As a student in applied plant science, I spend much of my time learning about farming. I chose to study agriculture because I want to help solve the problems brought on by growing populations, environmental degradation and food insecurity. The more I learn, however, the more frustrated I become.
My observation so far has been that scientists and their recommendations take a back seat to huge companies and their lobbyists. These companies have the ability to influence bills and laws that use taxpayer money to fund programs that are actually detrimental to society. There is a sentiment among many agronomists that much of the funding for agriculture is being inappropriately allocated to certain crops. The farmers then get the heat for the decision to grow these crops. They shouldn’t. Much of society is out of touch with the agricultural system, and they don’t realize their own choices make these systems profitable.
So what is the avenue for dealing with these problems? Do I need to change my major to political science just to make our laws and spending match the recommendations we’ve received from agricultural and natural resource experts? What good are new discoveries if powerful lobbyists can sweep them under the rug? Why do politicians with less experience than me get to decide the future of our agricultural system?
Agriculture provides the basic necessities of life for many of us, yet it takes a backseat to most other issues. I urge everyone to become more aware of how and why we produce the crops we do in this country. This means reading more than Michael Pollan — though he’s a good start. Take a class or two in agriculture. I recommend AGRO 4103: World Food Problems because it’s the reason this university exists.
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