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California ag leader decries ‘grow food, go to jail sentiment’

A.G. Kawamura spoke at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Former California ag secretary A.G. Kawamura says he is “saddened” by the way agriculture is being treated in the U.S.

“How different groups attack agriculture. How so many folks looks at agriculture as if we’re some entity that is conspiring to make things worse, whether it’s with the environment, whether it’s with food safety, whether it’s with the amount of water we use,” Kawamura says.

Kawamura, who was California’s ag secretary from 2003 to 2010, is a third generation fruit and vegetable grower. He says the attacks are especially harsh in his home state.

“In California currently, there seems to be almost a ‘grow food, go to jail’ sentiment,” he says. “I say that with all seriousness. It’s amazing how the farming community is being attacked.”

Kawamura says those attacks on agriculture would not be happening if not for the abundance of food produced by U.S. agriculture. He calls it the “the luxury of abundance”.

“It allows everybody to have their opinion on what kind of food you should have and what kind of food you should not eat. Or what kind of system should be producing it,” he says. “Because of the great job we’ve done, it’s created this kind of sense of privilege on the part of the consumers who think food is a right.

“I argue food is not a right–it’s a privilege.”

Kawamura is also the founding co-chair of Solutions from the Land, a project to develop a sustainable roadmap for 21st Century agricultural systems.

Kawamura recently spoke at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

AUDIO: Excerpts from Kawamura’s speech

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