Obama and Food

Jennifer Rubin wades into something that’s clearly beyond her depth, agricultural policy, and comes away with egg on her face (I know, what else is new). Responding to this fairly old bit of news:

In a recent interview with Time magazine, Obama cited an article written by Michael Pollan, a professor and longtime critic of U.S. farm policies. As Obama described it, Pollan’s article was about “the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil.”

Obama told Time: “As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector … and are partly responsible for the explosion in our health care costs because they’re contributing to Type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in health care costs.”

Rubin comes away with this ingenious bit of policy analysis:

In loose moments, Obama’s lack of understanding of and condescension toward rural and small-town America always slips out. And really, is his point that if farmers grew less food, Americans would be thinner? The mind reels.

I guess the title, “Obama to farmers; stop growing food,” is supposed to convey the point of the post, and I suspect it’s unusually short in large part because Rubin knows absolutely nothing about agricultural practices or policies, and so she really can’t think of anything else to say.

Now, I grew up on a farm, and my family both lives in a rural area and operates the farm, so I think I can safely weigh in on the issue without showing a “lack of understanding and condescension toward rural and small town America.” I’d also point out that Obama is from Chicago, the center of the American commodity world, and a state with a very large agricultural industry, so I’m guessing he has a better understanding of agricultural policy than Rubin as well.

So with my “real-America” credentials established, let me offer what I think is a farily uncontroversial notation; Obama is right. We use a lot of fossil fuels and emit a lot of greenhouse gases in our agricultural industry, and the subsidy regime and other aspects of our agricultural policy designed to keep grain cheap, meaning that high frucose corn syrup is artificially cheap as well, has certainly led to increased rates of diabetes. I doubt you’d ever see any serious policy analyst dispute either of those points, which probably goes a long way to explain why the ultra-vapid Rubin is picking up the ball.

Is the solution to that producing lower volumes of crops? Probably not, but then, Obama doesn’t propose that either. Lacking for any ability to intelligently participate in the policy discussion, Rubin just adds that to launch a blatantly partisan attack against Obama. But clearly, we need to come up for some way to address the incredibly energy intensive nature of our agricultural industry, and we need to come up with ways to eliminate the artificial lowering of prices on sweets putting pressure on our healthcare system.

And if Jennifer Rubin doesn’t have anything constructive to add to a very serious discussion, then she ought to pipe down and let the grown ups talk.