Get real and watch economics in action - The Packer

Get real and watch economics in action

12/28/2012 09:52:00 AM
Greg Johnson

I keep coming back to a phrase I first studied in 100-level college psychology: cognitive dissonance.

It’s defined roughly as the anxiety that comes from holding contradictory beliefs or thoughts at the same time.

For instance, how can we have a hunger problem in the U.S. while at the same time be battling unprecedented obesity? How does food waste factor in this?

It’s true that food stamp enrollment has never been higher, while obesity rates continue to climb, and as modern agriculture makes food more accessible and less expensive, the hottest trends are toward costlier, less efficient growing methods, like local and organic and grass fed.

Food shouldn’t be so political, but it is.

I think one of the biggest problems the U.S. has when it comes to the politics of food is that so many first-class minds are too removed from actual food production and sales.


Media ignorance

Fresh produce growers constantly deal with hedging crop sizes, dealing with weather complications and the supply-and-demand forces.

It’s second nature, and when U.S. citizens were more involved in food production, these market forces wouldn’t need to be explained.

It seems like food ignorance is getting better as consumers pay more attention to what they eat.

I remember in the spring of 2010, how absurd it was that the Florida strawberry industry had to fight a public relations battle after winter freezes.

In January that year, low temperatures set the stage for a market glut two months later, when tons of berries ripened at the same time. Prices fell well below the cost of production as Florida growers came to market at the same time as California was getting started.

Growers were forced to leave berries in the field. They don’t want to be in this position.

But then came the ignorant mainstream media, as a late March program on ABC News attacked Florida growers for destroying their fields instead of donating the berries to the hungry.

Do-gooder consumers wrote nasty e-mails to the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, after which executive director Ted Campbell had to explain how markets work, not to mention that hunger fighting groups did organize some gleanings to help feed the hungry.

Thankfully, we see much less of this now.


Misunderstanding food waste

Sometimes, the misunderstanding of the market system is confusing.

Take blogger Dana Gunders, who is listed as a scientist of food and agriculture for the environmental group the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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Denise Donohue    
January, 08, 2013 at 03:59 PM

Greg - Thought you so nailed it on this one! Great column. I don't think that strawberry thing is so long ago (2010) that it wouldn't happen again.

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