Friday, September 14, 2012

A call to re-think the farm bill, with climate change in mind

This op-ed, published today in the New York Times, calls on Congress and the Senate to pass a one-year farm bill to essentially tide farmers over while these legislative bodies go back to the drawing board to come up with a new farm bill strategy, one that adequately accounts for intensive production agriculture's role in environmental degradation, including climate change.  Written by Mark Herstgaard, a fellow of the New America Foundation and author of Hot:  Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth, the piece hits hard on industrial agriculture's contributions to global warming:
[B]y some estimates, [industrial agriculture] accounts for roughly a third of emissions globally.  the industrialized, meat-heavy food system of the United States, takes a heavy toll on the atmosphere; it takes an enormous amount of fossil fuel to run farm equipment and harvest the mountain of corn that fatten livestock.  And most fertilizers contain nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 298 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a century.
Herstgaard also offers science-based critiques of monocultures and the heavy use of chemical fertilizers that kill microorganisms that ventilate the soil and help keep it healthy.  He blasts both the Senate and House versions of the bill, both of which create perverse incentives to plant fence-row to fence-row, exhaust the land, and cause greater water run off--all while sticking tax payers with the bill by subsidizing crop insurance.  (Read more on some of these issues in a June post).  The main difference between the two chambers' versions, Herstgaard notes in just a parenthetical, is that the latter would cut food aid to the poor.

This story was one of the ten most emailed stories on about 24 hours after it was published.

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