In the 1980s, when I was Texas Ag commissioner, my staff and I proposed a comprehensive set of state rules to protect farmworkers, public health, our water supplies, and farmers themselves from the life-threatening consequences of toxic pesticides.
But trying to enact these policies in Texas (a state that back then made and sprayed more agricultural poisons than any other) meant taking on the enormous money and power of the chemical lobby, as well as a hostile Republican governor and a legislature largely made up of corporate lapdogs. All of the above were howling furiously at us, snarling that they’d kill the new protections we’d laid. When I told my legislative director that it seemed like the political odds were against us, his response was not a confidence booster: “Some of the evens are against us, too,” he said.
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Yet-by rallying a big coalition of family farmers, consumers, environmentalists, church leaders, and others – then bringing these “outsiders” inside the usually closed legislative lair to confront the cozy club of lawmakers and lobbyists – we won!
As in that firefight, today’s Good Food forces (made up of the grassroots people and groups across the country striving to build a sustainable, equitable agriCultural system) are under constant attack by the moneyed forces of agriBusiness, which view food as nothing but another assembly line product to be fabricated by any means that fatten the corporate bottom line. We’re in an ongoing, momentous struggle (cultural, economic, political, and moral) over the very nature and future of food, and our best path to victory is to do as we did in Texas three decades ago: Forge coalitions of outsiders to confront and expose the self-enriching cabal of insiders.