Healthy Foods, Healthy Markets: Part Two

April, 2019

Lincoln -- Part One of this blog encouraged state and local elected officials to get behind a "Healthy Foods, Healthy Markets" movement, to scale up what is happening in Lincoln, Nebraska.

That means you, Nebraska Governor Rickets, and you, Nebraska Board of Regents. Nebraska agriculture is in a tailspin and needs new thinking based on what is good for healthy Nebraska minds and bodies, and good for new markets for agricultural products.

Nebraska, incredibly, imports most of its food, as do other corn-belt states. Why? Because former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz said "Get big or get out" and proclaimed that foreign markets for processed foods were the future.

That's now demonstrably wrong. After five decades of such policies, Nebraska rural areas are rapidly depopulating; foreign markets are in a shambles; processed foods are ruining the health of people at home and abroad. See "Planet Fat" in the New York Times.

Part Two invites national candidates for president and for Congress to get behind a "Healthy Foods, Healthy Markets" movement. In 2016, candidate Hillary Clinton had no rural policy and failed to campaign adequately in Wisconsin and Michigan, two important agricultural states. No wonder she lost. Current president Donald Trump has been a market-wrecker nonpareil. His Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is a warmed-over Earl Butz, (presumably) without the dirty, racist jokes and the tax cheating that landed Butz in prison.

Some Democrats are focusing for 2020 on what they are against: agricultural monopolies. Elizabeth Warren summons William Jennings Bryan; Amy Klobuchar recalls the Granger Movement. They are wise to do so, if only to shame the current generation of meek farmers and ranchers who are preparing themselves to become serfs contracted to Chinese-owned corporations. Most Democrats seeking the presidency in 2020 have no identifiable rural policies at all.

What candidates for national office need is something to be for, as well as against. That's what "Healthy Foods, Healthy Markets" provides. It's hopeful, workable, scalable. It's capitalism* put to work for jobs, for health. That's what rural America needs and what candidates would do well to work into their policy platforms.

* Many market concepts are spelled out in detail in a 2017 collection of works published by the St. Louis Federal Reserve and USDA. The authors of "Harvesting Opportunity" include agricultural policy experts, economists, businessmen, and bankers.