Agriculture needs to take a few steps back

It’s easy to forget that, once upon a time, all agriculture was organic and grass-fed. Saving seeds, composting, fertilizing diverse crops with manure, not tilling and raising livestock entirely on grass was the norm over a century ago. Yet today, these are just the approaches we associate with sustainable food production.

We all know what happened as we modernized – the plow, the tractor, fossil fuels, monocrops, nitrogen fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, feedlots, animal byproducts, e. coli, genetically modified organisms and erosion. We farmed faster, and we farmed more acreage. These are all practices and conditions that most Americans now consider “normal,” if they think about agriculture at all.

Fortunately, a movement to rediscover and implement “old” practices of bygone days has risen rapidly, abetted by innovations in technology, breakthroughs in scientific knowledge and tons of old-fashioned, on-the-ground problem-solving.

Take Dorn Cox, a young farmer in New Hampshire. He tossed away the plow, preferring to use no-till practices on his parent’s organic farm; then he developed a biodiesel alternative to fossil fuels. He measures the carbon content of the soil through sophisticated technology, aiming to raise the content as high as possible, and he also co-founded Farm Hack, an open-source virtual café for young and beginning farmers.

“Farming isn’t rocket science,” he likes to say, “it’s more complicated than that.”

Like Dorn, many young people in agriculture today are looking to the past and what they have discovered is that nature’s model works best. After all, nature has been using evolution and the laws of physics to beta-test what works for millions of years — billions in the case of photosynthesis.

Humans are pipsqueaks in this process by comparison and the idea that we know what’s best is increasingly looking like a dangerous form of hubris. That’s why a new generation of agrarians is returning to the roots of agriculture for a different approach that includes large helpings of science and social responsibility as well.

Soil carbon is a good example. As gardeners know, creating the dark, rich soil called humus is critical to plant vigor, mineral uptake and smart water use. At the farm and ranch scale, it helps prevent soil erosion. A short list of practices that build soil carbon include planting cover crops, mulching, composting, employing low or no-till and planning where livestock graze.

Building humus is a great way to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide in the soil for potentially long periods of time, which means that “old” practices can address “new” challenges, such as climate change….

However, it is possible to help bring this level back down through the old-fashioned process of photosynthesis. Last spring, the Rodale Institute, a research and education nonprofit, released a white paper entitled Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming. It states boldly that we could sequester more than 100 percent of current annual CO2 emissions by switching to soil-creating, inexpensive and effective organic agricultural methods….

It is undeniably true that there are many obstacles to implementing these tried and true solutions to food and climate challenges. Some are economic, but many are policy-based, which is why it is important to support groups like the Organic Consumers Association (organicconsumers.org) and the National Young Farmers Coalition (youngfarmers.org) in their efforts to create an environment that favors old-style farmers and ranchers, not to mention eaters, which means all of us.

It all comes back to nature. I like the way the Rodale Institute put it recently: Farming like the Earth matters. Farming as if water and soil and land matter. Farming as if clean air matters. Farming as if human health, animal health and ecosystem health matter. Because all of this does matter and regenerative agricultural practices are the best way to preserve it.

By Courtney White – Albuquerque Journal –

Fracking Banned in New York State citing Health Risks

The Cuomo administration announced Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State, ending years of uncertainty by concluding that the controversial method of extracting oil from deep underground could contaminate the state’s air and water and pose inestimable public-health risks.
“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said Howard Zucker, the acting commissioner of health.
That conclusion was delivered publicly during a year-end cabinet meeting called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.
The state has had a de facto ban on the procedure for more than five years, predating Mr. Cuomo’s first term. The decision also came as oil and gas prices continued to fall in many places around the country, in part because of surging American oil production, as fracking boosted output.

By JESSE McKinley – New York Times –

Why Rockefellers Aim at Destroying Farmers Worldwide?

For the better part of the past century Western pop culture has systematically denigrated and devalued what should be the most honored profession of all. Those who labor with the land, day-in and day-out, to deliver the food that we eat have assumed a social status too often similar to the dirt of the soil they till. No one stops to ask a simple question: What do we do when we have killed off all our farmers?

Some of the more naïve city-dwellers would retort with little reflection, “But we have industrialized food production; we don’t need manual farm labor today.”

Indeed, the numbers are impressive.

Let’s take my homeland, the United States of America. In 1950, a time of general prosperity and strong economic growth, the total US population was 151,132,000 and the farm population was 25,058,000 making farmers just over 12% of the total labor force. There were 5,388,000 farms with an average size of about 87 hectares [215 acres]. Forty years later, in 1990, the year the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended, the USA had a total population of 261,423,000 of which the farm population numbered just under three million, 2,987,552, making farmers a mere 2.6% of the total labor force. The number of farms had shrunk to only 2,143,150, a loss of 60%, but because of industrial concentration, average size was 187 hectares [462 acres].

What we are told, those of us whose relation to meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables ends at the supermarket, is that this is a great progress, the liberation of almost 23 million farm workers to get city jobs and live a better life.

It isn’t that simple.

We are not told the true effects on food quality that has been created by the mechanization and industrialization of food production in America since the Harvard Business School, on a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, began what they termed “agribusiness,” the conversion of our food supply into a pure for-profit vertically integrated business modelled on the Rockefeller oil cartel.

The raising of hogs, dairy cows, beef cattle, chicken all became industrialized gradually after the 1950’s in the USA. The baby chicks were confined to spaces so tiny they could barely stand. To make them get fat faster, the owners would pump them full of antibiotics and feed them a diet of GMO corn and soya meal. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are for use on livestock and poultry, not humans. The majority are given to animals mixed in their food or water to speed growth. After all, time is money.

The traditional family farmer, of the sort my late grandfather was in North Dakota prior to the First World War, was driven largely from the land by USDA Government policy, policy that favored industrialization regardless of the quality of food nutrient that resulted. Tractors became computerized, mammoth machines driven by GPS. One such tractor could work remotely and do the work of many farmers of old.

The result was financially fabulous….for the industry owners—ADM, Cargill, Monsanto, for the packagers like Kraft Foods, Kelloggs, Nestle, Unilever, Toepfer, Maggi. The American Rockefeller-Harvard “agribusiness” business model was globalized, beginning with the GATT negotiations of the Uruguay Round of trade liberalization in the late 1980s where the EU dropped much of its traditional protection of domestic farmers in favor of free trade in agriculture products.

During the late 1980’s as the Uruguay Round of GATT trade negotiations was about to give US agribusiness giants what they wanted—freedom to rape the EU and other protected agriculture markets with their highly efficient products, to destroy millions of EU farmers who had farmed with a passion for generations, I went to Brussels to make a background interview as a journalist with a high-level EU Commission bureaucrat responsible for agriculture. He was an apparently well-educated, multi-lingual bureaucrat, Danish-born as he noted. He argued in defense of free trade by declaring, “Why should I pay taxes from Denmark so that Bavarian farmers on their tiny plots of land can remain in business?”

The answer, which I kept to myself then, was simply because the traditional family farmer is uniquely suited to mediate with nature and us to produce food that is healthy for humans and animals to eat. No machine can replace the personal dedication or passion that I have seen again and again in every farmer I have met who truly cares about his livestock or crops.

Now the very same very rich and very loveless people, I call them the American Oligarchs, are systematically doing everything to destroy the human food quality. Clearly in my view, they are doing so with a goal of mass population reduction. There is no other reason the Rockefeller Foundation would spend hundreds of millions of (tax exempt) dollars to create GMO techniques, to support Monsanto and other chemical giants like DuPont, clearly knowing they are slowly poisoning the population to an early death.

By William Engdahl – New Eastern Outlook –