Charlie Johnson was the final speaker at the Midwest Farm Policy Forum held last month in Yankton, S.D. What this farmer stated should give all universities and farm organizations food for thought.
“The problems with family farming began when ‘we’ took the ‘farmer’ out of farming,” he said.
The early settlers in the Midwest discovered what the American Indians had known for many years. The earth and the sky display both beauty and power, and to work the land was a sacrifice and commitment.
Those early settlers built a foundation of rural communities for future generations. The legacy they left is a chapter of Americana, with those surviving on the land today as caretakers.
While anyone can own a farm, Johnson said he believes a true family farmer does all the labor and management and provides all the capital.
Johnson spoke of the three R’s of farming: risk, responsibility and rewards. Corporate farming takes none of the risks and reaps the rewards.
His solution is quite simple: Reverse reasons why farmers are unemployed. Return the livestock industry to family farmers.
He also suggests devising technology that rewards farmers, making them more productive and keeping the farming tools in their hands.
Rural communities need an impact statement about the effect technology has on the rural way of life. If we can’t keep our schools open, maybe it’s time Monsanto steps up to the plate and supports education. We can have Roundup-Ready soybeans or we can have high school students, Johnson said. “We can’t have both.”
This makes sense to me in light of diseases being transmitted and the general public now aware of the industrial agricultural practices.
Industrial agriculture creates a perverse logic. Instead of adapting a system to the animal, it adapts the animal to the system.
All CAFOs have the same unnatural system: animals being raised in confinement on concrete or other unnatural method, being fed materials they would not ordinarily eat (chicken waste being fed to beef). In a land of plenty, this smacks of greed, not efficiency.
Mad cow disease has created knowledgeable consumers questioning those practices that the Farm Bureau, Ohio State and other land grant universities hold near and dear.
Neighbors of CAFOs have suffered for years, now it is time too get the farmer, the true farmer, back into farming.
Our food will not only be safer, but also tastier.
What we have learned, sadly, is the USDA does not have a handle on this present crisis.
Mary G. Gibson