Undercover Videos on the Farm: Legal Issues

Ohio livetock farms have been a target of animal welfare organizations, evidenced by recent releases of undercover videos taken at  Buckeye Veal Services and Conklin Dairy Farm and the broadcast of the ”Death on a Factory Farm” documentary.   The strategy is to gain employment or access to the farm, videotape without the knowledge or permission of the farm owner, and later release video suggesting that the farm mistreats its livestock.   This approach has heightened the visibility of farm animal welfare issues in Ohio, but the strategy and its impacts raise many legal issues.  A presentation I recently prepared for the Ohio Agricultural Law Symposium highlights research we’re conducting at OSU to identify the legal issues and implications of the undercover video approach.  Below is synopsis of a few of the more controversial legal issues.

  • Ohio’s penalty structure for animal cruelty.    At least one animal welfare organization claims that it has targeted Ohio for undercover investigations because Ohio is one of the few remaining states that limits animal cruelty punishment to misdemeanor penalties (with the exception of a repeated offense against “companion animals,” which is a fifth degree felony).   Most states have adopted a felony penalty structure for acts of animal cruelty, which results in more severe punishment.  Ohio legislators have made nearly a dozen attempts to increase penalties for animal cruelty, most recently with H.B. 55 (see our earlier post).    The proposals always fail, allegedly due to an effective lobbying effort from groups who argue that penalties for cruelty to animals in Ohio should not be higher than those for abuse of humans.  While undercover video releases don’t appear to be moving felony penalty legislation forward currently, they could be garnering public support for a future proposal.  Should Ohio adopt a felony penalty, and if it does, will undercover investigations find a new state target?
  • Duty to report animal abuse.   The videographer of the Conklin Dairy Farm video witnessed acts of mistreatment against animals by an employee for approximately one month before the organization released the videos.  Many argue that the videographer should have reported the abuse right away, but neither Ohio or any other state has a law requiring an ordinary person to report animal cruelty.  Fifteen states have laws mandating that veterinarians report suspected animal cruelty: Ohio does not.  Another 13 states have “voluntary” reporting laws for veterinarians, which grant a veterinarian immunity and a waiver of client confidentiality upon reporting abuse, but not Ohio.  Ohio does have several mechanisms a person could use to initiate an investigation of suspected animal cruelty through local law enforcement or the county humane society.  In a similar vein, should livestock farms have an employment policy requiring employees to report incidents of animal mismanagement and abuse by other employees?
  • Who’s committing the crime?   The person committing the act against an animal is the obvious offender, but what about the videographer and the employer?  Circumstances may exist such that the videographer was a legal “accomplice” to the crime.  Under Ohio law, a person can be prosecuted as an accomplice  if the person solicited another to commit a criminal offense; aided, abetted or conspired with another in committing the offense;  or caused an innocent or irresponsible person to commit the offense, and also shared in the intent to commit the crime.    Likewise, it may be possible to prove that a videographer acted with “recklessness” by observing and taping the crime or by encouraging and interacting with the offender; recklessness is the required mental state for an animal cruelty violation.  As for the employer, Ohio’s humane society law clarifies that a conviction of an employee for animal cruelty does not prevent the prosecution of the employer for “allowing a state of facts to exist which will induce cruelty to animals” by the employee. 

These are only a few of the issues surfacing from the undercover video strategy.  Given the current climate of continued attempts to “out” livestock farmers and push the farm animal welfare issue in Ohio, perhaps it’s time we begin finding solutions to the issues.

 

Legal Resources for Landowners on Wind Energy

Wind energy development presents many legal issues, regardless of the size of the project. Two publications by Farmers Legal Action Group provide valuable assistance to landowners considering wind development projects. The Farmers’ Guide to Wind Energy: Legal Issues in Farming the Wind includes information on negotiating wind property agreements, siting a wind farm, liability risks associated with developing and operating wind turbines, project financing, choice of business structure, government incentives for wind development, and tax consequences. The guide addresses farmer-owned large utility-scale wind farms as well as smaller on-farm and residential wind turbine projects. Negotiating Wind Energy Property Agreements is a compilation of important legal issues to consider when negotiating wind energy property agreements. Both publications are available on the FLAG website at http://www.flaginc.org/topics/pubs/index.php#wind.

Managing for Success Workshops Scheduled

If you own or manage a horticultural or agricultural business, you won’t want to miss the Managing for Success Workshops!  These unique, interactive workshops sponsored by The Ohio State University Extension and North Central Risk Management Education Center, are designed to assist individuals with their business and personal goals through improved management of human and financial resources.

Participants of the 6 half day workshop will have the opportunity to interact with other agricultural and horticultural oriented individuals, to study efficient management systems and as a result, obtain skills that can change their businesses.  Workshop topics are sure to answer questions to assist in identifying opportunities that will enhance your ability to manage your business; developing mission statements, objectives, goals and tactics for your business; understanding the 5 basic management functions; apply basic management concepts and skills to your business; finding, recruiting, selecting, hiring and training employees to become an effective part of your team; and learn how to utilize financial and other resource people.

There are two workshop locations set for fall of 2010.  The Thursday evening workshops will be held from 5:00 P.M. until 9:00 P.M., October 14 thru November 18, 2010, at the Defiance County OSU Extension office, 6879 Evansport Road, Defiance, OH.  If you choose the Friday morning workshops, they will be held from 8:00 A.M. until 12:00 noon, October 15 thru November 19, 2010, at the OSU Extension, ABE Center, 639 S. Dunbridge Rd., Bowling Green, OH.

Workshop registration cost is $150.00 for the first participant from a business and $125.00 for additional people from your operation attending.  The deadline to register is October 1, 2010. For additional workshop information or to register, please contact Beth Fausey Scheckelhoff (fausey.11@osu.edu), or Becky McCann (mccann.52@osu.edu), at 419-354-6916.

Long Term Care

During an Estate Planning Workshop James Skeeles and James K. Leonard addressed Medicaid Planning or the Nursing Home Dilemma. Following is a summary of our comments.

First, the State of Ohio pays about half of the annual nursing home bills, after one has spent down their assets and doesn’t have enough income to cover the nursing home bill. There are two schools of thought when considering the possibility of a long term nursing home stay later in life: 1) it is appropriate for my assets to be used for my care if necessary or 2) I wish to “protect” my assets from that possible liability.

For those wishing to protect their assets, it has become increasingly difficult, as the State of Ohio increasingly requires pay back from the Medicaid recipient’s estate, possibly the entire value of the lifetime benefits received. However, if there is a surviving spouse, then recovery is not pursued until the spouse passes away.

Again, for those wishing to do “Medicaid planning” to protect assets, the rules can be confusing, creative ideas may or may not pan out, court decisions can change the rules and there are 88 counties’ interpretations from many different caseworkers. Therefore Medicaid planning advice should be obtained from a reputable professional and is seldom something one should do on one’s own.

Two schools of thought were mentioned above, which can be categorized into four planning strategies: 1) No planning – pay your own way, 2) Spend and with careful timing give to your family to become eligible for Medicaid, 3) Buy long-term care insurance and 4) Other special techniques for which professional advice must be utilized.

Medicaid has two tests for eligibility, income and assets. Considering assets, some assets are exempt from being tallied into the allowed $1,500 for a single person or $21,912 minimum for a married couple (up to half of nonexempt assets up to $109,560). A home residence is exempt as long as occupied by spouse or a dependent and for 13 months after it is determined it will not be possible for one to return to the home. However, after this time frame there can be a forced sale of the home and/or estate recovery can file against the estate. Other exempt assets include one car valued at $4,500 or less if single or cars for a couple, pre-paid funeral expenses and household items such as furniture, jewelry, etc.

Giving to become eligible for Medicaid eligibility became more difficult as of the Deficit Reduction Act of Feb. 8, 2006. There is now a five year “lookback” from the date the Medicaid application is filed. That is, the Medicaid applicant is deemed to still own all of the assets given away during the previous five years before application.

Medicaid imposes a penalty period of ineligibility that is calculated as follows for the number of months the applicant must be in the nursing home and otherwise qualify for Medicaid by asset and income standards: Months = Total value of gifts in the last five years/$6,023.

Even when one becomes eligible for Medicaid and Medicaid begins making nursing home payments, payments will stop upon receipt of assets, such as an inheritance or the required sale of the home. When in nursing home all income except $40 personal allowance goes to the nursing home and Medicaid pays the balance of the nursing home bill.

Let’s assume one wishes to pursue strategy two above, where one plans to give assets away and become eligible for Medicaid. First, this strategy is faulted for those with significant pension or other income, as Medicaid only pays the extra your income won’t cover. Second, heirs cannot be legally bound to support the older generation in any way. If that were the case, the assets were not really given away. Finally, a non-revocable income-only trust can hold the “protected” assets, but the income is not protected and there can be no strings attached that allow the giver to get the assets back.

One special use of an annuity can make those assets in the annuity not subject to counting or estate recovery by Medicaid. However, professional guidance in this case is necessary since this will raise red flags by the ODJFS (Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services) and be reviewed carefully. If an annuity is purchased for pay out during the remaining life of a surviving heir there is no period certain and this is not counted as a gift subject to penalty period calculation and not subject to recoupage. However, keep current as the regulations on this too may change.

The third strategy mentioned above is to purchase long term care insurance to protect assets and possibly income. However, keep in mind insurance companies do make money, so insurance should be purchased to protect only losses you and your heirs can’t bear. Also, remember that the assets you are protecting are those going to the heirs. If your heirs don’t want long term care insurance, likely you shouldn’t buy it, unless you don’t want your heirs taking care of you! Also, if you don’t have heirs, long term care insurance is not a good idea.

A general convention is that if you can’t afford long term care insurance you shouldn’t buy it. However, in some situations, where spending down assets for long term care insurance will give you more peace of mind or where that is what heirs want, then funding out of assets may be appropriate. Remember, passing on that last dollar is not worth peace of mind.

Another reason not to buy long term care insurance without adequate income is that this insurance is term insurance. That means if you can’t pay the premium any more, the coverage will stop and all your payments are for naught, without ever being able to cash in. Yes, long term care insurance is less expensive when younger, but the insurance company is betting on more payments and a significant number of policies lapsing before the policy holder entering a nursing home.

However, you can’t wait until you are on the door step of the nursing home before purchasing long term care insurance. Insurance companies only accept 6 out of 10 of the people who apply for long term care insurance. Applicants must complete a suitability test including a questionnaire for Alzheimer’s and a doctor visit history. There are also financial requirements where one has to be able to pay the premium and has to have to have enough assets to protect.

But what increases your chances of being in a nursing home? Being female is likely the most important factor of being in a nursing home, even though insurance companies don’t charge higher premiums for females. Longevity in family is also a factor. The longer one lives the more likely one is to be in facility. A Family history of long stays in facilities is also an indicator, as if a family has a culture of care giving in family, they are more likely to care for the aged at home.

Of course, disabling diseases in family also increase changes of being in a long term care facility for a long time. Disabling diseases such as Alzheimer’s or senility, stroke, diabetes and emphysema increase one’s chances of long term stays in the nursing home. Those with a family history of these diseases should purchase nursing home insurance before family history of onset of the disease.

What reduces your chances? Being male, especially with a living wife who chances are will take care of you, no family history of long term disability, culture, willingness and ability of family to provide care, desire to live one’s life at home. Home care insurance is less expensive insurance as are the benefits the insurance company will pay out. Therefore, fewer assets are protected by home care insurance, especially if it turns out that the family just can’t provide extended care in later years.

Medicaid has partnered with the insurance industry to provide the partnership program. This program protects, dollar for dollar your assets from Medicaid equal to benefits paid by insurance before application for Medicaid. Keep in mind these benefits have to have been paid prior to application for Medicaid. If that occurs, one can qualify for Medicaid and keep allowed assets ($1,500 single) plus “uncounted” assets – car, income ($40 if in facility) plus assets equal to care benefits already paid by insurance.

So how much money are we really talking about for long term care and long term care insurance? According to Ohio Job & Family Services, the average stay in a long term care facility is 2.5 years. The average length of time for assistance and progressively increased care at home is 4.3 years.

Also according to Ohio Job & Family Services, following are the average rates per year:

  • Private Room – Facility                                           – $67,000
  • Semiprivate Room                                                   – $60,000
  • Assisted Living, private, one bedroom                 – $30,000
  • Certified Home Health Aide, 50 hours per week            – $51,000
  • Homemaker Services, 50 hours per week           – $44,000

But who pays for this? According to the Congressional Budget Office in 2004 and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Income and Product Accounts, the following is the break out of payments:

  • 47% Medicaid
  • 28% Out of Pocket
  • 13% Medicare
  • 12% Private Health Insurance

So what is the cost of private health insurance? Assuming:

  • Not married or widow or widower
  • 15% discount if spouse living
  • 35% discount if spouse living and buys also
  • Max. daily benefit = $200
  • 3 year possible benefit period
  • 30 day elimination period
  • Maximum Benefit – $219,000
  • Insurance with Banker’s Insurance

The cost for insurance would be as follows:

Purchase Age Cost / Month

Cost/Year

55 $ 275

$ 3,200

65 $ 433

$ 5,000

76 $ 838

$ 9,750

  • This article will be concluded by paraphrasing Ohio Jobs and Family Services. One should purchase long term care insurance only if all of the following are true:
  • Assets should total over $75,000, not including the home or car.
  • If single, income should be over $25,000.
  • For a couple, income should be over $35,000.
  • The person or couple should be able to pay premiums.
  • The person or couple should have heirs to which an inheritance will be left.
  • The person or couple should have already decided on the type of health care they want in future when they can’t care for themselves.

Ohio Farm Custom Rates 2010

A large number of Ohio farmers hire machinery operations and other farm related work to be completed by others. This is often due to lack of proper equipment or lack of time or expertise for a particular operation.  Many farm business owners do not own equipment for every possible job that they may encounter in the course of operating a farm and may, instead of purchasing the equipment needed, seek out someone with the proper tools necessary to complete the job. This farm work completed by others is often referred to as “custom farm work” or more simply “custom work”. A “custom rate” is the amount agreed upon by both parties to be paid from the custom work customer to the custom work provider.

The custom rates reported in this article are based on a statewide survey of 242 farmers, custom operators, farm managers and landowners conducted in 2010. These rates, except where noted, include the implement and tractor if required, all variable machinery costs such as fuel, oil, lube, twine etc., and the labor for the operation.

The complete set of Ohio Farm Custom Rates 2010 is online at:

http://aede.osu.edu/Programs/FarmManagement/OFCR2010.pdf

There is no assurance that the average rates reported in this article will cover your total costs for performing the custom service or that you will be able to hire a custom operator for the average rate published here. Calculate your own costs carefully before determining the rate to charge or pay.

Some custom rates published in this article have a wide range. Possible explanations are the type or size of equipment used, the value of labor, the mix of labor and equipment used, different income needs of full-time custom operators versus farmers supplementing their income. Also some custom operations are provided at bargain rates due to family relationships between the parties or due to the fact that custom providers may see an increased probability of eventually securing the custom farmed farmland in a cash rental or other rental agreement.

Charges may be added if the custom provider considers a job abnormal such as distance from the operator’s base location, difficulty of terrain, amount of product or labor involved with the operation, or other special requirements of the custom work customer.

Publications are available that may help in calculating your total costs of performing a given custom operation. Some of the online resources available that may be of assistance include:

Farm Machinery Cost Estimates available at:

http://www.apec.umn.edu/faculty/wlazarus/documents/machdata.pdf

Machinery Economics at farmdoc:

http://www.farmdoc.illinois.edu/manage/index.asp

Estimating Farm Machinery Costs

http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/html/a3-29.html

Before entering into an agreement, discuss all of the details of the specific job with the other party.

Fuel prices have an impact on custom rates and rates may fluctuate based on large movements in fuel prices. The approximate price of diesel fuel at the time of this survey was $2.50 per gallon for off-road (farm) usage.

For the custom rates reported in this article the average is the simple average of all the survey responses. The “Low” and ‘High” rates represent -/+ one standard deviation around the average. (Standard deviation is a measure of the variability of the survey responses and one standard deviation both above and below the average includes approximately two-thirds of all survey responses.)

The complete set of Ohio Farm Custom Rates 2010 is online at:

http://aede.osu.edu/Programs/FarmManagement/OFCR2010.pdf

The Market for Club Pigs: This Little Piggy Sold Online

The performance of brick and mortar institutions relative to Internet alternatives is of increasing interest for agriculture.  With Internet penetration rising steadily among US farm households (59% in 2009 vs. 29% in 1999), online markets hold great promise for increasing market efficiency, particularly for items where local markets are thin and search costs are high.  However, online markets must overcome issues of trust (Does the item meet its description? Will the seller actually send it?).  Furthermore, Internet markets are newer and need to attract enough buyers and sellers away from traditional markets in order to have a liquid market.  Once these barriers are overcome, questions still remain about whether online prices are comparable to prices in traditional markets.  For example, Ohio State research found that used tractor prices on eBay were 30% lower than similarly described tractors sold in traditional auctions.

One place where Internet sales have developed a foothold is in the club pig market.  In this article we explore the tradeoffs between Internet and traditional club pig auctions from a buyer’s point of view using data collected from three Midwestern farms that sold pigs through both traditional auctions and through a popular online auction site specializing in club pig sales (www.showpig.com).  The sales took place from late February through early July this year, and we tracked 159 pigs sold through traditional auctions and 146 pigs sold online.

The Two Auctions

The traditional sales work like most auctions we are familiar with: open outcry auctions with pigs in the ring and ample opportunity to view the pigs before the sale.  The Internet auctions rely upon pictures posted on the auction website along with a description written by the seller.  Often, buyers can stop by the farm prior to the auction to view pigs offered, but not all potential buyers do or can.  To place a bid you go to the auction website, fill in the online form to become registered, identify the pig you are interested in and then, during the auction, enter a maximum amount you’d be willing to pay for the pig.

Once the auction begins (usually around 8 am on sale day), all initial bids are scanned by the online auction software and the website displays the highest bidder’s ID and what the sale price would be if the auction ended immediately.  All bidders then have an opportunity to increase their maximum bid prior to the auction’s close (usually around 8 pm, with a slightly different closing time for each pig).  Once the auction’s closing time has passed and there have been 5 minutes without any additional bids (no sniping like on eBay), the auction is over.

If you are the highest bidder, you will pay the amount bid by the second highest bidder plus an increment (usually $25).  In addition, a 10% buyer’s fee is tacked onto this winning price where half of this fee is returned to the seller to help offset coordination costs for the eventual exchange of the pig between buyer and seller.  Buyers can pay via credit card or Paypal via the website or can overnight express-mail a certified check to the auction company.  Buyers are responsible for transporting animals, though sellers work with the buyer to locate a good meeting point – usually at an upcoming show or traditional sale somewhere between buyer and seller.

Comparing Prices Buyers Paid

So, how do prices compare between the Internet and traditional auctions for the three sellers we analyzed?  Well, first we wanted to make sure we were comparing apples to apples.  So we collected data about each pig’s age, breed, gender, and sire as well as information about the seller and the date of sale, and we used a statistical approach to figure out how each factor affected the auction price.  Then we pretended like each pig sold twice: once online (including the 10% buyer’s fee) and once in a traditional auction.

In the end the median pig would have cost about $10 more if purchased online than if it were purchased in a traditional auction – that’s 1.6% more given the median pig sold for about $650.  So, what do you get for the extra $10?

Well, if you trust the seller and don’t want to see the pig in person, you can bid in your pajamas.  Gone are the days of sinking a drive and the better part of an afternoon at a sale and feeling like you had to leave with a pig, even if the bidding gets crazy or the offerings look weak.  Or, suppose you went to the local sale on Saturday and didn’t see anything you liked.  Most online sales are held during weekdays, so you can bid on an array of pigs from several sellers to fill the void.

Furthermore, the online bidding function might help you stick to a budget better as you can ‘automate’ your maximum bid and might not get carried away in the heat of the moment at the sale ring.  Also, you can ‘try out’ sellers you normally wouldn’t see at your local club auction.  True, you may have to drive further to pick up the pig, but then again, the pig won’t have faced the stress of going into the sale ring and possibly being comingled with pigs from who knows where.

Another advantage of online auctions is that you can often buy top quality pigs year round.  So, if you have a show you want to attend that isn’t during peak fair season, you need not rely upon private treaty sales, where sellers may be reticent to sell their highest quality via private treaty.  In fact, one seller in our study said he specifically uses online auctions during off-peak months as a way to sell his highest quality pigs.  This keeps him from having to pick favorites among his private treaty regulars who want his best pigs – they can battle it out at the auction website.

Coexist or Dominate?

Does this spell the end of traditional club pig auctions?  It is unlikely.  Online auctions cannot duplicate the networking opportunities and the ‘event atmosphere’ of the local club sale.  Also, as one club pig buyer noted, he can better introduce his child to the concept of livestock auctions and pricing at the live event than at an online event.  However, it would not be surprising if online auctions start chipping away at the dominance of traditional auctions.

Already we see that the two are finding a coexistence of sorts in the Midwest.  For example, during the first seven months of 2010 in Ohio, we explored the auction opportunities available for both traditional and online sources.  The Ohio’s Country Journal Spring Livestock Directory listed 27 traditional club pig auctions with the majority taking place during April and a couple in March and May.  The online auction site www.showpig.com listed 28 sales featuring Ohio sellers with sales spread from January through July.  During traditional sale months like April the online auctions get smaller (average 10 pigs per sale) and occur during weekdays, but during non-peak months, online sales get larger.

One thing is certain: there are now more options than ever for youth exhibitors to source pigs for the upcoming fair.  From our study, it appears that prices are quite comparable between online and traditional sources.  But only time will tell if both markets will come to share market volume equally or if one format or the other comes to dominate.

Ag Lenders Seminars to be offered in October

Ohio State University Extension will be hosting an “Agricultural Lender” seminar on October 13 and 14 in western, Ohio.  The October 13 will be held at the Champaign County office of OSU Extension in Urbana, and the Thursday, October 14 session will be held  at the Putnam County office of OSU Extension in Ottawa.   Both sessions will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

These seminars are excellent opportunities for ag lenders, Farm Service Agency financial personnel, farm managers, county Extension educators and others to learn about OSU Extension research, outreach programs and current agricultural topics of interest across the state.  The seminars will feature five speakers.

The first speaker will be David Drake, of the Farm Service Agency in Ohio, who will share information on the new Conservation Loan Program. This new program was part of the 2008 Farm Bill and gets away from the typical “safety net” role and allows anyone to apply.  The second speaker will be  Barry Ward, OSU Extension leader in production business management, who will report on updated information on cash rents, 2011 crop input costs, land values and custom farming rates

The third speaker will be Peggy Kirk-Hall, director of OSU Extension’s Agricultural and Resource Law Program.  Mrs Hall will discuss the “Ohio Animal Care Agreement and Legal Issues with Under-Cover Operators” on private farms. Ohio livestock operators continue to face pressure from various state and national groups on animal production practices and care. The fourth speaker will  Kevin Elder of the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Permitting  Section.  Mr Elder will speak about potential new rules regarding the use of livestock manure in the Grand Lake St Mary’s watershed and the implications for other watersheds in Ohio. Algae blooms across Ohio have brought increased scrutiny to the use and timing of manure and commercial fertilizers on farming fields.  Finally, Dr. Ian Sheldon, The Andersons Endowed Chair Professor of International Trade, who will present the topic “Why Regulate Shadow Banking” as it relates to federal legislative efforts to prevent future banking crises like the one experienced in the past couple of years.

Registration to attend either seminar is $60. The registration deadline is October 6 and includes continental breakfast, lunch and a packet of registration materials.  Interested parties can contact the Putnam County Extension office at  419-523-6294.  Click here for the registration flyer.

Is There a High Cost of “Cheap Food” Policies?

Nearly a half century ago the world was aroused by Rachel Carson’s (1962) apocalyptic message of Silent Spring. Carson’s successors in the alternative agriculture advocate (AAA) movement continue to be pessimistic regarding the nation’s food supply and environment. Professor Robert Paarlberg’s (2010) response is forthright:

In Europe and the United States, a new line of thinking has emerged in elite circles that opposes bringing improved seeds and fertilizers to traditional farmers and opposes linking those farmers to international markets. Influential food writers, advocates, and celebrity restaurant owners are repeating the mantra that “sustainable food” in the future must be organic, local, and slow. But guess what: Rural Africa already has such a system, and it doesn’t work.

By default, organic farming is the food system of Africa and other impoverished regions of the world because farms are insufficiently productive to purchase synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, to acquire schooling to build human capital, to finance roads and other infrastructure essential for commercial agriculture, and to fund research developing improved varieties.

This essay mainly addresses U.S. AAA’s recent lament: The high cost of cheap food. Public policy, it is argued, in the form of farm commodity price and income support programs has made food artificially cheap, thereby contributing to chronic overeating and consequent cardiovascular and related maladies. On the other hand some analysts, by adding biofuel subsidies to the public policy mix, reject the “cheap food policy” finding. This essay further broadens the scope of extant public policies affecting food to encompass public investments in research, extension, education, and infrastructure to raise agricultural productivity. At issue is whether the U.S. has pursued a low cost food policy, and, if so, the impact on society’s health and well being. And do AAAs offer an attractive alternative?

This essay makes a case that sustainable agriculture requires modern science and technology to address very real problems of poverty, disease, violence, and hunger. Policy digressions into promoting organic, local, and slow foods produced on small farms risk loss of agricultural productivity essential for improving well being of people in rich and poor countries alike.

Download the full essay here: https://u.osu.edu/ohioagmanager/files//2010/09/0902LutherPaper.pdf