Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Who Dies?

I was reading the Ohio Country Journal this morning and read an article by Les Anderson at the University of Kentucky that sure expresses my life long sentiment. Who decides who dies?

It surely isn't the American Farmer who busts his tail producing the cheapest and best source of food in the world. It surely isn't Francis Childs who grew the best corn I ever saw in this picture. It sure wasn't me or any farmer I have met.

Why would we work in a profession that harms us let alone or fellow man? It never happened and isn't going to.

"Working in an academic environment is interesting for an "aggie". I grew up in the middle-of-nowhere Missouri on a family farm. My father worked his rear end off every day trying to forge a living from the soil; both crops and forage. Life was tough and we didn't have any "extra spending money". Life was also good and I wouldn't have traded my childhood for any other.

My background and love for agriculture makes my life a bit stressful today. Agriculture is under attack. We have the cheapest and safest food supply in the world; yet, our society seems to take exception to our methods of production. The media constantly bombards the public with "factory farm" concepts, mistreatment of animals, and how our current methods of agriculture are destroying the environment. The current trends in "thought" from the national media are that agriculture needs to return to its roots with the production of more "organic" foods and more "sustainable" methods of production. Many universities seem to support these ideas. Is there anything wrong with organic/alternative methods of agriculture?

No, I support any method farmers can use to help improve their profitability. But alternative methods of production most often reduce productivity. Basically, the prevailing theories seem to indicate that the world would be better off if we would go back to the methods of production in the 1940's, 50's and 60's. Hmmm. Let's think about this for a minute.What will happen if we do return to the levels and methods of production from that era of agriculture?

Without the use of current methods of production, our ability to produce food will drop 50-60%. As Dr. Burris indicated in the previous article, one mechanized farmer in the 1960's could feed about 29 people whereas today's farmer can feed 129 people. The population of the world in 1960 was about 3 billion people, and today is nearly 7 billion people. What will happen if we return to the production levels of 1960? What will happen to food prices when availability decreases?

Currently, the US population spends the least amount of their yearly income on food than any country in the world. How many people could afford milk if the price went to $7 per gallon? How would your spending change if you had to use 30-40% of your salary to just cover food? According to the USDA, only 19 countries in the world spend less than 20% of their income on food; only 4 spend less than 10%.

If your food costs doubled, could you pay your mortgage, car payments, or go on vacation?Finally, what is nature's method of population control? Starvation. If we reduce the food supply, who suffers? Where will we get the food we need to survive? The Chinese have already stated that they will fight for food. Will you? A limited food supply will support a limited population. Who decides who dies?

Source: Dr. Les Anderson, Beef Cattle Specialist, University of Kentucky

That expresses the ag sentiment very well. Kyle and Matt and crew do a good job of reporting these things as well as all of my ag reporting friends. Kyle wrote and editorial on The USDA's report of what it costs to raise a child now, $222,000. Now that takes into account the house and expenses a couple would have anyway but raising a family does take all your energy and ability to make money, no doubt.

We have a vested interest here because we have six children and grandchild number eight is coming in October. We have all done everything in our power to do it right. Our farm roots run deep and it shows in our family. I am very happy about that but all we hear, too often, is the plight of the people due to their own stupidity. Ignorance can be fixed but stupid is forever.

Who decides who dies? You better ponder that one real closely!

Ed Winkle

Alice Musser at NoTill Farmer sent me a new video from Great Plains on how they will help meet the growing need for food with their new twin row planting system. It looks good across the country where I have seen it. At least this video is interesting and addresses the issue I discussed today.

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