Rapes Man & Nature
by Malcolm Beck
While visiting friends in the high plains of Texas I got a good taste
of large-scale agriculture. Way beyond anything I had experienced
at home on the farm, or in my own farming area.
Six hundred to a thousand
acres or more in one cornfield. With center pivot irrigation systems
that cover a mile diameter. Corn planted with real close spacing,
closer than we planted small grain crops. So cleanly cultivated that
it looked as if some one had hoed and got every little sprig of unwanted
green. Some of the farmers had thirty or more cornfields like this.
Even though the crops were
beautiful, the longer I visited and the more info I got from the farmers,
the more I began to realize that there was something wrong with the
The water they are using
to irrigate the fields is pre-historic water from the Ogallala aquifer,
it only goes down, it does not replenish. The farmers themselves told
me they only have 17, or if they are conservative, 19 years of water
left, then it will all end. The economy of the whole area will die
I asked one of the farmers
approximately what it cost to grow a bushel of corn and what it brought
when sold. The total production cost was $3.05 plus or minus a few
cents per bushel and at the elevator they received $2.28 plus, or
minus, a few cents per bushel. The seventy-seven cents deficit was
made up by insurance and government subsidy which added up to enough
for a profit. That is what kept them in business.
The corn they planted was
GMO-Round Ready. (genetically modified organism designed to be resistant
of the herbicide “Round Up”) And if enough of the herbicide
were not used to control the weeds the insurance would not pay off.
The government also paid
the farmers to put a certain amount of acreage in CRP (crop reserve
program) for ten years. In that program they had to plant a cover
crop prescribed by the government. It was Old World Bluestem, a climax
crop which is not a very good soil builder.
The farmers were also required
to herbicide any broadleaf that tried to invade. I inspected one field
in CRP that was full of tap rooted plants such as clover, thistles,
careless weeds and other good soil builders, the only problem was,
they were herbicided while still small, before the roots had a chance
to go deep and do some good.
I mentioned to one of the
farmers that the grass they planted in the CRP fields was a good soil
protector but not the best soil builder. That farmer replied, “then
that explains why those fields are no better when put back into cultivation
than they were when first put into the program.”
The Farmers agreed there
was an over production of corn. To use up some of the over production
giant feedlots were built so the corn could be fed to cows. And a
lot of the surplus went of Mexico and other countries.
My wife and I eat longhorn
meat because of flavor, also, it is claimed to be very low in cholesterol
because longhorns are not put in feedlots.
Grass fed cows have low
cholesterol and there are other known health benefits from eating
meat from grass fed cows. Could it be that fat from ruminating animals,
designed to eat grass and roughage, becomes over loaded with cholesterol
when confined to a pen and stuffed with corn?
I spent a week in Mexico
talking to farmers, pecan and peach growers. They were complaining
that the US was shipping too much cheap corn into Mexico and was killing
the profits of their corn growers.
Let’s add up all these facts and look at the results.
1. The farmers are growing corn that has little to no market.
2. They are depleting an aquifer, which will deprive many small
towns of water.
3. They are forced to plant GMO seed.
4. They are forced to use herbicide.
5. Prevented, or at least not encouraged, to use better cover crops
to rebuild soil.
6. Fattening cows for food that could be bad for human health.
7. Helping to depress the economy of a neighboring country.
8. Causing more illegal immigrants to cross into this country.
9. Building the profits of a few, already super rich, companies
that don’t need it.
10. The US taxpayer is picking up the tab for all of it
There is a simple solution to this gross and complete violation of
Help the farmers become
ranchers. Turn all of that country back to rangeland which is its
Graze the animals as the
buffalo did and the HRM (holistic resource management) ranchers now
do. Pay the ranchers a bonus to build soil fertility with organic
matter through proper grazing. Then the grass-covered soil would trap
and hold more water from the scarce rainfall.
Then the small towns would
survive, The Ogallala would survive. The farmers turned ranchers could
stay on the land. The same number of animals as were in the feedlots
could now be naturally grass fed. The meat would be healthier. The
foul smell of the feedlots would go away. The pollution from the farm
chemicals and tractor exhaust would be stopped. The economy of a neighboring
country would not be hurt. Less illegal people would be tempted to
cross into this country.
Taxes collected from the
US citizens would not be subsidizing big companies such as grain movers
and brokers, pesticide companies, fertilizer companies, equipment
companies, insurance companies and others. The taxes saved could be
spent on more positive projects. The power and profits of a few big
powerful companies would be trimmed allowing smaller companies to