As I sit in my office this morning with my three year old granddaughter playing in the other room while listening to Christmas music, I try to still the anger I feel towards industrial agri business and their mistreatment of the land. What will it take to stop this madness? What must I do to continue to fight good fight? Are there new and different strategies to raise the issue of dwindling resources human and the land? Sometimes I just want to hide and hope that it will all go away, but in my heart I know that is not an option. I question whether I have worked hard enough but always wonder what more can I do?
A recent Des Moines Register article http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20131205/BUSINESS01/312050037/Iowa-faces-an-anti-ag-attitude-problem?Frontpage&nclick_check=1 featured agri-business fear monger Jay Lehr ranted about Iowa citizens being anti-agriculture because they didn’t really understand how the rape and pillage of Iowa is necessary to feed the world.
Below is an op/ed piece that Linda Wells of Pesticide Action Network and I wrote in response to this corporate lackey’s nonsense. Linda and I were under the impression that this would be published but so far it has not appeared. Given that I am once again tardy on my blog post writing, I am using this piece we wrote.
Here is the op/ed piece:
Contrary to what Mr. Lehr is stating in his inflammatory remarks to the recent Iowa Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting, I believe I see an upsurge in Iowans appreciating Iowa agriculture but questioning the methods that dominate production agriculture. Iowans are concerned that agriculture has become so concentrated that it has had a negative impact on the quality of life for us. The fact that Iowans are questioning industrial agri business is healthy, it opens a dialog in order to make it possible to improve things better.
Iowans who question the industrial agribusiness approach aren’t under-informed or confused. In fact, many of them are farmers of all sizes, and they know quite a bit about biotechnology and agricultural chemicals. They know because they see the cost of seed rising with each new genetically engineered trait that’s introduced. They face pesticide drift that damages crops and brings hazardous chemicals into homes, schools, playgrounds, and backyards. They pay the price in taxpayer dollars, as public utilities filter more nitrates out of their drinking water. They see growing rates of autism, Parkinson’s, and cancer, all of which are linked to exposure to pesticides.
What Mr. Lehr is hearing are legitimate concerns about soil, air and water quality; conditions that continue to decline with a heavily based monoculture agriculture. Iowans are raising questions about what is good for Iowa. I have yet to hear that Iowa should not be an agricultural state.
Iowans understand very well that Iowa’s legacy is agriculture production, we also understand that over the last fifty years Iowa has become specialized in growing corn, soybeans, hogs and chickens. This specialization has come at a cost.
It seems to me when people like Lehr travel the country promoting industrial agri business their sole purpose is to polarize. Using this technique creates an environment of hostility and makes it virtually impossible to dialog to seek solutions. By the way, the Heartland Institute has a history of manipulating science research—like working with Big Tobacco to downplay the risks of secondhand smoke exposure.
Instead, more and more Iowans are setting their sights on a different kind of agriculture. It’s based on the belief that what’s good for the land is also better for farmers, farmworkers, consumers, and ecosystems. It’s about paying close attention to what’s happening on the farm and catching pest problems early. It relies on healthy soil, good seeds, and free-flowing information among farmers who learn from each others’ successes.
I couldn’t agree more with Farm Bureau President Craig Hill when he says that innovation can change our world. Innovation comes from farmers developing not just from corporate board rooms and laboratories. Many farmers are conducting their own on farm research with Practical Farmers of Iowa and some researchers from Iowa State University, University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa to develop better techniques for farming in a way that works with nature rather than dominating her. Cover crops is the current example of working to save our soil.
Perhaps Secretary of Agriculture Northey could make it a priority during his administration to bring together farmers of all sizes and practices with non-farmers to work on solutions to make Iowa a better place to live and work. Iowans are known for their hard work and commitment to problem solving, that is what has made our state great. There is a huge potential using science and technology to improve our land use practices. Let’s put our heads together, women and men, farmers and non farmers and move Iowa forward with creative thinking to develop new ideas for the future of our land and its people.