Blame the Farmer?

Huffington Post columnist Donald Carr has decided that farmers – the people that suffer the greatest from the drought and intense heat – are the same group of people that hope to make the situation worse.

In his recent column – which you can read here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/donald-carr/droughtstricken-farmers-p_b_1729235.html, Carr blames farmers and agriculture organizations for stopping climate change legislation and failing to act on what he believes are changing environmental conditions resulting solely from man’s actions.

Now I’m going to go out on a limb and take a wild guess that this young man has never actually been to a farm to see how a traditional, family-owned farm works. The mere fact that he believes there are “industrial agriculture” lobbies tells me he’s not in touch with today’s agriculture industry. Last time I checked, 98 percent of America’s farms were owned and operated by families.  He also believes that farmers have found a get-rich-quick scheme by plowing land unsuitable for farming and college crop insurance checks when they fail to produce a crop. The accusations that farmers can plow land and make money are simply not true. Crop insurance is a major input cost for all farmers and the decision to insure our farmland is one that is not taken lightly. We need a reliable safety net that allows us to continue to fight through years like this, where conditions do not allow us to produce food at our normal levels. Without that net, millions of farmers would be put out of business through climate conditions and impacts – such as hail, tornados and fire – that cannot be prevented with any amount of legislation. I could go on, but I’ll get back to my point.

The truth is, farmers were and continue to be the original environmentalist. They care for the land, the water and the air that they need to produce food, fuel and fiber. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do for a successful farming business. Farmers like my husband and father-in-law constantly search for ways to make their farm more environmentally friendly and efficient. It in our best interest to preserve our farm for future years and future generation. We have no desire to harm the land or the planet.

In fact, here are a few changes we’ve made to help reduce our carbon footprint:

1-    We have changed our chemical application process to reduce run-off and overall use of herbicides in our field.

2-    We’ve reduced the over-the-road travel of our tractors and water trucks by storing various pieces of equipment in different parts of our farm to make the trips to the field shorter – thereby using less gas.

3-    Through the addition of sub-surface drip irrigation to our fields, we’ve added new, more efficient motors to pump the water. The new irrigation system also reduces our water usage.

These are just a few examples of our efforts to reduce our impact on the environment. There are several more but I believe I’ve made my point.

Farmers are not opposed to making their methods and industry more environmentally friendly. We make that effort every day. We are, however, opposed to one-size-fits-all cap-and-trade legislation that would severely impact our industry and way of life. Proposed legislation would make it impossible for us to continue our business and would bury us in a mountain of paperwork and fees. Those fees and the cost of dramatically changing our business model would be pass along to consumers in the former of higher food, fiber and fuel costs.

Decades of weather records have proven that climate and weather patterns are always changing, delivering both helpful and harmful conditions. Weather is a way of life and has and will continue to change. Farmers do everything they can to be good stewards of the land and will continue to be passionate about preserving their land, water and natural resources. We are not the cause, but we are always happy to be part of the solution.


One thought on “Blame the Farmer?

  1. Katie – Thanks for the feedback on my piece. I have to first take issue with the notion that since I was critical of the ag lobbies, I must have been born in a Manahattan taxi. To contrary, any time you want you can head up to our famiy farm in NE South Dakota that was homesteaded by my great grandfather, or you can check in on my dad’s corn in Lincoln County, SD which is a much smaller spread but since I was there last week his crop isn’t looking that bad from the impact of the drought.

    And you’re reaching pretty far on the accusation that I’m blaming farmers for the failure of climate change legislation. The thrust of my piece is that farmers are being sold up the river by their lobbyists in Washington DC who opposed and helped bring down the climate bill. The same lobbyists work overtime to ensure that efforts to hold agricultue accountable for its polluiotn in the Chesapeake Bay and the Mississippi River Watershed are styimed. I know plenty of farmers including those in my immedate family – they are all conservation minded because it makes sense for the long term vitality of the land.

    What doesn’t make sense is putting your head in the sand about climate change and thinking that its just some random event that will pass.

    I believe that its bad federal policy to blame for much of what occurs from perservse incentives to madates that encourage all out production with little thought (or funding for) long tem soultions and practices.

    And the dramatic land conversrion occuring across the Dakotas, the fact that agriculture is the single largest contributor to water pollution in America, that the soil erosion in Iowa leaves scientists to classify large swatch of farmland unsustainable leaves little room to describe what is happening as anything but industrial scale.

    Yes, 98% of farms are family owned. Many of those families are incredibly well off, have several incorporations, take in hunderds of thosdands of tax dollars every year in subsidies and farm massive swaths of acreage due to advancements in machinery and GPS.

    And yes there is a role for true safety net for farmers that helps gird against Mother nature and volatile markets. But not the gold plated one in place for the largest farms that encourages danderous planting decisions – as a Minnesota farrmer told the New York Times:

    “When you can remove nearly all the risk involved and guarantee yourself a profit, it’s not a bad business decision,” said Darwyn Bach, a farmer in St. Leo, Minn., who said that he is guaranteed about $1,000 an acre in revenue before he puts a single seed in the ground because of crop insurance. “I can farm on low-quality land that I know is not going to produce and still turn a profit.”

    Thanks for your time.

    Don Carr, Environemental Working Group

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