Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bad Farm Policy Contributes to Natural Disasters

Photo Source Jeramey Jannene | CC BY 2.0

Good farm policy works for rural people by stabilizing prices, encouraging the growth of rural communities, and helping farm families deal with natural disasters. This last point is particularly relevant now, as fires rage in the Western US, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods destroy communities around the country, and drought grips much of the South. Yet, instead of creating sensible farm policy that could lessen the effects of climate change and keep farmers on the land, our government promotes environmentally and economically disastrous overproduction.

The direction of most US farm policy concerning the environment and who actually profits from the system, is misguided. Yes, money is made in the food industry, with for example, Land O’Lakes reporting record profits in 2017, and the world’s largest producer and exporter of meat, the Brazilian- based JBS, making huge profits from its control of just under 25% of the US beef market. Meanwhile, farmers are paid a fraction of the food dollar while bearing all the risk, including the brunt of extreme weather. Many farms depend on tax-payer subsidized crop insurance programs that guarantee a profit to private insurance companies. Then consider the conservation title of the Farm Bill, which should encourage farmers to take land out of production and finance environmentally-sustainable practices. Why did politicians cut conservation funding by $6 billion in 2014? The 2018 farm bill will make even deeper cuts, ending the Conservation Stewardship Program, which helps farmers start or improve responsible land, soil, and resource management practices.

This country is experiencing one of the worst farm crises in generations. Low prices are driving grain, dairy, and livestock producers into debt and foreclosure, while Donald Trump’s trade war with China, Mexico, and Canada further depress prices. Production costs including feed, labor, and machinery, are far in excess of sales revenues, as extreme weather adds even more volatility to an occupation plagued by uncertainty.

There is a single factor that overrides the environmental, economic, and cultural crisis of rural America – overproduction.

Since the 1970s, farmers were told to ‘get big or get out,’ and ‘plant fence row to fence row.’ Emphasizing production rather than stewardship has exacerbated the effects we experience following extreme weather. Fond du Lac county, Wisconsin, had 17 tornadoes touch down on August 28th. Similarly, throughout the state, tornadoes and subsequent flooding destroyed roads, homes, and farmland. The problem is that fence-row-to-fence-row farming of row crops leads to erosion, as heavy machinery compacts the soil and agrochemicals reduce soil biodiversity and water-holding capacity. As small farms get pushed out, the remaining farmers expand and focus on commodity grain crops. In 2018, soybean acreage in Wisconsin reached a record 2.7 million acres, up 7% over 2017, while corn acreage remained constant at 3.9 million acres. These two crops now dominate over half of the state’s cropland. Less than 25% of Wisconsin’s 10.1 million crop acres are devoted to pasture/hay/alfalfa and over 100,000 acres of this perennial forage is converted yearlyto corn and soybeans.

Farm policy must remedy, instead of contribute to the environmental problems that climate change aggravates. Establishing a price floor and ceiling for all commodity farm products would help small producers keep farming by stabilizing prices. This would also promote conservation, by removing incentives for surplus production while also promoting diversified cropping systems.

Current farm policy sacrifices stewardship on the altar of profitability. Controlling price and supply would return power to farmers and rural communities. Unfortunately, the Washington power structure cares little for the environment or working families.

Anthony Pahnke is Vice-President of the Family Farm Defenders. He can be reached at: anthonypahnke@sfsu.edu.

Jim Goodman is an organic dairy farmer in Wisconsin. He can be reached at: r.j.goodman@mwt.net. 

 

 

October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail