Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Food prices going up -- time to rape and pillage the land

The New York Times had an unsurprising revelation: As food prices go up, more people are ready to throw away 25 years of land conservation to plant cash crops and use preservation lands for cattle grazing. The article, "As Prices Rise, Farmers Spurn Conservation Program," is a warning that more of this sort of squabbling among growers and environmentalists is coming soon. Here's a pullout from the beginning of the piece:
Thousands of farmers are taking their fields out of the government’s biggest conservation program, which pays them not to cultivate. They are spurning guaranteed annual payments for a chance to cash in on the boom in wheat, soybeans, corn and other crops. Last fall, they took back as many acres as are in Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Environmental and hunting groups are warning that years of progress could soon be lost, particularly with the native prairie in the Upper Midwest. But a broad coalition of baking, poultry, snack food, ethanol and livestock groups say bigger harvests are a more important priority than habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife. They want the government to ease restrictions on the preserved land, which would encourage many more farmers to think beyond conservation.

Stating that the payments are to preserve land for wildlife conservation is lie, right? The real reason is to keep food prices stable. Everyone knows this, so it's not surprising that when you pay people to not grow on their land, they will naturally want to grow things that will make them more money than what the government is offering.

Complicating the argument that this land should be preserved to continue wildlife conservation efforts is the fact that the people most concerned about the turn of events right now are hunting organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever.

I am really not sure how this all will play out or really what to do about it. I am also not sure how this connects with the current push to change the current Farm Bill to allow small producers to grow organic foods. Crunchy Chicken has coverage on this issue; you can also access which has an online petition you can send to congress requesting a more equitable system; finally, you can access the online forum for the USDA's site on the 2007 Farm Bill.

By the way, I got these last two links from Henderson & Daughter Plants and Produce -- they have an email list which is very handy for finding out the goings on at the 441 Farmer's Market, and also the wholesome selections they have on hand for each market Saturday. Drop Erika and her dad an email at to get on their most recent mailing list.

The first link to Crunchy Chicken I got from one of my favorite local bloggers, Kelly, at What We Need is Here. Thanks, Kelly!
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