GRIT Guest Blogger Evan Blake Welch hails from Louisville, Colorado. After a year of learning and pizza throwing, he's back in GRIT-land showing off his newfound skills writing articles and helping out on the website and social media channels (catch him on our Twitter feed).
A few months ago I attended the Governor’s forum on Colorado agriculture, and while I am not nearly informed enough to provide real-time solutions, my gut told me something in the rhetoric wasn’t quite right. The politicians, while they mean well, are missing the mark when the target is to create a sustainable agriculture market in my opinion.
For most all farmers, no all farmers, money is always at the forefront of their minds when it is their main income flow. Without money there is no farm, there is no business, life cannot be sustained. It’s not all beautiful vistas and lemonade (though much of it is).The Colorado Agriculture Forum illustrated this point thoroughly. The interests of the speakers however were not at all uncompassionate, but the solutions for farmer poverty of that state were shortsighted and unsustainable to farmers, consumers and their land alike.
Talk of state population growth as a welcomed and celebrated funnel to fill empty bill pockets was one answer tossed around. Funny seeing how the forum was purportedly to revolve around sustainable agriculture methods and with concern to conservation practices. Toted and revered were new research on fertilizer and brilliant new antibiotics (note no time spent on prevention…more on this another time).
Let’s face it, the interests were not in the farmer’s or the consumers' favor when speaking of long-term effects. It was of no surprise that Monsanto was a major cash sponsor of the event. Until such monopolies are conquered, or if at all possible avoided, surplus monoculture will forever be a drag on the environment and to farmers so long as there is soil to till. The real issue is that no one was asking the right questions. The how was taken care of, but the why was left to rot next to the compost.
Populating the state will provide producers with more eager hungry buyers increasing revenue. The more mouths to feed the better off farmers should be. This is the how Governor Hickenlooper, demographer Elizabeth Garner and economist Martin Shields presented as a hopeful sign of future rural prosperity. This presents two problems. First it is the case that the farmer first to see his product will be no better off tomorrow as he is today regardless of higher production because of our current middle man government subsidy based system. Second, if creating a sustainable agricultural business is the end goal, population growth can’t possibly be considered. The pressure on soil would be tremendous through current methods with an increase in population. A business that depletes its limited production space in a relatively short time can’t sustain itself very long. Call me old fashioned but that logic just doesn’t jive.
Don’t get me wrong, creating a thriving business environment for farmers on a huge scale is an honorable and necessary goal to work towards, the problem, however, is that the increased population will further stress an already fringed American soil network.
Now what I want to know is why a business that will forever have loyal and ready-to-pay costumers (everyone has to eat) is in desperate need for more cash-flow to even keep afloat. Crops, I realize, are volatile and vulnerable to many ailments that can devastate a farmer, but through polyculture perhaps subsidies and other hindrances can be avoided.
Polyculture or monoculture, ag business will not thrive for long if population increase is the economic strategy. What a better strategy might look like I am not yet sure of. I look forward to hearing your responses to gain some alternative perspectives. Leave me a comment with your thoughts.