“The Rest of Us Are Supposed to Join in a National Conversation”
The above quote is from a post on Diner’s Journal about the federal government’s endorsement of locavores. Actually, it’s more than just an endorsement — we’re not talking about a little pat on the back or an official designation, like the honor that Missouri conferred on crayfish. It’s a concerted effort to impose the locavore ideal on unsuspecting taxpayers.
Public school districts, which have long been bastions of rent-seeking, play a key role in the plan. School districts buy lots of food to serve at lunch time; the federal government will give them more money, for the express purpose of buying local food. In case some district doesn’t get the hint, officials from the Department of Agriculture will visit its cafeterias and help it get with the program.
Federal support for locavores goes beyond public schools. It includes hefty subsidies for farmers:
This week, the top people at the U.S.D.A. announced they would be handing out almost $65 million to help connect small farmers — especially those using sustainable practices — with people who want to eat local food.
Does the government merely intend to create a market, to link sellers and buyers? I don’t think so, because that market already exists. Take a look at this instructive comment, which was posted in response to a YouTube video from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
I am a local poultry and egg producer in Missouri. […] I think the biggest problem I am facing and others here in? my community is. There are a lot more people who would love to be able to buy locally but it is too expensive compared to the big producers.
And here’s another YouTube video, in which the Department of Agriculture interviews a consumer and asks her whether she knows where her food comes from and whether she knows her farmer. She says she would shop at farmers’ markets more often — if they weren’t so pricey! Farmers and consumers are already able to connect with each other. The reason we don’t see more transactions between local farmers and fresh-food eaters is that the price of local food is higher than the amount that most people want to pay.
By the way, “Do you know your farmer?” isn’t the most relevant question in a complex economy. It’s like asking, “Do you know the factory worker who supervised the production of your No. 2 pencil?” or “Do you know the computer programmer who wrote the word processor you’re using?” We can’t possibly trace the origins of all products we use.