Well I obviously have not learned my lesson and continue to get insnarled in these long strings. Let me start by acknowledging Ron*s comments, sorry about the technacratise. I am a second generation ag-bureaucrat and I*m damn proud of it. Let me begin with a quote:
*The Man Born to Farming
The grower of Trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,
whose hands reach into the ground and sprout,
to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death
yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down
in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn.
His thought passes along the row ends like a mole.
What miraculous seed has he swallowed
that the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth
like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water
descending in the dark?*
Wendell Berry, from:
Farming: A Hand Book (1970)
I will stand back to back with Wendell any time, I will also argue with him about the first thing I know that I disagree with him on and that was this recent NY Times OP/ED piece where he spoke confidently of rising support among the populace for farm issues, and while I hope he is right I think that he is wrong. I am sure that we could find plenty of other things to disagree on.
Dale, I was speaking from the techie view also, I consistently speak to the management of the agro-ecosystem and believe perhaps naively that if the farmer covers that then all the other cultural/social issues will take care of themselves. Gracey and I have gone around on this one several times. As far as the business part of it goes I*m even worse than you are. I*m not against a farmer being a good business manager, making money and being economically stable its just that he is playing against such a stacked deck that he needs any sort of support that society might provide whether it be guaranteed true parity in the market place or his ordination as a priest with guaranteed support from the *community*.
Yes, your concept of the consultant and insurance interface has potential, the insurance industry has not gotten to the level of insuring a system, I think that there has been some single practice insurance coverage as an incentive, but that is not as broad as you are intimating. We are continuing to look to the consultants and commodity groups to deliver a picture of current practice in pest management but all the elements of communication are not in place yet. We are getting there. Maybe I will be able to pursue this as these links are established.
There are other potentials in an insured management system, that under a consultant/inspector is *certified* to be managing away from the use of pesticides. In the past year I have heard both from Bart and a Dow researcher that such a prescribed system could be a substitute for prescription use of restricted use pesticides. In other words if you don*t have a system in place that demonstrates that you are using best management practices(BMP is my techno speak for the combination of soil nutrient balancing, humus management(including by definition crop rotations that integrate grass legume sods and LIVESTOCK) and bio-intensive IPM) and that pesticidal use is your last resort you just are not going to get access to the restricted use pesticides...
To me these lines of thought go deep to the core of the thing and that is the disappearance of the farmer. So we have to (no I don*t want to and I*m really uncomfortable with it, BUT!) look at the implications of precision agriculture where management of a farm/production unit/processing unit might be integrated unto the management of the landscape which is integrated into the management of the watershed and bio-region. I think that the absence of a cadre of agro-eco managers (techno speak for farmers) will drive us to this.
This was what I was trying to get at by asking Ann to come in on the training/education thing. I have been playing this tune for twenty years. If this idealized small to moderate sized (optimized) farm is what you want and the old practitioners are disappearing then you*s got to give us thousands of able practitioners now!!! If any thing there are fewer such practitioners than there were twenty years ago. The way things are going we may have to force Wendell as well as Paul, Steve and the other real farmers on the list to stay on life support so our children and grandchildren will at least know what one looks like! Maybe we could have them stuffed like *Trigger*.
I am looking at all this through the macroscope of what H. T.(Tom) Odum is now calling emergetics, in its earlier incarnations it was energetics, and while the vertically integrated, precision farmed, mega unit don*t look as good as I think the optimized moderate sized farm would look, it looks regrettably plausible. I keep coming back to the last thing that HT said to me when I saw him a couple of years back: *the thing is that because of what agriculture is you can subsidize the hell out of it.* I have been chewing on that like a koan ever since, it could easily knock my concepts of sustainability into a cocked hat.
*A Warning to My Readers
Do not think me gentle
because speak in praise
of gentleness, of elegant
because I honor the grace
that keeps this world. I am
a man crude as any,
gross of speech, intolerant,
stubborn, angry, full
of fits and furies. That I
may have spoken well
at times, is not natural.
A wonder is what it is.*
Wendell Berry, from
A Part (1980)
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