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View Diary: Photos from the Farmer's March on Wall Street (78 comments)

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  •  Yes but how the subsidies have been working is (1+ / 0-)
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    Small farms get small help compared to subsidies for agribusiness. That is a "too little, too late" report about the Obama administration trying to turn around a system that has been gamed against the small and midsized farms for generations. Not to knock Obama, at least Tom Vilsack acknowledges there is a problem and there was obviously some good in that support but;

    "I believe the USDA is well-intentioned and is making an earnest effort to shift the focus back to the smaller family farms and cooperatives," she said. "But the system of farm subsidies that helps corporate agribusiness is so well entrenched."

    In 2009, Congress doled out $15 billion in farm subsidies. According to Food First, 90 percent of that sum went to the production of five crops - corn, wheat, rice, soy and cotton.

    "Most of that 90 percent went to the large farming corporations," Shattuck said. "Much of those commodities were not used for food, but for animal feed and industrial applications. Cotton is not even a food."

    The subsidy system primarily assists agribusiness, firms like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill. Mid-sized farms, although they often appear to make a great deal of money, often and the year in the red because of costs.

    According to much of what I read, this is what the government has been supporting for too many years are corporate factory farms, a system that embraces one employee per 5,000 acres of corn. Thoughts from a small farmer;

    As of now, America’s farms leave room for few employees, and even fewer career seekers. There is one farmer for every 155 of us, and current farm technology allows for a farmer to grow 5,000 acres of corn with one employee. On top of that, the farmer will be subsidized heavily by the USDA for doing so. But the way Logsdon figures it, if one 5,000 acre farm were divided into smaller farms of 300 acres, each run by a family farmer with three employees, these farms could be employing close to 100 people. And they would be polluting less and supplying their communities with better food. Multiply that out to the total amount of corn grown in the country this year–90 million acres–and you’re talking about a million new jobs.

    This is chemical farming, overproduction that has the effect of increasing total use of pesticides and fertilizers and contributes to declines in grassland ecosystems and many bird and other wildlife species that depend on them.  

    Nutrients from fertilizers and manure travel from Midwest farm states down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, causing a massive "dead zone" on the Louisiana coast. The nutrients, including nitrogen and phosporous, trigger a process whereby excess algael growth and decomposition reduces oxygen levels in the water, killing fish, shrimp, crabs and other sea life in an area nearly 8,000 square miles in size. Farm fertilizers contribute 50 percent of this nutrient pollution. Livestock manure contributes another 15 percent and municiple and industrial sources account for 11 percent.

    I'm not an expert but the numbers that amount to damage to the environment by supporting factory farms that maintain dead land through a system of chemical farming are staggering.

    # How many times have we heard that large farms are more productive than small farms, and that we need to consolidate land holdings to take advantage of that greater productivity and efficiency? The actual data shows the opposite -- small farms produce far more per acre or hectare than large farms."

    # "Integrated farming systems [employed by smaller farms] produce far more per unit area than do monocultures. Though the yield per unit area of one crop -- corn, for example -- may be lower on a small farm than on a large monoculture farm, the total production per unit area, often composed of more than a dozen crops and various animal products, can be far higher."  

    I talk to the farmers at the farmers market all the time and I ask what subsidies they receive. I've been told "Nothing because subsidies are only for farmers who can afford big accounting departments." I've been told "These fruits vegetables are not eligible." Not the correct commodity?  

    I have not been told all bad things because the small farms are now getting much public support. I do remember one farmer who has a place close to the city saying "My only support is that I pay less taxes on the land and because local government would rather see suburban houses than a farm, I need to deal with fines and harassment."  But that is a whole different point.

    It is the midsized farms that have been under attack for many years and from what I've read much of the government support has amounted to helping large agribusiness buy the land from families who had previously used the land wisely to turn it into more environmental disaster land.

    So back to a quote from the link above;

    All government really has to do is provide a level playing field where small intensive farming can compete fairly with large, heavily-subsidized, industrial farming and then stand back. A revolution will take place in new job creation and it will be in the right direction: more good food and a more stable society at a lesser overall cost.

    I don't agree. The government should be working to support midsized farms but they would fall into the unheard 99%, more people who cannot seem to be heard by government.

    It's confusing and more so since Bush left. I'm not sure if the present administration is about lip service or if real progress is being made. I don't want to knock a White House administration with a garden on the White House lawn but all of those people who showed up were not protesting some guy chopping wood in Crawford, Texas neither.  

    •  Interesting - as for the environmental damage (2+ / 0-)
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      Eddie C, Creosote

      corporate farming causes, here is a quote from this morning's interview of Amy Goodman with Dr. Rajendra Pachauri (He is chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Vice President Al Gore) Broaccasting from Duban, here his answer as to why he became a vegetarian for environmental reasons.

         DR. RAJENDRA PACHAURI: I became a vegetarian some years ago for environmental reasons.

          AMY GOODMAN: Why?

          DR. RAJENDRA PACHAURI: Because the meat cycle is highly intensive in emissions of greenhouse gases. If you look at the global meat cycle today—and, you know, this is a personal view; I’m not saying this as chairman of the IPCC. Since you asked me a personal question, I’m giving you a personal answer. You cut a number of forests in several parts of the world to create pastureland. Then you feed animals with a lot of food grains, which incidentally are produced with the use of fertilizers and chemicals. Then, when you kill these animals or birds or whatever, they have to be refrigerated. They often have to be transported long distances under refrigeration. And then wholesale stocks of these are kept under refrigeration. Retail stores keep them under refrigeration. Our refrigerators have large freezers, where—and all of this uses a lot of energy, most of it dependent on fossil fuels.

      So ... not only chemcial pollution to soil and water, but very inefficient energy-wise, but causing a lot of greenhouse gas emissions as well. The whole interview is worth reading, imo.

    •  Thanks for all these nuts and bolts facts, (1+ / 0-)
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      Eddie C

      with which I am in full agreement. My grandfather was still cultivating his corn in Nebraska with mules as late as 1947-48. My surprise: I hadn't realized you were following this so closely, Eddie C.

      I think we are still attempting to even begin to understand how things could work in a saner way in this mass society. It's pretty clear now that supporting the biggest banks, farms, factories, pipelines . . . because they seem more "efficient" has proven to be a false economy, if not a fatal one environmentally.

      As for those New York-resident subsidies, I wonder how much of the funding actually reaches the farms?!

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