May 15, 2013
Over a hundred years ago, my family lost their coffee farm in Puerto Rico when Hurricane San Ciriaco destroyed the crop and the bank refused an extension on our production loan. On the heels of the U.S. military occupation, it was a land grab (like the ones tearing up the continent today) and it eventually drove my young grandmother to immigrate to New York City. She was part of a large, painful agrarian transition that transformed Puerto Rico—an island of rich soil, abundant water and a 12-month growing season—into a food-dependent nation.
Deciding how America will nourish itself and sustain its farms would seem a top policy priority— yet as the US Farm Bill demonstrates, sustainably grown, healthy food and livable incomes for farmers and workers remain an afterthought in a process controlled almost entirely by agribusiness and a handful of farm-state legislators. Despite strong public opinion supporting local food, farmer’s markets, organic agriculture, food workers’ rights and access to fresh produce, agribusiness and commodity interests continue to dominate food and farming policy.