Why Agribusiness Doesn’t Work: It Bypasses Farmers

By: Jane Stillwater

http://jpstillwater.blogspot.com/2011/01/why-agribusiness-doesnt-work-it.html

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.

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!

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.

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.

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!

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.

PS.  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:  http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/bill-berkowitz/33296/disappearing-bees-and-bayer-a-deadly-combo-what-the-epa-doesnt-want-us-to-know

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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From the Huffington Post:  How eating at home can save your life:

….One hundred years ago all we ate was local, organic food; grass-fed, real, whole food.  There were no fast-food restaurants, there was no junk food, there was no frozen food — there was just what your mother or grandmother made.  Most meals were eaten at home.  In the modern age that tradition, that knowledge, is being lost.

The sustainability of our planet, our health, and our food supply are inextricably linked.  The ecology of eating — the importance of what you put on your fork — has never been more critical to our survival as a nation or as a species.  The earth will survive our self-destruction.  But we may not.

Common sense and scientific research lead us to the conclusion that if we want healthy bodies we must put the right raw materials in them: real; whole, local; fresh; unadulterated; unprocessed; and chemical-, hormone- and antibiotic-free food. There is no role for foreign molecules such as trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup, or for industrially developed and processed food that interferes with our biology at every level.

That is why I believe the most important and the most powerful tool you have to change your health and the world is your fork.  Imagine an experiment — let’s call it a celebration:  We call upon the people of the world to join together and celebrate food for one week.  For one week or even one day, we all eat breakfast and dinner at home with our families or friends.  For one week we all eat only real, whole, fresh food.  Imagine for a moment the power of the fork to change the world.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/family-dinner-how_b_806114.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=011011&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BlogEntry&utm_term=Daily+Brief

6 Comments on “Why Agribusiness Doesn’t Work: It Bypasses Farmers”

  1. That’s a nice idea, but I don’t think anything shy of a population meltdown with motivate the common person to do anything – hell, you yourself admitted that you don’t have the means to farm in your own backyard!

    Before anything like this can take root, the existing power structure must be removed – and I don’t see anything shy of a full-blown revolution doing that…

  2. India is a wonderful example of a nation that is consciously and deliberately trying to hang itself with the agribusiness noose.

    Look at the facts. Every year, thousands of farmers commit suicide since they are simply unable to pay their debts off to banks, local moneylenders and the like. Why does this happen? It happens because the government doesn’t ensure that they get a fair price for their produce. Now, the government also buys up a proportion of their crops and keeps it as reserve stocks. This way there are always stocks in reserve against famine, and through the post-Independence Indian history there never has been a famine.

    But, in the so-called “post-liberalisation” era, the small farmer is no longer the backbone of Indian agriculture in the eyes of the government and the Great Indian Muddle Class. The small farmer is, in fact, thought of as a liability, and ignored if not actively discouraged in favour of agribusinesses owned by mega-rich tycoons who happen to be in the good books of the ruling coalition. These agribusinesses are openly promoted by newspapers, like The Telegraph of Calcutta, which are thinly-veiled government mouthpieces.

    Now, in a situation where you have thousands of farmers committing suicide every year, what could you do? One solution, I guess, is to give them fair recompense for their produce, and access to fertilizers and pest control measures at subsidized rates, not to mention encourage co-operatives; in fact, do exactly what turned India from a net food-importing country in the 1950s to a country able, though precariously, to feed itself.

    Or…

    Or, you can simply try and drive the small farmer into extinction and turn the whole thing over to the agribusinesses.

    Guess which way the government of India went?

    There’s this wonderful film called Peepli, Live, a satire which points out a telling fact: by the Indian government’s rules, a farmer is literally worth more dead to his family than alive, so long as he makes sure to commit suicide in the prescribed manner, owing enough money to the proper people and leaving proof that this is why he’s committing suicide. Not funny, but true satire never is.

    Now, remember the stocks of food I mentioned? Apparently, their existence is a source of profound unhappiness to certain people. As the so-called Indian economic miracle runs out of steam and more and more people get poorer and poorer, it’s become obvious that these stocks are merely serving to feed rats and insects. It’s been suggested that the stocks simply be distributed gratis to poor people, but the government reacted in horror to the idea. Free food, apparently, means decline in “economic growth”, and the nation’s so-called “prime minister”, a former rubber-backboned bureaucrat and so-called “eminent economist” who has never won even a municipal election in his wretched life, keeps repeating “ten per cent economic growth” as the solution to every problem. (Very much as George W Bush, this “prime minister’s” declared hero, repeated “9/11” to any and all criticism. Birds of an ill-omened feather flock together.)

    So, since keeping the stocks of grain will merely mean their rotting away and distributing them will hurt “economic growth”, what is the solution? Apparently, one suggested solution is to dump all those millions of tons of grain in the sea. You are at liberty to make up your minds as to whether those who made this suggestion had any ulterior motives, as they say in Indian bureaucratese.

    Meanwhile, too, the paid articles in magazines and newspapers which shill for the government and its favoured businesses keep repeating how like paradise things will get if only the big businesses take over all the farms. They keep urging the government to convert farmland into industrial estates at gunpoint if necessary, and this is something happening more and more across India. Apparently, “economic growth” means people do not have to eat any longer.

    And there’s another facet to this as well. In the last two years, food prices across India are showing an incredible upward spiral. The reason is this: with the 2008-9 economic crash in the West, Indian exports nosedived. India still imports almost everything it needs for the so-called good life, so to bridge part of the trade deficit (since we Indians, unlike Americans, cannot simply print worthless dollars to pay off our overseas debt) the government began exporting food. Said food exports still continue apace, even as domestic prices skyrocket, and the government has no plans to stop these exports. After all, as long as the upper classes and the upper middle glasses still can afford their goodies, who the hell cares about the starving poor in the villages?

    I would be glad to see a revolution in this country, but being an invertebrate, feudal nation, I doubt it will happen anytime soon.

    And meanwhile farmers will still kill themselves in the thousands, and the government will still bend over backwards to pander to the agribusiness lobby along with the other bandit-capitalist vermin.

  3. This article is a good place to start.

    However eating at home once a week is never going to do it. And eating at home these days still entails gobbling up all kinds of massed produced shite for most people. Quick, count how many Americans you know who plan ahead and soak their beans a day before cooking them from dry. If you know more than 10 people I will be surprised.

    People need to change how they think about food production and eat sustainable and seasonally, trying to stay as close to home as possible. If you take a ride to a local orchard I guarantee the apples there will be better than at the store and cheaper because the orchard didn’t have to pick or transport them. Think Differently.

  4. It’s pitiful how small farming has taken a nose dive. A properly maintained small farm will rejuvenate itself without the need for chemical fertilizers or land stripping as long as you use the concept of rotating crops and plowing the manure from your grazing animals into the fallow one. A five acre farm can be completely self sustaining, with a little extra to swap out with your neighbors.

    Bill, when agri-business first began making waves in the US, it committed a few of the atrocities you are talking about. Tons of milk and wheat were spilled into the rivers to keep the prices of milk and wheat up. Now that it dominates America’s agriculture, i don’t suppose it needs to take such drastic measures, but it has still taken a tremendous toll. In 1030, over ninety percent of America farmed. Now, less than five percent of Americans claim farming as their occupation. The agri-business is a poison, leaching chemicals into our rivers and streams, introducing bacteria to the marine life. North Carolina developed a bacteria so severe that wading out into a river to fish could cause a disease with symptoms that were like a combination of hepititis, cholera, and meningitis. This bacteria was direct contributed to the waste materials from large scale pig farming.

    Whatever it takes to stop these murderers of the earth is what we need to do. We can’t afford this type of irresponsibility, and the world’s people need to lift their voices to make it stop. We need to become humans again, not just numbers for profit.

  5. Agriculture was the key development that led to the rise of with the of and plants i.e. famously predicted that the Earth would not be able to support its growing population but technologies such as the Green Revolution have allowed the world to produce a surplus of food.

  6. [QUOTE=Guy Randolph]…but technologies such as the Green Revolution have allowed the world to produce a surplus of food.[/quote]

    That food surplus you allude to actually comes at a great ecological cost – particulary the introduction of large amounts of petrochemicals into the soil and water supply, massive erosion of topsoil and all manner of animal waste products into the environment (which has, in certain cases, affected the behavior of wild animals – such as the release of blood and other animal byproducts from slaughter houses attacting large numbers of preditory animals to areas that are heavily populated).

    Don’t kid yourself, the kind of human population that this planet has right now is not sustainable in the long run – new agricultural technologies might help push that maximum population cap upwards for a time (at least until the oil runs out, for much of modern agriculture is dependant on fuel and petrochemicals), but there are considerable side effects to such things. There are no free lunches pal…

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