In a recent article, the
LA Times foodie pundit Russ Parsons attempted
to start a “more constructive give-and-take, the start of a true
conversation” on the food system. He argues the debate has congealed
into a tedious battle between “hard-line aggies” who are “convinced
that a bunch of know-nothing urbanites want to send them back to Stone
Age farming techniques,” and reformers who “lump together all farms (or
at least those that aren’t purely organic, hemp-clad mom-and-pop
operations) as thoughtless ravagers of the environment.”

For all I know, Parsons places me in the latter camp; but I think he
makes good sense here, and the kind of conversation he’s attempting to
start would be quite valuable. I am sympathetic with anyone who’s
trying to scratch a living off of the land, and recoil when sustainable
food advocates demonize large-scale farmers. In the past I’ve argued—to the chagrin of mainstream green groups—against taking a simplistic anti-subsidy stance on farm policy.

And indeed, Parsons may have succeeded in starting just the kind
cilvil conversation he set out to. The blog of the National Corn
Grower’s Association, a group not normally open to criticisms of Big
Ag, welcomed
Parson’s piece: “You may not like all of the points made in his
article, but there are some real gems that make it a worthy read.”