Why is food so cheap here? The US has long had a 'cheap food' policy, and I
suppose this should be the expected result. But what makes our food so
cheap? Why is it that food is so cheap and so many farmers are going out of
Former Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz wrote the family farmers epitaph
when he said, "Get big, or get out." Earl Butz is also the one credited
with proposing the idea of using food as a weapon. Indeed food can be used
as a weapon. It can be use to bring nations to their knees. But should we
turn this weapon on our own family farmers?
The federal government then went about creating a series of incentives,
subsidies and policies to do just that. If you study these policies, you
will find they do just as Mr. Butz promised, they reward getting big,
externalizing costs, and practicing an eploitative type of agriculture.
If a farmer wasn't willing to get big, he was going to get driven out.
With true freedom comes responsibility!
Our nation operates under a Free Market, capitalist framework. Free Market
capitalism guarantee us many rights...but with those rights come equally
George Bernard Shaw said, " Liberty means responsibility, that is why most
men dread it."
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said, Free market says if you want to bring a product
to market you pay dividends, and that includes cleaning up after yourself.
And that is responsibility number 1) clean up after yourself.
Another would be to not impinge on the rights of others.
A third, is treating the natural capital of the land as an asset to be
counted on ledger sheet.
Until that is done, capitalism is built on a lie.
And now the dairy farmer is under the siege, suffering from a near 40% drop
in milk prices he receives for his milk. I hope he is able to weather the
storm better than some of the family pork producers recently pushed out of
But if he is forced off his farm here in Wisconsin, again some will benefit
and some will not. It is obvious the family dairy farmer will not benefit,
but some do. I do for one. and I'd like to explain why.
To do this we need to take a step back from agriculture and examine our
economy as a whole. The Dow Jones hit the 10,000 mark the other day. An all
time high! The stock market just keeps climbing and climbing, at least here
in America. Thank God we aren't in some of those third world countries like
Japan and the rest of Asia!
So, what is causing this record growth in the financial markets? Much of it
is happening as a result of corporate downsizing, mergers, and flight to
cheap labor markets. This erodes steadily at our job base. Lose of living
wage paying jobs is at an all time high. In return we get low-wage jobs and
cheap prices of goods. My point here is part of the Dow-Jones high is
fueled by liquidation of jobs and place. This can go on only so long before
some other fuel feeds the fire of the sock market.
That other fuel is the liquidation of Natural Capital. Natural Capital is
the pre-existing, God given resources. Examples include; oil, minerals,
soils, water, trees, wetlands, and the land itself. Unpolluted,
undiminished resources, should be recognized as having a higher natural
Let's bring it back to land. The farmer who is forced off his land is
usually able to still turn one final profit in the sale of his land. Around
here a good percentage of those sales of land go into feeding the
development engine. It's been estimated that 50% of our economy is being
fueled by the development and urban sprawl. As the real production of our
economy is downsized and shipped overseas, something has to pick up the
slack and that is the liquidation of our land and natural resources through
development. Development is a powerful economic engine, employing a whole
host of people from manufacturers to carpenters. I know, I profit from
development. I've been a builder since I got out of highschool, and still do
construction part-time....to pay for one of my habits...Farming. My point
here is that by forcing the family farmer off his land, then liquidating it
by building upon it, we enable one of the last means to keep our economy
growing. This liquidation of the natural capital is also one of the last
means by which the lower-class can raise themselves up to the middle-class.
So in closing I think it is necessary to step back and rethink what farming
is all about. We must have a greater goal than maximum production and
profit, and that goal is the common good. We must protect our soil and farm
resources, because they are the production base of our economy, and our life
support system. We need to look upstream, far enough to recognize hidden
costs. Then we will be able to control, in a positive manner, the out come
of our actions. Only then... only then, will free-market capitalism become
accountable for their responsibilities, and become sustainable.
Prairie Dock Farm
You can't escape the responsibility of tomorrow, by evading it today.
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