6 Questions to Ask All Presidential Candidates About Food

The Lempert Report
March 31, 2016

How would Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz respond?

In the latest issue of Mother Jones, Tom Philpott, posed 6 questions that he would like to ask the Presidential contenders about food and farming.

#1 A growing body of research suggests that diversifying crops—growing other stuff besides just corn and soybeans, everything from wheat and oats to  vegetables—could go a long way to reversing these catastrophes. As President, how would you push farm policy to reward soil- and water-friendly farming practices in the heartland?

He points out that with the tens of billions of dollars of crop and insurance subsidies over two decades, farms in the US Corn Belt—the former prairies occupying much of the upper Midwest—churn out the feed that drives the country's meat industry. Yet the region is losing the very resource that makes all of this bounty possible: Its precious store of topsoil is disappearing much faster than the natural replacement rate.

#2 - near and dear to us is: How would your administration respond to California's declining water resources in context of its central position in our food system?

The drought persists in California—and is the source of 81 percent of US-grown carrots, 95 percent of broccoli, 86 percent of cauliflower, 74 percent of raspberries, 91 percent of strawberries, and nearly all almonds and pistachios, plus a fifth of US milk production. 

#3 - 70 percent of workers on US fields come from Mexico or Central America, and more than 40 percent of them are undocumented. How would you act to improve wages and working conditions for the people who feed us?

According to the US Department of Agriculture, around 70 percent of workers on US crop fields come from Mexico or Central America, and more than 40 percent of them are undocumented. Median hourly wage: $9.17.

#4 - Would your administration continue to promote biotech crops around the world and lobby foreign governments to accept them? Why or why not?

#5 - How would your Department of Justice look at consolidation in AG markets—and would you consider antitrust action to break them up?

Just four companies slaughter and pack more than 80 percent of US beef cows, 60 percent of its pigs, and half of its chickens. Early in his administration, President Barack Obama initiated serious investigations of these highly consolidated industries, responding to farmers' complaints of uncompetitive markets. Nothing has happened.

#6 And lastly, What's the proper federal role for convincing people to eat healthier—especially people of limited means?

According to a 2013 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, if Americans followed USDA recommendations for daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, 127,000 lives and $17 billion in medical expenses would be saved annually.