Jason Huffman, the editor of POLITICO Pro Agriculture and Pro Trade, is speaking at the third annual D.C. Food Tank Summit, Let’s Build a Better Food Policy, which will be hosted in partnership with George Washington University and the World Resources Institute on February 2, 2017.
Jason supervises a talented team of nine journalists and has been covering food policy for more than eight years, including time spent as the editor of Food Chemical News. Jason grew up in a rural part of Pennsylvania, not far from the Maryland line, working summers for his grandfather and uncles in their respective hay, straw, and fertilizer businesses.
Food Tank had the chance to speak with Jason about his background, experience covering food and agriculture, and opportunities to improve the food system.
Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
Jason Huffman (JH): I initially became more interested in journalism while a high school student after realizing I was way too uncoordinated to have a future in professional sports, and I quickly became enamored with the idea that I could use my writing talents to make a difference. I took to covering food policy in 2008, when I was offered the editorship at Food Chemical News and realized how incredibly exciting and important the subject was.
FT: What makes you continue to want to be involved in this kind of work?
JH: The food industry is the largest in the world, accounting for more than US$4.8 trillion in annual sales, according to Forbes Magazine, and that number is probably out of date. It is international in scope, full of conflict, and highly politicized. Just about everyone cares about where their food comes from these days. There just isn’t a better beat for a journalist to cover, and I get to supervise a whole team of reporters covering this subject. What could be better?
FT: Who inspired you as a kid?
JH: George Anderson, my grandfather, who owned a hay and straw business and lived just up the road from me in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Nobody worked harder and was a more generous human being. He survived the Great Depression, loved being a farmer, and couldn’t understand the desire to do anything other than work from sun up until sun down.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
JH: So many people are passionate about the source of their food and their diet these days, that the time is ripe to overhaul the way the federal government subsidizes agriculture.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero who inspired you?
JH: Before my time, but Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle, improved food safety forever by educating the public about how meat companies were routinely cutting corners in order to make bigger profits. It led to the first significant set of food regulations in the country.
FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
JH: The water shortage in the West.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
JH: Buying more locally sourced produce and employing more of a seasonal diet.
FT: What advice can you give to President Trump and the U.S. Congress on food and agriculture?
JH: Don’t discount the importance of exports to the U.S. agriculture industry while playing hardball with trading partners in order to improve circumstances for U.S. manufacturers.