Feed on

The Honorable David Koon
268 Fairport Village Landing
Fairport, NY 14450

Dear Assemblyman Koon,

I’d like to respond to a flyer that was mailed to us – it was a flyer encouraging my family to “put our money where our heart is – buy local and support local farms.”

One reason we chose to locate in upstate, NY is because of the neat mix of environmental, urban and agricultural amenities. Indeed, our family buys local throughout the season, and makes many a trip to the numerous farms in Monroe, Wayne, Ontario and other nearby counties. However, we are very concerned with three aspects of this mailing.

  1. Taxpayer funds are being used to support these mailings and the businesses which stand to benefit from them (particularly in times of tight budgets). This is an inappropriate use of funds and an inappropriate role for government. The government is supposed to be in the business of providing “public goods” that are not easily provided by the private sector. It strains credibility that advertising on behalf of local farmers is something along the lines of parks, roads, etc. (themselves being dubious public goods cases in many instances).
  2. These taxpayer funds are being used to advance special privileges on a small and select group of people in the community. What is it about local farmers that merits an mailing from our assemblymen? Are not the local seamstresses worthy of a similar mailing? What about the eye doctors and dentists? And certainly what about folks like me (I teach at one of our local universities)? Shouldn’t we encourage more of our local students to patronize the nearby colleges in order to put their money where their hearts are? In fact, none of that is appropriate.
  3. The information in the flyer is misleading at best, and simply wrong at worst.
    1. If family farms continue to go out of business yet the community wishes to preserve open space then supporting farms for the purpose of maintaining the space is specious reasoning. The farms going out of business is a signal that the land is not being put to best use in the form of a farm – and dedicating resources to maintaining those farms is wasteful. If “the community” wishes for those tracts to remain as open space then “the community” ought to take measures to do just that – by purchasing the lands from farmers, by securing conservation easements with developers of sold farm lands and other options. To promote open space by preserving farms makes as much sense as promoting employment by subsidizing typewriter factories. It is hard to imagine that the most effective way to preserve open space is by promoting buy local campaigns.
    2. Your claims about health and nutrition from local food ought to include documenting information. Americans are now living longer than at any point in human history even as less and less of our food is grown “locally.” Now that correlation is certainly not causation – but the information you present in the flyer is far from the honest truth. Preservatives are not harmful. Nor is there any guarantee that local foods are not in fact harmful as well. How many times have you gone to the Farmers’ Market and inquired what they put on their food? Does the FDA inspect the food at a Farmers’ Market?
    3. The claims of environmental friendliness from buying local are not merely exaggerated, they are mostly wrong. I’ve pasted in an article I’ve written to explain it in a bit more detail. The idea of “food-miles” being problematic is a myth. The issue of “enormous” waste and packaging is misrepresented. And the issue of landfill space is a complete red herring. My article does not address the latter – but needless to say, a landfill that is 10 miles by 10 miles could accommodate ALL of the trash that the entire United States produces for the next hundred years. And landfills are near capacity because it no more makes sense for landfill owners to secure land for new fills when old ones are not topped out than it does for homeowners to have 400 lbs of pasta and rice in their basements at any given time.

What is most frustrating of all is not even what I wrote above – it is that your flyer gets sent to every household in the area as gospel. People will not have any chance to learn about the misrepresentation in your mailing and they certainly will not have any chance to be alerted to the deeper and more serious questions I raise. You might argue that if this is so important to me, why I don’t just print out 20,000 flyers and mail them myself. Well, you can do the math on how much that costs – no single cause is worth that to me when I am trying to raise a family and pay to send our children to Catholic schools while the government uses thousands of our dollars every year to send the children of richer families to schools which resemble university campuses. This is why it is offensive to see flyers like the one you sent out – even as much as I support local farmers. But that is the point – local farms ought to be supported on their own merits. What of the many things that do not have your explicit support? If resources were not being used to pick local farms as “winners” what would they be used for? And we will never see how private choices would have resulted in a pattern of preservation and development that perhaps made even more sense than local agriculture. Again, we love the local apples, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, corn and other products – but we have serious concerns about the role government continues to play in picking favorites, distorting information and misusing funds.


Michael Rizzo
Perinton, NY

6 Responses to “Putting My Money Where My Heart Is”

  1. Chris says:

    Have you sent similar letters in the past? If so, have you ever received a response?

  2. wintercow20 says:

    I certainly have sent several letters like this to various politicians and other organizations. I have rarely if ever even received a “Thank you for your response” much less a detailed discussion of the point I raise.

    I’ll post another letter I wrote to the editors of the Genesee Valley Parent magazine that was addressing serious mistakes and misdirections in their writing and have never even received a confirmation from them.

    Frustrating to say the least.

  3. Kevin Lin says:

    Of course… who’d want to publish letters proving them wrong?
    Come to think of it maybe thinking about media is run (and corrupted) would lend to an excellent discussion… I don’t know too much specifics myself. The ideas and spin perpetuated by the media seem to have amazing effects on how the country goes and how the people think.

  4. jb says:

    You should challenge him to a debate on the issue in the local paper (take out an ad!).

    My local Congressman (Olver) recently sent out a taxpayer-funded mailing (now I wish I’d saved it), with a chart that showed the CPI over time, with education and health care inflation broken out separately (both much higher of course). Of course his conclusion was not to attribute this to public subsidies, which increase demand relative to supply. No…he wants MORE public funding for BOTH because prices are rising so quickly… Economic Ignoramus ….

  5. Scott says:

    Have you ever tried sending this letter to a local newspaper?

Leave a Reply