Or, "The Omnivore's Delusion: Against the Agri-intellectuals". A Missouri farmer pushes back against the likes of Michael Pollan and Food, Inc., and argues that those criticizing industrial farming don't have a grip on the realities that farmers face, or the necessary trade-offs of moving to an all organic, more "natural" norm of farming. For starters, we'd have to cull the human population by several billion people, engage in more environmental degradation, and speed up climate change. There's another component, familiar to IPE students:
We are clearly in the process of deciding that we will not continue to raise animals the way we do now. Because other countries may not share our sensibilities, we'll have to withdraw or amend free trade agreements to keep any semblance of a livestock industry.
Agricultural policy has been one of the major sticking points in the Doha round of WTO talks, and there is reason to suspect that if the U.S. starts requiring organic or free-range certifications for food imports that developing countries will respond with retaliatory "process" tariffs of some kind, and having WTO backing to boot. Which might be worth it, but it does up the ante quite a bit.
Here's the concluding argument:
But farmers have reasons for their actions, and society should listen to them as we embark upon this reappraisal of our agricultural system. I use chemicals and diesel fuel to accomplish the tasks my grandfather used to do with sweat, and I use a computer instead of a lined notebook and a pencil, but I'm still farming the same land he did 80 years ago, and the fund of knowledge that our family has accumulated about our small part of Missouri is valuable. And everything I know and I have learned tells me this: we have to farm "industrially" to feed the world, and by using those "industrial" tools sensibly, we can accomplish that task and leave my grandchildren a prosperous and productive farm, while protecting the land, water, and air around us.
Unsurprisingly, the article was published by the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank. There is hardly any discussion of the various ethical claims most often made about agriculture policy. The article instead focuses on the practical difficulties of moving in the direction that the Pollanistas prefer. The author does not claim that we shouldn't move in that direction, only that we should have a true appreciation for the full package of what we'd get.
I hope this article inspires some honest rebuttals. I don't know of anyone who is completely comfortable with the way food is manufactured in the U.S., but we rarely have open and informed discussion of agricultural policy in this country. Instead, public commentary often devolves into ill-informed, emotional moralizing. We can, and should, do better.