Most consequences of our Industrial agriculture and food production system can be restored if we change to sustainable systems, including our obesity and diabetes epidemics, deteriorated longevity and reduced healthfulness. Even rivers and estuaries can recover their ability to support wildlife. But one consequence of industrial agriculture cannot be easily restored; the loss of our precious topsoil. This takes eons to form and minutes to erode, and it has been leaving our farms at an alarming rate for decades.
In the Spring of 08 just after SA Kahn of the University of Illinois warned us that every Midwestern state but one was losing soil carbon [which means low fertility and erosion exposure], one of the largest erosion events in the Nations history occurred. Gullies 200 feet wide appeared in the fields of Iowa. Farmer Chuck Pyatt appeared in the documentary Big River as the floodwaters were receding and said that Iowa had lost half its topsoil in his lifetime. He was right.
Ecologist Alan Savory said: “The US enjoys the greatest concentration of scientists and wealth ever known in one nation – but she exports more eroding soil annually than all her other exports combined—–Wealth, ultimately, means soil. And yet ever-larger farms are said to be ‘economic’ when this is simply not true. The US claims to be feeding the world when the true position is that the US farmers are bleeding the world with their topsoil losses”.
Ecologist John Jeavons quoted in an article “The Joy of Dirt” in Ode magazine states that at the current rate of loss using current farming practices the US has between 40 and 80 years of topsoil remaining.
The USDA agrees with these assessments in publications in 1997 and again in 2009.
Alan Savory believes that this can all be reversed by millions of human beings returning to the land and to food production and returning livestock to the land. He claims that a growing number of scientists now accept that Modern Intensive Grazing Systems deserve to drive land use. Based on our Post – Scientists support -Grassland the Future of Sustainable Agriculture he appears to be right.
Thanks to Jan Hively at the University of Minnesota for sending me the thoughts of ecologists Savory and Jeavons and to Dean Hively for his excellent editing help. I cannot answer the concern voiced by Ms Hively about Congressman Colin Peterson of Minnesota who is the Chairman of the House Ag Committee except to ask him a question. How can you and your colleagues, while knowing the damage that is being caused by industrial Ag’s. single crop and 2-crop grain farming systems, lack of winter cover crops, and chemical overuse continue to use our tax dollars to subsidize them, without receiving something in return to begin to ameliorate the damage to human and environmental health?