A Green New Deal for Agriculture, Patel & Goodman 2019

Compendium Volume 3 Number 1 July 2019

In the U.S., some visions for food system change are anchored in the policy framework of the Ocasio-Cortez/Markley Green New Deal, itself viewed by many as a proposal for transformative change. Noting that the way we eat accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions and that “the food system is breaking the planet,” Patel and Goodman argue that the Green New Deal could redirect public funds from grain commodities, used largely for processed foods, bioenergy and meats raised in confinement, toward production of healthy foods. More evenly distributed support for greater numbers of farmers could significantly reduce rural poverty while easing pressure on and even regenerating ecosystems.

Yet farmer organizations on the right (Farm Bureau) and left (Farmers Union) have disparaged the Green New Deal, which the authors explain is because the proposal challenges a politically driven cultural view that industrial farming systems are more efficient and thus superior. Thus, transformative change, according to these authors who draw on the original New Deal for guidance, lies in building alliances among farmers, farm workers and consumers, which are capable of confronting this cultural narrative.

They suggest that confronting food system monopolies (especially in the meat industry) could bind farmers of all political stripes together, and that the question of food prices could bring farmers and consumers together. “For a rural Green New Deal to work in the 21st Century, everyone’s income needs to increase… Instead of driving down the costs of farming to make food cheap enough for urban workers to buy on stagnating wages, all workers must make enough to afford food that’s sustainably produced.”

Patel, Raj & Jim Goodman, 2019, A Green New Deal for agriculture, Jacobin Magazine April 4, 2019, https://jacobinmag.com/2019/04/green-new-deal-agriculture-farm-workers.

For the full PDF version of the compendium issue where this article appears, visit Compendium Volume 3 Number 1 July 2019