Thursday, October 2, 2014

Local food is still not financially substainable

Let's take people with no understanding of basic economic theory and allow them to tamper with the economy.

That's what Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is doing, on behalf of our elected officials. The New York Times writes:

The United States Department of Agriculture plans to announce Monday that it will spend $52 million to support local and regional food systems like farmers’ markets and food hubs and to spur research on organic farming. 
The local food movement has been one of the fastest growing segments of the business, as consumers seek to know more about where, how and by whom their food is grown. 
But local farmers still struggle to market their food. Distribution systems are intended to accommodate the needs of large-scale commercial farms and growers. Grocery stores and restaurants largely rely on big distribution centers and are only beginning to figure out how to incorporate small batches of produce into their overall merchandise mixes. 
Farmers’ markets are proliferating around the country, increasing 76 percent to 8,268 since 2008, according to the Agriculture Department, but they have trouble marketing themselves. And few consumers are aware of a website the department created to help them find a farmers market in their area. 
“These types of local food systems are the cornerstones of our plans to revitalize the rural economy,” Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, said in a telephone interview. “If you can connect local produce with markets that are local, money gets rolled around in the local community more directly compared to commercial agriculture where products get shipped in large quantities somewhere else, helping the economy there.”

There's that same bogus broken window argument, that local people buying things at higher prices helps the economy here and deprives it elsewhere.

If these food movements are so successful, why can't they afford to market their own products? As pointed out on Mike Munger's blog, the writer just got done reminding us of how much money farmers' markets and local foods are bringing in, but the industry still needs a bailout.

Once again, the issue isn't simply that the local food advocates are making bogus hyper-protectionist claims based on myths and fallacies. It's that they want the rest of us to help pay for their expensive, luxury goods like local, organic and hand-raised foods. Local food programs need to be able to stand on their own, and it's shameful that influential people like Vilsack get to regurgitate this nonsense to a major publication like the New York Times with zero pushback. 

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