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Monday, June 4, 2012

On the Farm Bill.2012.(a letter to the Senate Ag Comittee)

Howdy, Senators,

While I find that I have little patience for deciphering Legalese, these days, the “section by section” PDF of the Farm Bill was an interesting read. I found more things to like than I had expected. The item that really jumped out was the inclusion of CSA’s in SNAP(food stamps).

That said, I have some issues, and observations, regarding Agriculture, as currently practiced, based on my view from my back porch.

(I’ll list them, mostly for my own purposes:1.’bio-energy’,2. )..corporate capture of everything, including “organic”, 3“Local”(food-deserts4.some observations on sourcing,export/import silliness,5. regulatory relief for the truly Small)

1. Bioenergy.

One of my Pet Ideas, regarding Energy Production is the largely wasted resource of Methane(“Natural Gas”). I harp on this incessantly…to the chagrin of my friends and neighbors. Our little county, and town is fined…often…for the release of Methane from our Landfill. This source, along with the local Feedlots, and the municipal sewer system, are entirely wasted…just vented to the atmosphere. The City recently began seeking a Grant for a sewer plant upgrade..and my admonitions to at least look into capturing all this Methane were regarded with utter incredulity. Everything that Poops is a potential source of Energy…every septic tank, with minor modifications, is a “Gas Well”. I understand that the Propane and “Natural Gas” Industries really like their current situation, as Hydraulic Despots…sitting astride the supply lines in such things…but this is not a good reason to continue, in Policy, the perception that capturing Sewer Gas(and landfill and feedlot “emissions”) is some Hippy Dippy, Radical Fantasy. One hears an awful lot about “Energy Independence”. Please get together with the Energy Department, and Promote and Enable this kind of thing.

2.Corporate Domination…of Everything.

Just say No.

An LLC with 1000+ acres under “Management” is NOT a “Small Farm”. ADM is not a Small Farmer.
Everything is geared towards the very Large…and to provide for ourselves, especially after Peak Oil(2005), we will need to relocalise. Corps(e) ain’t gonna do that for us…and, in fact, they stand in the way of the necessary Relocalisation. I understand y’all’s need for campaign funding…but there comes a time, when the needs of the country dictate a little sacrifice on your part.This “bullet point” should be overlaid onto the rest of what I have to say…Giant “Agribusiness” has ruined the Small Farmer, rewritten the Rules and Regulations for it’s own benefit, and made our country Vulnerable. 3 Corps(e) Dominate the Meat…a “consumer” cannot determine if he is purchasing a GMO….I can’t sell an Egg, legally…etc etc…the information is out there. You all just have to look for it.

3.&4.“Local”….and some examples of Silly, in Current Policy.

We have a small corporate “Grocer”, here in Mason (Lowes). They used to be “Super-S”, but were sold. I worked in the Produce Dept. at Super S, and am almost certain that nothing substantial has changed with new owners. The Produce is Terrible! Despite my best efforts, I could not change this, from the inside…it has to do with Corporate Policy(buying “seconds”, perhaps “thirds”). In order to sell my own Local Produce to them, I was told that I would have to take it to Houston(350 miles), to their warehouse…to be put on a truck, to follow me home. In other words, “we don’t want no stinking local Produce”. This is unsustainable.
As a result of this Terrible Produce, I drive 40 miles to the nearest HEB, who maintain Quality Produce. It’s still near impossible to sell one’s Local Produce to them, due to insurance requirements and other clerical barriers to entry. As an aside, on my 40 mile drive, I pass Thousands of Sheep and Goats…when I get to the Meat Department, and locate prohibitively expensive Lambchops, they are from Australia (!!!). This is silly, counterproductive, and unsustainable. It is also NOT an isolated example of the Failure of Farm Policy…largely due to the influence of Large “Agribusiness”(Just Say No!).
The Rules regarding Meat Processing, Egg Production,Milk Production and Fruit and Vegetable Production are geared towards the Very Large….and often make it impossible to engage in Small Agriculture. I grow Geese, Ducks and Chickens…and do my best to have a Large Garden…but I cannot legally sell anything I produce, save “On Farm”, because of the Regulations written By and For Big Ag. Rule for Eggs, last I looked, removed any economic incentive…unless I planned on building a 10,000 bird “Egg Factory”. There is nowhere to go to get the Meat birds Processed….the Regs are too odious.(same goes for sheep, goats and the thousands of Cows that pass through Mason, every week.)
I can’t legally sell a Tomato to a local Café, because I am not an “Approved Source”….and am reluctant to endeavor to become “Approved”, due to my own experience with the Byzantine Regulatory Regime. It only makes Economic Sense, if I were to become a Large “Farm”. Even then, I have found that I cannot compete with Giant Ag.

5. Relief for the Small

All of this is subsumed under this last Point.In the face of the Reality of Peak Oil, as evidenced by the proliferation of “Fracking”, “Deep Water” and other indicators of Desperation, what is indicated is a cessation of the focus on the Large and Centralised.
Relocalisation of Everything is what is needed….especially Food and Energy. “Globalism”, and the concomitant “Free Trade” agreements, have been an unmitigated Disaster for the American People.

There is a small book, one of my very favorites, from 1935…”Five Acres and Independence”, by M.G. Kains(Dover Publications,inc.Ny,Ny). Every one of you, who sit on this Committee, should read it…and Think. Think about Jefferson’s Ideal of Yeoman Farmers as the Backbone of the Republic. I understand that it is dated…that’s the point. I have been watching this little Town die, from the inside…folks can’t make a living. There is no good reason for this lack…it is entirely constructed, from “Policy”, and the Domination of Artificial Persons(Just Say No!!!!!).

“The land! That is where our roots are. There is the basis of our physical life. The farther we get away from the land, the greater our insecurity.” -- Henry Ford

.....and I’ll go one more:” The best Fertilizer, is the Farmer’s Footsteps.”-???

Thanks for Listening,

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