Last year a wheat farmer from Idaho told me that I should be thankful to the
chemical and farm equipment companies because thanks to "modern technology"
the price of wheat has not gone up in 25 years and the average American only
spends 10% of his income on food. I wondered, though, if gasoline, tractors,
fertilizers, pesticides and everything else used in farming has increased in
price, where is the money to pay for those things coming from? And who is the
big winner? Your food bill might be nice, but have you looked at your tax
bill lately? Where is the sustainability in that system?
In a message dated 96-03-10 14:29:28 EST, you write:
>It is coming out of the marginal return to the producer due to the
>ability to continue to increase the yield per acre. Avg yield increase is
>3% per year and with the price per bushel remaining static, the only way
>to pay increased taxes, goods and service cost increases is to increase
>yield per acre. Most farmers do this while still remaining the finest
>environmentalists in the world. Without them and their ability to
>sustain yield that portion of the world that cannot sustain themselves
>would be that much worse off, since these same farmers enable the US to
>provide as much as 85% of the world's relief.
Dear Mr. Evans. Thank you for your answer to my question. I think you present
a widespread point of view very succintly and one that raises many questions
about the sustainability of our agriculture that I hope many contributors to
SANET will address. For example:
Does a 3% per year increase in yield really cover the increases in taxes,
goods and services costs over the past 25 years? (eg. have tractors only
increased in price 75% or are farmers earning 75% more profit than they were
25 years ago?) If not, where does the difference come from? Subsidies that
benefit the providers of goods and services at tax payers expense, perhaps?
Are there other subsidies, such as for energy consumption that might be
hiding the true costs of producing food in our energy-intensive system?
Presumibly consumers would benefit from such subsidies, but who pays for
Is a 3% per year increase in yields sustainable for the forseeable future?
Are the environmental costs of such a strategy, assuming there are any,
If farmers are continually forced to **increase** (not just sustain) yields
to meet increasing costs, can they be expected to worry about soil erosion or
pesticide residues in food?
If US farmers are the finest environmentalists in the world, why do we read
in the Feb. 1996 National Geographic that farms are the major source of
non-point pollution in the form of soil erosion and chemical run-off?
Who pays farmers to provide 85% of the world's relief? Wouldn't it be better
to spend that money helping people become food self-sufficient?
I hope others will come up with other questions, and perhaps some answers
because such arguments are used to defend our current agricultural policies