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I've received the usual suggestions about how our large scale grain production should be done organically. I have no ideological opposition to this and in fact I'm generally vegetarian and eat organic as much as I can lay my hands on it. The problem is that none of the proponents can describe to me what it would look like to cultivate an entire square mile in that fashion, let alone defining a plan that would allow a neat conversion of all of the forty to fifty thousand square miles of the state of Iowa to such methods. It's an admirable concept, but it doesn't seem executable. I do not at all accept that it's "big agriculture" keeping the farmers down. If there was a way to get similar yields without paying $100/acre for fertilizer and another $100/acre for seed the typical Iowa farmer with his 400 acres would be busy stuff an extra $80,000 a year into the bank. This is not the case today.

It's not just big agriculture keeping people down.  It's the notion of labor efficiency, and the development path it has led American agriculture to take.  Organic cultivation, even the large-scale sustainable methods (like in England - in America they just killed soils and moved on) they used on commercial farms in the nineteenth century, is much more process and labor intensive than mechanized mass agriculture.  Everything is divided into smaller units, those units go through different phases of this and that to maintain fertility, and everything needs a lot more human and animal tending.

On the one hand, there's nothing wrong with extra employment.  On the other hand, in a high-wage country like the US, increasing farm employment by a factor of five or ten is demographically impossible in the near future (not nearly enough people live in the right places), and result in a catastrophic transformation in food pricing.

by Zwackus on Fri Nov 28th, 2008 at 05:28:03 PM EST
people are gonna hafta get funky again, and a lot of people will find themselves a lot healthier than they'd ever believed possible, when they were callus-free and cancerous.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Nov 28th, 2008 at 11:57:34 PM EST
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