More than one billion pounds of milk are shipped annually to Missouri, from as far away as New Mexico and Utah. That takes place despite the fact that Missouri has the grass, grain and infrastructure capable of produce its own milk needs, notes Kyle Vickers, a Lohman, Mo., farmer and Food and Society Policy Fellow. Speaking to editors and writers of the nation’s farm publications at the recent Agricultural Publication Summit, he pointed out the vulnerability of our industrialized food system and its long shipping distances to terrorist attacks as well as accidental contamination.
Concentrated food production, with food shipped long distances from farm to processor to consumer, is increasing for beef, pork and produce as well as milk, he added. Vegetables have been found to travel an average of 1,546 miles before ending up in midwestern consumers’ shopping carts.
Vickers proposed that states and communities encourage local food production. That would decentralize the food systems thereby reducing its shipping distances and vulnerability while providing economic stimulus to local communities. Vickers is assisting a group of Missouri hog farmers who, through their cooperative, are raising and marketing hogs through a local packing facility and selling pork through Missouri grocery stores and restaurants under their Heritage Acres Farms label.
Vickers also noted that industrialized food production requires cheap labor, cheap grain, cheap water and cheap fuel. “We can’t count on these in the future. Water is already in short supply in the west,” he noted.
Vickers was selected as a Food and Society Policy Fellow in 2001. That program is administered by the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute in partnership with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, with primary support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
More than 370 agricultural writers, editors, publishers and communicators from across the United States and Canada attended the Agricultural Publications Summit, July 27-30, 2003, in Cleveland, Ohio.