Sunday, June 8, 2008

About the T-Shirt I'm Wearing in My Profile Picture

It says “FUSDA.”  It’s meant to be a statement of admonishment for the United States Department of Agriculture.

I don’t claim to be a farm policy expert, but it doesn’t take an expert to see that the U.S. government has committed quite a few agriculture-related transgressions in its day, from failing ever to tell its obese citizenry to eat less to diluting labeling standards to unloading unhealthy and even dangerous foods on public school cafeterias.  Suffice it to say that an organization can’t really promote agricultural interests and protect the health of Americans at the same time, and suffice it to say that the USDA errs almost without exception on the side of bowing to agribusiness lobbyists.

Is my t-shirt a glib, crude way of condensing these issues?  Admittedly.  Is it funny?  Maybe, maybe not.  But I thought it would appeal to the ever-growing crowd of people who read Michael Pollan  and seek out sustainable food.  In fact, I thought that the “FUSDA” idea was an uncommon stroke of brilliance on my part, and I looked forward to getting appreciative nods and occasional scowls when I wore it in public.  I thought it was a bold, instantly recognizable statement that would provoke discussion wherever I went.  I was a little nervous the first time I put it on, actually, unsure of how strongly people would react to my declaration of defiance.

Unfortunately, no one has ever understood the t-shirt.  Responses have ranged from a polite “What does it mean?” to a puzzled “What is foozdah?”  Even my hippie-est friends haven’t gotten the message.  When people on the street see it, they look briefly bored and confused before glancing at the next person.  So much for my bold statement on agriculture policy. 

If you, too, would like to wear “FUSDA” across your chest, I recommend doing what I did and using your own design on  (You get extra points for irony if you have it printed on a certified organic t-shirt.)   You probably shouldn’t try to sell them, though; I have a feeling that the government might have a legitimate claim in copyright court if anyone tried making a profit off of them.  If the government could figure out what “FUSDA” is supposed to mean, that is.

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