Archive for the ‘Organic Farms’ Category

Is Modern Chemical Agriculture Destroying Itself

January 22, 2011

Evidence presented by The Institute of Responsible Technology of prematurely dying corn and soybean crops during 2009 and 2010 indicate that this might be true. According to plant pathologist Don Huber who has studied Glyphosate a widely used chemical which is the heart of modern corn based agriculture, premature death of corn and soybean crops is increasing, resulting in dramatically lower yields. Monsanto and other Chemical companies have developed corn and soybean hybrids that can survive glyphosate spraying while weeds will not survive this spraying. The spraying can be seen when the corn is several feet high in early June when huge 90-foot sprayers take to the fields. Glyphosate ready crops were first introduced by Monsanto, who produces the glyphosate Roundup, in 1996 and have been the basis of Industrial agriculture Nationwide since that time. Monsanto is continuing to develop other Roundup ready crops. The latest is Roundup Ready Alfalpha, which organic farmers are fighting on the basis that the overspray is affecting all crops. There is also evidence that glyphosate is causing over 40 plant diseases and endangering human and animal health. As with any chemical widely introduced into the environment adverse effects will take decades to show up. The classic is the chemical DDT which destroyed fish hawk reproduction in the 70’s and while banned since the mid-70”s still shows up in aquifer water.

Pyrolysis- A Chance for Current Ag Survival?

October 16, 2010

Francis Thicke in his book A New Vision for Iowa Food and Agriculture has a chapter on Pyrolysis, which he defines as a process of heating biomass without oxygen to produce combustible fuel and a product called Blochar, a soil amendment, which increases soil fertilitory while sequestering soil carbon. You will recall our reference #52, a study by the University of Illinois, which found that every Midwestern State except one was losing soil carbon. If you look at the photos from Rodale Institute our reference #53 you will see visually that our widely used two crop agricultural system using chemical fertilizer causes depletion of carbon ie. organic matter/fertility and becomes highly erodible over time. In addition the only two studies ever done on manure spillage around chicken CAFOs in Maryland showed that spillage of manure after 20 years of operation caused aquifer nitrogen levels 200 times the normal background level of 0.3 mg/l which USGS has found to be 35% of nitrogen contamination in Delmarva aquifers. Pyrolysis of CAFO manure helps solve many of these problems and is the minimum that must be done if the CAFO concept for animal protein production is to survive. If the industry will not support this essential minimal first step it will accelerate its demise into the dustbin of history as predicted recently by a leading scientist. Note that the highlighted post provides a way to contribute to the Francis Thicke campaign in Iowa. A vote for Iowa is a vote for Delmarva which has a similar land use profile.

Francis Thicke- Grass Farmer Runs for AG Sec.

October 15, 2010

Francis Thicke is a grass based dairy farmer and also certified organic farmer. He has written an excellent book on sustainable agriculture which includes a detailed technical explanation of the pyrolysis of animal manure and many other sustainable practices that must be adopted if industrial agriculture is ever to be compatible with air quality, water quality and human health. This in itself is not unusual because many farmers have reached the same conclusions as Francis Thicke. What is unusual is that Mr. Thicke is running for Agricultural Secretary in the State of Iowa, which many of us look at as the flagship of unsustainable agriculture. There are many interesting tapes on this post including a debate between Mr. Thicke and his opponent the current Secretary of Agriculture and a corn and soybean farmer. Sustainable agricultural advocates Michael Pollan, and farmer Joel Salatin are also taped. Iowans are just beginning to become aware of the destruction caused by industrial agriculture despite the fact that their water treatment plant in DesMoines was forced to install the worlds largest nitrate treatment plant years ago. Many other wells and water supplies are severely affected not only by nitrate but also by pathogens, antibiotics, arsenic, growth hormones and etc. The nitrate level at this plant is 5 times that of our Choptank River in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. However we are on our way to catching Iowa with nitrogen pollution up 63% in the last 8 years. I did have the opportunity to speak to Mrs. Vilsack at a recent Red Cross fund raiser and expressed my admiration for Mr. Thicke a fellow Democrat. Her husband Tom is US. Secretary of Agriculture and former Governor of Iowa. You will recall that he opposed the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force fertilizer reduction recommendation in 2000. She said that Mr. Thicke would not win. I sent him another donation when I heard that. Nothing could be more positive for the future of food and agriculture than a Thicke win or even a close election in Iowa.

2012 Farm Bill

July 25, 2010

July 24 2010

Dear Mr. Abrams, (Assistant to Congressman Kratovil)

Thankyou for your call about genetically modified seed. I hope that you have had an opportunity to visit our website and blog. I know the far-reaching consequences of our food system are complex and not easily fixed but as a member of the House Agriculture Committee the Congressman is in a position to bring about desperately needed change. As Vaclav Smil pointed out, what started as a shortage of manure sourced nitrogen was quickly satisfied by an overabundance of nitrate production during and following World War II. As shown on our reference graph43 for the Choptank River, nitrogen application increased 8-9 times beginning in the 50’s as pasture was eliminated. As the graph shows the results were catastrophic for Choptank water species. The same nitrogen increase and catastrophic result occurred Nationwide as the 2000 Gulf of Mexico Study31 shows. This powerful scientific report recommended a reduction in nitrogen application for the Mississippi watershed which encompasses more than 40% of the US land area but it was rejected due to pressure from powerful agricultural interests. Since 2000 the medical and public health community realized that corn based products both meat and processed food, are unhealthy and the cause of our increasing obesity and diabetes epidemics. The good news is that both the environmental and health issues can be solved by producing and consuming healthy food. Your committee must stop subsidizing high nitrogen need corn and high fat animal and high sugar/fat based processed food and start subsidizing locally produced vegetables and pasture based meat products. You should be supporting low chemical usage in all production. You should make it less cumbersome to qualify for the organic label, which has now been extended to dairy products. The label requires that these animals eat a minimum amount of grass, which produces a leaner animal, and which requires less nitrogen-based corn and less manure clean up. All confinement house manure must be processed.

We are fortunate to have 2 grass-based farms within 40 miles. Neither St Brigids in Kennedyville nor C&J farm in Seaford grow corn or use chemicals and they receive no subsidy while growing healthy food. Current government policy encourages the production of unhealthy food grown using large amounts of environmentally destructive chemicals and without controls on animal manure all of which is overwhelming aquifers and surface water and destroying water species. Congressman Kratovil is in a unique  position to change all of this in the 2012 Farm Bill and we wish him luck.