Wednesday, July 29, 2009

50-Year Farm Bill

I keep coming back to an Op-Ed piece from the New York Times written by Wes Jackson, who founded the Land Institute, and Wendell Berry, a farmer and writer in Kentucky. These two "practicing environmentalists" are leaders in the field of sustainable agriculture. "A 50-Year Farm Bill" (January 2009), commends the efforts being made by thoughtful farmers and consumers, but also details the environmental severity of America's industrial agriculture. They prescribe stronger government policy with a longer-term vision, one that supports healthy soil and sustainable food production, rather than oil-dependent agribusiness.

Jackson elaborates on these sentiments in an interview with AlterNet, an online news website, titled “Is America on the Brink of a Food Crisis?” (January 29, 2009):

“We live off of what comes out of the soil, not what’s in the bank. If we squander the ecological capital of the soil, the capital on paper won’t much matter… For the past 50 or 60 years, we have followed industrialized agricultural policies that have increased the rate of destruction of productive farmland. For those 50 or 60 years, we have let ourselves believe the absurd notion that as long as we have money we will have food. If we continue our offenses against the land and the labor by which we are fed, the food supply will decline, and we will have a problem far more complex than the failure of our paper economy…

“Support for soil conservation and protecting water resources have to be central. There needs to be funding for research on a different model for agriculture… Either we pay attention or we pay a huge price, not so far down the road. When we face the fact that civilizations have destroyed themselves by destroying their farmland, it’s clear that we don’t really have a choice…

“A 50-year farm bill represents a vision that stresses the need to protect soil from erosion, cut the wastefulness of water, cut fossil-fuel dependence, eliminate toxins in soil and water, manage carefully the nitrogen of the soil, reduce dead zones, restore an agrarian way of life and preserve farmland from development.”

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