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George Wuerthner has been called a brilliant provocateur who knows how to get under the skin of Western ranchers. With this essay, one that is certain to incite a strong reaction from readers, he examines the costs of America's cheap food policy on both the U.S. Treasury and the environment. Wuerthner writes: "Agriculture is the most destructive land use in America." As an activist, trained biologist, photographer and environmental writer, he has become a prominent figure in the campaign to eliminate livestock from public lands. The author of several dozen books, Wuerthner also has written prolifically about forest ecology, wildfire, the impacts of ATVs and, of course, the effects of non-native cattle and sheep on native species. His coffee-table picture book,Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West, set off a firestorm of debate over the impacts of livestock and the multiple ways that beef production is subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. His most recent book is Wild Fire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. With this first piece, NewWest.Net is debuting a regular column from Mr. Wuerthner that will run twice a month on all things nature-related and anything that suits his fancy.

America Is Paying A Steep Price For Cheap Food

Whenever someone criticizes agricultural practices of America’s farmers and ranchers as I often do, supporters of the industry respond with the same old familiar excuses about how farmers and ranchers earn little money (never considering how overproduction fueled by subsidies or loss in productivity due to poor practices are reasons for the low return on investment), are stewards of the land (more like abusers of the land), and whatever other myths and rationales they can marshal to deflect critical examination of the industry’s impacts on the land and people.

At the end of this litany of supposed excuses or rationales, they always deliver their coup de grace to silence critics: Cheap Food. Don’t criticize farmers and ranchers, they tell us, because they are producing America’s cheap food.

But who and what are paying the price for the rationale behind their argument? Let’s look at the facts.

CHEAP FOOD?

We spent nearly $172 billion on direct agricultural subsidies in the past decade. US ag producers receive on average 18 percent of their income from subsides that encourages overproduction and environmentally-destructive land use. And subsidies generally benefit large industrial farms and ranches over smaller, less environmentally destructive operations such as locally grown organic farming.

CHEAP FOOD?

Agriculture is the most destructive land use in America. A field of corn, hay or alfalfa is one of the most simplified ecosystems around. Not only have these field crops destroyed and replaced native plant and animals communities, but they have greatly simplified biodiversity. The majority of America’s croplands doesn’t’ grow food consumed directly by humans, but food for livestock. A field of corn has about as much biodiversity as a Wal-Mart parking lot. Those irrigated green hay fields around the West may look pretty, but they are a major ecological impact—for instance in Montana more than 5.5 million acres are in irrigated hay—with a subsequent loss in native plant communities, primarily the ecologically important riparian habitat in river valleys that were replaced to accommodate production of cattle feed.

CHEAP FOOD?

The nation has lost 44 percent of its original endowment of wetlands, and agriculture is responsible for the draining of the majority of all these wetlands. In addition, 90% of the West’s remaining riparian areas (those not already converted to hay and corn fields) are in poor ecological condition due to livestock grazing. These riparian areas are critical to the support of 80% of the West’s wildlife.

CHEAP FOOD?

Given that agriculture has altered so much of the US land base, and even caused the functional extinction of entire ecosystems like the tall grass prairie, it is not surprising to learn that the number one cause of species endangerment in America is agriculture. Livestock production and crop production are a factor in the decline of more than 50 percent of all species listed. From wolves to sage grouse, blackfooted ferret to prairie dogs, to slickspot pepperweed, agriculture is the main factor in the species decline and endangerment.

CHEAP FOOD?

Presently the agricultural practicesof America’s farmers and ranchers are responsible for soil erosion rates that the USDA itself estimates are 17 times replacement values and 90 percent of all croplands in the US are losing soil at non-sustainable rates. Bear in mind that the majority of all croplands in the US, including the majority of all corn, soybeans, and hay are primarily used for livestock feed, not direct human consumption.

CHEAP FOOD?

Most of the agricultural production in the US is sustained by massive and non-sustainable inputs of fossil fuels—another subsidy. Agriculture uses 17 percent of all the fossil fuels consumed in America. The food we consume can really be considered part oil.

CHEAP FOOD?

The majority of western rangelands are overgrazed by livestock. And forage consumption by domestic animals means that much less food for native herbivores from prairie dogs to elk.

CHEAP FOOD?

Four-fifths of all native fish are endangered or candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Though there are many factors in fish decline, changes in water quantities and quality as a result of agriculture has negatively impacted native fish and often favored exotic fish which then compete with native fish. Bear in mind that despite growing cities in arid places like Arizona, California and Nevada, agriculture is still the number one use of all water consumed in the western US. Indeed, even in highly populous California, 83 percent of all water is used for agriculture. And the majority of that agricultural water consumption is used to grow crops like hay and corn that are ultimately fed to livestock.

CHEAP FOOD?

Agriculture is one of the major sources for the spread of exotic weeds that threatens native vegetation and wildlife habitat. From the spread of cheatgrass and spotted knapweed, agriculture is the major vector for disturbance of the land that favors weed invasion as well as the main source for distribution.

CHEAP FOOD?

Nearly 90 percent of the pharmaceutical drugs, including antibodies, founds in our waterways comes from livestock production. The presence of these drugs threatens both native aquatic life as well as creating drug resistance life forms that ultimately threatens the effectiveness of all drugs.

CHEAP FOOD?

In many parts of the country, the greatest source of air pollution isn’t from cars, but from farming practices—tractors, trucks, as well as chemicals and pesticides are dissolved in solvents that are sprayed on crops and animals and ultimately are evaporated into the air—all of which are exempt from the Clean Air Act.

CHEAP FOOD?

The world’s livestock account for 17 percent of the methane in the atmosphere. Methane from livestock is a bigger source of greenhouse warming than all the autos in the nation.

Yes indeed, America’s farmers and ranchers produce cheap food—but it is not inexpensive. If one does a full accounting of the real costs of agricultural production we find that America’s food production is the most expensive in the world—it’s just we aren’t paying the full cost at the supermarket.

We need food to eat, but America doesn’t suffer from food shortages, rather we suffer from overproduction, much of it fueled by agricultural subsidies and environmental subsidies that distorts market responses. We don’t need cheap food, we need less food produced in a far more environmentally sustainable manner. The first step in determining what is sustainable is to review all the real costs—including subsidies that support overproduction.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As an award winning photographer, George Wuerthner has amassed over 250,000 images of wildlands and wildlife on the continent, most of them in the American West, Canada and Alaska. His pictures have appeared in dozens of books and in the most popular nature magazines in the country. You can visit his site by clicking here on George Wuerthner Photography.

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24 comments

  1. Food has no value until it gets to the end user. Famine in Africa is not about a world food shortage, but the inability to get the food to where people need it the most.

    Colonial India had a famine in the south and plenty of food in the north. The British set the price of grain. But when the famine grew more severe, they disbanded the price control, and in a short time, grain made it to the famine area and the threat was over.

    Perhaps the finest part of the American experiment has been our economic success, a lot of it coming from Land Grant universities devising new ways to grow tradional and new crops. The pipeline from farm to the consumer is expensive as it is diverse. Most subsidies are there to keep a steady supply and smooth the bumps in the supply line. But the best aspect is how well it works.

    I manage a small farm in a monoculture. We get no Federal subsidy. We do have the local government farm property tax partial deferral. Society is not charging us full taxes to keep the use in ag as opposed to growing cul de sacs. The farm is 43 acres, but only 22 are in berry canes. Aisles, roads, middles, headlands, and large riparian reserves take the all the rest except the two acres of buildings and equipment parking areas. We spend effort and treasure to keep bug eating birds around, and beneficial insects in abundance. We have a farm bird life list. No deer bother our operation: they get killed trying to cross the 4 lane highway. We had two yearlings in the spring, and both were dead by late July on the side of the road.

    Which brings me to my point: If you follow the directions of people like Mr. Wuerthner, listen to his ideas, you do have to come up with workable solutions that will feed the whole of America. Mr. Wuerthner has none. Our over-produced corn is now side tracked to clean, sustainable ethanol plants. Ooops! Not sustainable for George. So meat and poultry prices are on the rise. It takes energy to produce biofuels. You would hope some of those tractors are plowing for people food production.

    The most subsidized venture I can think of is bearing children. The public cuts a tax relief deal with parents, educates their children with public dollars, and protects them equally. The rich subsidize the poor. In the interest of energy conservation which translates to clean air, mass transit is subsidized. This list is as long as Congress might make it, and insiders can stuff the legislation. This issue of subsidies degrading the environment is a straw dog. The ultimate issue is population control, which is the demand side of economics. If you want less farming on Planet Earth, reduce the number of folks using farm products. Subsidize population reduction. Give childless people money and charge people for having children, regardless of their economic status. Have no public education. In other words, devolve our society to that of rural Mexico or Sudan or Afghanistan. No farm subsidies there. It will not improve the landscape for critters, but that is not the point. George hates people and getting rid of people is the path to enlightenment.

  2. Bearbait has written a thought-provoking rebuttal. There is no doubt that the bearing of children is heavily subsidized. The conundrum is how does a capitalist society function without growth and alternatively how does the planet surive this growth?

  3. Charles and “bearbait,” you both missed the point of Wuerthner’s article, which was a flawed effort to focus attention on the use of externalities in accounting, on how this practice enables the omission of important environmental costs and relationships, and on how you can’t reliably make the best decisions when you systematically externalize important pieces of the puzzle. Although most people remain oblivious to the details, the seriousness of the problem posed by the use of externalities is well-acknowledged by many of the best economists and systems thinkers across the globe and hinges on far more than whether George likes or dislikes his fellow man. Granted that George could have made his point a bit more directly, but a direct discussion of the concept of externalities can easily lose a lot of people quickly; so, George tried to do it through a few charged anecdotal examples. Wuerthner may have a purist’s tendency toward upfront discussion; but, he really has done his homework and is dealing with concepts at the frontier of what we need to think about as we go forward in this century. Whether you agree with him or not, you really do need to do your own homework to relevantly participate. Roughly the last third of Al Gore’s book, “Earth in the Balance,” contains a good beginner’s discussion of externalities and their use and abuse.

  4. Bearbait, he shoots! He scores!!!!!! Speaking of devolution of society back to that of pre-European invaders who came to Mexico, back in those good ‘ol days they had a solution to their imbalance problem of food resources and population. It was called the ‘flowery wars’. The purpose of this was sort of capture the flag of the other tribe with the members of that tribe being the flags. Actual hostile injury was kept to a minimum. These captured flags eventually made it to the stew pots and roasting pits. Perhaps as the momentum grows to devolve modern society to an ancient pastoral setting the ‘flowery wars’ may be the ticket to nature’s balance. For a ripping piece of historical fiction on all this read Jeffrey Archer’s “Aztec.”

  5. Amen, bearbait!
    Anyone want to take bets on whether Mr. Wuerthner gets any type of subsidies? Does he pay to take photos of federally owned land and make money off of them?
    Does he teach in any schools receiving federal grants funding etc?
    Does he have subsidized access to public land? Of course we are supposed to think him having subsidized fun is beneficial to us all, much more beneficial than food or fuel.

  6. George’s column makes for a nice segue to Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” available at your library or bookstore.
    He explores four meals from origins to consumption — or as a NYT review put it: a McDonald’s repast consumed by Pollan with his wife and son in their car as it vrooms up a California freeway; a “Big Organic” meal of ingredients purchased at the upmarket chain Whole Foods; a beyond-organic chicken dinner whose main course and side dishes come from a wondrously self-sustaining Virginia farm that uses no pesticides, antibiotics or synthetic fertilizers; and a “hunter-gatherer” feast consisting almost entirely of ingredients that Pollan has shot dead or foraged himself.
    I suppose Marion and Craig can dismiss Pollan as a liberal foodie from Berkley, but he has created a thought-provoking way of looking at where our food comes and what that means.
    And in many ways, American agriculture is anything but sustainable in the long term.
    My “Oh-oh” moment came in the late 90’s when I wrote for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. I was driving through the Palouse region — hills that produce prodigious amounts of wheat. Up ahead I saw what appeared to be a mini-mesa, and I pulled to a stop and got out.
    It was a family cemetery with about a dozen gravestones. I stood looking up at it, because while the graveyard hadn’t been plowed for well over a century, the surrounding countryside had been plowed, planted and harvested for generations, and stood about six feet lower than the surface of the graveyard.
    The soil of the graveyard was radically different from surrounding wheat fields. Graveyard soil was richly alive and dark with nutrients. Surrounding wheat field soils were sterile mediums for seeds and Anhydrous ammonia for nitrogen.
    Can this go on forever?
    The answer is obvious.

  7. Brodie, perhaps this would be a segue for you to resurrect the dire forecast that eminated from the Club of Rome back in the early 70’s.

    Regarding fertilizers I prefer my own recipe of compost that contains fish parts, clippings, steer manure, and chicken manure for growing vegetables. Last summer I had tomatoes that grew to 8′ high and produced edible fruit through October. We kept our neighborhood well supplied. Just for the hell of it, I planted some radishes, carrots, and onions last month. I’m 90 miles from the Canadian border. The seeds sprouted and are making headway. I made a tent out of clear plastic drumliners. Although my radishes produce very “liberal” green growth and are very high in minerals and vitamins, I find the liberal ends just too bitter and nasty for my tastes and are returned to the soil through the composting process.

  8. I am having a hard time understanding exactly what the point of this is. Did Pollan come to any conclusions as to how well the beyond organic can do feeding a hungry world. Amazingly it has alaways been supposed to be the liberals who loved the poor and wanted them to have everything possible even if it means the taxpaer paying for it. But this article seems to s8upport the idea that food should be only available for those who can afford to pay the high prices to have everything “organic” , whatever that is.
    Is the point of this to eliminate ALL subsidies? If so be careful what you ask for. I wish we could but if you stop and really consider what is subsidized in this country, I suspect there is nobody that isn’t benefitting to one extent or another. As I mentioned earlier, recreation is a very big item in all it’s forms.

  9. Pete, shhhhhhhh! Recycling is the key to carbon footprints and resouce stabilization without chemical enhancement. The more liberals like Brodie that can be encouraged to jump into the shredder for composting purposes the quicker we will have greener pastures and cleaner skies from their sacrifice. 😉

  10. The best thing about organic produce is the (assumed) care taken. I truly expect it to be a little cleaner, not just because of the organic environment, but the attitude of the handlers.

  11. I had no idea about economy of scale in organic farming until I saw a blurb on the tube back a bit when e. coli. had shown up in California baby spinach packages. New Seasons, (a name something along that line), was shown picking organic spinach on their 26,000 acre…Correct folks, 26,000 acre organic farm in the Imperial Valley…and my only question was about that Colorado River water they pump out of a big ditch to irrigate with, and how is that so uncontaminated that it is organic eligible? I irrigate out of a small river in Oregon, and treat the water if only because in late summer, most of it has been through an upstream sewage treatment plant. My treating the water with chlorine precludes me getting organic classification. I could care less, but it is worth it to the buying public that I irrigate with treated, sand filtered water. And, our help is not exposed to crud.

    I think a lot of organic is a big time scam. The successful organic dairy is one of at least two dairies: the organic one, and the one they operate elsewhere to provide a medical haven for cows that got sick on the organic farm. Cows cost money. Your organic cow gets mastitis (sp?) or pneumonia, and she takes a ride to the non-organic dairy where she spends the rest of her milking life, after getting anti-biotics to clear up the problem.
    Oregon surveyed for nitrates in ground water. The highest numbers came from under alfalfa fields that had been in for 25 or more years. Not fertilizer, but the nitrogen fixing nodes on the alfalfa roots, over time, were the vector.

    I don’t know how you can raise an organic sheep in parts of the West because of the selenium deficiency, and the need to inject that element at birth and booster it later on. Or blueberries which need boron. In fact, why would you not want to use drugs to improve animal health? You get shots for the dog, but you don’t want shots for your crops?

    When DDT was banned, some birds dropped heavier shelled eggs. More than 50 million people died from preventable diseases because DDT was no longer available. Most of those deaths were other places than here in my country, so I guess I don’t have a dog in the fight. Right? Malaria was almost wiped out and now we are back to where it is doing its thing except where the governments said to hell with Ms. Carson, and are now using DDT once again to provide relief for their people.

    Externalities are both positive and negative. And there are a lot of them. It will all boil down to who has the money, the power, to survive, and who gets left out, left behind, to not survive. How prepared are any of us to have our government telling us who will live and who will not, because that is where our leftward movement will ultimately lead us. I can see it now: “The good news is that all our food is now organic, and the bad news is that there is not enough for you. Your cyanide pill is enclosed.” And your toe tag reads: “Unfit for recycling. Burn only at co-gen plant.”

  12. Mr. Geddes, thanks for the link to The Independent. I noted this caveat in the article (right above the part that you quote from):

    “The study did not take into account factors such as the increased biodiversity created by organic farming or the improved landscape.”

    And, there must have been some real spoon benders at work to reach some of their conclusions. Organic milk has more impact, they claim, because more land is required per unit of milk (80 percent more, they claim).

    Let me guess: the extra land is necessary to let the cattle roam around on grass, rather than standing in the mud between trips to the stanchions?

    Or, are they saying that, with a big bump of grain and hormones, that they get more milk out of less feed? Hmmm. And what tradeoffs do we make to get that increased production? How about hermaphroditic frogs and fish?

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/12/031219072830.htm

    Perhaps the researchers were arguing that lower-yield organic grain production means we use more land to produce the same amount of grain? Maybe. But one can easily argue that this just proves the virtues of organic agriculture — the benefits are extended right through the whole production chain.

    It would be wrong to pretend organic grain and forage production was a wholly exclusive use of a piece of ground. I’ve been around conventional farms where I thought that might be the case — especially when the cropdusters were aloft with the 2-4-D. But not organic fields.

    A soybean farmer I know in Minnesota says you could tell blindfolded when you were near his organic fields as opposed to his chemical-applying neighbor’s fields because of all the songbirds singing in the organic fields.

    Organic farming leaves room for other creatures to get some value from that same piece of land at the same time. (Yes, I know that there is wildlife in conventional fields usually, but on the whole, the organic fields tend to have way more of it. And your dog won’t get sick if you let him roam through it either).

    We might even argue that those creatures — mammals, birds, insects, fungi, microbes — contribute to the long-term productivity of the land, such that over the long haul we don’t have to prop up yields with huge inputs of chemicals.

    Again, “The study did not take into account factors such as the increased biodiversity created by organic farming or the improved landscape.”

    This is to say nothing of food animal treatment, a healthy working environment for farmers, the benefits of Conjugated Linoleic Acid available in grassfed dairy products, and improved taste and nutrition of organic foods like milk, chicken, and tomatoes.

  13. Pollan took an instructive look at a self-sustaining Virginia farm that uses no pesticides, antibiotics or synthetic fertilizers. There he found healthy land, crops, animals and customers, and no, Marion, they were not liberal elites, but a broad cross-section of a public wearied and worried by and about industrial agriculture characterized by massive monoculture crops or historically unprecedented concentrations of animals that produce vast streams and mountains of waste that cannot be recycled back into the land, but simply run off into streams and rivers that create vast “dead zones” like the Gulf waters near the mouth of the Mississippi.
    The key to this Virginia farm (and to the Amish farms in Pennsylvania) is that they capture and use waste in natural and highly efficient systems. They avoid the inherent hazard of monocultures (a new disease wiping out entire crops, ala the Irish potato famine) by planting a variety of crops and raising a variety of animals. The result is a robust, resilient system that cannot be knocked off its pins by the strange dealings of politicians or commodity monopolies.
    Simple labels like “organic” are rapidly becoming meaningless, given the loosey-goosey rules and regulations set up by the Bush administration for their corporate friends. What’s more meaningful is the one-on-one relationship you can establish with a grower.

  14. Brodie, I see organic foods for sale in stores, not much here because we are a very small area, but in other places. That food is always much higher priced that regular food. There are vast masses of people that need food and cannot afford the extra cost, on top of which I don’t think it is possible to produce enough in that manner to feed the huge number of people now fed by our agriculture producers. Surely you would not let folks starve to death because we couldn’t produce enough food for them to eat and still maintain the organic production.
    I understand the ideals, but ideals just are not always workable, especially on a large scale. How many people could that farm feed?

  15. There are a number of good points in this discussion, and a few painful realities need to be faced.

    The world and US populations are way in front of the long-term availability of world resources. The primary limiting factor will be the end of cheap oil, which is exploited to transport “cheap” food around this country and the world, and to produce “supplements” for agriculture. Government won’t need to hand out cyanide pills, we’ve created our own. Whether the world/US population is cut in half or by 90% will be a mystery until it starts to occur, and maybe until we’ve reached a sustainable level. The climate changes we’ve created will exacerbate the problem, but the end of cheap oil will be the “cutting-edge”.

    Will large or small families be an advantage? Who knows, but a glimpse of world population dynamics and family survival in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s may give a clue. Will small or large cities have the advantage? I’m betting on small to medium sized communities in the midst of sustainable agricultural areas with minimal food transportation needs.

    All of our “breakthroughs” have caused a surge in population and per capita consumption. Cheap oil, the ag revolution, industrialization and now globalization have all contributed to our current condition. It’s not sustainable. The world is limited and we’ve acted as though it wasn’t. You don’t need a PhD to figure out what’s in store, i.e. the painful decompression to a sustainable future. And we probably won’t have the political will to foresee and forestall.

    The less harm we do for the next decade to our remaining wild areas and wildlife, the better our bounce-back and future will be.

  16. There is another situation taking place that may severely impact food, and that is the die off of the honey bees. That alone has terrible potential and we will be desperate for food no matter how it is grown.

  17. Marion: Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm (Pollan’s focus in “Omnivore’s Dilemma”) has about 1,000 customers from his his 550 hilly acres of pasture and woods in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
    Joel even has a book: “Holy Cows and Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer’s Guide to Farm Friendly Food,” and believes buyers and sellers of food should connect personally. “Don’t you find it odd that people will put more work into choosing their mechanic or house contractor than they will into choosing the person who grows their food?” he said to Pollan.
    And Polyface Farm is NOT strictly organic, but it is local, and that appeals to people.
    And as Pollan notes, these on-farm sales allow Joel to recapture the 92 cents of a consumer’s food dollar that now typically winds up in the pockets of processors, middlemen, and retailers. Marion, how much of that dollar do your ranching neighbors capture? Can you buy meat locally? Can you buy grass-fed, rather than corn-fed beef?

  18. One of the problems with that theory is the fact it is impiossible to grow all our needs in one place. We grow sugar beets, but they ahve to be refined. Yes, we can get range beef here, when I lived in Tuba, I could buy farm fresh mutton because they could sell a lot.
    I would think you realize that we cannot buy a lot of the fresh fruits and vegetables locally. Some in the summer, but global warming be hanged, there is still an awful lot of stuff that cannot be grown locally. I’m sure you have Farmer’s Market’s in Casper just like we do here to get stuff in the summer.
    Trying to custom produce food would be jsut as expensive as custom made clothing or cars, or anything else. It is certainly fine for those who can afford it, but probably not everyone. I would never want to see the choice of which to buy taken away.
    Have you done much research on this honey bee situation?

  19. Agriculture is the most destructive land use in America? I will remember to keep telling myself that as I drive past newly developed subdivisions throughout the Gallatin Valley. A few short years ago these lands were primarily used for ranching operations, and provided habitat for all manner of wildlife. I thought the rangeland had been “destroyed,” when it was developed, but I guess I was wrong. Thank goodness it was saved from the “most destructive land use”-agriculture.

  20. James Kunsler in speaking of the big push for using ethanol to fuel our cars says “The ethanol craze means that we’re going to burn up the Midwest’s last six inches of topsoil in our gas-tanks.”

  21. I’d have to disagree with George that ag is the most destructive land use in America. That would have to be the chemically-soaked lawns throughout suburbia. They may not have the erosion that plowed ag lands do, but lawns shed more fertilizer and pesticides, square foot for square foot, than any farm in America.
    And yes, the ethanol craze is driven by politics, not science. The fuel and chemical investment in growing most crops for ethanol production is more than the energy value we’d get from ethanol itself. Topsoil would vanish even faster than the alarming rates of today. (Ever try to make soil from scratch?)
    As for the honey bee plight, we’re dealing with invasive, exotic pests and diseases that are wreaking havoc on the hives. Genuinely bad news for produce growers. As an ironic, historical aside, honey bees are exotics themselves, brought over by European settlers.

  22. I want one of the deep greenies to tell what a bad deal CRP is in Ag, and how it is degrading the land. It is a subsidy for the environmentalists, in that is pays the farmer or rancher to not cultivate or graze the land, and Uncle Sugar pays them a yearly stipend NOT to farm or graze. No ag takes place. It one of the major subsidies for Ag in the US…a land bank, as it were.

    Someone who has a working knowledge of the program, and the number of acres, aveage cost per acre to US taxpayers, and what kinds of wildlife are beneficiaries, should post a comment. George is not going to ever tell all the story, and not talking about CRP is either evidence of his ignorance on the subject or a deflection of truth to cover an agenda. You be the judge.

  23. When venom is the ink in pen
    Discussion can’t ensue
    Without a ladder that will reach
    UP to the outhouse pew.

    Opinions vary, as do “facts”
    Selectively contrived.
    One wonders where the subsidies
    Are thought to have derived.

    Your adjectives, dear George, betray
    The points you’d wish to make.
    Who planted all that prejudice?
    Why bash for bashing’s sake?

    If it is subsidies you hate
    First look into the mirror.
    The current trend to socialize
    Makes YOUR abuses clear.

    Did YOU tap in to student loans?
    Tax credits on YOUR list?
    Would YOU send back the checks all sent
    To schools on YOUR list?

    How about those SS checks
    And Medicare you’ll find
    In mailbox when age begins
    To make YOUR face more lined?

    There’s school lunches, welfare checks;
    Industry subsidized;
    There’s unemployment checks that flow
    When jobs aren’t realized.

    Your adjectives that thread the word
    “Organic” fail to note
    E-coli or the costs thereof.
    With *prejudice* you wrote.

    Your science “research” limited;
    Your “facts” are incomplete
    At best and often just plain WRONG.
    Disclosure means defeat???

    The “truth” without the “whole” of it,
    With “nothing BUT” proclaimed,
    This picture that you’d like to paint
    For others has been maimed.

    A sentence here, a sentence there,
    Containing random fact
    Does not make up for all omissions
    That your words have lacked.

    But as we read ain’t hard to see
    The softness in your voice
    When mentioning the gods of Life
    That are YOUR gods of choice.

    Of all the images you’ve captured
    Can you tell us now
    “Where” and “if” and “when” and “what”
    YOUR *CONTRIBUTION*??? … “HOW”???

    I have a theory that I’m sure
    You’d discount right away.
    When one spews HATE they bear a burden
    Of a BETTER way.

    And when one seeks to cut a throat,
    A blood bath takes the stage,
    Please tell us what YOU did TODAY
    To overcome your rage.

    SELF-righteousness does not deserve
    A belly at the bar
    Without a *positive* solution,
    From “up close” … not “far”.

    I’d love to read what YOU have done
    To cure the ills you hate.

    Perhaps it’s up to YOU to “save” us
    ‘Fore it is too late?

    “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
    ~ Henry David Thoreau ~

  24. Rose Mary: wonderful comment.