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Thursday, June 07, 2012

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Dick great post. I have to say a agree with you whole heartedly on most points. As a newly transplant in Iowa, and a burgeoning organic grower, I may have a teensy amount of credibility to defend the growing organic movement. As for grains and cereals, you are right, but I feel compelled to say that if Iowa farmers can feed the world and match expected yields by the ways of organic methods. (It would be another debate on whether Iowans should be feeding the world.) Organic has been proved to even out produce conventional methods. That being said, it takes time (years) and lots of knowledge to make that happen. Not every farmer is willing to re-tool, take the financial risk, and loss in profit… and in some cases re-educate themselves on their tradecraft. Where organic makes a difference locally/regionally is its meat, milk, and veggies products. And these organic farmers although small, are not scraping by. I know of farmers who husband 5 acres and make well over six figures and diary producers who, because they milk organic, have half the herd conventional farmers have and live very well. These aren’t outliers, these individuals who many, such as Pollen, hope represent the future of farming. Corporations, beheld to quarterly returns and shareholder expectations, will be more and more taking over our country's food production, as our aging farmers die off the landscape. I believe the average age of a farmer is 65! Who then would you want to care for the soil, waterways and air? Is it about feeding ourselves or should the debate be about feeding our children?

As the first generation (of six raised in the US) that didn't grow up on the family farm, I understand the importance of US agriculture. I especially understand subsistence farming, as that's what my grandfather did. My mother didn't want that life, and neither did I, so we got good educations and live in the city.

I do agree with the above commenter, that it is not fair to conflate criticism of meat, milk, and produce factory farming with criticism of row-crop agriculture. It is a whole different kind of farm and farmer than the kind devoted to cereal crops and soybeans. Some meat, milk, and produce operations are real environmental and health disasters, as we have read in the news in recent years.

But we cannot overlook the issues arising from the agricultural technology that created GMO row crops. They have allowed massive expansion of pesticide and herbicide use to produce their dramatic yield gains. Those same chemicals can (and do) pollute surface and underground drinking water when they finish killing bugs and weeds. In Midwestern cities (such as Indianapolis, where I live) atrazine is almost always detected in drinking water sources during growing season.

Again...do we feed the world today at the expense of contaminating drinking water, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf fishing grounds?

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