January 5, 2009

A 50 Year Farm Bill

Published: January 4, 2009, New York Times Op Ed

THE extraordinary rainstorms last June caused catastrophic soil erosion in the grain lands of Iowa, where there were gullies 200 feet wide. But even worse damage is done over the long term under normal rainfall — by the little rills and sheets of erosion on incompletely covered or denuded cropland, and by various degradations resulting from industrial procedures and technologies alien to both agriculture and nature.

Soil that is used and abused in this way is as nonrenewable as (and far more valuable than) oil. Unlike oil, it has no technological substitute — and no powerful friends in the halls of government.

Agriculture has too often involved an insupportable abuse and waste of soil, ever since the first farmers took away the soil-saving cover and roots of perennial plants. Civilizations have destroyed themselves by destroying their farmland. This irremediable loss, never enough noticed, has been made worse by the huge monocultures and continuous soil-exposure of the agriculture we now practice.


Isabelle said...

Well, who is going to tell Wes Jackson & Wendell Berry that Obama has selected Tom Vilsack (big friend to agribusiness) as his Agriculture Secretary? As Obama said (from the link of your Dec 17 post):

"To lead a Department of Agriculture that helps unlock the potential of a 21st century agricultural economy, I can think of no one better than Tom Vilsack. As governor of one of our most abundant farm states, he led with vision, promoting biotech to strengthen our farmers in fostering an agricultural economy of the future that not only grows the food we eat, but the energy that we use. Tom understands that the solution to our energy crisis will be found not in oilfields abroad, but in our farm fields here at home. That's the kind of leader I want in my Cabinet.

As our next secretary of Agriculture, Tom will not only help ensure that rural America has a true partner in implementing the farm bill and pursuing agricultural research, but that Washington is looking out for everyone, from the small family farms that are feeding our communities to the large farms that are feeding the world.

When President Lincoln established the Department of Agriculture nearly a century and a half ago, he called it the people's department, for it meant -- it was meant to serve the interests of those who lived off the land.

And I know it will be the people's department once more when Tom is at the helm."

Obama is clearly all about the biotech ... there is no room for doubt. And Obama needs to stop invoking Lincoln as if that provides him some kind of bacteriophagic shield against bullshit. Thank you for putting all the information together in one convenient spot. I appreciate it.

anne said...

Perhaps Berry and Jackson were speaking to Obama in their OP ed in part. A bacteriophage deposits its message (dna) inside the host and reproduces multiples until the host is destroyed. Its an interesting metaphor to compare propaganda to the action of a virus.

Patrick said...

According to this article in Harpers from some years ago, the state of Iowa is now six feet lower than it originally was:


That's a lot of topsoil.