George Washington was one of the first to advocate a Buy American policy, but it wasn't only his actions as president that strengthened America's economy. His personal decisions worked to the benefit of the American economy as well. In the 1760s, Washington's lone cash crop was tobacco, most of which he exported to England, and he relied on an agent to use most of the profits to purchase imported finished goods.
But Washington eventually formed his own personal Declaration of Independence from England. This came about as a direct result of Washington being unable to audit his agent's activities and being unable to determine whether he was being treated honestly. He switched from raising and exporting tobacco to raising corn and wheat, which were sold to local merchants, and he used the profits to buy finished goods from American craftsman. In his historical farewell address, Washington said, "There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favours from nations."
In today's more globalized economy, it's important that our country once again focus on being self-sufficient in agriculture like our first president did in our nation's infancy. Certainly citizens in other countries as well and the U.S. agree with the premise of agricultural independence. South Korean union activist Oh Jong Ryul, who led a hunger strike protesting the free trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea said, "It is a right for a country to feed its own people and a right for a country to produce its own food." South Korea's average tariff on food products is 52%, compared with 12% in the U.S.
As agricultural exports from China surge, that country's food problems become the world's problems. As of June 2007, the Chinese government had closed 180 food factories and found 23,000 food-safety infractions where food manufacturers used industrial chemicals and additives in products from candy to seafood. China grows half of the world's vegetables, and China's total agricultural exports to the U.S. have risen to $2.26 billion in 2006 from $133 million in 1980. More than half of all apple juice imported into the United States now comes from China, up from 1% a decade ago. And about half of all garlic and garlic powder in the U.S. comes from China.
Even though the volume of imported food has tripled in the last 10 years, the percentage of food imports subject to FDA inspections has actually decreased. According to Rufus Chaney, a research agronomist at the USDA, "It's the luck of the draw, not preparation that's protected us." If that's true, then we had better do something to protect ourselves before our luck runs out. Food-related illnesses already cost America's economy nearly $7 billion annually.
It might be more comforting to U.S. consumers if Chinese companies realized the scope of the problem, but according to a June 20, 2007 article in the Wall Street Journal, the Chinese don't always get it. Zong Changbao, president of one of the Chinese companies that was forced to stop using diethylene glycol in Chinese-made toothpaste resulting from safety concerns said, "This problem doesn't exist. It's just a matter of U.S. standards, not a safety problem." Mr. Zong further opined, "The FDA standard is used as a reference in many countries. If China were as powerful as the U.S., we could set the world standard." Do we need any more reason to make sure that China does not become as powerful as the U.S. and have justification to set world standards? If we are going to work to ensure America remains the world's economic superpower, then we're going to have to stop sending so may dollars to China and start buying more goods produced within our own borders.
So what steps can we as consumers take to ensure that the food we consume, including beverages like apple juice, comes from U.S. sources? A great place to start would be to pay a visit to American owned www.usgrown.com. U.S. Grown was founded by Clifford DeMay, who was previously a Farm Division Manager for American-owned Seneca Foods. The mission of U.S. grown is quite simple. It's to show consumers that they have a choice to purchase food products grown in the United States. U.S. Grown believes, as is evident from the statement on their patriotic-style labels, that to survive a nation must feed itself. U.S. Grown is devoted to reviving and supporting U.S. agriculture through a campaign focused on the labeling of foods, and their desire is to make consumer selection easier by giving consumers the ability to choose 100% U.S. grown products.
If we truly want homegrown food products, we need to ask for it from America's retailers, and then they will see the benefits in stocking their retail store shelves with domestically grown food.
At www.usgrown.com, you'll find canned goods that include U.S. grown peaches, pears, green beans, sliced carrots, sweet peas, whole kernel corn, and mixed vegetables. You can also buy premium apple juice from U.S. grown apples.
If polls are any guide, U.S. Grown could be onto something big. A June 2007 Consumer Reports magazine poll found 92% of Americans want country-of-origin labels on meat and produce. A nationwide poll conducted by Sacred Heart University in September 2007 found 68.6% of Americans now check labels for information like manufacturer, nation of origin or ingredients, compared to 52.9% the year before. On August 14, 2007 - the same day I was interviewed on Fox News Channel's "Your World with Neil Cavuto" - results of a FoxNews.com poll asked if it was time to play it safe and buy American in light of the millions of recalled toys coming from China, and 96% of those surveyed said "yes."
The time is now to buy American in areas from toys to food and beyond, and we should especially shun potentially dangerous products from China. Our health, our standard of living, and our sacred national independence are all at stake.
Roger Simmermaker is the author of How Americans Can Buy American: The Power of Consumer Patriotism. He also writes "Buy American Mention of the Week" articles for his website www.howtobuyamerican.com and is a member of the Machinists Union and National Writers Union. Roger has been a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, has been quoted in the USA Today, Wall Street Journal and US News & World Report among many other publications, and is now a weekly contributor to WorldNetDaily.