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Coalition Report

by Kathleen Logan Smith

Executive Director; Missouri Coalition For The Environment

www.moeniron.org

 

Earth To Nixon: Jobs Plan Needs Missouri Roots

 

Missourians need jobs. And we need food. And we need energy. Generally, jobs ensure we can buy food and keep the power on.

Last month, on January 14, the St. Louis Post Dispatch ran two headlines side by side:

“Nixon unveils latest jobs plan” and “For farmers, 2011 was banner year.”

 

I want to put these two together.

The first story promised Governor Jay Nixon would unveil details of his plan in the State of the State address and that it would include, among other expected items like courting tertiary auto part supplier businesses, refining incentives to target “high-growth industries” and creating jobs “in rural communities.”

The second story noted that crisis throughout the world, from floods to drought, created shortages, and hiked food prices for grain and livestock as foreign demand increased prices too. Overall, U.S. farm income is reported up more than 28% over 2010. Most Missourians cannot report such a windfall.

 

In November, the world population hit 7 billion people. All of them eat.

Missouri grows some food, but primarily we grow animal feed and fuel. We do not grow enough food to feed our own six million people anymore because, for reasons related to industrialization, consolidation, global profiteering, and the influence of money in politics, Missouri’s local food system was dismantled in the past four decades. Yet, we could. And if we did, we could keep in our state much of the $10-$20 billion we spend buying food from other places. With an extra $10-$15 billion (because you know we’d still import citrus, coffee, tea, seafood, and chocolate!) in Missouri pockets we could afford to hire the local energy auditor to identify how to tighten up our energy leaks, the insulator to lower our electric bill, or even the solar electric contractor to get off the grid entirely. Over a decade, all those savings would add up to a healthier, more prosperous Missouri.

 

If we raised enough food in our region to feed ourselves, we might have enough to share. We’d certainly need more farmers. Those farmers wouldn’t need to get advanced degrees, though PhDs would be welcome. We’d need more engineers, nutritionists, and chefs too. And we’d need plants to prepare, freeze, preserve, pickle and process food. We’d need them near where the food is grown. We’d need more warehouses too.  We’d need them in rural Missouri where sustainable vegetable and fruit farms, enriched with practical livestock, would thrive. We’d need them in our cities where urban farms would cycle year round veggies to hungry urbanites from frosty greenhouses and expansive rooftops.  Does that meet Nixon’s call for “high-growth” industry? Could he design incentives for that?

 

Food is a growth industry. It is also very democratic: seeds will sprout regardless of the level of education, beliefs, party affiliation, prior convictions, religion, gender, and hair style of the farmer. Overalls are optional.

 

The industries that are putting paychecks in Missouri pockets today like chemical manufacturing, education, and health care, cannot be disregarded. However, we must look at our current and future needs through a lens of resiliency and self sufficiency obtained though wise stewardship of our natural and human resources. The promise of ‘high-tech’ jobs always holds allure, and yet it is the reality of reaping wealth from the soil of Missouri that will give us the roots for a strong and secure future. Whether Governor Nixon prioritizes rebuilding Missouri’s food system or not, we can each stake our own claim this spring with a spot of ground and a seed.

 

For more information, visit www.moenviron.org or email klogansmith@moenviron.org.

P.S. Solar Power=People Power

http://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy/over-half-germany-renewable-energy-owned-citizens-not-utility-companies.html

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