Archive for August, 2011

The Entitlement Dilema

August 27, 2011

We now see more and more evidence of the failure of Central Planning as proposed by Karl Marx. The failure of the Soviet Union is the outstanding National example. But the failure is now also apparent in many of the social entitlement programs started in the 1930’s. One outstanding regulatory failure is U.S. agriculture and food production.  The inherent diversity provided by small farms who produced food was destroyed by the USDA under Earl Butz in the 1960’s. Mr. Butz decided to subsidize grain farming which produces raw material for sugar, refined grains, and meat. Now 50 years later we have a food production system dominated by unhealthy food widely recognized as responsible for our epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and pathogen exposure plus a production system based on overuse of chemicals and short cuts in soil management and animal manure management responsible for the destruction of our soil, our rivers, and our estuaries including the Chesapeake Bay. Every regulation initiated by Government creates an entitlement constituency that invariably becomes all-powerful. The ultimate result of failed social entitlements is now evidenced by street violence in England, Grease, and Wisconsin. In the case of agriculture the American Farm Bureau, the Fertilizer Institute and the Corn Growers Association supported by captive educational institutions, have successfully resisted all efforts for change suggested by the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force, environmental organizations, schools of public health, and now the USDA’s “My Plate” healthy food initiative. We must learn from these entitlement disasters and establish an automatic sunset on every regulation. We must also elect leaders who are strong enough to overcome the pressure of special interest entitlement support groups in the public interest.

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Support for Healthy Food

August 23, 2011

The USDA has a history of giving lip service to sustainable farming and healthy food production while giving cash subsidy and more importantly ignoring the soil management short cuts and overuse of chemicals, which are destroying our natural resources.

In 2000 the USDA/ SARE Program published a pamphlet titled “Exploring Sustainability in Agriculture” describing 10 profitable farms, which demonstrated the 8 elements of sustainability developed, by Cornell University’s Food and Nutrition Center. While this and other efforts did encourage many young farmers to adopt sustainable farming methods, older farmers which dominate agriculture supported by land Grant educational institutions refuse to acknowledge that their much touted industrial model has no ability to sustain itself longterm.

In 2008 three major Cancer Institutes, the Harvard School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health published studies connecting overconsumption of Industrial Food products to many cancers, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and antibiotic immunity. We have recently sent letters to 70 Senators, and Congressman asking them to stop supporting grain subsidies and more importantly the bad practices that support overproduction of unhealthy food. Please reinforce this effort by calling your representatives and ask them to support America’s health and natural resources. If you need names and phone numbers of key representatives please advise.

 

Big Chicken & Pollution-Pew Commission

August 2, 2011

The Pew Commission report on “Big Chicken and Pollution” was published on July 27, 2011 in the same week that near record oxygen dead zones were reported in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. These two watersheds along with other adjacent Coastal Plain watersheds drain almost half of the U.S. land area. Chicken production dominates 15 States including 6 Gulf States and 3 C. Bay States. We have long recognized that both corn fed CAFO red meat and CAFO chicken production including over fertilization of corn used as CAFO feed is by far the Countries largest source of pollution but there were several surprises in this report. Both beef and pork consumption were reported as being down slightly over the last 20 years while chicken consumption was up substantially. With the exception of antibiotics, growth hormones, arsenic, and atrazine contamination this is good news for consumer health. It is bad news for water quality because chicken waste contains up to four times more nitrogen and phosphorous the leading elements causing pollution. While chicken CAFOs are only 15% of CAFO sites Nationwide they produce 60% of the manure pollution (see pg 13). The report is disappointing because it did not mention pyrolysis of animal waste nor pasture raised animals as  solutions not only for nutrient pollution but also for helping restore the Nations soil. Biochar, a product of pyrolysis, is an excellent soil supplement, which can help, sequester carbon, restore fertility and effectively reduce soil erosion. A recent report by the Soil and Water Conservation Society pointed to the planet’s soil as the largest sink of the world’s carbon. S.A. Khan (ref #50) pointed out that poor soil management practice is causing almost every Corn Belt State to leak soil carbon while scientists at Iowa State University and others report that half our corn belt soil has been lost. (See a new Vision for Iowa Agriculture by Francis Thicke PhD.)