Good afternoon, I’m Greg Gunthorp. Artisanal Farmer and processor. I’m on the board of American Grassfed Association and member of Farm Action and National Farmers Union. We raise pastured pigs, pastured poultry, and grassfed lamb on our regenerative family farm in North East Indiana. We’ve had an on farm USDA slaughter and processing plant for nearly 20 years. Our product is served at O Hare Airport, Disney and Wrigley Clubhouse just to name a few. We did farm to table and on farm processing before farm to table was cool. It’s been an amazing and rewarding journey but never a simple one.
It is an honor today to talk about how and why we should move the needle on government food procurement towards a portion that is regional and local as well as good, clean, and fair.
I would be remiss if before talking about why I didn’t at least first talk about the mess we have now. Let’s take for example the things I’d like to talk about if we had time. If we flipped the USDA food pyramid upside down we’d clearly have the USDA subsidy pyramid. Or how about 60% or greater of the calories of the average American diet come from ultra processed foods. Or how this centralized multinational corporation controlled agriculture has economically gutted rural America? Or how a handful of corporations, some of the largest foreign owned, dominate the food scene. Or how the DOJ, USDA, and FTC have failed to act on antitrust issues since the 70’s? I could go on but you get the picture.
“This centralized multinational corporation controlled
agriculture has economically gutted rural America.”
I personally get annoyed at people that complain about the government without also providing concrete solutions to fix some of these issues. My suggestions always fall in subsidy reform, antitrust enforcement, labeling reform, and inspection reform. Modifying government procurement is in my government subsidy, government spending reform bucket.
We need to do this for three reasons. First of all, we are an affluent enough nation that we could choose to feed our youth, elderly and military the best food, but I’ll settle for starting with a portion. We remember that it’s only been in the last generation that science established that stress was a large factor in human health. We are now at the point science is finally realizing the connections between soil health, food production practices, proper nutrition, gut micro biome, human health, and human accomplishments. Food is fuel and food is medicine. And we need to start viewing at least a portion as such. I have faith that a bigger percentage of purchases will follow once we see the results. I don’t want to go too far down a religious rabbit hole but it is hard to justify a society feeding its youth, elderly, and military a level of food below the quality of conventional commodity food. This is a moral and ethical issue. It speaks volumes about our society. We are better than this.
The second reason is to create a vibrant and equitable rural America. This pursuit of increasing consolidation and industrialization in agriculture has created less opportunities for farmers and less choices for consumers. The government purchasing even a small portion of their massive food procurement budget from small fruit, vegetable, and meat farmers and processors would provide a much needed safety net for those of us farmers that actually produce food rather than ingredients for food. Let’s be honest, we are out here in rural America competing for land and labor against highly subsidized and risk averse commodity crop farmers. And I’m not saying crop farming is low risk cause it’s not, I’m just saying this Effective Food Procurement Act would go a long way to leveling the playing field.
And my final reason, and perhaps the most important is we need to create relationships today to ensure a resilient food supply tomorrow. Those of us pre-2020 that pointed out there are only about 72 hours of food in the big cities and supply chains are extremely productive and efficient when clicking, but also extremely fragile when stressed or ignored. A prudent individual and especially a prudent politician and bureaucrat can no longer dismiss the risk of all the procurement activities focused entirely in this lean manufacturing, lowest cost system. Us smaller, regenerative, local food farmers and processors, while not as low of cost, are significantly more resilient. The time to build relationships with us is now, not after the next black swan event. Food is not optional.
I want to thank you in advance for your support of this bill. I also want to extend my sincere offer for myself, my friends, and the organizations I’m involved with to be engaged in rule making and policies around implementing these new food procurement standards. There will be some challenges in writing rules and policies to ensure the smaller, regenerative, good, clean, and fair operations get the priorities needed from this bill. And we have some regulatory challenges in the smallest operations trying to even be able to submit bids.
I’ve been involved in rural advocacy for several decades—-since my days of serving on Secretary Glickman’s and President Clinton’s USDA Small Farm Commission. Rural America and our independent family farms have never had a greater need for the table to be tilted back towards them. Government consumers of food have never had a greater need for better and more nutritious food. We’ve never had a greater need to shore up the resiliency of our food supply and rebuild rural communities in the process. I’ve never been more hopeful. Let’s quit kicking the can down the road and instead kick this one across the finish line.
Greg can be contacted at: greg or 260-463-6239