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“The Folly of Big Agriculture”

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New York Times editorial board member Verlyn Klinkenborg writes about “ The Folly of Big Agriculture” at Yale 360. An excerpt:

In its short, shameless history, big agriculture has had only one big idea: uniformity. The obvious example is corn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that American farmers — big farmers — will plant 94 million acres of corn this year. That’s the equivalent of planting corn on every inch of Montana. To do that you’d have to make sure that every inch of Montana fell within corn-growing parameters. That would mean leveling the high spots, irrigating the dry spots, draining the wet spots, fertilizing the infertile spots, and so on. Corn is usually grown where the terrain is less rigorous than it is in Montana. But even in Iowa that has meant leveling, irrigating, draining, fertilizing, and, of course, spraying.

The impact of commodity monoculture that Klinkenborg describes is acutely felt on America’s sources of clean water. The only tools we have to fight chemical run-off from crop fields are in the farm bill conservation programs and the conservation compact.


Table Scraps

-          Iowa’s Bleeding Heartland blog has breaking news about industrial agriculture lobbyists appealing court decisions to protect clean water.

-          The New York Times covers a U.S. Department of Agriculture report that found that “food stamps, one of the country’s largest social safety net programs, reduced the poverty rate substantially during the recent recession.”

-          Feeding cattle the corn ethanol by-product dried distillers grains may increase the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous delivered into the environment.

-          EWG VP Alex Formuzis asks in the Huffington Post, Are Pesticide Sprayers "Health Experts?" Seriously?

Tweet of the day:

@tomphilpott Now quietly simmering in Congress: the worst farm bill eva.

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