Government Shutdown Reinforces the Importance of Local Food Systems

With the government partially shutdown, corporate mega-farms, concentrated animal feed lots, and big-ag in general become vulnerable to some serious problems. Giant centralized farms and processing plants whose products cross state borders (the majority of them) fall under federal jurisdiction via the Commerce Clause. The FDA is not conducting routine inspections of food facilities, and the CDC’s director of Public Affairs said this week, “We will be less likely to find outbreaks, to stop them as quickly, and we will have delays in determining best strategies to prevent future outbreaks.” The Food and Drug Administration has about 60 percent of its investigators on furlough. Nearly two-thirds of the Centers for Disease Control staff is unable to work, amid a nationwide salmonella outbreak.

In addition, daily reports from the Agriculture Department, which help farmers read the markets for corn and livestock prices, have ceased. Many large farm operations have no idea how to price their crops. On the commodities trading floor, instead of brisk transactions, the lack of government data is stalling investment and sapping confidence. The Department of Agriculture website reads “Notice. Due to the lack of funding, the USDA’s website and social media channels will not be updated until funding is resolved.” Sorry Charlie.
Small diversified family farms rarely rely on these large government agencies for daily dealings. Instead they keep working, producing healthy, sustainable food products for their local communities, because they too rely on the food they grow. When government shuts down and becomes unreliable, the importance of buying local, joining a CSA, or growing your own food becomes more clear than ever. To connect with local growers in your community, visit and see what you can find in your area.

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