Going up against the biggest of the big—three CEOs from three of the largest ag and food-system corporations—has got to be a little like facing your high-school bully head-on. Yet here goes Stephen Bartlett (who I know through his work with Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville), Andrew Kang Bartlett and David (Bartlett) Abazs, asking the CEOs of Monsanto (Hugh Grant), Tyson (Donnie Smith) and Walmart (Doug McMillon) to have a friendly food and ag debate.
The Bartlett Brothers sent a letter to the CEOs on Dec. 21, 2014, inviting them to engage in a national Future of Food debate online. “Surely, you have nothing to fear in debating the Bartlett Brothers, since we are simple farmers, gardeners, community organizers and food justice advocates and have never run a Fortune 500 corporation as each of you are doing,” the letter says.
It’s been a month, though, and the Bartlett Brothers haven’t heard a word since.
Maybe three middle-class farmers and food-justice workers/activists are not the most likely candidates to debate the leaders of companies grossing $522.36 billion in net sales in 2013. As the campaign blog points out, the three CEOs earn 400 times more than the three brothers combined. At the same time, what have they got to lose?
Debate Amongst Yourselves
If the Bartlett Brothers do not hear back from the CEOs—and it kind of looks like they won’t—by Jan 31, they’re going to go ahead and post their responses to the debate questions. There’s one question per month for the whole year. At this point, the debate is a little one-sided, as they’re answering their own questions, but if the CEOs posed their own set of questions, the brothers would respond to those, too.
Each of the questions pits Big Ag against agroecological farming. If you read the 13 food and farm predictions posted on The News Hog blog earlier this month, you might remember that my prediction was further polarization between food and farm communities—the us versus them. I then said what we need is for all aspects of the agricultural community to be coming together to provide truthful, unbiased education to the public about food production and its effects on the world. While the Bartlett Brothers’ questions highlight this divide, the discussion to come out of them might offer some of the public education we need.
The first question up for debate: Is Big Ag or agroecological farming better for family farmers? If the CEOs decline the debate invitation—or decline to respond altogether—the Bartlett Brothers will present their own thoughts as well as post the corporations’ public stances on the topic.
If you were given the opportunity to debate either the CEOs or the Bartlett Brothers, what questions would you ask? Tell me in the comments section below! Maybe we can have a future debate on The News Hog blog.