Buying in to Local Foods: A Market and Sociopolitical Analysis of the U.S. Food System
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Earth’s natural resources are undeniably finite. As such, it is increasingly important to recognize how humans manage these fleeting supplies as they seek to balance exponential population growth with sustainable human and environmental health. A truly enduring solution must be socially desirable, economically feasible and ecologically viable. For agricultural matters, food scarcity and extreme environmental variability makes obtaining these three essential components even more challenging. A considerable number of materials have been prepared ranging from “how to” booklets for local farmers to highly quantitative economic analyses of the United States food system. Despite this great abundance of resources, few people have taken on the daunting challenge of integrating these materials into effectual public policy. This report examines the economic and sociopolitical factors that must be overcome for local agricultural to be a truly sustainable solution to a slough of environmental problems. Local farmers are typically more intimately tied to environmental issues, and are thus more willing to adopt sustainable practices. Academics and professionals alike recognize the extreme hardships of transforming American agricultural policies. Nonetheless, a few comparatively simple measures can be taken to spur local farming initiatives. Overcoming the present barriers will require educational efforts, political reform and a fundamental shift in the current market paradigm. Each of these components can be driven by well-designed, clear and appropriate legislation. This document shows that a reasonable public policy must work to shift funding to sustain small farmers, provide incentives for businesses to support local farming initiatives, standardize food labels and publicize the benefits of buying local products in order to secure Earth’s natural resources and ensure community stability.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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