Local farmer backs freedom for consumers

FAIRMONT — Who gets to say what we put in our bodies? A seemingly simple question with a complicated answer.

When it comes to drugs and alcohol, what people ingest can cause them to behave in ways that put others in danger. When it comes to vaccines — a recent hot topic of discussion in the country – some believe mandatory vaccinations are the best way to keep everyone safe.

Then there’s food. Who gets to decide what is healthy and necessary for us to consume? Is it the proper role of government to make people conform to health standards or should the decision be left up to individuals? Some believe that rising obesity trends put a strain on health care and are thus a public, rather than private, issue.

Soda taxes already exist in places like Seattle, Philadelphia and San Francisco. As of late, the idea of limiting Americans’ meat consumption has become popular among lawmakers, whether for health or environmental effects. The recently defeated Green New Deal made headlines when it was reported that early draft language suggested cattle (their flatulence, actually) bore responsibility for greenhouse gases.

Local farmer Wanda Patsche notes that recent research has discredited that idea.

“We’ve all heard the statement that [Congresswoman] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made about cows and greenhouse gases, but when it came down to the research, agriculture only contributes to a small percent of the greenhouse gases,” she said. “But that’s not something we hear from the people behind the Green New Deal.”

Other politicians, such as current 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker, have said the planet simply cannot sustain current meat consumption habits. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also has led the way in making dietary decisions for those attending the city’s public schools.

But Patsche said that what she and others in the ag industry do not see is free people making free choices.

“There’s definitely money behind those campaigns,” she said. “I know recently in the news that the mayor of New York has declared meatless Mondays for all New York City public schools. Our position in agriculture is that we have no problem giving consumers or students choices.

“If what they choose to eat is a vegan meals, or if they want to live a vegan lifestyle, that is fine by us, but it should be a choice; it should not be something that’s forced upon them.”

Touching on another topic when it comes to personal choice, the Green New Deal suggested the importance of “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector” through supporting family farming and “investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health.”

Patsche says the problem with that is that the ag industry is already on top of it, with most farmers continually in the process of improving.

“My thought on the Green New Deal is that with all the advances that the ag industry has made over the years and will continue to make, I think the real ‘Green New Deal’ is agriculture,” she said. “We’ve reduced our carbon footprint, we use less water and less resources, and that’s something that needs to get out there. That’s something we will continue to do. We will continue to find new technology, new innovations and we’ll continue to move down that path.”