The Farm Bill of the Future

We read with interest and enthusiasm the special issue titled “The Future of Food” [Oct. 30]. However, we are saddened that there was no real discussion of the upcoming renewal of the US Farm Bill in 2018 (other than a brief reference in Lindsey Shute’s piece). Yet the upcoming legislation to renew and revise the Farm Bill gives liberals and progressives a chance to reconnect with rural America. Here is how this happens.

Liberals and progressives should begin by putting much more emphasis on supporting small farms that grow more nutritious food. This provides jobs for young adults in rural America who are currently out of work and may be interested in a career in farming. A Farm Bill that contains adequately funded programs to train people in sustainable-farming techniques can provide incentives for young people in rural America to remain instead of migrating to urban areas. In other words, such programs can help reverse the depopulation of rural areas across the country.

Implementing these measures in the Farm Bill also means more nutritious food available for everyone in America. There is ample evidence that the demand for healthier food is growing each year. Since the Farm Bill covers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, we can also encourage recipients of SNAP to switch to healthier food choices. This will help to address the obesity and diabetes epidemic in the United States, which is a growing problem, especially in rural America.

There should also be much greater funding of research into sustainable farming, including organic-farming methods, and ways to use technology in support of sustainable farming that are scalable. This research is badly needed to counter the decades of funding into research for large-scale production farming, which has created as many problems as it solves.

The Farm Bill is massive, with many parts. We recognize that it will not be simple to turn these ideas into operational Farm Bill language. But these ideas are gaining support across America, giving liberals and progressives a golden opportunity to show that we are the ones who care about rural America, not the conservatives who have time and time again used the Farm Bill to support large-scale agribusiness with no concern for the health and welfare of everyday Americans—especially rural Americans.

Douglas Hillmer
silver spring, md.

Jon H. Oberg
lincoln, neb.

Lone White Wolves

Laila Lalami’s “The Color of Terrorism” [Oct. 30] was one of the greatest articles ever written. I was literally nodding along by the end. Lalami writes: “We are supposed to accept that mass shootings can happen because no one can predict when an armed man will snap.” All of us with like minds have to believe this; however, I would rewrite the sentence to say, “We are supposed to accept that mass shootings can happen because no one can predict when an armed white man will snap.”

Lalami’s arguments were pointed and truthful. Yes, there is a distinct difference between “unavoidable” and “preventable.” The media had no idea what to call the Las Vegas shooter as soon as they found out he was a white millionaire—especially on Fox News. The phrase “lone wolf” just candy-coats the truth.

Frank E. Shirley
yakima, wash.

Facing Up to Facebook

Something will have to be done about Facebook, and it had better happen soon [“Antitrust Facebook,” Oct. 30]. Mark Zuckerberg and company are having fun, just like the guys at Apple did many years ago. But there’s a universe of difference. Zuckerberg and the rest of the crew are what I call “Harvard detached,” as could only happen in this day and age. They would play with a nuclear bomb if it were fun, they are so totally disconnected from what they have created.
Walter Pewen

Toxic Present, Toxic Past

I must respond to, and expand on, “Mass Exposure” by Rene Ebersole in The Nation’s special issue on food [Oct. 30]. Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and whoever else made and sold Agent Orange to the US military during the Vietnam War are guilty of producing a chemical to kill weeds and foliage despite knowing that it causes cancers in humans.

I should know: 50 years ago, I was in combat in Vietnam with the US Marines. I now have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as do other men who served with me and others I see going for treatment at the cancer center.

Government just looks the other way when big chemical companies make a profit to kill people—even more so with what we’ve got in the White House today. Then, as now, profits are more important than the lives of people, period. For shame.

Stuart Novotny
austintown, ohio

Nuclear Insanity

Incompetent leaders engage in delusional thinking [“Dropping the Bomb,” Oct. 30]. There is no longer such a thing as “nuclear supremacy,” a phrase Donald Trump has used. It existed only when the United States alone had the bomb. While the US arsenal may deter a lesser nuclear power, and a limited nuclear strike would not be civilization-ending, a large nuclear strike by the United States, even with no retaliation from Russia or China, would be suicidal for this country, making any expansion of the arsenal moot. There can be no nuclear supremacy, only nuclear suicide, and people who believe that a nuclear war is winnable are idiots. We can only hope that Europe, which would be caught in the middle of a nuclear battle, will bring some sanity to the chest-thumping by some countries.
Michael Robertson

Backyard Sustainability

The Future of Food: A Forum” [Oct. 30] was a good overview of the alternatives to agribusiness domination of the food production and supply system, but it’s missing perhaps the most important perspective: that of the consumer. From backyard composting to micro-plot or “keyhole” gardening to food preservation and storage, there are multiple strategies that individuals and families can employ to move in the direction of sustainability and at least mitigate the effects of a highly probable crash in a huge but fragile system whose bottom line is profit. Most of us are only one or two generations removed from these practices, which can be implemented immediately, incrementally, economically, and independently. A step back in this regard could result in a huge step forward toward food security and sustainability/survivability in these most uncertain times.
Alan Watts