Soil Conservation Nothing New

I don’t want to burst everyone’s balloons but there seems to be a belief floating about that if farmers were not so obtuse and would adopt techniques that only a cult of concerned non-farmers seem to know, agriculture would be magically transformed and the world saved from global warming and famine. In an article (“Land Losses and Lessons on the Great Plains,” Pete Carrels, 8/1/17 TPP) mentioning Gabe Brown, a North Dakota farmer who has been converted to the light, we are introduced to a model of farming to be emulated. What little I know of Mr. Brown, he appears to be skillful, committed, enterprising, innovative, and has excellent communicative ability. He, in the company of many many other men and women, has experimented with alternative techniques and crops contributing significantly to the science/art of farming.

What he/they have not done, however, is invent something revolutionarily new. Successful farming is more than bringing in a crop. It is bringing in a crop and actually making enough money doing so that you will be able to plant in the following spring. Few farmers, particularly younger farmers, have the luxury of financial autonomy. They must convince a banker that they know what they are doing and in doing so will be able to pay their debts. But if you owe the bank a ton of money, experimentation is not encouraged. Mr. Brown’s initial insight was that his farming operation was not making it producing just field crops. He retired the less productive fields and converted them to livestock production.

Brown is most certainly not the first Great Plains farmer to have done so because tens of thousands of other dry land farmers before him have done just that. Fields that once produced wheat and barley have been planted to alfalfa and grass. On good years these fields are cut for hay and on poor years they are grazed by livestock. It is less expensive in terms of cash outlays to produce hay and pasture because those fields do not have to be tilled and planted yearly. With legumes like alfalfa in the mix, less fertilizer is required, and because the fields are mowed for hay, the weeds are mostly controlled.

It should be noted that this is also the effect of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) where USDA pays farmers to retire marginal farmland and plant them to permanent cover crops. The purpose of CRP was initially to reduce the amount of wheat and corn on the market in an attempt to stabilize prices. The side effect has been more soil carbon, less erosion, and more wildlife. CRP also predates Mr. Brown’s conversion.

From an environmental point of view, less tillage is a good thing, resulting in more carbon/humus in the soil and controlling water and wind erosion. Other consequences are either good or bad depending upon your food tastes because less wheat means that less bread is baked and more cows means that more beef is barbecued.

But agricultural markets fluctuate which would account for the increase in farmed cropland that the article noted from the “Plowprint Report,” published by the World Wildlife Fund. Cattle prices are currently down, and wheat and corn prices were for a short amount of time - up. Farmers adjusted by planting more corn and wheat just like they were supposed to do. Agricultural policy is controlled by a handful of global corporations that manipulates the market and influences farm policy in order to keep farmers in debt and thereby controllable. Magical thinking will not result in restoring a socially and ecologically beneficial diversified family farming system. That will require major changes in agricultural policy and the enforcement of the anti-trust laws.

Gilles Stockton, Grass Range, Mont.

NAFTA Entanglements

Joel Joseph’s thoughts on NAFTA (8/01/17 TPP) clearly state many of the problems with this decades-old trade agreement. I would disagree with several of his points on agricultural trade. While Canada and Mexico oppose Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) there is perhaps stronger opposition from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) a US industry front group that supposedly represents US beef producers.

Rather than looking after the interests of farmers and ranchers, NCBA is more concerned about the profits of the four companies that produce 85% of all the beef in the US: Tyson Foods, JBS (a Brazilian company), Cargill and Smithfield Foods. They control the beef market to the point that they can pay farmers whatever they wish and keep consumer prices as high as they wish. NCBA wants unrestricted imports and exports — Wall Street loves market volatility, and these multinational beef companies care little where their beef comes form or how it is produced.

On the dairy issue, I am a dairy farmer in Wisconsin, and I have no problem with Canada protecting their dairy producers. Through their quota system, imperfect as it may be, at least their dairy farmers can make a living — a fair price for their production.

The US dairy industry tells us if we need more income, we must produce more milk, thus US dairy production has become an unsustainable production model that produces so much milk processors are currently dumping excess milk — they have no market for it. Small dairy farms are forced out and all that remain are ever expanding dairy concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), whose environmental and societal effects are the stuff of nightmares. Don’t try to impose this model on Canada or anyone else.

As to beer imports into Canada, I can’t say I blame them for rejecting our Lite beer, protecting their own small provincial breweries from the US brewing giants (which are mostly owned by foreign companies anyway) and the Canadian population from tasteless beer seems OK to me.

Jim Goodman, Wonewoc, Wis.

Religious Intolerance Another Form of Racism

Hal Crowther [“Whiter Shade of Pale, 8/1/17 TPP] makes a convincing argument that racism is a hereditary mental illness that for centuries has disfigured and disabled those who are afflicted with it.

Dare I say that religious intolerance also belongs in that category?

Consider, for example, when on Feb. 25, 1994, the ultra-conservative Orthodox Jew, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, murdered twenty-nine Arabs with a machine gun while they were praying in a Hebron mosque.

His was one of many abominable acts inspired by religious fanaticism — made even worse when a rabbi, Yaakov Perin, eulogized him as a praiseworthy man for what he did! This, despite the fact that Jews throughout the world condemned his despicable act, and that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stated that Goldstein and those like him were not a part of the community of Israel.

Sadly, acts of violence motivated by religious or racial hatred don’t get much attention until they cross the boundaries of savagery, like those committed by Goldstein and Roof.

David Quintero, Monrovia, Calif.

Muslim Brotherhood Extremism

I am sorry, but “Trump’s Ally: Saudi Arabia’s Drive for Hegemony in Middle East,” by Juan Cole [7/1-15/17 TPP], is so full of outright lies about Wahhabism and the Muslim Brotherhood that is just unbelievable. Go to Youtube and type in Hamas Islamic Nazism and watch the present-day Muslim Brotherhood giving the Nazi salute. Read the history about Wahhabism  and the Muslim Brotherhood, started by Mohammad Ibn Abdul, a man who worshipped Hitler and modeled the Muslim Brotherhood after the Nazi Party. Look up Hitler and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Nazis and the Muslim Brotherhood. And so on. Mohammad Ibn Abdul formed Wahhabism with the idea to make Muslims more Muslim — at least the way he felt Muslims should be — and to kill any human being on the face of the Earth who disagreed with him. The Muslim Brotherhood is to Wahhabism what the SS was to the Nazis and both come from the same root: Adolf Hitler. That’s what Juan Cole calls peaceful groups. For more information do some research. Start with tellthechildrenthetruth.com and spitfirelist.com. We need to know what we are dealing with. Juan Cole does not have a clue. 

David Raisman, Brooklyn, NY

Editor Notes: Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab was a religious leader and theologian from central Arabia who founded Wahhabism in the 18th century. The Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamic organization that was founded in Ismailia, Egypt, by Hassan al-Banna in March 1928 as an Islamist religious, political, and social movement separate from Wahhabism. At that time, Hitler was rebuilding the Nazi Party after his release from prison for his role in the 1923 “Beer Hall Putsch.”

A BBC history notes that the Muslim Brotherhood had a paramilitary group involved in armed struggle against British occupation, and later cooperated with the secular Free Officers movement to liberate Egypt from colonial rule, but relations soon soured. A prominent Muslim Brother, Sayyid Qutb advocated jihad (struggle) against societies, both Western and Islam, which he argued were in need of radical transformation.

Qutb’s writings in the 1960s inspired the founders of many radical Islamist groups, including Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda, but the Brotherhood renounced violence in the 1970s during the rule of Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat, and attempted to rejoin the political mainstream, according to the Arab TV channel Al Jazeera.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) rose to power in elections in 2011 and 2012, but the Egyptian military overthrew FJP President Mohammed Morsi in 2013, and Saudi rulers declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group, most likely because it offered a different model of Islamist politics to that of the Wahhabist Saudi monarchy.

Apologia for the President

Because the Truth is many-sided,

Donald Trump should not be chided

For a few grotesque inventions.

Heaven knows that tongue may slip

From even a presidential lip —

Such is the stuff of crass satire,

An honest man branded a liar.

Since mere Truth is commonplace,

Don Trump, in this our Age of Grace,

Should be allowed to be glib

Or even proffer an innocent fib.

And who among us doesn’t love

Some feistiness in push or shove?

A bully on bully pulpit stands

Eager to issue official demands.

William Dauenhauer, Willowick, Ohio

Editor Notes: For the record, PolitiFact has checked 435 statements by Donald Trump since 2011 and found that only 20, or 5%, were true; 51 (12%) were mostly true; 63 (14%) were half true; 92 (21%) were mostly false; 142 (33%) were false; and 67 (15%) were Pants On Fire Lies. That is, 48% of Trump’s examined statements were lies and if you add the mostly false statements, it’s 69% mainly lies — not counting the half-lies.

From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2017


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