Introduction: The continuing crisis
The American food system is in crisis. That sentence or one very like it has introduced the hundreds of books, articles, reports, bills, laws and debates about food and agriculture of the last century. A growing number of Americans suffer hunger and malnutrition because of recent, severe federal budget cuts and an uncertain economy. The American food system is, from a traditional perspective, a wonder of productivity and efficiency. The present US food system does not benefit producers, food industry workers or consumers. The making of farm and food policies over the last half-century has mostly consisted of tinkering with the same set of tools and ideas. Consumer overcharge due to economic concentration in food manufacturing amounts to $15 billion a year. In many government agriculture policies, a sort of schizophrenia is at work that results in programs operating at cross-purposes – and that end up hurting the very people they are supposed to help.