I have been studying sustainable agriculture fairly intensely the last several months. If you know the way most of the food you eat is produced, you can quickly see how unsustainable and undesirable it can be. I don't have time to go into detail, but the way most of our animals are raised in this country is unsanitary, inhumane and an environmental catastrophe. I'm not an environmentalist, but I do believe in stewardship--and the way we grow a lot of the food in our country is not good stewardship.
The irony of all this is that I'm working on a PhD in plant biology that has prepared me to go work for the ag-biotech companies like Monsanto and Syngenta. These companies are huge cogs in the gears of conventional ag. I'm probably not going to go work for those guys--but I still haven't figured out what I'm going to do instead, although I have LOTS of ideas.
Okay, now to the point of this post. I just finished reading this article by Joel Salatin. Joel is a sustainable ag farmer in Virginia and a real luminary in the movement. I love his books and his philosophy on farming and food. In the article he discusses how government regulations have interefered with just about every step in his development of a profitable and sustainable farm. He can't sell his neighbors farm products at his farm because that would make him a store--which means he needs restrooms, handicapped access, etc. The blame for these idiotic regulations that prevent entrepreneurs from developing alternatives to conventional ag can't be assigned to Democrats or Republicans. The whole system stinks. It makes me want to go out and vote for Ron Paul. I'm tired of the government "protecting" us from our own creativity and ingenuity. The latest regulation that will "protect" everybody is the National Animal Identification System that the USDA is trying to put in place. Essentially, it mandates that farmers label every farm animal in the United States--oh, but if you are a big producer it's easy because your animals are born, raised and slaughtered at one location so you don't have to label every animal. Also, you have to register your farm in a national database and report any movement of an animal off the farm within 24 hours. This is just one more regulation that could cripple small farmers. Anyway, there are lots of "stop the NAIS" websites out there if you want to learn more.
What can you do? We really need to think about where we buy our food and what our food dollars are supporting. We should consider buying our produce through local farmers markets or CSA's and our meat and eggs from local producers. What we don't need are more regulations or new laws--although phasing-out farm subsidies would be a good start. We need to vote with our dollars. That's my first agriculture rant. Don't worry, there will probably be more!