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How Farm Policy and Big Ag Impact Farmers in the U.S. and Abroad

In a new book, researcher Timothy Wise argues that powerful forces shape food policies that feed corporate interests.

Originally published on Civil Eats March 7, 2019 by Eva Perroni

From remote villages in Malawi, Mexico, and India to ethanol refineries and industrial hog factories in the American heartland, Tim Wise has spent great deal of the last several years thinking about the big picture of food and farming.

As both the director of the Land and Food Rights Program at the Small Planet Institute and a research fellow at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, Wise has for years been thinking and writing about food and farm policies, trade, and agricultural development in the U.S. and across the globe. In his new book, Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food, Wise explores the ways in which U.S. food and agricultural policies can distort global markets and impact communities around the world.

In country after country, Eating Tomorrow examines the influence of corporate agribusiness on policy, diet, and landscape. Wise explores the global expansion of genetically modified seed markets, international trade agreements, land grabs, and the biofuel boom and argues that philanthropic, agribusiness, and government bodies have formed powerful coalitions to shape food policies that feed corporate interests.

“Agribusiness companies have such a powerful hold in the United States that they have convinced policy-makers and the general public—and even many farmers—that their interests are completely aligned with those of farmers,” Wise said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Civil Eats recently spoke with Wise about his new book and the policy solutions that could support small-scale farmers, the environment, and food security of the world’s poor.

You write that the roots of our global agricultural problems are epitomized by Iowa and the “cornification” of the United States. Why Iowa?

I had seen in my travels through southern Africa, India, and Mexico that [pesticide- and fertilizer-] intensive agriculture was failing to increase productivity in a way that could rebuild depleted soils, make small farms more resilient to climate change, or reduce rural hunger. I wanted to understand where that model came from, and Iowa seemed to have it all: vast expanses of corn and soybeans dotted with an occasional hog farm or ethanol refinery…

(read the full interview at Civil Eats)

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