Recently, two studies concerning research about where consumers have been getting their food over the past year were reported. One was from Colorado and one from Minnesota. Both studies pointed out that people living in small rural communities often lack access to fresh food without traveling many miles to larger cities. Independent grocery retailers in small towns cite competition from large chain stores, super centers, drug and convenience stores and increasingly, dollar stores as factors affecting their ability to stay in business. When consumers buy paper products, cleaning supplies and personal care items from the corporate competition in in small towns, then shop at the independent grocery only for fresh produce and meat, there’s not enough profit to sustain the small grocery store. As these grocery stores close, communities often become food deserts, because many low income and elderly residents only have the option of purchasing food at a convenience or dollar store. However, during the pandemic, the Colorado study found that about 35% of the consumers contacted had tried at least one alternative source of food ranging from farmers markets, CSAs, or direct from local producers. While about 30% of the small grocery stores in Minnesota reported that they hadn’t purchased food locally because they were uncertain about regulations involved with selling local food products, about 10% of stores contacted said that they had sourced food from local producers over the past year, and 41% would like more access to local foods.
The coronavirus relief package that Congress passed earlier this month could lead to some major budget cuts for a wide range of food and agricultural programs because of automatic spending reductions required by the so called “pay as you go” rules. On Friday, the House passed legislation to avoid those cuts, but it’s uncertain whether the Senate will go along with the House on keeping funding for some agricultural inspections, forestry programs and for the Commodity Credit Corporation, the source of trade mitigation and pandemic relief for farmers and ranchers.
Fifty or sixty years ago, farm reports could be heard on hundreds of AM station throughout rural America, usually twice a day. Early in the morning and again at diner time, that’s at noon for farmers. Large clear channel radio stations like WGN in Chicago and KOA in Denver boomed agricultural reports across the corn belt and the inter-mountain west. Farmers and ranchers listened to get the latest livestock and crop market prices, find out what agricultural experts at their state university were suggesting and keeping track of what politicians were up to in their state houses or in Washington D.C. Now there’s only a few dozen stations left that produce farm reports. KSJD is alone on the west slope Colorado producing agricultural news. But we don’t direct Farm News & Views only to ag producers, because we believe that all of us who live in the Four Corners Region have an interest in agriculture, whether we’re producing food and fiber or consuming it. So please donate to KSJD to keep all of the programming you value on the Air.
British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote, “In all affairs, it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on all the things that you have long taken for granted.”