by MPD
Categories: People
Tags: , .

Granted I was only born during Reagan’s presidency, but it’s hard for me to recall hearing a president discuss modern agriculture (see also: factory farming) in any sort of productive way. 

President Elect Barack Obama recently chatted with New York Times contributer Joe Klein about food policy and the dangers of our current system. Obama said: 

“I was just reading an article in The New York Times by Michael Pollan about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it’s creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they’re contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs.”

I just love that Obama is publicly acknowledging that factory farming contributes more to global warming than all our methods of transportation combined! What do you think about Obama’s point of view? Is he on the right track? Chime in and share your thoughts! 


  • Jen Hamilton

    He’s right on and I’m really happy that he is willing to at least acknowledge that a problem exists within this industry.

  • Run-DMS

    It’ll be nice to see the U.S. have a president with healthy intellectual curiosity again. I’m pretty sure I won’t be entirely pleased with what his administration does, but at least he’s getting information from more than the Bible.

  • WestisBest

    How refreshing to know our president actually reads critical literature and is promoted by more than immediate gratification of petrodollars as the very NON religious , very NON biblically concerned Bush administration which has lived exclusively out of concern for its own belly and not for the lives and welfare either of the majority of individuals – all our water wells are now poisoned with benzene since the Bush administration permitted oil drilling here in our formerly pristine Wyoming community – all agriculture and energy should be produced locally for local consumption THEN there would be no unemployment or vast fluctuation in costs of living anywhere – let each community care for its own – McCain talked about building dozens of nuclear power plants – does he not realize the amount of water those radiation leaking permanently destroying the ground they use for any other use astronomically expensive radioactive waste , nuclear bomb material , only a trickle of jobs producing plants use ? No local community wants such a pathetically gratuitous source of toxicity and environmental degradation for their energy needs so none would be built if energy and food is made local – if food is produced locally there would be no reason to produce the highly refined diabetes producing foods presently created for long shelf life – Obama please take your profitable reading and sensibilities created thereby and put it into practice but do not ride in open limos in Dallas

  • s

    I am thrilled to have an intellectual in the oval office. I like my doctors to be nerds and that’s how I like my president’s too. I really think he is going to do amazing things.

  • fbr

    WestisBest, the utopia of locally producing all energy and food is unfortunately not sustainable. It would lead to a decreasing quality of life for everyone.

    “Factory Agriculture” didn’t evolve by chance, it evolved because it is the most efficient way to feed people in the current system. If we move away from this optimum we will have to pay the price for it. This can be a combination of: not being able to feed everyone, producing food that people are less satisfied by, using more resources to produce the food (which are away from other production leading to decreasing quality of life for everyone).

    It can also be done to a degree by demolishing the farm subsidy systems (which have led to really stupid farming practices in Europe for example). The cost then is angry farmers who will have to change their career or be supported by welfare.

    It’s not only the US agriculture system which is built on cheap oil. The whole western civilization is built on cheap oil.

  • Mouse

    Many US farmers already are supported by welfare, a.k.a. farm subsidies. It is very naive to believe that “factory agriculture” evolved as such because it is efficient. Government policies including subsidies, not natural evolution, created our factory agriculture model. Subsidies and other policies artificially prop up certain crops (e.g. commodity corn and soy) and actively discourage more sustainable agriculture. We pay for it now in so many ways, including a sick planet and a sick populace.
    That the whole of western civiliztion is built on cheap oil is no reason to discount the point of this article.

  • fbr

    Mouse, if you’re commenting on my post you have completely missed my point.

    Yes, subsidies and government policies are part of the system, it does not change the fact that factory farms evolved because they are the most efficient way to produce food in the current system – if there was a more efficient way then some farmers would adapt that and drive the factory farms out of business.

    I agree with you completely in that subsidies are just a form of welfare and artificially prop up certain crops. I also agree with you that this is probably a bad idea. Take Azores, a small, volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic. The place is completely inhospitable and inefficient for agriculture, yet due to the EU subsidies it produces most of Portugal’s milk products.

    However, I’m not sure that removing the subsidies would get rid of factory farms – they will still be more efficient in producing food than small local farms. Even without subsidies corn would probably still be the most efficient way to feed Americans (majority of whom seem to be perfectly happy to eat it in a variety of forms).

    I was not discounting the point of the article. My point is that if we get rid of the factory farms, we need to pay a price. Food will have to be produced less efficiently which will decrease the quality of life for everyone.

  • Mouse

    You can’t call a system efficient when it directly causes illnesses for the very people it claims to feed cheaply, and when it leaves those same people to clean up or suffer from its environmental messes. Even if you ignore externalities and look strictly at calories produced per input, you would have to consider the immense costs of fossil energy that it takes to grow calories under the factory system.
    It isn’t saying much—if anything it’s disingenuous-to simply state that we will pay a price for changing the factory system, when people already pay a high price for the current one and would benefit greatly from the change.

  • fbr

    Mouse, I don’t know what straw men you’re battling here. I never called the system efficient. I called factory farms the most efficient solution to producing food in the current system, strictly in the economic sense. This has to be true, otherwise factory farms would not exist.

    Unless you’re going to go back a century and plow your fields with horses the energy usage is not going to go down with the elimination of factory farms. If anything it will go up due to the less efficient resource usage. And the “immense cost of fossil energy” is factored in – the farms pay for their energy. Environmental effects might not be completely factored in, but depending on which country you live in the taxes paid by the farms cover at least part of the “illnesses”. On the other hand, you have no idea if those costs would be dramatically different if there were no factory farms.

    It is in no way disingenuous to point out that eliminating factory farms would have a price. If anything is disingenuous it is advocating the elimination of factory farms without acknowledging that it will have a cost.

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  • jacqueline

    This means he is astute enough and savvy enough to have the right people on staff feeding him accurate reads of key issues.


    I am very encouraged that he is making these statements. Obviously a few of trhe comments above are from lobbyists.

    Have the courage to identify yourself.

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  • Yale Wishnick, Ed.D.

    This is absolute nonsense. Barack Obama is no more interested in ending factory farms than the fast food industry. This, like so much about the Obama Whitehouse, is simply manufactured.