At a time when food policy -- and politics -- is rising as an issue of national concern, one of the leading reporters in this area, Philip Brasher, was let go from the Des Moines Register yesterday. Yes, the paper in the heart of the corn belt shuttering its almost 80-year-old Washington bureau. The news set off a firestorm on Twitter, as Paula Crossfield points out at Civil Eats.
Brasher amazingly was cut just as the jockeying ahead of the 2012 farm bill is getting underway. Conflicts over how to cut agricultural subsidies -- $262 billion between 2005-2010 -- are rising at a time of exploding budget deficits. Brasher was one of the few people around who could cut through the weeds of these issues, which was not only of interest in Iowa. He was also a must-read in food and ag circles.
The take away here: expect more decisions behind closed doors, with a lot more spin. Sure, papers will run a story when something big happens, but the majority of "news" will dribble out from agribusiness associations and farm organization web sites that have a big stake in the outcome -- and the public interest groups that try and counter them. With the ranks of ag reporters exceedingly thin, what you read won't be filtered with an independent set of skeptical eyes; that is, if you manage to read anything at all. Ironic, considering the importance and interest in this area -- food -- only grows.
- Samuel Fromartz