I am frustrated to learn that Michael Pollan is as charming and cogent on television as he is on the written page. He sat down with Bill Moyers recently to offer some advice to president-elect Obama (part 1, part 2, transcript):
> What Obama needs to do, if he indeed wants to make change in this area — and that isn’t clear yet that he does at least in his first term — I think we need a food policy czar in the White House because the challenge is not just what we do with agriculture, it’s connecting the dots between agriculture and public health, between agriculture and energy and climate change, agriculture and education.
Sounds complicated — and it is! — but Pollan presents the topics with his usual deftness. Just so this post isn’t a total love note, I’ll offer two points of dissent:
1. Pollan seems pretty well bought into the notion of food miles. “When the oil runs out, we’re going to need to be able to feed ourselves from within 100, 200, 300 miles.” I’ll put $100 down that when the oil runs out, we’ll still have fresh orange juice in New York in January. There are plenty of reasons to support local agriculture, but transportation just isn’t the most compelling of them.
2. Pollan speaks in passing of the need “to create more jobs on farms.” You hear stuff like this all the time. Not to be too simpleminded about this, but isn’t treating our agriculture policy as a jobs program for farmers a big part of the reason our system is such a mess? Maybe we should worry about the food, and let the jobs take care of themselves.