Making It Easier to Eat Local Food

NY Times, April 19, 2010
A recent Times article highlighted a growing problem for small farmers across the nation: too few slaughterhouses. Many farmers who have answered the demand for locally raised meat have been forced to scale back expansion plans because local processors can’t handle any more animals and the cost of driving their livestock hundreds of miles for slaughter is too expensive.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the number of slaughterhouses nationwide declined to 809 in 2008 from 1,211 in 1992, while the number of small farmers has increased by 108,000 in the past five years. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has acknowledged the imbalance. “It’s pretty clear there needs to be attention paid to this,” he said.

The lack of slaughterhouses is one example of how the rapidly growing local-food movement has taxed the existing food production and distribution networks. Some advocates of the small farmers have called for help from Washington. What role, if any, should the federal government play in creating better food processing and delivery systems?

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