The only way to resist is a complete and immediate boycott of all factory farmed animal products.
By James McWilliams
(Photo: David Silverman/Getty Images)
What will a Donald Trump administration mean for food and agriculture? To fully appreciate how quickly and easily two decades of agricultural and dietary reform are about to evaporate, one need only consider the fact that Trump has shortlisted Sid Miller, the Texas agriculture commissioner, to be secretary of the Department of Agriculture.
Miller, a lifelong cattleman and part-time rodeo clown, has done more than personify classic agribusiness deregulation and “consumer freedom.” He has celebrated that personification. His first act, in January of 2015, was to provide “amnesty” to cupcakes in public schools, as well as pies, brownies, and cakes. It was a curious move given that these foods weren’t then banned (they had been, but the ban was overturned).
But, of course, the status of these sweets didn’t matter. Miller’s inaugural announcement was a swaggering endorsement of the attitude that, as American-born consumers, we have a God-given right to eat whatever the hell we want. And if we want it, well, that’s all the justification needed for agribusiness to produce it without regulatory meddling. (These conservative ideologues are all about encouraging culinary lust, but not the sexual kind.) Twenty percent of Texas schoolchildren are obese (in part) because of this eat-whatever-you-want mentality. When asked about the decision to bring crappy food back into schools, Miller had his answer at the ready: “local control.” In other words, a corporate free-for-all.
Next, to further ensure that the Lone Star Nanny State wouldn’t dare try to make school lunches healthier, Miller reversed the ban on soda machines and deep fryers in public schools. Defending this move, he said, “We are working to put an end to a one-size-fits-all approach mandated from Austin” — a city, not incidentally, that’s the healthiest in the state (not to mention the most educated). The deleterious effect of these measures on school kids’ health hardly keeps Miller up at night. When asked what, in fact, does keep him up at night, he quipped, “bad Mexican food.” (The real answer, he then admitted, was, “Will we become a Muslim country?”)
It’s possible that Miller rejects sensible dietary measures for Texas children because he believes that our physical ailments merely require a “Jesus shot” to be cured. In 2015, Miller, at taxpayer expense, traveled to Oklahoma to visit the Priceless Beauty Spa in Kingfisher. It was there that one “Dr. Mike,” a seven-time convicted felon, doped up Miller with a mysterious concoction — dubbed a “Jesus shot” — that promised to eliminate all Miller’s pain for the rest of his life on Earth. On the way home the Texas agriculture commissioner swung by the Oklahoma capital for 15 minutes of glad handing to, you know, justify the public funding of his quackery junket.
It’s difficult to accept that this charade is directly linked to our ongoing if dispersed effort to improve food and agriculture in the United States. Among many other concerns, the possibility of Miller’s appointment suggests that food reformers seeking any kind of food justice from the top down should expect nothing from the federal government. Whether under Miller or Sam Brownback or Chuck Conner or Sonny Perdue — all short-listed by Trump and all handmaidens of agribusiness — the Department of Agriculture will steadfastly resist governmental regulation of what we eat and how we produce it, all the while preserving the subsidies and trade deals that keep Big Ag thriving. The corn, soy, sugar, and cattle lobbies have never been happier.
Our rapidly devolving political climate thus leaves enlightened, reform-minded advocates with no other choice: We must, absolutely must, act collectively through consumer decisions to hit agribusiness exactly where it hurts the most. Fortunately, its Achilles heel is as easy to identify as Miller’s ubiquitous cowboy hat.
The moving parts of agribusiness share a single and increasingly precarious foundation: factory farmed animal products. Corn and soy owe their existence in todays’ agricultural economy to factory farmed animal products. The pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers — and all the petroleum used to sustain these commercial crops — all serve at the altar of factory farmed animal products. If we want to hold onto power during a Trump regime, we can. We definitely can. It will just mean boycotting any animal product — meat, eggs, cheese — that comes from a factory farm. Not a bad way to make America great again.