Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Corporations and Farming

"Corporate Industrialization will do for agriculture as it has done for other sectors of the economy. It will pollute the natural environment- the water, the soil and the air. The natural productivity of the land eventually will be depleted. Farmer and farm workers, like factory workers, will suffer ill health, low pay, and eventual abandonment- as agribusinesses find other people in other place who will work even harder, in more dangerous environments, for even less pay. The safety and healthfulness of the food supply will continue to deteriorate as a consequence of the inevitable race to the bottom, to see which corporation can produce the most stuff cheapest. However, once they have driven their competitors out of business, they will be free to raise prices to whatever level they choose.

The industrial era is over. The era of information and knowledge is upon us. Knowledge and information are quickly replacing capital as the source of new productivity and wealth. Potential productivity is now embodied in the unique ability of people to think and create, not in raw materials and factories. The main reason corporations continue to consolidate and grow is to gain greater economic and political power- to exploit workers, taxpayers, and consumers so they can continue to show profits and grow."

John Ikerd, 1999. A Small Farm Revolution

“Small Farmers are Real Farms” by John Ikerd is a fascinating book and one I believe anyone interested or concerned with where there food comes from and of the future of the family farm should read. From the beginning it will captivate you with ideas and philosophies that are fundamentally different and required to curb the corporate control over farming in the United States.

The book is a compilation of speeches and lectures that Mr. Ikerd has given over the past 15 years or so, and for some reason this particular chapter has stuck with me. One of the most important ideas is this “fundamentally different philosophy on life and farming” that he has. A gradual shift from just settling to actually doing something about these issues. He also mentions the FFA creed, and the opening line of “I believe in the future of Agriculture with a faith born not of words but of deeds.” That is a mantra that has been a part of me since my freshman year of high school when I was the creed speaker at my high school and I take great pride in that. We must, as farmers and consumers and Americans change the way we think and act.

Another interesting fact is the relation of the small farms movement to the foundation of our country and the American Revolution. Specifically he says we need a Thomas Paine approach to fix these issues. "We need a Thomas Paine approach to the new movement to revolutionize American society. I am talking about a fundamental different philosophy on life. The difference between the industrial and the post-industrial society will be as great as the difference between a monarchy and a democracy. The current enemy is not a misguided monarchy, but a misguided economy. The tyranny is not a kingdom, but instead is the marketplace." I believe this is a great idea. A misguided economy, predicated upon profit margins with no regard to where it’s been and where it’s going. Sustainability is the journey and that can’t be measured.

The closing line of this says it best.

“The only farms with a future will be farms that are sustainable- that are economically viable, ecologically sound, and socially responsible. The inevitability of the industrialization of agriculture is a lie. Sustainable small farms are better alternatives than getting bigger, giving in, or getting out. The American public must be told the truth. It’s time for a small farm revolution in America. The time for quietness has passed”