It’s a beautiful, sunny day with a cleansing breeze gracing the earth. The morning air was a bit heavy after a rainstorm, but it has cleared out nicely. This week I’ve been busy preparing several presentations on different aspects of food. The nice thing about designing presentations is they usually turn out looking nice and tidy. Then I make the presentation, and to this speaker’s delight, I am surprised of the direction it actually goes based on attendee’s interests. I always know when I’ve hit the mark when there are lots of questions and comments. My goal is always to engage and share communication. My words are chosen to create a vision no matter if I’m presenting on food, human trafficking or caregivers. 

Writing my blog or column is much the same. Text without tone is tricky and even trickier is creating a balance that will instill interaction that promotes curiosity and positive response. If I don’t get distracted by “shiny objects,” the text rolls out pretty smoothly. Sometimes I’ll begin in one direction, but in the end, be presently surprised where it actually went. As I have mentioned, this is because when I sit down to write, I try to think of the reader, but I also imagine what the conversation might be like after reading. You know, imagining a rhetorical situation during which this conversation might happen. I assume all communication is for the purpose of creating understanding.

Last night we harvested our first orange pepper of the season. What a great feeling that was! Every day when I’d walk by, I’d take a look to see if it had progressed from green to orange. The wait seemed interminable. I am grateful for it to be gracing my salad tonight. I know I’ll taste the sunshine in every bite. Orange and yellow peppers all start out green. In the stores and at farmer’s markets, green peppers are less expensive because you can grow and harvest them in a fairly short amount of time. The patience to wait for them to change to orange or yellow comes at a price, but the reward is easily digested enzymes have had time to develop. And you’ll be treated to a brighter taste.

This isn’t going to be about peppers. I’m thinking of my patience with that pepper and my end reward. Like many of us in the food movement, we are impatient for change where change is thought to be needed. The upside is that slow change allows us plenty of opportunities to stop and look at the direction we’re traveling. The downside when we don’t take that opportunity is the undoing is also slow.

Last week I wrote about NAFTA relative to affecting food consumers, growers, and processors. This is an opportunity for positive change, but I am concerned because of lack of transparency and combined with NAFTA’s history, this naturally, creates distrust. That’s a bad negotiations start. Add to this, after only one week of renegotiations; President Trump has said he wants to pull the plug on NAFTA. Whoa! That could be seriously damaging to a food system heavily relying on NAFTA. While it certainly needs revision, it seems too early to pull the plug arbitrarily. So much for change coming slowly.

Proposed changes could be used to advantage in creating the ending of “free trade” meaning corporate control and the beginning of a trading system that is environmentally and socially sound.

  • As a means to improve the trade balance, the US is asking that either export to Mexico and Canada be increased, or exports from those countries decreased, will affect what food products consumers will have access to in the US in terms of imports.
  • Canada’s dairy supply chain management system works. The disadvantage to the US is that it uses price fixing and tariffs. This causes trade to be in Canada’s favor for milk, eggs, and poultry.
  • Energy improvements in Mexico could help environmentally, but they may cause inequity among farmers.
  • Historically, disputes have ruled in Canada’s favor, presenting an overall sovereignty challenge. The goal of civil organizations is for support of national food sovereignty, including protecting farmer’s right to save and share seeds.
  • Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) is still being demanded by civil organizations. In 2015, the World Trade Organization deemed COOL a trade barrier.

I’ve been reaching out to our rural local farmers regarding NAFTA and food policy. Next week I’ll combine those conversations with those of farmers in Mexico and Canada.