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Cope with Trump's Ag


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Cope with Trump's Ag

No appointment to an abandoned post. Three days to inauguration. It’s not just food lovers who are slack jawed, dumbfounded and speechless. All the ranting for rights, humane treatments and the global surge in what we’ll generically call ‘food interest’ has come up against an echoless void; it’s not even a brick wall – a person would have to be there to personify or at least represent a brick wall. I know DJT supporters and I know DJT protesters and there’s not much in between. It’s the end of a long weekend and I’ve been thinking: The way to cope with any of this DJT Ag Secretary drama would be to BE the person in the vaporous ‘in between.’

Cope with Trump's Ag

The American Menu has seen benefits overall.

Goldilocks established for herself what was too hot and what was too cold and then went right down the middle. For those of us interested in good old-fashioned food and nutrition, what’s too hot or too cold? Let’s guess the middle path keeping in mind that it’s a personal journey that, at best, we can share with others in order to contribute to a quilt of lore made up of patchwork contributions like ours; in order to send a whisper of notions that nudge urban behavior into questioning the unconscious rituals of status quo. It’s too much to think that whatever middle we come to will form lasting change through public outcry (we’ve seen public outcry fall on its face). It’s too much to think that a middle that suits the life of the ‘food interested’ will be permissive or convenient enough to apply en masse. We’re just in this to develop a coping mechanism one slacked jaw at a time…

You know, it’s still Change people are after.

We thought Change was coming 2008 with the election of President Obama, and it did. His longest serving Secretary was Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture. The most talked about mission to do with food was Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food or #KYC2 if you’re hip to that kind of thing. That alone might be responsible for what we’re calling ‘food interest’ in this post. There were focused looks at food waste, examinations in to the influences of Genetic Modification of the chemical sort and the American Menu, I’m almost positive, never saw such leaps before in quality, taste, attention to detail and practical culinary experimentation as in the last eight years. What an amazing time to be Eating Hard.

Cope with Trump's Ag

America's Middle Class makes up a large portion of the middle.

Despite all that food interest and Change, the simple, plain and very simple fact of the matter is, not enough bourgeoisie boots got farm dirt on them. ˌbo͝orZHwäˈzē noun The middle class, typically with reference to its perceived materialistic values or conventional attitudes. In Marxist contexts, the capitalist class who own most of society’s wealth and means of production. Most of us, in other words, by definition. We heard about the importance of farms, food and farmers, we empathized, and we moved on in numbers great enough to might as well mean that ALL of us moved on. _THAT I believe, would be too cold for Goldilock’s liking.

So money talks and fads show up briefly on Facebook Timelines.

Those who own most of society’s expendable wealth were told, again, in this last eight years, to Think Globally and Act Locally but never given a dummy-proof roadmap of just how, exactly, one goes about acting locally. The best and most honest farms providing the best and most honest of foods were then, basically, expected to take full advantage of these day’s and time’s best and most prevailing avenues of Social Media. If you Tweet it, we would come, pocketbooks open and Change assured and badness in food averted.

That is so absolutely, ridiculously not possible that I can’t begin to cover the enormous number of pitfalls and stopgaps that occur naturally to prevent that glorious yellow-brick road to the Goldilocks middle path. What we, middle class or large lump in the bell curve that the middle class makes up in some diagrams, see clearly is labeling and marketing. It’s not our fault, God no; not mine or yours or anyone’s who’s making the least bit of effort in sniffing out that path to Act Local. It’s money’s. Stay with me here…

Cope with Trump's Ag

Popular opinion about what money indicates is flawed.

There’s a metric that rewards success – in this case, successful food or “best and most honest food.” It’s a metric that equates success with money (or money with success if you’re a fast talker talking about money). …it’s like this, “it must be good/successful because everyone’s doing it.” Thanks to money and marketing, everyone’s doing it because, unknown to them, they’re being railroaded into it. Selling Americans on materialism is almost as easy as falling out of a boat. Ever seen anyone NOT fall out of a boat when they try? That’s really hard. On the other hand, the only metric that rewards the actual best and most honest, is YOU. I don’t mean the philosophical arena of “Subjectivity” where senses and perceptions are unique and your yellow isn’t my yellow, blah blah blah; I mean our metrics are not only Global, a scale not suited to practical employment of establishing best and most honest food, but easily influenced by a psychological penchant for convenience whereas the metrics we need for true Change and quality control in regards to food, should be community-centric and local and would then eventually become a convenience of routine (if not proximity) when we collectively strove toward neighborhood and local excellence finally rewarding the best and most honest with our persistent patronage.

I mean what I think I said.

Really. I feel like I sound like such a ninny, but I say this in real life: Deviate; depart from your routine and discover that little Farm Stand or Farm Sign at the side of road. Give chance a chance. Stumble upon some local blood, sweat and tears and leave your materialism in the car. When you get out, expect nothing when you see a local working physically harder than anything you’ve ever witnessed before just to scratch out a meagre existence selling eggs or soap or duck or Farm Dinners or goat petting or milk or wool. Christ, man! They’re out there and they have less of an idea how to reach us then we have how to accidentally roll up their driveways. I hate to say this metric I’m skirting around is Word of Mouth, but it is. So before I get to the end, let’s talk about this Money again.

Too HOT for Goldilocks

Cope with Trump's Ag

DJT's risky method for CHANGE.

The routine you stick to and the best and most honest norms you gravitate toward are most likely born of Money – not yours of course! Marketing money! It is absolutely a science of manipulation and once money gets to a certain comma or quantity, it absolutely becomes a matter of policy. Money for policy is what a lot of very-left ninnies scream the alarm about and while they exhaust me in between alarms with more alarms, there is something to be said for all the screaming during actual alarms.

Where the metric of success is money, those who wear the badge of “the successful” tend to part ways with quality in favor ‘efficiency’ or ‘economic sensibility.’ Or in Dickinsonian terms: They go the way of Ebenezer Scrooge. Coming back to the point, Trump has displayed a curious attraction to position, station and money over experience. Let’s be cool for a minute and remember the word, “Change.” In many ways, other countries and Europe will keep the inexperience in check. Those advisors and Secretaries who wade in waters too deep to stand will be, with grace one hopes, skillfully guided by European leaders to wiser courses so America, the nation state, doesn’t pull under any other swimmers or herself too badly.

America’s newly chosen “protectionism” phase now, strangely, includes dictating to others how we should be treated (which to me sounds like entitlement, not D.I.Y. national pride protectionism). Already, the United Nations has blasted the storm doors shut on Glyphosate, a key component of Roundup herbicide, a big seller of American Monsanto which is looking to be swept off its feet by the German company Bayer. The international complications and potential nightmares of the incoming administration are boggling but right here, right now in this post, we’re not examining that here – we’re not working to beat’em, but cope with them. The idea I’m preparing for is that this protectionism in Agriculture will come from a secretary to whom Money is a primary motivator. Not only does it seem natural, but with the Secretary of Agriculture the last of 15 Department Secretaries to be announced, we might note that it seems a trend for money to lead over experience in an administration touting American protectionism while touting what we deserve others to do.

Cope with Trump's Ag

The tradition of the Cabinet dates back to the beginnings of the Presidency itself. Established in Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, the Cabinet's role is to advise the President on any subject he may require relating to the duties of each member's respective office.

Imagine the future of American agriculture with money and profit as the motivator overseeing the concept of best and most honest food (we have to go down this less than idyllic path). A worried mind might only envision ruined soil and massive factory farms as the result and if money is the metric of success, that worry might not be just alarmist paranoia. Ruined soil through the use of anything on God’s Green Earth that can homogenize a crop, kill vermin and weeds and exaggerate yield would be a boon to success. Factory farming anything for the sake of cashy-er returns, lower overhead and greater yield numerically would be a boon to success. Remember, though behavior like this isn’t commonplace or even widely accepted, it does exist – imagine if this Dark Side had free reign?

Not knowing as of yet who Trump might put in place of Agriculture, it’s fair to picture the most horrific, money-driven successful Secretary the country has ever seen. Other countries will have to do what they can to protect themselves, but what of you and me? A money-equals-success secretary will willfully take advantage of our complacency and established routines. That, dear friends, is too hot for Goldilocks. Any small-scale farmer teetering on the edge of ruining soil versus losing more yield to nature’s tithe (I’m being poetic: Nature’s Tithe would be weeds, bugs, rot, low yield soil, failed fertilization, etc.) might well be forgiven for experimenting with what profit feels like. And why not? All those promised boots haven’t been there.

How can a small farmer dare to flirt with poisonous cheats?!

For all we know, that farmer is the last of four generations who will be able to afford the taxes on the land and the loan on the harvesting equipment. Our brief interest in their crop may have lured them to grow some exotic chow that now, no auction is paying a small fraction for. Seriously. Farming is no place for instant feedback. Predicting consumer behavior or eating habits or buying trends is something the best Wall Street brokers suffer through – it’s unfair then to demand the small farmer who sacrifices mortgages in the hopes you’ll still love leeks enough to buy them by the time they grow locally do any better and never give shortcuts or cheats a second look. What I mean is that the temptation to grow, harvest and sell the “sure thing” could well be the difference between keeping and losing the farm if a money-equates-to-success secretary opens the floodgates of ruinous field treatments and pro-factory conditions.

And to protect the small farmer who strays into experimenting with this money-success? The same administration will easily justify labelling or a lack of labelling that obscures what the food interested public wishes to know more about but can’t be bothered to go find out for themselves. That’s already going on and it’s a mighty contentious issue.

You and I, the tidy and self-respecting middle class Netflix viewers, eager to see, when we’re not surfing blogs, how House of Cards will compete with this real life election-circus, will be utterly railroaded as labels meant to inform us against ruinous crop treatments and factory farm environments will make the whole hypocrisy invisible but for a few very-left ninnies sounding alarms of holy hell.

What have we learned?

Fact check.

“Trust no one.” Take nothing at face value. That fat part of the bell curve of the middle class mostly sat at home during the election thinking, “she’s got this” or that their vote wasn’t important this time around. Leading up to the results but before the ‘fake news’ news riots, a lot of people were wondering what the hell happened and how could people believe what seemed totally unbelievable (I say this with no specific view in mind since Fake News went bonkers for and against any side available).

Cope with Trump's Ag

19 USDA Secretary "contenders" per WIKI page (link below). Why not add these guys? Wishful thinking on my part.

Though it may be announced tomorrow and at the time of writing, tomorrow is only one hour away, I do wonder who will become the Secretary of Agriculture for the United States. Regardless, it’s best now for me to steer myself to a centerline, that Goldilocks middle ground so that no matter what, I’m better mentally prepared for DIY protectionism that not only the last eight years has groomed me for, but this election cycle has shepherded me into. I understand, and I assume you too understand, that we’re supposed to be rooting for local concerns while thinking of some greater, bigger, Global picture – whatever that might be. I understand that around every corner, some citizen with a green thumb imagines themselves a steward of the land and is prepared to brave drought, chicken shit and spider webs to ensure I eat the best and most honest food locally imaginable.

More so, I acknowledge that we’ve let those stewards down; #KYC2 gave us the goal but too few of us forged our own paths to discover how to Know our Farmers and Food. Everyone’s in a frigging lurch and the field is ripe for manipulation (I mean every iteration of that entendre).

Helpful Link to a WIKI page entitled, Political appointments of Donald Trump continuing with, “this is a list of political appointments made by the President-elect of the United States, Donald Trump, before his inauguration on January 20, 2017.”

Your outcries deafen people to outcries

Cope with Trump's Ag

My best guess to dodge landmines.

In preparing for what seems to many to be The Darkness Coming, few are prescribing any action. Well, dear reader, I’m all about prescriptive outcry. One thing Little Bush got right was that opposition without proposition is noise. The internet is choking on opposition right now. Here’s the proposition to keep in mind…

It’s too much to chase down every small farm and local source and fact check their use of chems and treatments of animals but there’s some good news: You don’t always have to. Most states have auctions where small farmers bring their yield letting grocery store buyers and delivery middle men bid on groups of product. If you are where a group of small farmers gather, you have more access with less effort.

Grocery stores are big enough chains where customer service and responsive management are important. If you can’t figure out how to Know Your Farmer but your grocery store advertises that they sell local produce here and there around the store, get to Know Your Grocer. This is yet another way to access more local farmers with less effort. If, in getting better acquainted with your grocer, you discover that “local” doesn’t actually mean local (legally within 400 miles), draw a little on your inner Nasty Woman.

At the produce auction, you might find it more difficult to cozy up to people doing the behind-the-curtains business of food. It’s a tight group and a serious affair. In the grocery store however, customer service and responsive management mean your Nasty Woman antics might solve something or change something for the better. Keep your outcry targeted, private and local. You’re not a cop. But the more you have to cry out to a grocery chain that’s committing a true wrong, the more vocal you should be – tell neighbors, email the news, blog, Facebook Timeline, etc.

Know Your Grocer, control what food can access you.

Visiting the auctions should be considered a Mission Impossible adventure. You’ll learn lingo, farm names and faces. Food distributors are incredibly hard to identify and pin down. But the advantage to being where farmers go is that you’ll convenience yourself. With the penchant for convenience being so appealing, perhaps this prescription will meet with some positive measure of success. More convenience is when enough of us are pestering our grocery stores and insisting that THEY become stewards as well; not stewards of land, but stewards of food and produce helping to ensure that deceptive labeling and unethical treatments DON’T get sold there.

Grocery stores have a bottom line and a profit to make, but they can’t do that if the public is savvy to any deception or shortcuts they’re taking. It’s easier to call them out than to chase down every local or large producer. Furthermore, just as it’s very trendy to make Social Media the steward of speech and charge them with cutting out cancerous wrongs, it’s not a stretch to extend similar responsibilities to grocery stores. They’re not victims! They’re not accidental platforms for baddies selling mislabeled goods! That’s the defense of Social Media; that they can’t be expected to know what’s happening (that stems from a 1996 law that’s getting a review). CHANGE would be to begin to see Grocery Stores, all of them, as the public’s lobby for demanding and accepting the best and most honest food.

Changing the role of grocery stores would be a cool thing. It would require the public accept certain truths about pricing, delivery schedules and availability and sacrifice a little choice from time to time too. No one food vigilante can ensure the perfect grocery store for every neighbor, but a neighborhood demanding more from its local grocery that in turn demands more from its providers that in turn demands more from producers might go a long way toward the direction we want to head. In my opinion, this path is as close to the middle as I can imagine and it’s not dependant on who’s in office or what Secretary is motivated by what means.

EDIT: Re-published late 01.17.16 with minor corrections and additional graphics.

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