for the benefit of us all'

Corn on a farm in Missouri Valley, Iowa.  (Photo: USDA/Dave Kosling/flickr/cc)

"Why don't candidates talk about food?"

That's a question asked by the Des Moines Register's editorial board this weekend, who also pointed out that the "first-in-the nation caucuses are held in one of the world's great agricultural centers."

It should be a major issue for presidential candidates, the Register says, because

What we eat and how it’s produced are not jokes. These questions involve many of the nation’s major issues — including health care costs and quality, the federal debt, pollution, jobs and immigration — and they require leadership on the presidential level.

The editorial also points to research showing that Americans want to change the food system, have broad support for government incentives to encourage sustainable farming practices, and express strong concern that one-third of children today will develop type-2 diabetes. The editorial also notes the "wave of consolidation is sweeping through agriculture" that "will have ramifications throughout the food chain," such as the proposed Dow/DuPoint merger.

"What will it take to get politicians to talk about butter as much as about guns?" the editorial asks.

One organization that agrees that food should be a major issue for presidential leadership is the Union of Concerned Scientists.

They, along with Food Policy Action and the HEAL Food Alliance, launched the Plate of the Union Initiative to urge political leaders to talk about reforming the food system. 

"Plate of the Union is the first coordinated campaign effort to get candidates running for President talking about our broken food system," Tom Colicchio, co-founder of Food Policy Action, said in October 2015. 

"The truth is, our current food system is out of balance," he added. "It prioritizes corporate profits at the expense of our health, the environment and working families. The next President needs to take bold steps to reform our food system to ensure all Americans have equal access to healthy, affordable food."

As Ricardo Salvador, director of the UCS's Food and Environment Program, sees it, "the system as currently practiced, promoted and subsidized exploits both people and nature."

But what we need to do is clear as well, he writes: produce food that makes us healthy, produce it in a way that is safe and sustainable, and recognize that "healthy food is a necessity not a privilege."

And "There is political tailwind to support the first presidential candidate to realize that by fixing food many other high priority issues can also be fixed," he writes.

In a blog post this weekend, Salvador adds:

We should rework our nation’s food and agriculture policy system to emphasize the goals of improved public health, an enhanced environment, and renewed rural economies. These are the things all Americans can agree are worth the investment of our public dollars. Policies that return midsize farms to the land and connect them with markets will move us closer to those goals. In this political season, presidential candidates should seize the opportunity to improve the nation’s food and farm system for the benefit of us all, and to give Iowans (and all of us) actual lasting solutions.

 

To see more about the Plate of the Union initiative, watch the video from UCS below:

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