Food Economist: Consumers Are Not the Enemy

Farmers need to be aware of the culture in which they operate, and know all is not lost.

Published on: Jan 14, 2014

If what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, should what happens on the farm, stay on the farm? Not anymore, says Jayson Lusk, Oklahoma State University food and agricultural economist.

Lusk addressed farmers and ranchers during a workshop at the 2014 American Farm Bureau Federation Convention, held this week in San Antonio, Texas. Lusk is the author of "The Food Police," and participated in last summer's U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Association Food Dialogues.

Citing the need for farmers to understand the culture in which they operate, Lusk laid out a reasonably bleak scenario regarding what people outside agriculture are saying about agriculture:

Jayson Lusk, OSU economist (pictured here third from right at last summers Food Dialogues) says farmers need to be aware of the culture in which they operate, and know all is not lost.
Jayson Lusk, OSU economist (pictured here third from right at last summer's Food Dialogues) says farmers need to be aware of the culture in which they operate, and know all is not lost.

  - "We all live in a toxic food environment." Kelly D. Brownell, "Food Fight"

  - "Americans have a national eating disorder." Michael Pollan, "Omnivore's Dilemma," often required reading on college campuses

  - "Modern agriculture is leading to a holocaust of a different kind." Mark Bittman, blogger and New York Times columnist.

  - "All animals have the same parts," says Pamela Anderson in a PETA advertisement (Lusk: "I don't know about you, but I've never seen a heifer with silicone breast implants.")

Given their exposure to extreme and often distorted views, Lusk summarizes much of the reaction to agriculture: "Too much sugar, too much meat, too much processed food, too many pesticides; we're too fat, spending too much on health care. Agriculture is too corporate, too monoculture, too subsided, unsustainable."

Further, he believes those consumers would like to see a move to, "Local, organic, slow, natural, unprocessed. A return to nature. Let's give up all this technology. Taxes, subsidies, regulation, social pressure needed to make this happen."