Editorial: Who’re the real agroterrorists?

“The $10 Buy Local Challenge!” That’s the recent call to action from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS): If each household in Virginia spent just $10 a week on locally grown agricultural products, consumers would invest an additional $1.65 billion back into the local economy annually.

“The challenge is not limited to edible products,” says VDACS Commissioner Matthew J. Lohr. “This week we are encouraging people to go their local nursery, greenhouse, co-op or farmers’ market and buy ‘Virginia Grown’ products that will help them beautify their yards and enhance their gardens.” For more information, visit VirginiaGrown.com.

While the state government encourages local small farmers, the federal government often seems to do the exact opposite. Specifically, the U.S. Congress directs billions of federal taxpayer dollars to subsidize unhealthy, processed foods generated by agribusinesses instead of the fruits and vegetables grown on small farms and recommended for a healthy diet.

Congress is now considering its 2012 Farm Bill, and your congressman, Rep. Eric Cantor, says he likes to hear from constituents even if they are not big Republican fundraisers. So if you care about the future of small farms in Rappahannock County, please ask him to eliminate obstacles in commodity subsidy programs that prohibit farmers from planting fruits and vegetables. This is but one of the obstacles encountered by farmers who wish to grow a variety of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods, or those who want to farm with organic methods.

Meanwhile, VDACS, together with the FBI and Virginia Tech, is sponsoring a May 9 conference in Blacksburg on “Agroterrorism.” The free, one-day conference is designed to inform people who work in agriculture and law enforcement how state and federal agencies would respond to an incident of terrorism that affected the food supply and all other aspects of agriculture – from veterinary medicine to dairy farmers to food processors.

Let’s hope Congress’s 2012 Farm Bill doesn’t qualify as such an incident.

Walter Nicklin
Publisher