NYT: Big Food Strikes Back, By Michael Pollan — Why Did the Obamas Fail to Take On Corporate Agriculture?

Why Did the Obamas Fail to Take On Corporate Agriculture?


Eight years ago this month, I published in these pages an open letter to the next president titled, “Farmer in Chief.” “It may surprise you to learn,” it began, “that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food.” Several of the big topics that Barack Obama and John McCain were campaigning on — including health care costs, climate change, energy independence and security threats at home and abroad — could not be successfully addressed without also addressing a broken food system.


“The Agriculture Department already had the authority to curb many of these abuses under the Packers and Stockyard Act of 1921, which established a powerful antitrust unit in the department now called the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration, or Gipsa. But Gipsa was effectively shuttered during the George W. Bush administration; dozens of farmer complaints against the meatpackers were found stuffed in a drawer, according to an article in Washington Monthly by Lina Khan. In response to pressure from farmers to do something about anticompetitive practices in the meat industry, the 2008 farm bill — the gigantic piece of legislation that roughly every five years establishes the rules of the farming game in America — included a measure instructing the U.S.D.A. to issue new Gipsa rules and enforce them. In June 2010, Vilsack announced a set of regulations to “make sure the playing field is level for producers.” Specifically, the proposed rules made it easier for producers to sue packers for unfair or deceptive practices and protected them from retaliation.” MORE