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North America's wheat belt- the bread basket of the world

 
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Don't look it up. Take a wild guess at what percentage of the world's wheat production, comes from Canada. Then guess how much comes from the United States.
.........
India produces more than 3 times, what Canada does.

Germany and Pakistan, produce almost as much as us.

China and India together, produce four times as much wheat as the United States. The US produces 7.65%

We produce 4.07% of world wheat production, but we export more than the US does. 11.72% of world production comes from North America.

 A little over half of North American wheat production is exported. I have heard it argued by politicians and farmers on both sides of the border, that subsidies for Prairie farmers must continue, because they feed the world. I've seen it presented as though famine is being averted. So, we are adding about 6% of this single crop, to world markets. Doesn't sound like something that could save the world from starving.
.......
 Huge amounts of low production land are occupied by wheat. That represents millions of tractor miles, and the fuel that goes with it. Alberta and some other provinces have exempted their farms from carbon and other taxes on fuel, in order to allow this foolishness to continue. Whenever I've traveled through Canada's prairies, I'm astounded but how much this single crop has altered the landscape. I'd like to see every subsidy removed. If they can't continue growing wheat, screw it. Raise bison.

I looked around the internet in various places and it seems that somewhere between four and five gallons of diesel fuel per acre are being consumed annually. Then there's transportation to World Markets.

Canada is burning all of this fuel, and keeping farmers on welfare, in order to produce a bulky crop half a world away from where it is needed. After being harvested, the wheat takes a subsidized ride on the rails, to big ships that take it around the world.

 There are subsidies at the other end as well. Egypt is the world's largest importer of wheat. They subsidize imports. They have an obesity problem. Much of this is attributed to their consumption of bread. Their own farmers sometimes have trouble selling vegetables that grow quite well in the Nile Delta. It would actually help the Egyptians, if all subsidies on both ends were removed, and the price of wheat went way up. They would have to eat better food, that is produced locally. The oil-rich Arab states, are generally importers of this subsidized product. People who receive a check in the mail, for doing absolutely nothing, are having their breakfast cereal paid for by us. Obesity rates in these countries are growing faster than almost anywhere in the world.
.......
When I was in school, we looked at maps of the Great Plains and the teacher told us that this was the breadbasket of the world. Well, it's 11.72% of the bread that is made from wheat. Some of it is used to make booze. Some is fed to animals. A very tiny slice of it, is shipped off for famine relief. But, more of it is being used to make fat people fatter.

 This seems like one of the most wasteful agricultural practices on earth. The companies that produce this wheat, are in all of our pockets. I want to see most of those producers go broke, when our government finally has the sense to get them off of welfare.
 
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Yup.....modern food production, distribution, and consumption is as bizarre as it gets.  Funny how one vision sees the Great Plains as the food basket of the world, whereas another sees such fertile regions as "food deserts".  Two different paradigms for existing within the world, one less sustainable than the other.
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pollinator
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Dale Hodgins wrote:
 Huge amounts of low production land are occupied by wheat. That represents millions of tractor miles, and the fuel that goes with it. Alberta and some other provinces have exempted their farms from carbon and other taxes on fuel, in order to allow this foolishness to continue. Whenever I've traveled through Canada's prairies, I'm astounded but how much this single crop has altered the landscape. I'd like to see every subsidy removed. If they can't continue growing wheat, screw it. Raise bison.



I am in Saskatchewan, looking out a window, at a wheat field. I would love to replace it with grass and bison, or cattle (less dangerous to work with).

On the bright side the farm fuel tax excemption has recently been removed here. Just several more subsidies to go.

Then once the general public becomes aware of the importance of soil health and how ruminants can be used to acheive this the prairies will no longer be an endangered ecosystem. I am working on it, hopefully public perception can be changed in my lifetime.

 
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It's not just wheat , the USA does similar things with rice causing problems in west Africa too.
Incidentally for the Romans ,Egypt was their bread basket , maybe without subsidy or "aid " they could grow their own wheat today
And you could have Bison steaks Dale

David
 
Dale Hodgins
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Yes, I've had bison steaks. Presumably, they would become more abundant and cheaper. If large tracks were returned to the buffalo, beavers could once again be in charge of water management and the place wouldn't be so dry. Cooler in summer, warmer in winter.
 
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I was told: and this is neither for or against the argument regarding being the bread basket of the world, but that we export so much food because we have to in order to help pay off our national debt. Kind of a back door deal: we extend you credit, and in return you give us x-amount in food.

This goes well beyond food. Here I cannot cut certain species of wood for our local paper mill, but yet they buy it from Sweden, haul it to Portsmouth NH by ship, put it on train cars, and then haul it to the paper mill here in Maine. When I asked why, they said "it has something to do with the national debt". VERY vague, but it stands to reason.

Note: I am NOT a conspiracy theorist for the most part, but a lot of back door deals take place.

 
John Weiland
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The headline for the link below reads "Half of all US food produce is thrown away, new research suggests" and so is referring only to produce.  Not sure what the total amount is that includes other food deemed "expired".

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/us-food-waste-ugly-fruit-vegetables-perfect

I don't necessarily buy the 'cosmetic' argument, since produce *will* spoil.  But yes, in addition to Travis' comments, there are some very questionable financial motivations that drive this 'commodities' machine.
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I've seen it presented as though famine is being averted. So, we are adding about 6% of this single crop, to world markets. Doesn't sound like something that could save the world from starving.



I have read extensively on this about 15 years ago for a project, and it is almost impossible to unwind. There are so many types of food aid, direct/indirect/subsidized/emergency that it seems designed to opacify the data. The 6% figure is only important as it relates to whether that overcomes the waste of the same commodity (does that make sense?) otherwise a famine is a famine. How long can you live at a 6% calorie deficit? As a population, indefinitely, but with 6% less population.

I've been a light poster for the last few weeks due to trying to watch the PDC/ATC materials. This unfortunately fits the issues Tim Barker brings up repeatedly: we will live smaller. We may not want to live smaller, but it is inevitable at some point. I am not speculating on why or how that inflection point will be reached because different people on here have different beliefs and it is not productive to be antagonistic. It is one of the nice things about this forum (reminds me of where I grew up) that you can have survivalists and hippies and all comers but everyone is interested in continuity of humanity beyond the current paradigm.

The disruption of food/fertilizer aid has probably caused as many recent famines as drought. Some countries are attaining internal food aid (figuring out how to move food from an area of high production to low production areas) but they are mostly the large countries. Egypt is case 1, but every country in the middle east except Israel and maybe Iran must import the vast majority of their calories. They may have food but not calories. This is not the worst system, because grains are cheap to transport on a calorie basis, and has been done since Roman Times. I was reading a historical atlas with the minions looking at the food/goods movements during 100-300 AD and they mimic the system now, just the body of water has changed initially to the Atlantic and in the last decades are basically global. But that system collapsed from political instability initially and then finally from Islam. The calories stopped going from Egypt to Roman areas and went to the Levant and Arab areas instead, and those populations increased. The total amount of calories moved didn't change too much, just the direction. But eventually the population in Egypt overtook the farmable areas. This is quite recent, basically in the last century. I suspect it is due to the ability to use large sea transport with hydrocarbon engines.  

So as Travis said, the direction of trade is often an indicator of debt. In Roman times the Ptolamid dynasty needed wood/metals/etc from the other parts of the empire. They also had a couple attempted and sometimes successful rebellions and so the Romans did their best to install loyalists, who owed Rome their wealth/position. All of that is debt in one form or another. Webs of trade always are. Interestingly if you look at local economies since the development of the middle/trading class, these dependencies allow for dramatically increased wealth and standard of living. I think we forget that sustainable is a continuum, anything beyond a family/extended family/tribe starts requiring debt dependencies. I don't see anything evil about it.

The issue is the scale and the leverage at this point. Scale is evident, we have to flog poor fertility land to feed billions of people. The overwhelming majority of people are dependent on direct calories or indirect fertilizer calories from far away, and this requires trust/debt webs. As an instance, we had fertilizer bombs as the number one killer in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. This is true of civilian and military deaths. But we could not stop literally subsidizing the weapons because the populace would have starved. China is now providing fertilizer to much of Africa because it creates dependency, and they can call that debt at any time, and they have the political will to do it. I hope the North American nations don't turn our calorie surplus into a hard debt, but that is how I see it going. We don't need the middle east hydrocarbons at this point, Europe and Asia do.

This whole situation is a tragedy, either we continue to deplete soils to grow calories for places no more hospitable for human life than Phoenix or we convert to rotational agriculture and heal the soils (and sequester carbon and dampen flood cycles and many more virtuous things). I think debt is not the issue (although subsidies are a political debt), the issue is that literally hundreds of millions of souls are dependent on the system, they would have to move or die. If they move we are seeing the disruptive effects in Europe from a relatively modest migration, and if we continue the system we just forestall the problem until later. Refugee populations are generally among the highest fertility rates. This demographic data shows the lowest fertility rate in the last 60 years in the Palestinian territories (which is the refugee area with the best data, I'm more familiar with the Pashtun areas but the data is woeful) is 2-4 times replacement rates!!! Women who lose a baby generally have 2 more, so infant mortality is a driver. Much of the world is stuck with their only export being humans, which leads to trafficking and misery. Fighting age male population is a pretty good predictor of conflict.

So moving beyond the gloom, what can we do as caring people? I am encouraged by some of the work done in these locations by pioneers. Alan Savory has done fascinating work, and many of the Aussies are used to low-water agriculture. The Israelis have figured out how to do it, and even have tried to export the technology. They ironically do more work in relatively distant countries because it is politically easier. I would love to be a part of testing applicable technologies but I am not sure how transferrable what works in Virginia is to Algeria. Additionally, working to change political impediments is critical (which sucks I avoid politics as much as humanly possible.)

So sadly I have come around to the serenity prayer: I don't think I can change much about the global calorie debt treadmill. I don't work over there anymore. I can do what I can to heal my land, and what is good for human civilization in the long term is probably going to suck in the near term. That is the nature of a bubble. Now I'm gloomy. Thanks Permies!
 
David Livingston
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TJ
Maybe you have the solution already look after your own bit of this green earth . It is interesting that you talk about fertility as I was looking at the figures for Europe , many areas are not getting anyway near replacement rates , Scotland, wales ,Spain, Portugal ,Eire Belerussia all are decreasing Population particularly in rural areas Japan too has serious demographic issues. The system is showing strain something I think will change if it has not already begun . It will begin in rural areas I suspect

David
 
Travis Johnson
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In my experience, growing the food is not the real issue for my house; we have the land base, sheep manure, equipment, knowledge, etc...where we fail is preservation of food. I would think in these modern times it would be easy; heck we have 3 refrigerators and a deep freezer here, yet food loss is huge. I bet over half our food is wasted just this way alone.

We are moving more towards canning then root cellar storage, and freezing, but its not as easy as it sounds. Caning jars are not cheap, and canning in the heat of August when the garden is producing its bounty is like stoking a coal boiler in a ship at the equator. Then of course there is the issue of getting (4) modern era daughters to eat it. This may seem like a silly problem, but I cannot figure out why kids want to eat junk syrup from the store and not pure maple syrup from trees either. Same with veggies...

The wife found a woman that had labeled every plant and how many are required per person, per year. It is great information, but 18 tomato plants were required. We are a family of (6) so our garden would require 108 tomato plants alone; that is saying nothing about the other veggies and trees. Holy crap, we would have to dedicate 6 acres just to raising a garden. That is all well and good, but I can raise 60 sheep on that much land, and that would profit me $6000 dollars. Our grocery bill now is $550 a month, so in essence we have a choice; we can dedicate the land to raising more groceries that the kids don't want to eat, or keep it in sheep production and buy our groceries. We are trying to do more and more of our own food, but straight up honesty talking here; that is based on ethics and not economics.

Now that being said...we have a couple houses, and one is my late-grandmother's house who has a basement filled...and I mean filled...with canning jars. I know they are old, but being sealed they should still be preserved and fit to eat. We have never dipped into any of them, but should the worst happen, we could slaughter sheep and eat veggies well into the future.
 
Tj Jefferson
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Travis,

I think that is absolutely the case. Storage and transport historically are the big losses. I am pretty bad at canning, so there are some that don't seal. I suck at figuring out how much pectin I need in jams so I get goo instead. This stuff is hard!

I remember my grandmother telling me how many hours they spent every day in the summer putting up food. And of course there was no air conditioning, and clothing was a good deal heavier. I bet they smelled pretty nasty after a day of that. But they did it every day. I would be interested in how many plants people needed if you can find the list. Most veggies are calorie poor, so you need massive amounts. I would have to eat 150 tomatoes a day to get my calories if that is all I ate. Or I could eat 75 tomatoes and 75 cucumbers. or 50 each zucchini, tomato and eggplant. There is no way I could eat that amount.

So the veggies were more for nutrients, calories had to come from animal fats and protein or grains/tubers.

I have been watching the ATC with the solar dehydrator- that is the way to go. First of all a dry veggie has almost the same nutrition (maybe some B-vitamin loss) as the real thing but takes up <25% of the space. I have a string of peppers I dried in 2008 that would be edible in a pinch. I would reserve canning for stuff that could not effectively be dried. But admittedly we are talking about a major drying infrastructure as well. Next year I will definitely be drying more.    
 
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I don't worry about wasting water, or vegetables. If the wind blows, and the sprinklers spay the road instead of the field, the water isn't annihilated. It still flows into the environment. It cools the air and/or ground. It flows downhill into the water table, or it evaporates and settles out as dew or rain somewhere else. It nurtures plants or animals on it's way to it's next destination.

The same thing happens with unused or unharvested fruits or vegetables. They do not disappear into oblivion. They feed my insect or animal kin. They feed my  microbe kin. They release nutrients into next year's garden. Some of them volunteer next growing season, and have another chance to feed me, or feed my kin. Everything is connected, and not wasted.
 
Travis Johnson
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TJ: I will ask her where she found it. I don't think it was based so much on nutritional values as it was need...that each individual person needs 18 tomato plants so they can have stewed tomatoes, tomatoes for making pizza sauce, sauces for spaghetti, etc throughout the year.

But that is just the tip of iceberg on food. Take a spaghetti dinner. Now a person has to have x amount of land in wheat production, and of course sheep or goats to make the cheese, and cows for the butter. It depends on how you prefer your food, but to do it all is daunting. Look at the ingredients for just putting a well made salad together; as society we have come to expect a lot of variety that comes from a global reach and not local. The ideal is to go back to a localvore pallette but I am not sure I could do that...and KNOW my kids surely couldn't.

My Grandparents did it (100% self-sufficiency), but I could not replicate what they did. It took so much land, some of which has been sold off, and to have that amount of acreage required now would be too expensive with the cost of property taxes anyway. It kind of becomes a Catch 22: to do more; I need more land, but that would mean more property taxes I must pay every year, so I would need even more land to pay that percentage off, which of course would result in more property taxes. That is why most farmers lease land from other people; but as tillable land gets harder to rent here, prices go up, and the field I might have farmed last year will not be mine to farm this year. Ownership is control, but I pay for that control dearly in property taxes.

Here in Maine, in my town, property taxes are a staggering $28 per acre. It does not sound like much, but that is $2800 a year for a 100 acre farm. In lamb sales, that is 28 lambs that have to go to slaughter just to pay that...and that is for every 100 acres owed. Own a decent sized farm and you are making monthly payments to the town for property taxes instead of once per year! My neighbor has 3200 acres, so his tax bill per year is a staggering $80,000 a year! He is not a sheep farmer, but if he was, he would have to slaughter 800 lambs a year just to pay that bill alone. It is just plain getting crazy here.

The answer to this of course is to grow more on less acres and not have wasted land. I got plenty that is not 100% effective, but I am working on it. Land conversion takes time, and the laws are not for the farmer for sure.  It is getting better through, a lot of federal lawsuits have been won on the farmers behalf lately, and so I see a shift in policy coming. Of course land conversion also takes a lot of money. To clear forest into field costs me $201 per acre, which adds up quick, and that is doing it all myself. Paying someone is a staggering $3,000 per acre. That does not sound like much either, right now I am working on clearing 40 acres, which will cost me $8,040, yet if I paid someone to do it, it would cost me $120,000...or put another way, 1200 lambs. At that rate it would take me three years to recoup my return on investment! Something has got to change!

 
Dale Hodgins
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This thread isn't about food waste. It's about the ridiculous situation of covering a large portion of North America, with a crop that we don't need and that is detrimental to the health and farm culture of those on the other end who receive it.

It's about the massive quantity of fuel and other resorces, expended on producing a crop half a world away from where it is utilized.

I think it could all be dealt with, simply by changing the tax structure, to favor grazing.

The elimination of subsidy, would also go a long way to make it uneconomic to produce this crop. I would hope that this would put a lot of wheat land on the market, as producers find that it is not worth growing. This happened in Ontario, when much of the tobacco land, was not needed for that purpose. Many people took advantage of this, and bought a piece of land, to produce something that the world needs, instead of a poison, that kills people.

Wheat is a very useful product, for the vast majority of humans who are not celiacs. When an entire ecosystem is turned over to wheat, that is not needed, I don't think that's something that the rest of society should support.
 
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The main problem with current agricultural practices most likely can be boiled down to mono cropping of just a few plant types instead of multi- tiered farming.
Take a look at how corn planting has taken over because of the perceived need for tons of corn to make ethanol. Many farmers who used to plant barley, oats and wheat have converted thousands of acers into corn fields.
Here in Arkansas many farms that used to plant soft red winter and follow it with soybeans or cotton now plant those acres in corn, and since corn overlaps the SRW harvest time and Soy planting time, they forgo those to plant corn.
This is going to end up a serious mistake, not only because the High Humidity levels in AR create the perfect Aflatoxin growing environment, but it also takes two complementary crops out of the equation for the land used for corn production.

If you look at the data for crops planted in the USA post Dust Bowl Era, you see fewer and fewer crops planted by farms. The end result is the perfect setup for extinction of plant species we really need to ensure crop genetics diversity.

Some wheat farmers have seen the writing on the wall and are now planting old varieties on some of their fields, which is great because that helps keep the wheat genes going. Not to mention that this diversity is needed to make sure we will have wheat in the future.
The original Soy bean was a black coated bean, it is almost extinct, being found only in small quantities compared to 40 years ago.

Fortunately there are enough smaller farms willing to grow the old seed and thus keep the genetics available, without those farms, we could find a desolate end to humanity simply from lack of nutrition in the foods consumed.

The larger farms will find that they have to do a reversal or perish, but this will take a longer time because of the dependence on "Big Ag" they have created.
The US Congress is partially to blame as are the USDA and the FDA, failure to do the real jobs they were created to do and the willingness to follow the corporate desires instead of what is best for the country and people, is what has resulted in the current situation.
Farmers have to provide what the commodities markets want if they don't they perish from losses at their bottom line.

So far the sector that has not been fully affected is the produce sector, these farms still use a variety of seeds for each of the products they produce thus keeping some diversity going, especially now that "micro greens" and "heirloom" produce demands are going up.

It isn't hopeless though for as the people who do the purchasing in the grocery stores change their buying habits, the whole market system will change to meet those new demands.

Redhawk
 
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> I think it could all be dealt with, simply by changing the tax structure [...]

This is definitely the story of our modern lives. But at least in America, it's a huge deal to change the "tax structure" since at least half of it lies in invisible taxes. One of my favorite examples of this is free parking. Free parking is a tax on those without cars, and it's extremely measurable. Government taxes pay for wider roads, asphalt laying and repair, street cleaning, and signs for free parking throughout the nation. When there is no free parking, you must pay for parking — let's say $300/mo (a pretty good average for a California city IME). In this situation, things are fair. Those with the cars pay the tax. But what about places with free parking? It turns out the rents increase by almost exactly the amount that parking costs. Which means that if you live in an apartment/house with free parking but don't own a car, you're paying $300/mo for a parking space you have no use for.

When you start applying this kind of thinking to AG subsidies and tax structures, things get pretty insane. Here in California, the biggest invisible tax is the cost of water. Despite the fact that farmers here use the vast majority of our water, they often pay nothing for their water (due to water rights laws and lack of a true water board), while the citizens using a small fraction pay the entire cost of the water infrastructure.  And of course that's to say nothing about the much clearer grants, subsidies, and tax breaks.

All of this gets complicated because it's also not a good idea to just "even out" the Ag tax structures. Here in CA, it would ruin our primary industry and end up with all our food coming in from China, where the government will continue to provide subsidies. It's a very complicated problem that requires a tremendous amount of research and design to end well. And our only method for approaching this problem right now is the state legislature, which can't get past "PRO-FARMER" or "ANTI-FARMER" in their discussion topics (as if "farmer" described all practicers of agriculture).

It'll be interesting to see where this ends. For my part, I try and ask these kinds of hard questions to my local representatives when given the chance. I've yet to get any kind of real answer, but it doesn't cost me much to make a phone call.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Kyle, in my experience and from living all over the USA, California farming probably should be considered as a country.
The laws and practices there always seem to fall outside of the middle USA.

The water issues of California affect far more states than say the water issues of Idaho or Mississippi or just about any other region.
Those water rights of farmers were laid down way back, and they worked for a long time but now, with the climate change, the state needs to make a stand for changes.

Many of the farms have turned to selling back much of their water as I understand it.
That means these farms will either pump ground water, which will further the declining water table or they will buy back the water they have sold.
With no true "water board" it will continue to be a thorn for all Californians.

As you mention, changing a Tax code and the structure of those taxes is just about impossible without also changing the people who create the laws.

It seems to me that the whole USA will need to start changing those elected on a regular basis to get this idea of politics being a profession out of the heads of those looking to be elected.
Perhaps if the population looked at politicians as employees they would get the idea that "If they aren't doing the job right, fire them" is acceptable.

Redhawk

 
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Another issue with California:

There are all these shipping containers that are sent here full of goods and often have no return load. So shipping something back is cheap. A lot of farmers went to growing hay. Which takes five times the water that Almonds do (the usual one pointed to for all the ag water use). It's a lot easier to grow and harvest. Then that hay gets shipped out to places like the Mideast. It is cheaper to fill a shipping container and ship the hay overseas than it is to transport it across the state! So the orchards and nut trees are being taken out (5 years minimum investment to plant the trees to get them to start producing crop) to grow a water thirsty but easy to grow crop. That needs to stop too.

Monocropping is destroying farming period. From land ownership to taxes to overhead, to destroying the soil and setting up... notice bananas? There used to be a more flavorful variety called Gros Michaels, It had a disease crop up and spread throughout every area and in the 1950's pretty much wiped that variety out. This is the banana your parents and grandparents knew. They came up with Cavendish. Now there is a disease taking that one out. They are trying very hard but it is spreading. The Cavendish is the yellow banana you're used to. They are scrambling for a new cultivar to replace it. (I expect they may even turn to GMO. Bananas are a big business crop.) What if this starts with wheat, with corn? It's just around our corner I'm afraid. (And I don't doubt they will turn to GMO to try to stay ahead)

Taxing the hand that feeds you to the point it can't afford to, then where are your grocery shelves... your pantry... going to be filled from? It's a many layered onion but something has to give.

 
Travis Johnson
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I think policy is changing: slowly.

I won a major federal lawsuit against the USDA this past winter; the first in Maine regarding the issue I had. It shocked me...it shocked the USDA even more! Then a month later another Federal Lawsuit was won by a farmer, then another. The USDA is reeling right now from some set backs to how they normally do business. Literally it is the small guy taking on city hall and winning!

There is a lot to it, and I am in no way saying we should engage in civil disobedience, but I think people have had enough and we are now at the tipping point.

I just don't want people to feel like things are hopeless. I really do see some positive changes on the horizon.
 
Kyle Neath
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I just don't want people to feel like things are hopeless. I really do see some positive changes on the horizon.



I do agree there, it's far from hopeless. Even in California, I have been shocked at how fast forest management principals have been changing. Ten years ago, the only forest management principals in place were to aggressively thin trees, spray herbicides on low lying brush, and immediately stop all fires. On Saturday I met with a RPF to assess our property and discuss possible grants and the types of grants available now were much closer to what I believe in: reintroducing fire to the forest, breeding tree stock from on-site adapted trees, pond & plug to restore the water table in the meadow. I was pretty surprised to see such a sharp turnaround from the USDA in such a short time. That kind of change hasn't happened for food crops yet, but the forestry side is moving in a very optimistic direction right now.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Travis Johnson wrote:I won a major federal lawsuit against the USDA this past winter; the first in Maine regarding the issue I had.

The Little Guy Won

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Deb, wheat, corn and soybeans have already gone through the genetically modified program.

Any time one particular strain is favored at a high level, it will push out any variety that doesn't perform as well as what ever is in vogue at that moment.

15 years ago you could not find Faro wheat (yes faro is a variety of wheat, it is an ancient wheat just as einkorn is). Now Faro is popular enough with the "foodie" crowd that it is making a comeback.

The same goes for many of the heirloom varieties of tomato, potato, squashes, etc. As a demand comes along, the produce becomes available again as long as there are some seeds left.

The Cavendish is and never was a great tasting banana, it was popularized by Dole because they could produce more tons of the huge banana. The old world little reds and little yellow bananas have far better flavors and they actually keep longer.

The good news is that as more and more people seek better taste and better nutrition, the farmers will scramble to locate and produce what the people want and demand.
What that means for all of us is; Not only is there hope, the needed changes are coming already and they will continue to happen.

Redhawk
 
John Weiland
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:

.....The good news is that as more and more people seek better taste and better nutrition, the farmers will scramble to locate and produce what the people want and demand.
What that means for all of us is; Not only is there hope, the needed changes are coming already and they will continue to happen.



The 'grow your own' sub-population has waxed and waned across time and we can hope the ability to grow one's own food is never taken away.  My wife recalls reading about her peasant ancestors in Germany who were growing their own.....until the landlord decided he wanted to run his large herd of goats across their fields, no questions asked.  In addition to people seeking better taste and nutrition, another driving force hopefully will be the desire to gain back some control over one's food production.  By default, the existence of many, many independent and widely dispersed producers will help to increase crop diversity. Even if all of them grew only beans, corn, squash, and tomatoes and saved seed from the previous year, adaptation to the local growing conditions would drive some element of genetic diversification (across all growers) within each crop.  The same is not the case currently with all crops:  Some are bred for the local conditions in which they are planted, but many are bred elsewhere and simply tested in the various target locations---the ones that perform the best are just chosen for that location with no further selection or breeding being done for those growers.  

Shouldn't rule out the benefit of the internet here as well.  How much easier these days to get a hold of unique and unusual plants/varieties and identify growers in one's own region who are willing to share seed and increase the number of producers as a consequence.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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That is very much the state of affairs today John.  

My wife recalls reading about her peasant ancestors in Germany who were growing their own.....until the landlord decided he wanted to run his large herd of goats across their fields, no questions asked.  


The way to make sure you can always grow your own food is through land ownership and being politically active.

Today we have seed banks, where you can find not only old but literally ancient seeds kept viable through being grown and planted to create more seed. In my area there are seed swaps where you can find up to 200 year old heirloom varieties that are now land race seed.

How fortunate we are that this current trend run actually started back in the early 1970's and has had a small following that only in the last 30 years started to really grow in numbers and now is growing faster every year.

The more land race seed breeders like Kola Lofthouse we have, the larger our genome salvation will grow, and the seed will be simply great for the area in which it was developed.
We have a strain of Cherokee purple tomato, a strain of rattle snake bean along with a strain of Cherokee purple bean that should be land raced in a couple more years.

The ability to feed ourselves should be a right not a privilege.

Redhawk
 
Deb Rebel
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Bryant, I know some stuff has been messed with already, to make it 'roundup ready' and worse. I'm saying they will probably go to splicing in something that we can't eat but by gum it survives the boogie-it is, for a few generations, until that mutates an they have to do it again.

I totally love landrace stuff, man it grows. Okay I may not predict what I get 100% but it's edible.

I am go glad too, to read that Travis actually won against the government.  I have several grants I have tried for, should try again. Encouragement!
 
Travis Johnson
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There is a saying in Maine: "As Maine goes, so does the nation." On a lot of things we lead the nation and in agriculture that definitely true. By population, we have the most start up farms in the nation, and the youngest age of farmers as well. That is why our congressman/Congresswoman are proposing new regulations, such as revamping the slaughterhouse laws of 1967. Probably overdue, but i will not start on a rant on that. Basically they are proposing a new criteria for slaughtering where a farmer can direct sell to consumers. Oh the big beef and pork guys are screaming so it may not pass, but it is proposed in Washington DC...that my friends is a good start.

The USDA also gave a huge grant (almost a million dollars) so that local farmers here can get our own Credit Union going so we can be self-supporting and not subject to typical cut-throat bank practices from big dogs that don't know a plow share from a moldboard. I have been in talks with my agriculture/fishing/forestry only bank for increasing my sheep numbers, but now they are really interested in our venture. Why shouldn't they be, suddenly they have completion and could be squeezed out. Imagine if that went nation wide? How great that would be for Permiculturists.

As I have said, Maine is the Permiculture capital of the world, and IT IS STARTING! I am not yelling at anyone in a tirade, but in excitement. So yes, very good things are happening.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Absolutely Travis, I am very happy for you. Mainers are probably the most tenacious folks I know of. You guys have the best lobster too and the hunting and fishing, well supreme is the best word I can think of.
A true farmer oriented Credit Union will be a very welcome thing, all across this country.
The movement for healthy food is gaining ground every day, science is proving the need for our methods as well as that they work.

Redhawk
 
David Livingston
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I'm a big big fan of credit unions too . Been a member many times in the UK Go for it Maine
 
Tj Jefferson
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Travis/Bryant,

Thanks for your inputs on this thread. I seriously get despondent sometimes with the scale of the problem and all the facets that require repair. This is a welcome relief.

Travis, you in particular are someone I would not want to meet in a bureaucratic back alley, you are tenacious! I think back on two books I read that changed my perspective on sustainable economic systems. Bottom line up front, it generally involves small scale change in a highly motivated subgroup, and I see permaculturalists as potentially that group.

The most important of the two was a guy named Hernando de Soto (not the explorer) when I was working in South America. This guy is passionate about reducing the tragedy of the commons by encouraging legal rights of ownership. The book was called The Mystery of Capital and basically describes why poor countries have plenty of smart people but governments that work against formal economies. People in informal economies are easier to control, and elites left and right love control. This gave me hope for the poorer countries of the world and I seriously considered working in that sphere. The problem is that I have no credibility and honestly the people in those countries really don't need our expertise, they need our political support. The same is true here, there are well-funded interests working to thwart power reverting to the people who live on the land, and it affects everyone in the world. Our food is subsidized in layers (reference Bryant's input on ethanol) so it is likely quite expensive but no one can say just how expensive. California's water rights are another example. Encouraging water retention further up in altitude in the arid west makes sense, but it is actually illegal where I grew up! As more people move to places where the water is a scarce commodity more attention is finally getting paid to this.

The second was a book by Mancur Olsen, who talked about how small groups of motivated people can actually make disproportionate change. His book The Logic of Collective Action was published long before I was alive but basically means 5% of the population if energized can steer policy that a majority find neutral or mildly objectionable. This has been used as a rallying cry for all manner of groups in the political spectrum, and anyone who has observed can come up with actions they like and some they detest that follow this pattern. But this the hope- people in general are not enthused by Monsanto or ConAgra. If 5% really detest this commoditization of sustenance, the switch can be flipped. It is only a matter of a banner to rally around.

I think Permaculture could be that banner, which is probably why Paul Wheaton faces the botflies he does. I am not even raising enough calories for my family doing this stuff and probably never will, but it has moved me into the 5% active camp.
 
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