A Perfect Example of . . . Nothing

And here's another quickie: This morning's Des Moines Register featured an opinion piece written by members of the Iowa Agricultural Council of the Humane Society of the United States. On its surface, the piece opposes Representative Steve King (R-IA) and his stance on agriculture.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am, alas, represented in Congress by Steve King, a man for whom I have zero respect and a whole buncha loathing. I write this blog entry not to support King but to point out the poverty of what passes for "ideas" and rhetoric in today's "food debate."

A BRIEF bit of background is in order: The HSUS has launched a full-bore, thus-far-successful, and well-funded assault on "industrial agriculture." Whether you agree with HSUS or not, smart money says they're doing a bang-up job scaring the shit out of people and getting them lined up against "industrial agriculture."

And they're following a simple model: Avoid facts. Aim for the gut and heart. Avoid reason. And today's opinion piece is a perfect example.

Consider this statement:

Fully 91 percent of independent pig farmers have vanished over the last few decades along with majority percentages of other independent livestock producers.

Folks, that is a whole lotta nuthin'. Your average reader of newspapers has no idea what an "independent farmer" is. And "last few decades"? What does that mean? Twenty years? Fifty years?

But the worst part of this excerpt is its unwritten assumption: The authors want readers to assume that "pig farmers" have "vanished" thanks to "industrial agriculture." But there's nothing at all in those few sentences to connect a decline in farmer numbers to a particular model of agriculture. (For what it's worth, farmers "exit" the business for many reasons. Many reasons.)

But it gets worse:

Should independent, traditional, family-farm agriculture disappear, with the lack of consumer knowledge and support, your America begins to resemble the collective farm system of the former Soviet Union more than anything else.

Huh? How did we get from A to X? I'm not even gonna try to dissect that piece of nonsense. Never mind the fact that the vast majority of farms in the US are owned by families (many of whom incorporate their businesses for the reasons anyone would incorporate a business).

Then there's this bit of mystification:

As for traditional independent family farms, what was mainstream agriculture 25 years ago is now considered “organic,” “niche” or “alternative.”

I have NO idea what that means. I don't know what a "traditional independent family farm" is. And I'm not sure what's meant by "mainstream." And I have zero clue what they're referring to that took place 25 years ago.

In short, this is a bunch of words that say NOTHING of substance. The opinion piece contributes nothing to a serious conversation about food. But --- this is what passes for "discussion" and "debate" in the conversation about food and food reform. Use enough scarey words, avoid logic, and hey! People will donate money to your cause (in this case the Humane Society of the United States) because, well, you've succeeded in scaring them.

And lest you think I'm being one-sided, I assure that the "pro-agriculture" people are just as vague and insubstantial in their claims, too.

Now you see why I have little (okay, no) desire to participate in the existing conversation? It's a whole lotta wind amounting to  . . . nothing.

And to those who are interested in the food debate: Read with care. Because much of what's being sold as "ideas" is anything but.