Archive for the ‘Soil’ Category

Mikulski & White respond

June 13, 2011

On April 21st I sent a letter to our Maryland Senators and the Chairmen of the Senate and House Agricultural Committees pointing to studies which show that corn based meat and sugar production and consumption is the primary cause of:

  1. Many cancers
  2. Heart disease
  3. Obesity
  4. Diabetes
  5. Depletion of our Nationwide soil asset
  6. Nutrient contamination of rivers and estuaries including the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico
  7. Cost of health care
  8. Primary cause of our out of control annual national expenses
  9. A major cause of our National Debt

I did hear back from Senator Mikulski who referred my letter to USDA. I received a letter from NRCS (Dave White), which claimed that nutrient pollution had declined but offered no backup to this assertion. He did offer a USDA/NRCS study, which shows that farm field erosion had improved by 43% since 1982. I asked Iowa soil scientist Francis Thicke if he agreed with this assessment. His response was that the consensus of the scientific community was that the Corn Belt has lost or displaced half its topsoil since agriculture began many years ago. He also stated that based on Iowa State University data the recent improvement cited by government officials were overstated. While the NRCS letter acknowledged my assertions on the health issues it did not offer any response to the issue. While Mr. Thicke refers to Mr. White as a “good guy” he is in a situation well beyond his power of influence.

While the NRCS has the bureaucratic responsibility to preserve our Natural Resources only an educated public and perhaps media attention will reduce meat and sugar consumption and reduce the adverse health and environmental affects.

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USDA Abdicates Regulatory Responsibility

June 13, 2011

The USDA is failing to meet its regulatory responsibility in 3 areas that must be quite obvious to its scientists and professional staff. Someday this lack of regulatory responsibility will be the subject of a National debate as it is currently in the financial industry.

SOIL EROSION- USDA/SARE recently republished what might be considered a bible of soil management by Magdoff/Van Es. In the chapters on crop rotation and soil erosion the authors state that the lack of live roots in the ground during heavy rain events is the primary cause of massive soil erosion such as occurred in the Midwest in the Spring of 2008. The most dominant crop rotation is a 2-crop corn and soybean rotation which has live roots in the ground only 32% of the time. Increasing to a 3 crop rotation produces live roots 76% of the time. USDA must mandate an immediate increase preferably to a 3 crop rotation plus mandatory winter cover when heavy rains are likely.

The Gulf Hypoxia Report published by leading US scientific organizations in 2000 recommended a 20% reduction in commercial fertilizer application rates. Hypoxia in major Estuaries including Chesapeake Bay continues to increase as reported in the PBS Gulf update and by EPA nutrient load charts (see our blog under pages). USDA must immediately reduce current fertilizer application rates by at least 25%.

Farm animal waste from CAFO chickens, hogs and cattle must be managed as recommended in 2007 by the Pew Commission, an Industry Commission chaired by former Kansas Governnor and dairy farmer George Carlin. USDA has ignored this report and others which point to the massive damage caused by these facilities.

The excuse for lack of regulation of an out of control industry appears to be the higher cost and reduction of corn based products. The following is the opinion of Walter Willett head of the Nations largest academic nutrition department at Harvard University.
“Don – you will find common ground among nutritionists on the harmful effects of very cheap and large amounts of starch from subsidized corn in the US diet, which is the substrate for high fructose corn syrup, and very cheap sugary beverages and feedlot pork and red meat. While not the only contributors these are fueling our epidemics of obesity and diabetes.”

Rather than coming to grips with its failure to regulate the abuses of the Agricultural Industry the USDA continues to ask the taxpayer to fund these abuses by spending our tax money for grain subsidies. The 2012 farm bill is the time for USDA to correct this terrible and destructive injustice.

NRCS fails to protect Nations resources

June 13, 2011

On April 21st I sent a letter to our Maryland Senators and the Chairmen of the Senate and House Agricultural Committees pointing to studies which show that corn based meat and sugar production and consumption is the primary cause of:

  1. Many cancers
  2. Heart disease
  3. Obesity
  4. Diabetes
  5. Depletion of our Nationwide soil asset
  6. Nutrient contamination of rivers and estuaries including the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico
  7. Cost of health care
  8. Primary cause of our out of control annual national expenses
  9. A major cause of our National Debt

I did hear back from Senator Mikulski who referred my letter to USDA. I received a letter from NRCS (Dave White), which claimed that nutrient pollution had declined but offered no backup to this assertion. He did offer a USDA/NRCS study, which shows that farm field erosion had improved by 43% since 1982. I asked Iowa soil scientist Francis Thicke if he agreed with this assessment. His response was that the consensus of the scientific community was that the Corn Belt has lost or displaced half its topsoil since agriculture began many years ago. He also stated that based on Iowa State University data the recent improvement cited by government officials were overstated. While the NRCS letter acknowledged my assertions on the health issues it did not offer any response to the issue. While Mr. Thicke refers to Mr. White as a “good guy” he is in a situation well beyond his power of influence.

While the NRCS has the bureaucratic responsibility to preserve our Natural Resources only an educated public and perhaps media attention will reduce meat and sugar consumption and reduce the adverse health and environmental affects.

The Huge Cost of Meat Consumption

June 10, 2011

Following up on the report published in the Baltimore Sun that the National Academies of Science urges government at all levels to urge people to reduce meat consumption, I sent a letter to Senators Coburn, Cardin and Mikulski pointing out the many National issues that could be solved if people consumed less meat including:

1. Cancer reduction

2, Heart disease reduction

3. Diabetes reduction

4. Restoration of the Gulf of Mexico

5. Restoration of Chesapeake Bay

6. Reduce the loss of the Nations topsoil

6. Reduction of Health Care Cost

7. Ability to balance our annual budget dominated by health care cost

8. Reduction in our National debt

I urged the Senators to start an educational campaign focused on media based education and the committment of the health care community urging Doctors to talk directly to patients. I suggested two immediate actions that would increase the cost of meat  and reduce consumption.

1. The treatment of all factory farm manure

2. A tax on fertilizer to help offset the cost of natural resource restoration

I did give the Senators one authority for each issue who should be called to testify before House and Senate hearings and offered help in naming additional experts.

Media Ignores Medical Developements

June 5, 2011

The mainstream news media is ignoring the most important medical developments ever. Over the last 3 years major medical studies have shown that cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity can be avoided and sometimes cured with diet. These studies are specifically directed at reduction of red meat consumption, avoidance of grilled meat, avoidance of processed meat, reduction in sugar and salt dominated processed food and increased exercise. Good public health has huge implications for our National debt crisis since the cost of heath care coupled with government health care entitlement policy have come together to overwhelm the Nations economy. A recent update on May 23 by the World Cancer Research Fund/ American Cancer Research Institute went unreported. The components of meat production, over fertilization of corn, and manure generated by CAFO’s are the two major causes of nutrient pollution Nationwide, Fertilizer and manure are destroying our rivers and estuaries. Loss of topsoil and sediment pollution is a result of short cuts in soil management practiced by grain farmers to promote cheap meat and dairy. These issues were cited in a recent National Academies of Science paper, reported by the Baltimore Sun. Why is the story of meat and its strong connection to pollution, health, and the economy being ignored? Please give me your thoughts.

Who Is Pushing Grandma Over the Cliff?

May 27, 2011

Perhaps you have seen the Democrat reelection campaign depiction of someone who has a striking resemblance to Paul Ryan pushing a wheelchair with an elderly women over a cliff. I was appalled by this political trick to portray the only leader who has stepped up with a plan to fix the broken Medicare program this way. After reading Karl Denninger’s opinion on his Capital Markets website, the Market Ticker, I have a more accurate depiction of the full picture. The people who are pushing the elderly women over the cliff should include President Obama representing the do nothing, status quo and the person with the responsibility for a fix at this time. But the pushers should also include the old lady herself depicted in her younger years when she was making choices about food and exercise, which led to her unfortunate position in the wheelchair. Also others responsible for our food system should be pushing the wheelchair including the leaders of the Corn Growers association and Pork Producers Association representing the agribusiness lobby who are responsible for producing our sugar and fat based food. What this proposed revised picture would not portray is the environmental destruction including our soil and our water assets, Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. But adding these people would make a more accurate depiction of those responsible for our Medicare disaster.
Thanks to Thomas Hughes for forwarding Capital Markets excellent critique of Medicare.

Kudos to CBF

May 26, 2011

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) announced that it will file a legal intervention to stop the agribusiness lobby from derailing EPA’s effort to initiate a legal limit on Chesapeake Bay’s major pollution sources, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment. This is in answer to the agribusiness suit challenging the EPA’s right to limit these pollutants. We applaud CBF and their partners for initiating this action. The agribusiness lobby was apparently not satisfied with the watered down response submitted by Maryland and other States allowing agribusiness to substitute failed or untested best management practices in lieu of actual reductions in the application of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment as the law requires. Hopefully CBF will attempt to correct Maryland’s and other States inadequate response and have the EPA implement the law as written while they support EPA’s right to control water pollution. If this happens it will show this insatiable lobby that it is sometimes better to quit while ahead.

To AG Committee Chairman-Failed Farm Policy

May 2, 2011

2012 FARM BILL

It is now well documented that the United States is the unhealthiest society in the World. We now have epidemics of obesity, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The evidence is overwhelming that over consumption of corn fed fatty meat and corn based hi- sugar, high- fat content process food is the cause. Even more importantly long term is the destruction of our topsoil and the nutrient contamination of every river and estuary Nationwide caused by corn overproduction and overlooked short cuts in production methods.

US. Farm policy has encouraged corn over-production since the end of World War II, resulting in a glut of cheap unhealthy corn based products which dominate supermarkets. Its time to reverse this flawed agricultural policy and make these products more expensive and therefore less dominant in the American diet.

Three actions required to do this should be enacted now:

  1. Reduce fertilizer applications rates by half
  2. Require minimum soil management criteria specifically minimum crop rotations and cover crops as recommended by soil scientists.
  3. Require treatment of CAFO manure.

Suggest that you call the following expert witnesses:

1.Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health ask him to brief you on the 2010 World Cancer Study and Harvard’s Nurses Health Study.

2. Authors Magdoff of The University of Vermont and van Es of Cornell University to testify about minimal soil management criteria. Also Iowa organic Dairy Farmer, soil scientist, and author Francis Thicke PhD.

3. EPA’s Benjamin Grumbles who chaired the 2008 Gulf Task Force Action Plan, which reported the continuing failure to restore the great Mississippi Watershed.

4. Current Chairman of the USGS National NAWGA assessment, which monitors water quality Nationwide including the Chesapeake Bay and other estuaries.

Nothing could be more urgent than changing the declining direction of the nations health and Natural Resources.

THE First Week of May- Health & Resource Week

April 28, 2011

Every important event in America has a week. “The First Week of May” should be recognized. This is the week that massive acres of farmland Nationwide are denuded and over-fertilized to plant corn. The corn is used primarily to feed animals in Confinement Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), but also to produce high fructose corn syrup. CAFO animal products and Food like products made from corn commonly called process food dominate our supermarkets and our diets. Industrial food production, which started after World War II, has been an environmental and health disaster. Iowa for example has lost half of it’s topsoil and half of it’s soil organic matter its two most important natural resources***. We are applying almost 3 times more fertilizer than corn can use in a normal rainfall year and it uses less in a drought year. This along with massive amounts of manure produced by CAFOs are the primary cause of the nutrient contamination of all rivers and estuaries East of the Rockies including the Gulf of Mexico, Pamlico Sound and Chesapeake Bay.

Those in the Academic Community who still support the Industrial food production system (an increasing number do not) claim that it is the only way to feed a growing population. One of Webster’s three definitions of food is: something that nourishes or sustains. More than 60 years of Industrial food production has demonstrated that Industrial produced food does not meet this definition. The animal food produced in CAFOs is up to 7 times higher in fat content than that produced by animals on pasture. The result is that we have an epidemic of major diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke connected to over consumption of beef, pork, lamb, processed meat and dairy*.  Sugar, corn oil fat, and other corn based products used in processed food are combined with salt in just the right proportion to addict consumers to these high carbohydrate junk food products which dominate supermarket shelves another major contributor to the American health disaster**.

Does it make any sense to destroy our two most important natural resources to produce meat and sugar most of which is destroying our health?

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) said two things that apply here:

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival of life on earth more than transition to a vegetarian diet.”

And to those trying to restore Chesapeake Bay:

“The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result” This is what we do Nationwide in “The First Week of May”

 

References archived on this site

* The World Cancer Study and Harvard’s Nurses Health Study

**  The End of Overeating by David Kessler

***   A New Vision for Iowa Agriculture by Iowa Farmer Francis Thicke

Governor’s Answer- Via the Secretary of Ag

April 22, 2011

Agricultural Secretary Earl F. Hance

4/22/11

Dear Mr. Secretary,

Thank you for your prompt response to my letter to the Governor. I attended a meeting in Denton a year ago called because the Choptank River had just been designated as the most polluted River in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. At the meeting a scientist who has been monitoring Choptank subwatersheds for 30 years pointed out that 80% of Choptank nutrient pollution came from farm fields. A representative of Industrial Agriculture cited the many actions taken by farmers cited in your letter.  A scientist with the Wye Agro Ecology Center presented a study, which attempted to shift the responsibility to septic systems. An obviously confused member of the audience asked. Why are we here if so much has been done? Industrial Agriculture though widely initially supported in academia nationwide has turned out to be a conceptual failure fast losing support. The overconsumption of meat, sugar and processed food the products of the system are now recognized as the primary driver of our Nations poor health.

History is loaded with conceptual failures. Look at the history of the automobile and the history of flight and space travel. Usually when a conceptual failure occurs it is soon apparent. Not so with Industrial Agriculture and Food Production. It has taken more than a half-century to recognize the full extent. The environmental issues including the loss of half the nations topsoil and the nutrient contamination of most rivers, the Gulf and other Estuaries including Chesapeake Bay were apparent by the eighties but the massive health issues including the dietary dominance of CAFO red meat as the primary risk factor in cancer and heart disease are just now becoming apparent.  Just this week a study of CAFO supermarket meat Nationwide including Washington DC revealed that 50% of the meat was contaminated on the outside with Staph bacteria and half of that was resistant to more than three of the antibiotics necessary to treat infection. The National media did not pick up this story only Reuters and Daily Finance. Compared to the enormity of this nationwide health and environmental calamity the national media pays little attention.

It takes 14 times more land to denude the earth’s surface to plant corn, feed the corn to animals in CAFOs rather than eating the much healthier plant food directly. This is the basic conceptual flaw but we have exasperated the problem by taking short cuts in soil management, overuse of fertilizer, overuse of carcinogens in the production process and the basically flawed CAFO process of raising animals in their own feces described by Johns Hopkins as perfect pathogen incubators. You cite 400,000 acres planted in cover crops. Farmers did this at taxpayer expense.  Many acres are not covered in clear violation of sound soil management practice. Most of the proposed BMPs such as building manure storage sheds or housekeeping pads are proposed at taxpayer expense. How much should taxpayers pay to correct a basically flawed system?

I urge you to do a comparative cost study of the Industrial system considering the cost of the environmental and health issues and compare that to a combination of organic vegetables and pasture raised meat. I believe the result would be surprising. I do agree that Maryland farmers are in a competitive situation and cannot unilaterally take action and be competitive. I also agree that farmers in other areas of the Country particularly the great Midwest are doing less than Maryland. But Maryland farmers have an added burden of protecting the Chesapeake Bay and this they are not doing.  You should be saying to the EPA. We will cut fertilizer applications in half. We will require a minimal 3 crop rotation plus winter cover. We will treat all CAFO manure. We will do this but only if it is done on a National basis. All the research required to understand the full picture is available on our website fixingourfood.com. It is time for everyone including consumers to be aware and take action.

Sincerely,

Ps. Please suggest to the Governor that he also visit sustainable organic and pasture farms on his next visit to the Eastern Shore.