Re: 40,000 U.S. farmers, but not one ounce of reason

James Meade (jnmeade@blue.weeg.uiowa.edu)
Sat, 12 Nov 1994 08:00:43 -0600 (CST)

Bob,

I have to respond to a couple of points you made that I take issue with.

> Sustainable agriculture does not deny the economic realities of
> farming, but rather attempts at every turn to integrate other value
> systems into farming. Conserving the topsoil, reducing or
> curtailing the poisoning of food and land, protecting the culture
> of rural communities, enhancing the diversity of wild plants and
> animals - these elements are also valuable to our society. Notice
> that I said "integrate", not "replace".

All the farmers that I know around here already care about most of these
things. However, your wild plant might be my weed, and your wild animal
might be the deer that regularly eat the outside several rows of my
corn. I like a few deer, too, but I'm not going to pay for you to drive
by the road once a year and see one in the fall. There are other ways
that both you and I can enjoy the deer. So the point here is how do the
various parties see an issue from a common perspective.

> The 98% of the American public not in farming has become
> increasingly intolerant (read "angry") about threats to both human
> and environmental health, be they real or imagined. I would argue
> that if farmers - regardless of operational size - really want to
> remain farming the land, they would do well to listen to what their
> countrymen expect from agriculture...

I just don't believe that 98% of the American public are intolerant of
agriculture. As long as we're guessing on numbers, I'd suggest that more
than half never spend a minutes time in a year thinking about food
quality, and the number who are sufficiently serious about their own
views on food quality to be active are less than 10% of the population.
I'm counting truck drivers, inner-city poor, waitresses, office clerks,
railroad yardmen etc in my population, not just academics.

> ... I also suggest that the participants of a sustainable agriculture
> are in an excellent position to facilitate such a dialogue.

I agree with this if you mean that you will take the point of view of the
farmer and show him how his situation will be better by changing his
practices. If you mean you will force change on him, you may be
surprised at how resourceful the farmer is in chaning in the way he/she
thinks is in his/her own interest, not yours.