My opinion: What is the cost to export America?

Did you enjoy your last meal and the meal before that? I hope so. The bounty, diversity, security and safety of your every meal currently come to you at less than 10 percent of your annual disposable income. So enjoy it while you can. Your children and grandchildren may not be afforded the same quality and security.

Because we have enjoyed such an efficient American food supply for so long, we simply take it for granted. What we often take for granted we too often abuse.

Winston Churchill had great confidence in the American people to always do the right thing, if only as a last resort. During the heat of public debate when ink can flow as venom, I don't always have such confidence. Perhaps I should say my confidence is not strong enough to suggest that the last resort is going to be good enough. Today, your food security is being exported.

Nationally, we have food trade policies that grant other countries better access to our country than we do to their dinner tables. Japanese beef comes into the U.S. easier than our beef goes there. It is true. We have great hand wringing that we are going to somehow balance the budget over cuts to farm programs which amount to less than 1 percent of federal outlays. Meanwhile some of these supports are the only thing that allows some U.S. producers to balance the budget and remain in business.

Production exodus

At the same time, we see an exodus of food production. Brazil already grows more soybeans than the United States. The Brazilians are building meat production and processing infrastructures to take over those food supplies as well.

In other areas aided by public drumbeats, government seems poised to deny agriculture the mere paperwork to insure a legal and reliable labor supply. Instead, leaders call the access to workers amnesty. At the same time, our leaders are willing to commit incredible amounts of treasury resources to border security in a spiral already proven not to work, while regularizing a legal and circular flow of immigration would be a much less expensive way to augment security.

Closer to home, there is the ever-popular chant to solve our water problems by taking it from Arizona agriculture's $9.2 billion contribution to the state's economy. Or how about national animal rights activists coming to Arizona with an agenda of ending animal livestock production in this country, and then claiming through local spokespeople that they are here to protect small family farmers? I have a suspicion they are not here to look after you and me.

Meanwhile agriculture is pushing the frontiers. In a strange foretelling of the future, Hippocrates understood that food was medicine and then medicine was food. Food will become more than sustenance. By understanding where these visions are headed, Arizona agriculture is beginning to raise the legitimate question that appropriate regulators ought to know something about that which they are regulating.

We only raise the question to begin the discussions and an ASU law professor calls the suggestion “nutty.” Many who claim to speak in the public interest are aghast that the mere suggestion could create some sort of constitutional crisis. What I find “nutty” is a disconnect from reality too profound for words.

Food is survival, the sustenance to our health and our future security. We are rapidly delegating its future to others around the world.

Enjoy your meal!
Kevin Rogers
Mesa, Ariz.

Kevin Rogers is the president of the Arizona Farm Bureau. He is a fourth generation Phoenix Valley farmer who raises cotton, alfalfa, wheat, barley and corn.

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