I searched the archives and it does not appear that I have written about my genuine fondness for Mr. Todd Fitchette, Associate Editor at the Western Farm Press. I find that he is nearly always thinking about the very same topic as I am, only completely opposite. I had great sympathy with one of his op-eds saying, more or less, ‘I just don’t want to think about water for a while’. I hear you, brother.
This past week, Mr. Fitchette has been asking, plaintively, why he is forced to defend the need for food and water. Usually, I have no solace for Mr. Fitchette, since he and I have the opposite policy prescriptions. But this time, I can help Mr. Fitchette with his dilemma. In fact, I can assure Mr. Fitchette that this problem is entirely under his control, and that he can resolve it whenever he chooses.
It would be very peculiar to defend the need for food and water, so it is fortunate that no one is attacking the need for food and water. I like to believe that I am among the urban cognoscenti calling for drastic changes to agriculture. Even among my snide acquaintances, there is none who stands outside restaurants mocking the diners for having to eat.
Mr. Fitchette is using a rhetorical technique that has long distressed me. In his piece, he conflates a criticism of ‘some externalities of some types of agriculture’ to an attack on ‘all of agriculture’ to an attack ‘the human requirement for food and water’. I have often found this type of synecdoche puzzling, because I, an ignorant city person, understand that there is a great range of agriculture, both by practices and location, and when I say that I’d like to see the end of huge corporate tree nut businesses, I am not saying that I want all agriculture to end in the state. Moreover, I can tell the fucking difference between those two statements.
Mr. Fitchette, it seems, has trouble with this concept. I’ve seen that problem elsewhere, at CDFA board meetings for example, during the 2006-2009 drought, when they kept saying that “agriculture is getting no water”, when an accurate statement would have been that some farms on the west side of the Valley were not getting delivered water. And here is where I can offer Mr. Fitchette some help. Mr. Fitchette can instantly solve his mental anguish by returning to specificity. This is under his control! Rather than trying to find a way to defend the human need for food, he could be listening attentively to the specific critiques of some practices of some kinds of agriculture from a small town mayor. Then, he could be having conversations about whether those specific practices are necessary, or wise, or widespread. Those conversations could be interesting and useful!
It is clear why large ag proponents want to conflate all agriculture. They are hoping to tap into the American affection for the romantic vision of the family farm. But in the Trump era, I think ag proponents have pushed too far. Poppy Davis tweeted this in April:
That was insightful and prescient. To the extent small farmers were Trump voters, they forfeited our sympathy for their labor problems and international trade woes. They chose what they got; my concerns will go towards the victims of Trump policy that didn’t choose to be in our situation. So big ag wants to hide behind the image of small ag, and much of small ag just took their historical American goodwill and fucked it sideways. Mr. Fitchette will have his work cut out for him in the next couple years. I am happy to advise him any time he likes.