As the second generation of a small grass-fed cattle and farming operation I would like to inquire why David Wood of Harris Ranch feels so threatened by the opinions of Michael Pollan? Having attended university myself I find nothing unusual in having a speaker visit to offer his perspective on the world. Every such event is not turned into a debate, so why the urgency to do so?
Today, people are growing dissatisfied with conventional agriculture and feedlot cattle operations because of the deficient nutritional value of this food as well as associated impacts from its production such as topsoil loss, carbon dioxide release, and pesticide contamination. Many are starting to recognize the simple biological fact that cows are not made to digest corn. Others do not want to support GMO corn production or eat meat treated with high doses of antibiotics. So, universities are discussing alternatives, which is exactly what universities are meant for.
Conventionally produced agricultural products represent 90 percent of all foods consumed in the United States. Reaching this statistic was achieved with the help of government subsidies, new regulations, and substantial water projects that brought water to places where there wasn’t any before. These were policies that made it increasingly difficult if not outright impossible for small farmers to survive.
It is clear that Wood benefited from these policies if he is in the position of leveraging Cal Poly by threatening to withdraw the offer of a half-million-dollar grant.
Yes, there is a trade off to challenging conventional agriculture. That ninety percent would become a lesser statistic. Small farmers, organic growers, grass-fed operations and the like would be given a greater chance at succeeding. Consumers would be better able to align their values with the food they consume.
I will be honest; I find it outright exciting that Wood is reacting with such spitfire to this. It means that finally business-as-usual practices, such as his, recognize they are being challenged to revise themselves and take a deeper look at agriculture. He has actually given me hope for the future, through his revolt, through his alarm.