Farm Wages and Organic Food
Matt Yglesias made a good point
about the need to fight poverty from the bottom world: firms are going to be able to suck workers into working under sweatshop conditions as long as the workers' alternatives are so absolutely worse. The root of third world povery is, so to speak, at the bottom of the food chain, with the famers. A big reason why third world farmers experience so much crippling instability is because of our dumping of cheap, subsidized food. We insist on subsidizing our farmers (giant agribusiness farm companies, more like it) instead of either letting them compete in the market or at least keeping cheap grain off the market. (Look for the bit on Roosevelt
in this NYT Magazine article by Michael Pollan.)
The first couple pages of the search [organic subsidies site:usda.gov
] gets me nothing indicating that the United States significantly subsidies organic farming, and every indication that we do it least among the developed nations. Any further insight on this would be much appreciated. But buying organic food, especially organic grain, might be a good consumerist action to take on more than the environmental front, buying into a more fairly structured market. I want to note that I dislike intensely the notion of buying organic food as a kind of status consumption. There are people who will insist that any discussion of organics is mere yuppie tripe. You know the genre--Maureen Dowd and her bashing of Wesley Clark's argyle sweater; pure straw man distraction. Philia at Bouphonia
had a skillful dissection of such nonsense
in last week's New York Times. I know plenty of people who work hard and budget carefully so they can buy their organic food, and they are fully aware of the difficulties involved. Implying that they look down upon those who can't afford to--say, they themselves at other times of the year--when there are more important issues to discuss is the height of editorial stupidity. Don't fall into that trap.