Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Back In the Saddle?

Well, after no post for a few days in a row ... I think God decided it was time that I take a break ... I hope to be back in the saddle again and posting regularly. Despite all of the time I have spent running back and forth to the hospital things have carried on at the farm and I've had to carve out time each day to make sure the chores are done and the livestock are taken care of. All of this takes a bit more time during the joys of an Iowa winter, but thanks to the help of my family we are getting along just fine.

One thing that I have been think a lot about lately is a question that Michael Pollan asks in his book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma". He questions, "...why should a nation produce its own food when others can produce it more cheaply?" I thought that was an especially interesting question and one that has answers I believe that effect every part of American culture from defense to social concerns.

Like I said, I'm just beginning to get back in the saddle, so I don't have a lot of time. But, what would your answer to that question be? I'll take some time to expound a little more tomorrow...

**Pastor Jim Update** For those of you thinking of and praying for Pastor Jim and his family I just wanted to let you know that things seem to be going very well. We still have a long road ahead, but the signs are promising and his mind is as sharp as ever it seems. We are praying that he can move into a regular room today and that his blood pressure stabilizes. Thanks for all of your prayers and thoughts!


Anonymous said...

A nation should produce its own food because it is politicaly necessary and also necessary for our survival as an independent union.

In overcrowded places like India and China, things like water are becoming a strained and important resource and that struggle isn't held only by Asian countries, but also parts of the American south west and much of California. It is common knowledge that water is required to grow plants, so if water is in short supply in the countries we import from, then we suddenly have to switch back to being self suffeciant.

Along with growing our own food, I believe that advancing agricultural techniques (hybrids, traditional breeding, etc.) is necessary so that land is used effeciantly and resources are used without waste.

Btw, I live in Iowa also (Go ISU!). Also, a few posts back you talked about children not understanding the agricultural process. I'm a freshmen in high school, and i think its just because kids haven't been exposed to the farming world. You can't escape it in Iowa. (sorry for the poorly formated post)

Rich said...

Of course a nation should be able to produce its own food, but is it possible to accomplish that goal through legislation or other government action?

The government decided (more than once in recent history) that growing corn to produce ethanol should be encouraged. In the initial stages, corn was selling cheap, oil was selling high, and some thought that they could add value to cheap corn by turning it into expensive fuel. Now the situation has changed (as it always does) and ethanol is a money losing proposition. After the ethanol plants declare bankruptcy and fade into memory, corn will fall in price, oil will rise, and the government will declare (one more time) that ethanol will save us from high oil prices, and the cycle will start again.

What makes anybody think that a government program centered around 'protecting' us from imported food will work any better? Should banning the export of food to other country's also be contemplated (to 'protect' them from the damage they would suffer from imported food)? If importing food from another nation is undesirable, should food be allowed to be imported from another state, county, or neighborhood?

A nation should be able to produce its own food, but I don't think that the government can accomplish that goal through subsidies, legislation, or regulation.

Randy said...

But Rich, Ethan raises a good point: According to free-market capitalism, the rational choice for each player in the market would be to pursue the higher profit careers/investments. Agriculture has less of a mark-up than manufactured goods, the goods less than the services that support them, and such services have a lower profitability than the exchange of information (such as Financial analysts, and venture capitalists supporting new technologies).

I have also wondered how to encourage a cultural shift toward the more sustainable concept of being ABLE to produce all of our nations primary needs while ensuring that AT LEAST 50% of such basic consumption (like food, clothing, heating fuel, etc.) is actually domestically produced and not imported. What I keep coming up against in my mental journey is that God blessed this planet to "be fruitful and multiply" whereby anyone can reap 100-fold return from a seed planted and tended to in the earth. Such bounty by design actually serves to promote the concept of progressively fewer farmers feeding progressively more consumers. Obviously, though, there is an ecological limit beyond which the soil is abused and other resources unsustainably exploited to achieve that extra ear of corn per acre, and it is that limit that ought to somehow be regulated.

Ther more I think about it, the more it seems that we (or any country) need to have at our disposal protectionist tariffs to promote domestic production, especially of agricultural goods. I don't believe that expanding free trade or the chains of "fair play" imposed by the WTO are ultimately beneficial for our Country. Not that I fully trust a government to nimbly respond to market changes or sound science to best regulate that "ecological limit" that I mentioned before, but something's got to give.

I think what we're seeing in the finanical markets recently is a result of capitalism (which is basically a Godly system emanating from the concept of privately owned goods and resources) being used immorally, and whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap, sowing to the flesh and reaping corruption. But, of course, centrally planned socities (which is founded on an unscriptural concept of communal entitlement to goods, resources, and other people's labor) have also had their time in the sun and have been shown as failures (that's what the later half of the 20th century was all about).

Its a slippery slope that kind of comes back around to saying "I'm just going to ensure that I can provide for as much of my own necessities as realistically practical while still maintaining a culturally decent standard of life." I don't want to revert to a fearful apocalyptic back-to-the-lander, but I also don't trust external powers to govern sustainably and not become corrupt.

Rambling, yes, but thank you for giving me the opprotunity to share these things and get them off my chest. :)

Randy said...

Sorry for the re-post, but I just remembered reading an article talking about Argentia insulating itself from the extremes in the corn market by enforcing such protectionist tariffs (highly taxing imported grains and prohibiting the export of grains) in order to keep their domestic grain prices more stable.

I haven't read this article about it but here is a link,1,5469545.story

Rich said...

I'm not so sure that Argentina is the best example for providing 'food security' to a nation. The government banned beef exports from the country to lower domestic consumer prices and then were surprised that ranchers decided not to raise cattle that were selling at prices below the cost of production. After cattle herds were liquidated (resulting in the government's desired lower prices and a temporary elimination of shortages), farms decided to turn pastures into cropland.

In response, (as you stated) the government enacted high export taxes so that domestic grain supplies wouldn't be effected by the high grain prices. So farmers stopped growing grain in addition to eliminating their cattle herds. For some reason, Argentina's government can't understand why its farmers are choosing to let their fields lay fallow instead of growing crops that they have to give away.

Why would anybody bother to farm if they are prevented from making a profit? Without anybody farming, what is the beef and grain situation in Argentina going to look like next year? How long before Argentina's government starts talking about land reform?

What makes you think that a plan to provide food security in the U.S. would work any better than Argentina's plan?

Argentina was fine (relatively) until the government decided they needed to 'fix' agriculture. Politicians have a nasty habit of making things worse when they say they are trying to make things better.

Randy said...

Rich, I'll certainly cede the point there about Argentina. After I posted that link, I read the article and thought "this was a dumb article to support my argument". I guess that's what happens when you don't read stuff before linking it. :)

Ok, I'm not aware of any place where protectionist tariffs are working smoothly and beneficially. But I'm also concerned that allowing ourselves to be subject to the tyranny of global supply/demand, boom/bust, etc. cycles defies the concept of taking care of our own and lessenes the meaning of our soverignty as a people.

Maybe this is where the whole concept of Low Input systems really shines. Low Input agriculture would be harder to consistently undercut, even though cheap grain prices on the world market may make feedlot beef (for instance) cheaper at a given moment, its a volatile market.

Here's a question, assuming that new technologies will represent an opprotunity cost for vital goods (such as an across the board rise in food costs when 30% of the corn crop was going to ethanol), is there any GOOD way to guard against the negative short-term effects of seeing that new technology come of age?

I guess this leads to my suspicion of consistently increased technology and the whole concept of a "technotopia". Of course, I'm writing this on a blog, on the internet, at a personal computer, in an air conditioned office that I drive to in a car... maybe I really do like technology and just don't want to admit it. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...