Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The War on Real Farms

Big Ag pigs raised in buildings 
Our pigs raised on pasture
Although the following letter to the editor appeared in the Des Moines Register and is about Iowa, it applies to all rural areas where families are trying to make a living as farmers. 

"I really appreciated Richard Doak's column on the fallacy of rural vs. urban thinking ["Country first, cities second: Is it hurting Iowa?" Aug. 30].  My answer to his question "why do rural interests retain so much power?" is this: There is nothing rural about Monsanto, ADM, Farm Bureau and massive animal confinement facilities. They are simply get-rich-quick schemes, with no responsibility to Iowa whatsoever, urban or rural. If any war is declared on rural Iowa, it is by these entities, camouflaged as "Iowa farmers" and "feeding the world."  It is these entities, not Iowa farmers, that are shaping federal farm policies that have not worked for Iowa or anywhere. Add to that elected officials whose economic development slogan is "come and cash-in on our low self-esteem," and we get what we get.
We in Iowa live with the strong evidence of this war: your daily average fishkill, pesticide drift into your kitchen, respiratory illnesses among rural residents living near large confinement facilities, salmonella poisonings from contaminated chicken operations, severe soil erosion, contaminated drinking water and the obvious decline of rural communities. If a foreign force had done this to us, we would send in the Marines.
A much better Iowa is totally possible if we begin to see our state as a very special place, and begin electing public officials who believe in protecting Iowa's soil, water and biodiversity, which are the basis of the human culture and economy. Iowa would prosper, urban and rural."
— Kamyar Enshayan, Cedar Falls
It truly is a war out there, with Big Ag soaking up all the corporate welfare the government offers and setting policies that hurt small farmers and businesses. As the author points out, they sprinkle in references to "farmers" and "feeding the world" but these are lies. The Big Ag "farmers" rarely (if ever) get their hands dirty and much of their time is spent trying to find ways to make more money. These ways are usually destructive to health and planet, something real farmers should care about. When bodies are sick they cannot work. When the soil is destroyed, so is the farm. Sick and unemployed people do no equate to vibrant economies. In rural areas where Big Ag rules, all that is left are wealthy landowners (because that's what they are, not farmers), abused migrant workers, and unemployed individuals who cannot move away. It creates a dust bowl of communities.

And feeding the "world"? Most of the big farms grow plants that feed animals and create fuel. That's not feeding the world. If they do grow food that is distributed to other countries it's because that's yet another corporate welfare scheme - the government guarantees that any surplus will be purchased with taxpayer money and shipped overseas, ensuring that farms in those countries will fail because they cannot compete with free food. Thus creating a cycle of dependency for poor nations and making Big Ag richer. The answer to feeding the world is to create policies and circumstances for poor nations to grow their own food - not become permanent wards of the US government and Big Ag.

Now, not content with dominating our food supply and food policy, Big Ag is trying to hone in on what they see as a new source of profits - sustainable, local food. A friend pointed out that our local Wal-Mart has a sign by the front door that makes it appear as if they are carrying local produce. But when she searched the produce section, all she could find were a few "local" herb plants that had seen better days. Brilliant marketing - but a lie.

Big Ag in our state says we're not playing nice and, as I mentioned in a previous post, they accuse us of aligning against them, poor things. Yet they're the ones with the power, the money, the voice. While we're just trying to make an honest living and make the world a better place at the same time, they're rubbing their hands together in anticipation of yet another market share - and seeking ways to crush us. If they win, everyone loses.

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