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Thread: Can (insert your town here) feed itself?

  1. #51
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero View post
    I am more than slightly unsold on the locavore ethos.

    There are a few foods I can get locally here; I love them and eat them often, but I can't make my whole menu from them. The rest gets flown up via our international airport. I wish we had better sea transport, and I wish we had rail connection to the U.S. and maybe even Russia, but alas.
    .
    Yes, and Palmer was developed to keep the food going to the area. No longer, and not just because of the subdivisions, and the attractive sprawl to the west. These days, too many people for locavorism to be anything but for the foodies, and some dishes for some restaurants and some farmers markets. But its a nice idea.

  2. #52
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    "American Agriculture’s Cornucopia of Opportunity and Responsibility"

    Someone passed this along to me - nice overview of role that "food industry" plays in the US economy (12.3% of GDP and 17% of workforce... this is "food industry" remember, not just farm workers) - and a reminder that it is - perhaps - the only industry in America that continues to be an innovative leader in practices and technology that we are able to export to developing countries. Your thoughts?

    "American Agriculture’s Cornucopia of Opportunity and Responsibility"
    New Geography
    October 15, 2009

    Some interesting points made in the article:
    - Industrial, highly commercialized ag transformed America - as well as Australia, Brazil, Argentina and Canada - to be major players in the world economy.

    - Even, large scale ag is still primarily "family-owned"


    The author concludes by suggesting that:
    1) We have set up a false dichotomy between "industrial" and "sustainable" agriculture
    2) Technology and a focus on productivity can help expand smaller or local ag
    3) We cannot expand small ag at the expense of big ag - big ag provides for research, innovation, technology
    4) Growing world population will not be fed without big ag

  3. #53
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    These days, too many people for locavorism to be anything but for the foodies, and some dishes for some restaurants and some farmers markets. But its a nice idea.
    I think this is the crux of the problem. There are simply too many of us.

  4. #54
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    Another book recommend for the young adult survivalist?

    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    This is great. My son is a voracious reader and has read the "My Side" series, but I don't know about any others (he still talks about how that boy made pancakes out of acorns, among other things). The only other one I have read is White Fang. He'll love this list - thanks for the tip!
    One more recommendation from an 11 year old - a young adult novel based on experiences of a group of Boy Scouts who were spending the weekend along the shore near the volcano when a tsunami hit. Some of the issues/language may not be so clear to a kid that didn't live in Hawaii (I believe it's based in the early 1960s), but another recommendation anyway:
    "Night of the Howling Dogs" by Graham Salisbury

  5. #55
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    I think this is the crux of the problem. There are simply too many of us.
    It always comes back to population, doesn't it?

    I = P x A x T

    Until these factors on the right are gotten under control, our fate is clear. Locavores will make only the tiniest dent in this dilemma. And MCasey's implicit conflict skirted over in their link - the execrable corn as biofuel "option" - makes us even more unlikely to solve these issues.

    But how about those Red Wings, eh? ;o)

  6. #56
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    Huh?

    [QUOTE=ColoGI;588096]It always comes back to population, doesn't it?

    I = P x A x T

    And MCasey's implicit conflict skirted over in their link - the execrable corn as biofuel "option" - makes us even more unlikely to solve these issues.QUOTE]

    Could you clarify please? "... the implicit conflict"?

    (Go Red Wings)

  7. #57
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    I think this is the crux of the problem. There are simply too many of us.
    There are too many of us if we rely on 19th century farming techniques, which is basically what market garden farming is. If we are going to feed the world’s current population we need to produce more food, more efficiently with the limited resources we have, which generally means bio-engineering, large-scale operations and constant adoption of new technologies.

    It’s either: accept new technology and new paradigms; or wait for some sort of Malthusian crisis.

  8. #58
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Howl View post
    There are too many of us if we rely on 19th century farming techniques, which is basically what market garden farming is. If we are going to feed the world’s current population we need to produce more food, more efficiently with the limited resources we have, which generally means bio-engineering, large-scale operations and constant adoption of new technologies.

    It’s either: accept new technology and new paradigms; or wait for some sort of Malthusian crisis.
    I think we also have to consider where food is produced as it relates to where to consuming populations are. There are many parts of the world with very large populations that use antiquated farming approaches that have done pretty well feeding people (like India, for example). However, their systems are also prone to impacts that have spelled famine for very lots of people (failed crops, disease, weather, etc.). The international response has been the distribution of food aid (which is also a convenient way to get rid of all that surplus food we pay farmers to produce each year) but which also can have a negative economic side that threatens the viability of local food production. As you note, their problems would probably best be solved by helping to update crops, farming and harvesting techniques and other aspects of technology. Instead, the US and other western nations have contributed to what has amounted to the destruction of local food markets in some places and even the replacement of local food systems with international ones that expand the market share of western producers. Its complex, but this dynamic of "food dumping" has negatively impacted food security all over the world and has been a hot topic in international development for almost a decade now.

    The way the food aid programs of various rich countries are structured may be of concern. In fact, food "aid" (when not for emergency relief) can actually be very destructive on the economy of the recipient nation. Dumping food on to poorer nations (i.e. free, subsidized, or cheap food, below market prices) undercuts local farmers, who cannot compete and are driven out of jobs and into poverty, further slanting the market share of the larger producers such as those from the US and Europe.
    Also, I think our food systems as a planet have become so intertwined that we have exposed ourselves to the possibility of global food catastrophes. For example, almost all the bananas exported around the world are a single variety called "cavendish." In recent years, this variety has been subjected to a soil borne blight impacting much of Australia and a good deal of Asian markets. Most US bananas come from South America, but these plants are not immune and so its just a matter of time before the blight reaches them. It has already started to infiltrate Africa where millions of people rely on bananas as part of their daily staple.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2664373.stm
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  9. #59
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Howl View post
    we need to produce more food, more efficiently with the limited resources we have, which generally means bio-engineering, large-scale operations and constant adoption of new technologies.

    It’s either: accept new technology and new paradigms; or wait for some sort of Malthusian crisis.
    This last part is obvious. But we are not feeding more now with large-scale ops, as the per-capita yields have fallen for 25 years. And we are not constantly adopting new technologies. Did you have something else in mind, perhaps, some as-yet developed technology?

    Quote Originally posted by MCasey View post

    Could you clarify please? "... the implicit conflict"?

    (Go Red Wings)
    This piece is laden with standard industrial ag phraseology and framing, protecting a non-sustainable process by calling it something else instead. Corn ethanol is now sold as a job creator (as its EROEI is worse than gas in most cases) and the piece sells that instead of all the family farms that industrial ag put out of business as Butz and others insisted on 'get big or get out'.

    Industrial ag is the last thing from sustainable. It is merely substituting cheap energy for skill and manual labor. When cheap energy goes away, we will have to decide which sector loses out on petroleum: materials, transportation, or food.

  10. #60
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    "Industrial Disease"

    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    This piece is laden with standard industrial ag phraseology and framing, protecting a non-sustainable process by calling it something else instead. Corn ethanol is now sold as a job creator (as its EROEI is worse than gas in most cases) and the piece sells that instead of all the family farms that industrial ag put out of business as Butz and others insisted on 'get big or get out'.

    Industrial ag is the last thing from sustainable. It is merely substituting cheap energy for skill and manual labor. When cheap energy goes away, we will have to decide which sector loses out on petroleum: materials, transportation, or food.
    I'm sorry, I don't see a reference to ethanol as a job creator in the article. Perhaps when they talk about the number of jobs generated by ag industry? And, I thought they did a pretty good job of regularly using the terms "large-scale," "commercial, and "industrial agriculture" to call it what it is...

    I think the authors made some interesting points - and then backed their statements up with some links to the data upon which they based those statements (maybe we should also be discussing the validity of that data?). I want to see growth of the "small," "local," "sustainable," food economies - but as I have been reminded throughout this thread - there is this big 800 lb gorilla in the room...

    Selected statements from the article:
    1) "...industrial, highly commercialized agriculture" helped America, Australia, Brazil, Argentina and Canada to become major forces in the world economy.
    I believe the term they use is "transformed" - It's hard NOT to agree with the main statement - but perhaps there is great disagreement on whether that transformation has left us in a "good" or "bad" state at the present time?

    2) "...it is principally large-scale, scientifically advanced farming that produces the vast majority of the average family’s foodstuffs and accounts for all but a tiny percentage of our exports."
    Again, hard to argue against the truth of the statement - but plenty of room to argue about the goodness/badness of the system - including

    3) The US "leads the world in the export of the agricultural technology that helps other countries, notably in the developing world, feed their own people."
    Sounds like the last piece of this statement might be up for very strong debate (see Wahday's "Food Dumping" link above) - while we may export more ag technology than any other country, perhaps the end result of "developing countries feeding their own people" would be a better outcome.

    I do not deny that the federal govt is offering quite a bit of incentives for research about, and production of biofuels - but the debate about the tradeoffs of using good ag land, the fuel emissions, etc. has - in my opinion - been pretty public and LOUD. I personally do not favor the use of good ag lands for the production of biofuels. And I think that without big subsidies of some kind - most farmers (even massive corporations!) will not find that line of work to be as profitable.

  11. #61
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MCasey View post

    Selected statements from the article:

    ...And I think that without big subsidies of some kind - most farmers (even massive corporations!) will not find that line of work to be as profitable. [emphases added]
    Other selected statements from the article:
    o The attack on “industrial” agriculture reflects a growing trend by environmentalists to subordinate all productive industry to their own particular agenda. [found in essays against organic ag]

    Some extremists in the local food movement would discourage cold climate inhabitants from the luxury of a midwinter tropical fruit because of the energy used in shipping. [marginalization phrase, appeal to desire]

    o In this lexicon ranchers, corn, and wheat farmers are not far removed from Afghan poppy growers or coca cultivators in South America. [false dichotomy, invocation of fearful imagery from the drug war (and certain demonized enemies]

    o The assault on agricultural production and the food system as we know it [ending subsidies and demanding pollution accountability is an assault, you see]

    o the often well-heeled advocates of bucolic romanticism hold great sway [mischaracterization and demonization]

    o taking steps to reduce large-scale efficient production does not seem to be either a practical or humane choice [common mischaracterizing phraseology when disparaging your competition, organic ag]


    Assiduously avoiding the obvious fact that the ag sector has jettisoned jobs steadily notwithstanding,

    The standard, tried-and-true template for a certain type of argumentation is to heighten the emotion at the beginning in order to make one receptive to the message, IME often from polluting industries such as industry or chemistry. Note the appeal to emotion ends about 1/3 of they way through, typical for long-form pieces such as this. Note what phraseology is used and who it appeals to.

    The argumentation is transparent and obvious and weighted with key framing and indicative phraseology. I've seen it a million times. This one is somewhat clever as it pretends to value at the end what it disparaged early on, a new tactic AFAICT.

    Some of the reasons I rarely give a page view to that site, as IME that sort of thing happens far too often there.

    ----------------

    So with some background aside, we return to the question: in such an environment, is it realistic to wish that our fair city can feed itself? What realistically can we do to change this paradigm?

  12. #62
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post

    So with some background aside, we return to the question: in such an environment, is it realistic to wish that our fair city can feed itself? What realistically can we do to change this paradigm?
    First of all, let me say "great job" on the deconstruction of some of the statements made in the article. I better understand your distaste for the phrases and framing you've identified.

    And, I would love to hear more talk about
    1) do we think it is realistic that our (village, town, city, municipality, county, state, island, or canoe - you pick the scale) can "realistically" feed itself.
    2) if we do think it is possible - let's talk about efforts that we think are "working" - or that could work - to make it possible.

    My beliefs:
    1) It is realistic that any area could manage to feed itself - it would simply require a completely different way of eating than what people are now accustomed to. I don't believe that everyone is ready to do that (I'm not ready myself). I also think that should a local area manage to "de-link" itself from our current "large ag, global" food system - you would likely see some pretty dramatic migrations among our population - "What? They grow oranges there? Florida, here I come!"

    2) I like what is happening among local food advocacy efforts - and I think there will probably need to be a number of approaches employed to begin shifting toward more "local, sustainable" production. Chief among the approaches would be specific efforts that make the work of food production profitable to those who do it. CSAs, Food Sheds, zoning for "agbelts"? Those might be ideas that planners will be involved in guiding

    I DO NOT, however, believe that big, industrial, commercial ag will - or should - go away. The changes in our world in the coming years - namely, our growing population - will provide more than enough demand for their products - and profits for those companies.

    So, how do we begin to assess, monitor and meet the food demands of a local geography? (Any innovative ideas out there?)

    And, how do we make it possible for small, local food growers, ranchers, processors to play a role in the growing global food economy?

  13. #63
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    Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission?

    Has anyone seen an attempt at a regional comprehensive food plan like this:
    Central Ohio Local Food Assessment and Plan

    Here in Hawaii, the Kohala Center (a small non-profit that has been doing some big things recently!) has begun the discussion about, and planning for food and energy sustainability.

    I know that the Food Trust has been doing quite a bit of research and programming in Philadelphia regarding school food, farmers' markets. And was one of the partners in developing the innovative Fresh Food Financing Initiative

    And I know that NYC once had a Food Policy Coordinator - although it seems like maybe no longer? - lots of planning around improving the distribution and disposal of food within New York City and increasing access to healthy food - (Part of the City's PlaNYC 2030)

    I also enjoyed learning about Vermont Fresh Network when I last visited in 2009. A group dedicated to building relationships among farmers, chefs, and consumers to grow markets and eat more locally grown food.

    Anybody out there had experience with any of these groups? Any other intersting stuff happening in your neck of the woods?

  14. #64
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    ...
    Industrial ag is the last thing from sustainable. It is merely substituting cheap energy for skill and manual labor. When cheap energy goes away, we will have to decide which sector loses out on petroleum: materials, transportation, or food.
    (emphasis added)

    I think this is the point that many people miss. If another source of energy - that is capable of producing as much output per unit as fossil fuels - isn't found in the relatively near future, large-scale agriculture that relies on shipping goods globally to take advantage of preferable climates, cheap labor, and cheap land, will no longer be a cost-effective option. As ColoGl pointed out, once Big Ag can no longer substitute inexpensive energy for labor and skill, the cost of producing and transporting food will go up. Whether or not it will go up beyond the point where it is more cost efficient to produce food locally will depend on how efficient the new source of energy is. The point is, if a new source of energy isn't capable of returning the same cost benefits that fossil fuels do, it won't matter whether we all like to eat the foods that can be produced locally year round. We won't be able to afford to eat otherwise.

    On a lighter note, I had a roommate several years ago ask me if I would plant a pickle plant in our garden

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    I have a lot to say about localism and food security. Since I'm a little late to this discussion, I'll keep my comments limited to where it seems everyone is in the conversation.

    @MCasey,I know I've seen atleast two other agencies that have approached food security at a regional level. I'm looking for those sources. Oakland was the first entity that I became aware of that was addressing food as a planning problem. The Community Food Security Coalition is the largest resource I know of for such assessments at the community scale.

    I DO NOT, however, believe that big, industrial, commercial ag will - or should - go away. The changes in our world in the coming years - namely, our growing population - will provide more than enough demand for their products - and profits for those companies.
    I think it's important to separate conversations about could and should. Mixing them up confuses goals and means and then we start spinning our wheels. Industrial Agriculture is definitely entrenched, but through several mechanisms not the least of which is the federal subsidy program.

    I'm only able to scan through comments but I'm ecstatic that this community is able to see through so many of the arguments of industrial agriculture, re: ethanol, job security, sustainability, etc...

  16. #66
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    Quote Originally posted by TerraSapient View post
    (emphasis added)

    I think this is the point that many people miss. If another source of energy - that is capable of producing as much output per unit as fossil fuels - isn't found in the relatively near future, large-scale agriculture that relies on shipping goods globally to take advantage of preferable climates, cheap labor, and cheap land, will no longer be a cost-effective option.
    I'll definitely have to agree that our existing global food network would probably crumble without a cheap source of transport fuel.

    How do people feel about the sustainability of "large-scale" and "small-scale" local ag? - I'm thinking about "industrial farms" vs. "market gardens" - or maybe "large quantities of few or single crops" vs. "smaller quantities of wide variety of crops".

    In some sort of new world order - what do you think the cost-effective option of a "new food economy" would look like for your locale? Do you think there would still be large growers of crops that travel well (rice? potatoes? corn?) or would the necessity of small local food economies drive farm production?

    And, if food production were to shift to a more local basis, how do you see it impacting the role that big ag exporting countries (US, CANADA, AUSTRALIA, etc.) play in the new world?

  17. #67
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MCasey View post
    How do people feel about the sustainability of "large-scale" and "small-scale" local ag? - I'm thinking about "industrial farms" vs. "market gardens" - or maybe "large quantities of few or single crops" vs. "smaller quantities of wide variety of crops".
    It is clear from the thread above and every other source that industrial ag (IA) is not sustainable. But IA is merely a human reaction to a need to maintain an unsustainable population.

    Nonetheless, you are trying to frame the cart before the horse. First things first.

    Quote Originally posted by MCasey View post
    In some sort of new world order - what do you think the cost-effective option of a "new food economy" would look like for your locale?
    You are talking about making predictions or WAGs in a new world order. There is no way to know. None. Not even worth discussing - might as well discuss what playing lacrosse would be like on Jupiter.

  18. #68
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    The Jupiter Lacrosse League

    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    You are talking about making predictions or WAGs in a new world order. There is no way to know. None. Not even worth discussing - might as well discuss what playing lacrosse would be like on Jupiter.
    Wow! Lacrosse on Jupiter would be great! Never thought of that! But just let me see if I am understanding the way you are now "framing" this discussion:

    1) We can't make predictions about what the world (ours, not Jupiter's) will be like in the future (?)
    2) "There is no way to know" (?)
    3) It's not worth discussing

    Methinks that you are making an argument for the end of this thread... or, perhaps saying that this is something that the planning profession can't touch?

  19. #69
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MCasey View post
    ... But just let me see if I am understanding the way you are now "framing" this discussion:

    1) We can't make predictions about what the world (ours, not Jupiter's) will be like in the future (?)
    2) "There is no way to know" (?)
    3) It's not worth discussing

    Methinks that you are making an argument for the end of this thread... or, perhaps saying that this is something that the planning profession can't touch?
    [ecologist's hat] You talked about a new world order. We have no way of knowing what that will look like. Then going even further and discussing some detail like a food economy when we have no idea of what anything about the future will look like? [/ecologist's hat] There is no need to frame the discussion any way at all. There is simply no way of knowing that sort of future. The spectrum of possible outcomes is unbelievably wide. Details have no relevance.

  20. #70
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    It is clear from the thread above and every other source that industrial ag (IA) is not sustainable. But IA is merely a human reaction to a need to maintain an unsustainable population.

    Nonetheless, you are trying to frame the cart before the horse. First things first.



    You are talking about making predictions or WAGs in a new world order. There is no way to know. None. Not even worth discussing - might as well discuss what playing lacrosse would be like on Jupiter.
    Why do you think Industrial Agriculture cannot be made to be sustainable – both in economic and environmental terms? I think that is definitely the way things are moving. Large scale agriculture corporations are doing a lot of research with the goal of producing more food with less energy use, including minimizing transportation costs. That’s the only way they are going to make a profits in the future. I suspect in a few decades bio-engineered foods, grown in local hydroponic greenhouses with recycled water and waste products will supply most of your fruits and vegetables if you live in an urban area.

  21. #71
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Howl View post
    Why do you think Industrial Agriculture cannot be made to be sustainable – both in economic and environmental terms? I think that is definitely the way things are moving. Large scale agriculture corporations are doing a lot of research with the goal of producing more food with less energy use, including minimizing transportation costs. That’s the only way they are going to make a profits in the future. I suspect in a few decades bio-engineered foods, grown in local hydroponic greenhouses with recycled water and waste products will supply most of your fruits and vegetables if you live in an urban area.
    I think ColoGl's point was that the current model of Industrial Agriculture is not sustainable and I think its hard to argue with that. Nutrient loss in soils alone is a HUGE problem and issue for growers. Industrial Ag compensates for this by using large amounts of chemical fertilizers, but fertilizers (nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus) are not the same as nutrients which are freed from the soil by microbiotic activity, taken up by the plants, and then consumed by us. The result has been a gradual reduction in the overall nutrient value of the food we eat (because of soil depletion). And there is so much more. We don't even complete the nutrient cycle by composting our manure and returning it to the soil - we flush it away and wrap it up in rubber lined land fills. That's a net loss for soil health. Add to this rising fuel costs, dangers of drought and disease and its a model that will most definitely need to be rethought.

    It seems that what Howl is talking about is how Industrial Ag could look in the future, suggesting that it COULD be made more sustainable. And that may be correct. But I think you two are talking about two different scenarios - what it looks like today versus what the future potentials are.

    I generally agree with ColoGl's assessment that there are a lot of variables impacting future directions in almost all sectors of our society right now and so one needs to be careful about becoming too invested in assuming it will go any particular way. At the same time, this is what planners do, yes? We work with communities to envision a desired future. And then the dance begins - work begins to implement the "plan," but circumstances make it such that it doesn't go exactly the way we thought. Then we revisit the plan and make changes in response to these first moves, and on and on, back and forth.

    My last comment about what commercial agricultural production might look like in the future is to be careful not to assume that because a solution or approach is the best option that the industry will decide to go that way. Consider Betamax video tape. It was clearly the superior technology of the time, but it did not become the industry standard. Why? Because the VHS folks had more resources available and better access to the market to get their players and tapes out there first. Inferior, yes, but they dominated the market. I could easily see the same thing happen with commercial agriculture (or any sector of the society for that matter).
    Last edited by wahday; 04 May 2011 at 12:48 PM.
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    Why do you think Industrial Agriculture cannot be made to be sustainable – both in economic and environmental terms? I think that is definitely the way things are moving. Large scale agriculture corporations are doing a lot of research with the goal of producing more food with less energy use, including minimizing transportation costs. That’s the only way they are going to make a profits in the future. I suspect in a few decades bio-engineered foods, grown in local hydroponic greenhouses with recycled water and waste products will supply most of your fruits and vegetables if you live in an urban area.
    Industrial Agricultural firms make profits hand over fist.

    Cargill, ADM, Monsanto, Tyson; the list goes on. Industrial Agriculture is built on federal subsidies that had, suppress the price of corn. Its through that momentum, built especially through the policies of Ag Secretary Earl Butz during the Nixon Administration, that the current system of monopolies exists today. The dramatic increase in the price of corn in the last six years is attributable to the demand from ethanol producers, who are subsidized at a rate of nearly 50% on the gallon. This is largely attributable to the capable lobbies of the three aforementioned companies.

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    ColoGL - It is clear from the thread above and every other source that industrial ag (IA) is not sustainable. But IA is merely a human reaction to a need to maintain an unsustainable population.
    IA is a human reaction to maintain profit margins, not populations. Massive populations are maintained throughout the world without industrial practices. The United States is one of several nations that produces more food than it could possibly conceivably consume.

  24. #74
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Howl View post
    Why do you think Industrial Agriculture cannot be made to be sustainable – both in economic and environmental terms? I think that is definitely the way things are moving. Large scale agriculture corporations are doing a lot of research with the goal of producing more food with less energy use, including minimizing transportation costs. That’s the only way they are going to make a profits in the future. I suspect in a few decades bio-engineered foods, grown in local hydroponic greenhouses with recycled water and waste products will supply most of your fruits and vegetables if you live in an urban area.
    This is already here in some segments of agriculture. My brothers and I lease our crop land to a major organic milk producer in WNY. Their operation is quite impressive, especially as a model for more sustainable large scale agriculture.

    Aside from dressing the fields with lime (a natural substance made from ground limestone) to lower soil acidity, they do NOT use any chemical fertilizers. They spread manure from their own cows and use crop rotation (clover, soybeans, corn) to maintain soil fertility. They rotationally graze their cows on pasture from April/May through late October so that they feed less harvested feed, their cows are healthier than being confined (less lower veterinary costs), and they use less energy for barn cooling, cleaning, lighting etc. They probably don't produce as much milk per cow but they produce their milk a lot cheaper per hundred-weight (how bulk milk is sold) and get higher prices for it because it's organic, so their profit is more. It takes more land to do this, but land in this area is cheap to buy and/or rent.

    BTW, milk is one of those products that is already largely locally produced in most areas simply because it's so perishable. Milk-based products like cheese are more likely to be distributed further away from the production, but the processing is much closer to the farms that produced it than, say, grain-based products.

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    There's one small-scale milk producer around Central Illinois that markets their own label. When I interviewed them last fall, they were the only milk producer in Illinois with their own bottling plant on-site. They also market and distribute their non-homogenized product on their own (its tasty!).

    They are not organic. The explanation they gave me was that in the event that any of their animals got sick, they would not be able to administer antibiotics in the event that they got sick and maintain their use of the Organic label. As managers of 70 head of Jersey, that would be a burden for their scale of operation.

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