The Economic Argument For Local Food?

Creative Loafing just put up a post on Fresh Loaf about a new University of Georgia’s Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development study, which asserts that if every Georgia household spent $10 on Georgia-grown produce that it would pump $1.9 billion a year back into the state economy.

Ah yes, the old “something for nothing” assumption.

Correct me if I’m wrong – and I know you will – but while I have been, and continue to be, a vocal and passionate supporter of local food, I can’t put much credence into a purely economic study.  It may be a great PR piece, but while attempting to simplify the impact of locally grown and purchased produce on the state economy, it seems to undermine itself.

How?

Because it makes one unstated assumption: while Georgia would entirely devote itself to locally grown produce, no other states would.  What happens if every other state does the same thing as Georgia?  How adversely affected would the peach, peanut and Vidalia onion industry be if other states spent more money locally?  Would these two behavioral patterns cancel out the other’s economic impact?

My point is NOT to defend corporate agriculture, but simply to suggest that the argument for more local food on the dinner plate must be more holistic, and that the case for it may actually be weakened when viewed in a vacuum of “economy”.

The impact of local food can’t be reduced to simple revenue.  The argument just doesn’t play out.  (Unless you currently live in a state with no agriculture economy.  Even then, your actions will hurt the economies of the big exporting states.)

Local food is about supporting your neighbor instead of a corporate farm, which in turn supports improved working conditions on farms.  It’s about health and taste.  It’s about the impact on the environment.  It’s about creating a food production model that’s a bit more flexible than the current version, which is solely reliant on a single variable – inexpensive energy – in order to keep feeding the population.

Local food is about a lot of things.  A state’s economy may just not be one of them.

Some Salaries Raise Questions To MARTA’s Role

Should MARTA pay a landscaper an $80,000 a year salary?

Well, they aren’t anymore.  That was one of the many positions axed in the recent cutbacks.   But regardless, the AJC uses that one question to dive into a larger debate on the role of public transit in Atlanta.

…the fact that highly paid landscapers and development managers were ever employed by MARTA — and that it plans to keep many other positions that have little to do with moving passengers from point A to point B — irks some who fear the public transit authority is prone to overspending until checked by a recession, and who accuse the agency of overreaching its responsibility.

MARTA and its allies across the country say, if transit is to thrive and attract travelers who can afford to choose, it must make the experience pleasant and safe. But it also means efforts much bigger: building denser developments near transit stations where condo-dwellers will hop from doorstep to fare gate every morning, and in the process shape a new kind of city that reduces suburban sprawl.

The AJC has really been holding MARTA to their description of their cuts as “drastic” lately.  First with the empty bus routes article and now this one.  But I’m pretty sure cuts can still be drastic even if you layoff a landscaper or two.  10% cuts or 50% cuts, he’s gone.  So in essence, the title of this article, “Some MARTA layoffs: drastic or long overdue?”, makes no sense.

It’s not an either/or.  I could be both or it could be neither.

Free-For-All Friday 7/23/10

Feel free to use this post to make comments and ask questions about local issues not discussed here over the past week.

Comments close on Monday.