File this under the category of: “The lamest excuse to come along in my lifetime.” What I’m talking about is the continuing attempt by some in the media and entertainment business to saddle America’s farm and ranch families with the growing epidemic of obesity. Seems they would like us to believe farmers and ranchers are producing food that is too affordable and too available.
Stop right there. Many Americans can remember a time when their families or neighbors had trouble keeping food on the table. The concept of food that was too cheap was as foreign as paying two bucks for a bottle of pop – that’s twice the size it used be and packs twice the calories.
But the times they are a changing and just like our politicians on both sides of the aisle, folks like to play the blame game. You know, look elsewhere, never in the mirror.
Rather than thank farmers for producing abundant, affordable food so that most of us will never experience the pangs of true hunger, making farmers the scapegoat for obesity appears to be too popular a trend. Some also say federal programs that help stabilize the farm economy encourage farmers to overproduce. Blaming agriculture only diverts attention away from the factors that do contribute to obesity.
This is a slap in the face to the thousands of families that depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and to the millions of Americans whose high standards of living are built on our varied and efficient food, fuel and fiber industry.
Without our nation’s farmers and the federal programs that help them through economic and weather disasters, Americans might have to depend on other countries for food just like we already do for oil. That could be a threat not only to our food security, but our national security as well.
Evidence of a global obesity trend indicates that the problem involves more than access to and an abundance of snack foods, deserts and soft drinks. People are reportedly getting heavier even in developing nations where citizens do not have all of the foods and snacks found on our supermarket shelves. That tends to point toward rising incomes and less physical labor around the world as the cause, not just U.S. food industry practices.
Since when do farmers grow junk food? When did farmers begin to force consumers to eat a specific diet, healthy or otherwise?
Farmers and ranchers are not responsible for the U.S. consumer’s dietary and exercise habits. These are all individual choices and matters of personal responsibility.
Whatever happened to personal responsibility in this country?
What about the amount of food we eat at each meal?
How about the many times we eat between meals?
How about the individual holding the knife, fork or spoon?
Used to be a time, I can remember when people didn’t eat between meals, or if they did it was something healthy like fruit or nuts. Is that just another long and distant dream of mine?
It is time we start looking for real solutions to fix America’s growing weight problem instead of blaming the very hands that nutritiously and safely feed America. It’s important to note that while farmers produce a wide range of healthy food options, the ultimate consumer choices – moderation and exercise – are made far beyond the farm or ranch.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.