January 12, 2011

Why agribusiness doesn’t work: It bypasses farmers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 3:40 pm

Do you know why it’s so important to have immigrants from Mexico come up and work in the USA these days? Here’s why: Most Mexican immigrants are good workers, agriculture is a labor-intensive industry and most of us Americans aren’t about to go out into the hot, dirty fields of Kansas and do it ourselves. So. If we aren’t going to do all this farming ourselves, then we need to either find someone else to do it or starve.

Can I actually imagine myself getting up at the butt-crack of dawn to go milk a bunch of weird, smelly cows? That would be no.

As my friend Joe Thompson describes it, “When I was a kid, I used to milk cows by hand and, yep, I got up at five o’clock in the morning to milk and feed the dairy herd before going to school. It was a cold/hot nasty job. And my job as a farmer’s son didn’t just stop with the milking. I also delivered calves, loaded the wagon full of corn by hand and then took it off to the mill. It is an occupation without end. I had to load cow manure into the spreader and spread it on the fields. There was mud everywhere. I certainly wouldn’t do it again.”

Aside from the undocumented Mexican farm workers that Teabaggers seem to be always bitching about, who the freak wants to be a farmer these days?

Monsanto does.

But Monsanto wants to do farming the easy way — by spraying everything that isn’t nailed down with poison and then genetically modifying everything that’s left.

That’s all very nice for Monsanto right now but I’ll bet you anything that their city-slicker methods of farming aren’t gonna be able to hang tough for the long run. Why?

First, because as they say in that movie “Food, Inc.”, “If you knew what is in your food, you wouldn’t want to eat it.” When it comes to mass-producing sci-fi-style chemically-induced crops, Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland and them appear to be able to grind food out rapidly — but eventually we’ll all just get tired of dying of pesticide-related cancers and factory-farm-related salmonella and start wanting to eat organic instead.

Second, you just can’t go on tinkering around with genetically-modified crops and oil-based fertilizer and stuff like that forever without pissing off Mother Nature. And when that unavoidable showdown with Mother Nature finally occurs and Monsanto’s toxically contaminated “soil” all erodes and people start getting more and more sickly from GM crops and our oil runs out so that agribusiness can’t run all that massive farming machinery or make artificial fertilizers and pesticides any more, we’ll be screwed.

Real farming is a labor-intensive operation. It always has been and it always will be. And for this reason, agribusiness simply can’t go the distance in the farming world — even despite how hard they have tried to stamp out small farmers by suing them and even despite all those HUGE government subsidies that agribusinesses currently receive from taxpayers like you and me.

And when Monsanto’s “Instant Farmer” methods all fail sooner or later, then Americans are going to be forced to go back to using shovels and rakes and hoes just like our great-grandparents used to do — whether we like mucking about in the dirt and getting our hands calloused or not.

However, there is going to be one really big difference between us and our great-grandparents — we will be doing all the same necessary-but-boring farmer-related chores that they did, only we will be doing them in the New Farmlands, the ones that we will be forced to create in the backyards of what we used to call “Suburbia”.

So. Perhaps it’s time for America to get a jump on the future right now, stop being such couch-potato wimps and start bringing REAL farming back into style — while we still can.

PS: One way that we could start making farming popular again is to stop paying all those huge subsidies that we taxpayers annually pour into the “ear-marked” deep pockets of agribusiness corporations and give all that money back to us newly-minted farmer-taxpayers instead. Heck, if you paid me enough money, even I might be willing to give farming a try.

“Grow your own!”

Not only that but in America today, becoming a back-yard farmer is becoming a revolutionary act! You can, apparently, even be jailed for it if you plant the wrong kind of corn (thank you, Monsanto). So. Go out there, get messy and be revolting!

To quote Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, “We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power.” Go Farmer Chris!

PPS: By making agriculture more labor-intensive, we could also give more Americans more jobs. Plus we’ll all look so cute in our new Oshkosh-by-Gosh bib overalls.

PPPS: I’m a lousy farmer. I can’t even grow weeds in my own postage-stamp-sized back yard — let alone in the fields of Kansas. Why? Because farming is hard work and I’m lazy and would rather be typing away on my computer. But human beings can live without blogging. However, we can’t live without food.

PPPPS: Vegetation is everywhere, even in the cracks in the sidewalks of Manhattan. Too bad we can’t just eat weeds and grass — but we can’t. Heck, we can’t even live on Coca-Cola and Twinkies!

PPPPPS: The recent wildfires in Israel have also proved my point. Approximately 90 years ago, most of that whole area which is now ashes was covered with olive groves which were carefully tended by Palestinian farmers. Tending those olive groves was a very labor-intensive operation. And it worked.

Then back around the 1920s, European “settlers” stormed into this area and either killed or drove off most farmers, pulled up all of the olive trees and planted pine trees there instead. “We wanted to make it look more like Europe,” was their rationale.

The result? Millions of pine trees that didn’t belong in Israel/Palestine have recently gone up in smoke. And millions of old-growth olive trees there are also missing in action, so that now we gotta rely mostly on Italy and Spain for our olive oil. That’s great news for Italy and Spain — but very bad news for Israel/Palestine, which now has neither the productive olive trees left, nor the pine trees nor even the farmers.

PPPPPPS: Agribusiness just did it again! Apparently, lobbyists hired by the German agri-chemical giant Bayer have just convinced the EPA to not ban a pesticide known to be killing off bees. Huh? You don’t believe that people could be that stupid? Just check this out:

According to investigative journalist Bill Berkowitz, “A leaked document reveals that the EPA is disregarding findings ‘that widespread use of clothianidin imperils the health of the nation’s honeybees’ says a Colorado beekeeper, the recipient of the document. If the Environmental Protection Agency had evidence that a specific pesticide might be at least in part responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder, a dreadful syndrome named for the devastation of the bee population, you would expect the agency to act on that information.” Duh, yeah.

Almost everyone — except, apparently, for the knuckleheads at the EPA and Bayer — knows that if bees disappear, we’ll have no more fruit, vegetables, nuts or cotton. Period. Therefore, clothianidin must be banned.

“However, according to Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald, the EPA is doing just the opposite; upgrading the pesticide’s classification and continuing to make it available.” Huh?

Would a REAL farmer do something like that?


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