I think we are in much more agreement than you might realize. I do not
necessarily favor depriving grazers of their grazing rights just because
a higher bidder comes along. I have mixed feelings on the subject, for
the same reasons you described so well. But I can't help savor the irony when
I see those who want to use a resource for its economic value being forced to
resort to noneconomic arguments because for a change environmental protection
has more economic muscle behind it. The point of my message was to bring out
this irony. It gets pretty wearying to hear the endlessly self-serving "get
the government off our backs" arguments from those who don't hesitate to
belly up to the federal trough when it's chow time. Maybe we should indeed
accept less than the highest bids from grazers, but if we do so, it should be
on the basis of a careful, systematic thinking through of all the goods and
the bads, both public and private, of all the options, not because of any
group having a peremptory claim on the land.
I don't agree, however, with your point that if we favor use value assessment
of farmland to keep farmers in business, we should favor an analogous
treatment of grazing rights to keep ranchers in business. Use value
assessment is a farmLAND protection program; it protects the land from
irreversibly being converted to asphalt, for example. (At least it's intended
to; a discussion for another time is whether it is effective.) Its
beneficiaries are future generations, not simply the current farmers on that
land. When grazers lose out in the economic competition for grazing rights,
the result is not that the resource gets irreversibly used up. Au contraire.
With farmland use value assessment, both the current farmer and the public
benefit; if we by analogy extended similar favored treatment to grazers, it's
not at all clear that both private and public interests would be served. As
I said at the start, it requires balancing various goods and bads.
Again, a very interesting question.
With best wishes,
P.S. I just got an advance copy of American Journal of Alternative
Agriculture, Vol. 10 No. 3, with your paper on Minnesota extension agents
views of sustainable agriculture; you and your fans should be seeing it very