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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

USDA, you got some 'splaining to do and Simple Food

Ok, now let me get this straight....we pay farmers to grow (or NOT to grow) cotton, rice, corn, wheat, sorghum, soybeans, (and up until a few years ago, tobacco), but we don't subsidize fruit and veggies and certainly not any organically grown foods. Of these subsidized crops, corn, and this is not sweet corn, or any corn which is remotely eatable, is the number one subsidized crop by far, and is predominately used to feed farm factory cattle or is converted into high fructose corn syrup, which is by now fully understood by even my dog as to not exactly be a health food.

USDA, I hereby BITCH-slap you across your fat greedy face. Sorry to be uncooth, but this defies logic, sanity and even explanation. To recant Desi's pleas to Lucy, 'you got some 'splaining to do'!

In the 1930s, Roosevelt launched crop subsidies, in the words of Henry Wallace, then Secretary of Agriculture, 'as a temporary solution to deal with an emergency.' At this point in time, America was facing the Great Depression and there were approximately 6 million FAMILY farms in the U.S. Plummeting farm incomes impacted nearly 25% of the population.

Now, some 80 years later, we are still subsidizing crops at the rate of $25 billion a year. This program no longer aides the small family farms (generally speaking), but is geared toward large agri-business. For example, in Kentucky, the top 10% of farms (by size and revenue) received 81% of total subsidy payments from 1995-2009. Triple Oaks Farm in Bowling Green, KY, received 4.75 million in subsidies for the above time period despite posting annual revenues of 1.5 million. This program no longer serves the needy.

I am not saying that necessarily the best move is to add to the subsidies and include organic farms or fruits and veggies, but clearly this is a system that (a) is no longer attaining the original goals set forward and (b) is unworkable and even harmful in that it is creating over-production of unhealthy crops that feed into (pun intended) an untenable and unsustainable system. Mega-farmers are lulled into agri-comas and continue doing what has been done, because hey, Uncle Sam is paying us---why go against the grain (sorry, couldn't resist).

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the small, organic farmer, trying to compete for a piece of the market, while the giants of the industry loom overhead. If by some chance John (or more likely Joan) Q. Public actually wants to eat better, they have to first find a store that will even carry a decent selection of organic produce, and then make the choice between the very cheap (corn by-product laden) unhealthy options (something in a box) or spend the extra dollars to try to get a nutritious fruit or veggie--even non-organic produce cannot compete with the price of unhealthy food. Could we possibly make this any harder?

And if that isn't enough to deal with, Heaven help the small veggie farmer that has to pass an inspection by Monsanto, for their patented seeds that might happen to migrate onto this innocent farmers land. In America, you can sue anyone for anything, and Monsanto has plenty of lawyers whose job it is to do just that if even one plant of Monsanto-owned seed is shown to be on the farmer's land. The farmer has no choice but to try to defend his or herself when charges are brought up, but who can compete against the legal force of a giant like Monsanto. But that, as they say, is another talk show.

Change is in the air, and I am hopeful, despite getting more and more angered as I delve deeper into the abyss that has become our agricultural system. I definitely do feel the change coming. It needs a serious push though. I'm not really one to write my congressman, but I believe that will be a good start for me, to at least ask their position on crop subsidies, and maybe open a dialog. Who knows, maybe it'll get 'em thinking that yea, you don't have to go to Denmark to find something rotten.....

Simple Food

I've been craving the simple foods as this winter (hopefully) draws to an end. I am on a couple of yahoo group lists and someone posted a recipe for soup (I think it was fatfreevegan or Eat-to-Live, both of which are wonderful sources of support). I have gone back and looked to find the original post, but I can't seem to locate it; I wanted to give credit where credit was due, but I scan through so many things quickly and anyway, my apologies to whoever's recipe this was. It's a generalized adaptation from many soup recipes I have seen elsewhere & I tweaked it, so I'll go ahead and post it. (If this is your recipe and you recognize it, please contact me so I can reference it properly).

Simple Tomato-Squash Soup w Chard/Leek

1 large onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 t cumin

1 butternut squash (or other)

1 can diced tomatoes

veg. broth (2 -3 cups)



1 can fava beans (or cannellini)

Saute onion, garlic and cumin in small amount of water, approx. 5 mins. til soft. Peel squash and cut into cubes. Add squash, broth (adjust amount according to how thick you want the soup---I used about 3 cups). Add seasoning to taste and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer approx. 30 mins. Pour soup into blender and process til smooth. Return to pot, add beans and heat through. (NOTE: I think this soup would make an excellent sauce. It could be made a little thicker by reducing the water and would be lovely over some red quinoa. My husband had some over some short-grain brown rice and did not complain....that's a victory here!)

I wanted something on top of this soup to add a bit of zip, so I took a few leaves of rainbow chard, rolled them up cigar fashion and roughly chopped. Chopped one leek and then lightly sauteed both together in some water. I wanted some crunch, so I didn't cook them until they were too soft. I sprinkled some on top of the soup...lovely and gave it a bit of texture.
Another food I've been having fun with, and this is so simple it's embarrassing, is a simple baked sweet potato with black beans as a topping. I keep thinking of other things I could add to this that would also be great, but have just been content having it this simple way. It started out as just a way to get more beans in, but now has become very filling and satisfying.
Sue, keeping it simple, in Ohio

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