Many of you may have a particular issue in regard to industrial agriculture that is important to you. That issue might be bees, pollinators and colony collapse; soil erosion; flooding; dead zones; nutrient pollution to our surface, groundwater and aquifers; the poison sewer gasses, hydrogen-sulfide and ammonia, and the greenhouse and explosive gas methane coming from hog confinements; nitric acid rain from CAFOs and the volatilization of anhydrous ammonia; human health issues like antibiotic resistant bacteria including MRSA, asthma and other respiratory diseases from CAFOs, obesity, diabetes and circulatory problems from highly processed foods; wildlife habitat; soil organisms, soil health and soil building; GMOs; fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides; rural communities; or sustainability; to name a few. As I go through this presentation, see if that issue of yours might be addressed in some way for you by these crops and cropping systems. We can talk about that during the question and answer period, if you like.
2. Analogous argument
I am going to borrow a page from Derrick Jensen today. Jenson’s argument on climate change and energy is that individually we can all take all the conservation and energy measures possible, but unless the baseload of where we get our energy is changed, the numbers say we will not have any affect on climate change. Today I’ll argue that no amount of bandaids in the form of conservation practices will result in any meaningful changes to the problems coming from the industrial model of agriculture. We need to change the baseline model to affect the issues important to you.
3. Context – Gazette INRS Op-Ed
To think that the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, or any states’ strategy, can affect changes that would clean up this particular, recent, post WWII, soil losing, nutrient polluting, flood enhancing, hydrologically short circuiting, human health harming, petro/chemical/industrial, CAFO, Green Revolution, row crop model of agriculture is disingenuous.
As conservation band-aids these strategies are useless:
1. because there is no implementation instrument – making it a voluntary only program;
2. because of scale – millions of acres of corn and beans versus a few small conservation band-aid projects;
3. because there are practices included in these strategies that actually pollute themselves;
4. because there are practices included that short circuit hydrology contributing to flooding and not recharging our groundwater and aquifers;
5. and, because there is nothing in them that we did not know or could not have implemented years ago, and we haven’t.
These strategies are needed only if we assume we will continue with this corn – beans – confinement – feedlot model of agriculture.
We have a choice. We can continue with this inherently polluting, soil losing, petro/chemical/industrial agriculture. Or, we can switch to a non-polluting biologically benign and beneficial, soil building agriculture that doesn’t sacrifice our food and manufacturing needs, and that exists today and can be adopted today.
What this non-polluting agriculture might look like:
1. edible perennial prairie grains for humans and animals – no chemicals, no runoff, no erosion, no yearly tillage, builds soil, provides habitat, exists today – scaled up for sale to farmers by 2020;
2. strips of perennial native prairie in all annual fields – 10% of annual fields in strips stops 95% of soil erosion, builds soil, provides habitat;
3. prairie and grass based animal farming – no chemicals, no runoff, no erosion, builds soil, provides habitat;
4. industrial hemp – cover crop, no chemicals if used in crop rotations, used with strips, provides habitat, provides food and fiber, replaces many oil based manufactured products, revitalizes rural America with factories and processing plants, 350 year history as a crop in North America;
5. small grains, hays, fruits, and vegetables – used with strips, provides habitat, builds soil.
What is at stake is our continued ability to feed ourselves. This current industrial model of agriculture is unsustainable and polluting. The biological organisms in our soil are being destroyed through years of chemical application. And through unsustainable erosion, even that polluted soil will someday be completely gone.
We still have a choice. We can switch to a non-polluting, clean, soil building agriculture if we want to.