Already Registered?      Or Please Register to Post a New Message

Login Register

Complete Message (link)

Recently, when I attended a meeting of the local Missouri Farm Bureau chapter, of whom I am a member, but whose policies I frequently do not agree with, I asked the assembly: Is there anybody here who doesn't live downstream or downwind of somebody else? Of course,nobody could respond in the affirmative and so I said , which environmental rules in particular do we not like when it comes to pesticide and fertilizer application, to run-off control etc.? Be careful what you wish for! It is easy to denigrate these kinds of rules, but when somebody , either intentionally or negligently, violates these rules and damage occurs, then we are suddenly reminded how important it is, that we have a common understanding what a good neighbor is. And since we all live downstream or downwind from other land owners,business and farm operators, even when they are many miles away , observance of environmental rules has a big impact .
By the way, can anyone tell me, why in this time of low commodity prices it makes any sense when bulldozers are tearing down entire hedges and flattening hills to produce more and accommodate ever bigger machines as I saw again the other day?

Redgate says 2017-04-06 16:53:52 (CST)

In my discussions with local farmers here in IL, their argument for the ever-increasing field space is that essentially, the lower the commodity pricing, the more desperate they become to expand. Their equipment/combine payments don't reflect the market price of the grain, and still have to be paid. The only way to make the payment is to increase the grain they harvest. I see it as a two-fold issue.....

First, the conventional farmer is stuck with minimal profit margins. Last I heard, the average farmer gets roughly $.05 for every $1 of retail, end sale. No farmer can live on that. If our society would encourage more direct-to-consumer sales, the farmer would then get 100% of that dollar to pay his expenses and still have some left over at the end of the day.

Second, in order for this to work, the farmer also needs to consider not growing as much commodity crop, and focus more on growing what his local community needs. That's a tough one, because many farmers only know what the generations before them did, or what the Farm Bureau and Monsanto teach. It's a conundrum, for sure, and change is scary.

I had a fun discussion with a conventional farmer-friend the other day. We were comparing expenses and profit margins of our small, sustainable, direct-to-consumer farm with her huge, conventional, grain farm. One question she asked was "I love the idea of selling out of our big equipment, getting rid of all the debt and loans, and even using horse-power. But, how on earth would we farm 3,000 acres of grain with horses? How many horses would I need?" To which I responded, "If you got rid of the debt and actually went to horse-power, why would you need to farm 3,000 acres? You could get rid of the $89,000 seed bill each spring. You could downsize to 300 acres or less! Use the rest to raise beef or something else!" It was fun watching the light-bulb come on in her head. Nonetheless, I have found it is very difficult for conventional farmers to think outside the only box they've ever known.

Certainly our type of farming--be it horse-power or just the small scale--doesn't appeal to everyone. I just enjoy helping others who feel trapped to learn that other options do exist.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Dusty 4R says 2017-04-06 20:27:57 (CST)

Klaus, to answer your question. They have to destroy everything in their path to produce more low price commodities ( the conventional market is swimming in corn and soybeans) because it's all they know and have known for a few decades now. So, more debt and bigger machines no matter what, even when there is no money in it. Watch the farm market shows on Sunday and they say corn farmers will plant corn , soybean farmers will plant soybeans and on and on. All the fences are out so there is little diversity on the farm nowadays. IMHO it will take a major catastrophe ( such a running out of water to be pumped) for people to change. We graze our place so we don't get caught up in that mess, but we also don't ask the government what we can or can't do, no programs. We seem to be holding steady with low inputs. It's a vicious cycle that conventional system, I agree with Gene Logsdon on many fronts.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Ralph in N.E.Oh says 2017-04-06 21:08:46 (CST)

Klaus , always something to think about after reading your posts. It's the same thing here in my area. The fields keep getting bigger and with them, so is the equipment. It seems like madness to me. I am so glad to have a small farm, horses to work it and the birds who sing on my field edges.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

BrianL says 2017-04-07 08:28:38 (CST)

I think it was Wendell Berry who said, "Do unto others downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you." We've come to dread "burn down season" as the euphemism goes to describe the time when industrial farmers do their chemical scorched earth of the soil so they get ready to plant. We have one neighbor that's very considerate of us and our animals. So much so that if I'm out working with my team they'll steer clear of our adjoining border. On the other hand, the field to the south is rented out and whoever farms there thinks it's OK to spray when the wind is out of the south at 30 mph sustained. This season, more farmers will be using Enlist, which is a mix containing 2,4-D, which is the same stuff in Agent Orange. Yes. That will kill those weeds. And a few other things. Although inevitably, the weeds will become immune to that, even if people can't.

The land use issue is insane. We've watched one nearby farmer cut down an entire 3/4 mile long wind break of trees because they were casting a shadow in the early morning light and, in his opinion, hampering his full growing potential. Putting aside all the benefits those trees offer (erosion prevention, pollinator habitat, etc.) I wonder if he really did the math to see how little he would gain financially if that narrow shaded strip increased productivity by 10%?

This may sound anathema, but I think part of the problem is farms in the US are too big. So someone who holds 3,000 acres in the corn belt feels the need to put it all to commercial use. But with the "break even point" for corn being $3.69/bushel (according to a recent survey) and corn trading at $3.60, the math isn't too hard. It's still losing money no matter how many acres you plant. Getting folks to change, especially those counseled by the chemical companies, USDA, and seed companies, is hard. But the current mindset of industrial agriculture is one of driving off a cliff. The only variable seems to be how hard they press the gas to get there.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-04-07 09:02:23 (CST)

My question, of course, was a rhetorical one. I watch the market shows and US- Farm report on RFD-TV, and it is pitiful to see the constantly recurring topic, what can we do but hope for bad weather or some other disaster to strike so that we get better prices. It is exactly as Danielle says, the row crop farmers are stuck in their way of thinking, and can only dream of a different way, but do not dare to go for it.( As a thought on the side, if you actually want to be a heavy machine operator, because you enjoy driving big machines over the field, you can disguise that addiction by farming!) Also, there is just too much land being farmed. If the row crop farming "community" were a community, they could see that if everybody strives for himself to have the highest yields, they all get hurt. Individualism turns out to be destructive when it is done in a conformist way. But it also can hurt even those who are not involved when it comes to application of pesticides and fertilizers. Any beekeeper, of whom my wife is one, can tell you about that.
The essence of all that is, if the row crop farmers thought outside the box they put themselves in, they wouldn't rejoice in fighting regulations (see the "Right to Farm" laws that they supported) but would instead work out agreements (aka rules) among each other that reduce the risks of flooding the markets with surplus. That would help their bottom line, decrease the pressure on the environment and make for healthier rural communities.
And as Danielle points out, farms wouldn't have to so big, allowing for more families to live on the land.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-04-07 09:37:41 (CST)

By the way, Dusty, the same that is happening in row crop farming is happening in the production of beef, pork and poultry. Whenever the individual farmer is setting his/her heart on maximum production instead of optimal production, and when a large enough number do that, all of them are being hurt. I am pretty sure, I do not have to illustrate that here with examples. It shows that unfettered capitalism is destructive to the whole and that is why we need agreements, i.e. rules. Bu we have to see to it, that these rules are set with the well-being of the whole community in mind, not the just the individual. The "pursuit of happiness" ends pretty fast in unhappiness if people only pursue their own goals without understanding or heeding the wider implications.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

K.C. Fox says 2017-04-07 09:52:41 (CST)

they need to get big so they can get a bigger farm program check. As the big farmers have all the nice things. I will quite now

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

BrianL says 2017-04-07 21:23:57 (CST)

A lot of the problem is rooted in the fact that industrial farms are growing a "commodity" (in the financial markets sense of the word) and not food. The real money being made on these crops is on Wall Street and not by the farmers growing them.

They say how the American farmer is "feeding the world." Somehow a diet of ethanol and soybean oil doesn't sound too nutritious. I think if you look hard enough, the farmers really feeding the world (especially in the developing world) are small farms.

They claim the average American farmer feeds 155 people world-wide. Well, if the average farm in America is 441 acres (according to US government numbers) that's not very efficient farming.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-04-08 08:26:08 (CST)

Brian, the average number 155 is simply the US population ( now we are at 320 mill) divided by the number of farms ( 2.1 mill). Some estimates go to 178 people fed by a US farmer. Self-evidently some farms feed a lot more people than others by their sheer size, but of course the number is flawed because no farm produces everything that people eat.
That kind of thinking and bragging with numbers is just another way to distract consumers and farmers alike from the unsustainable way most of the food is produced. I may quote myself here from earlier publications: " Food production based on nonrenewable energy not only destroys soil and farms, but has also raised totally unrealistic expectations on how many people the earth can sustainably feed in the long run". The commercials tell the farmer to " do all he can to maximize his yield and increase his bottom line" and " to protect what matters without changing the way you farm", because they want to sell their chemicals and machinery. The sellers of these products do not worry about the long term consequences, and sadly, since it temporarily makes farming easier many farmers do neither. The health consequences for farmers alone are increased chances for cancer or Parkinson's disease, to give just two examples, as a result to exposure to some of chemicals.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

HansN says 2017-04-08 10:10:54 (CST)

I agree with the most points made, but in my experience, direct marketing will work only for a (small) part of the farming industry. If your farm is located 500 miles from the next city, it simply won't work. If you are located in highly populated areas, it will work, but is a lot of time and hassle involved. I'm in the meat industry for 24 years and doing to a big part custom processing, I have seen what works under what circumstances and what not.
" I'm a farmer, not a salesman, I rather deal with cows then with customers, at least I can yell at them, when they're acting stupid!" That is a statement that I hear often from farmers that tried direct marketing...

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-04-08 21:04:31 (CST)

I started this thread with an emphasis on the importance of following good rules and inevitably we are discussing farming economy in general. And that with good reason: Because all along the path to where we are today common sense (overproduction and making commodities out of agricultural products lead to suppressed prices, increase fierce competition and push many farmers out) was thrown out the window in favor of industrialization, low prices on the surface (in reality with all the consequences seen together food isn't cheap) and sadly none of this was inevitable if guidelines and rules had been designed with the common good in mind. Common good here is understood as the well-being of all involved, the people on farms and in rural communities, the consumers, the farm animals, the land. They all have to be included in the considerations what good farming is.
One prophetic voice was H.Edgar Messerschmidt, who in 1954 wrote in the Belgian Review an article " Why We Farm With Horses", which he ends (since his emphasis was on the results of tractors replacing horses) with these words: .it is utterly ridiculous to suppose that men can be steadily employed in making machinery to throw other men out of work."

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

K.C. Fox says 2017-04-09 00:52:53 (CST)

I read A article in I think Nebraska Farmer about a dry land farmer in North Dakota he said his breakeven point on corn is $1.49 per bushel in 2013. that includes land, planting, harvesting, trucking cost and everything else. His proven dry land yield is 127 bushels per acre. the county's average yield is under 100 bushels per acre. And he does not use commercial fertilizers, fungicides, or insecticides. He has 2000 acres of cropland. watch video at I don't know anything about this as I am not a farmer.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

NoraWI says 2017-04-10 08:05:52 (CST)

Klaus said: "Common good here is understood as the well-being of all involved, the people on farms and in rural communities, the consumers, the farm animals, the land. They all have to be included in the considerations what good farming is."

The *common good* is never a consideration in a runaway capitalistic economy such as we have. Any consideration of the "common good" is viewed as *socialism,* which here equates to *communism,* which is viewed as "the devil at work." Is the "common good" considered in any aspect of life here? Education? Work? Investment? Why should farming be any different?

As to farming, I remember when in the 1960s Earl Butz, then Secretary of Agriculture, encouraged farmers to "plant from fenceline to fenceline" and buy more land and equipment, use more fertilizers and sprays on their crops. The result, as those old enough to remember will confirm, was that innumerable farmers went bankrupt throughout the Midwest, allowing acres and acres of good arable farmland to be swallowed up by corporate farms and speculators.

Yes, there should be more consideration of "the common good" because that is exactly what is lacking in all aspects of the U.S. today.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

BrianL says 2017-04-12 08:39:37 (CST)

What I find interesting is, at least via this forum, there seems to be consensus among folks on this and similar ideals despite what I perceive as a range of political views in the traditional sense. (i.e. Democrat versus Republican.) The fundamental belief of a "common good," with a focus on the local and the non-industrial/non-capitalist was/is a foundation of agrarianism. Perhaps, despite our differences on some politically charged topics, we have common ground on these fundamentally important ideals?

The primacy of the cultivation of the soil along with the pursuit of husbandry and shepherding over the mass production of material goods, the pursuit of an occupation which offers independence and self-sufficiency while sharing with your community out of a spirit of fellowship and cooperation, and a belief in a sense of identity that is tied to one's home place bringing with it a responsibility to the land in one's care. On these points I suspect we can all agree.

Perhaps this history of party politics in this country was designed not to unite us, but to divide us? Perhaps this is how industrial society works, by fragmenting its membership while proceeding to make "profit over people" the only mantra? Perhaps we who dissent would all be better served if, in sharing in these ideals of a common good, consider ourselves not Democrats or Republicans, but Agrarians?

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-04-12 19:51:55 (CST)

I am happy if we find a certain consensus on our topic, especially concerning "common good", although I am afraid if we talked the details we might run into some trouble, because it is always easier to refer to an umbrella term than to define it. For that we need channels: In a democracy or democratic republic these are usually parties. In this context I would like to bring here what I wrote for the Kansas City Star some time ago, for which I got some acclaim through e-mails and was encouraged by the paper to share it:
"Every day we are reminded of the deep political polarization in this country. Almost nobody though,seems to realize that such polarization is the logical consequence of our political system.
A de-facto two party system, with its winner-take-all mechanisms, and solidified by gerrymandering, does not invite open political discourse with the necessity of compromise. Instead, it makes either side hope and wait for the next victorious election. The Electoral College, with its possible misrepresentation of the real majority, does the rest.
As long as Americans are not willing to look at how other developed nations solve this and other societal problems, there will be the continuation of polarization ad nauseam."
In other words, even if called ourselves Agrarians within the present political landscape of two dominating parties, as polarized as they and the majority of their followers are, we couldn't come closer to a a policy of common good.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

BrianL says 2017-04-12 22:29:36 (CST)

Klaus, I'm talking about something beyond, or at least outside, the rigid framework of our current (polarized) two-party political system. To be an Agrarian doesn't mean rigid adherence to an all-encompassing, full platform position on every conceivable issue. To do so in many ways would prove counterproductive. In fact, while there is a clear historical line of agrarian thought tracing back centuries, one can safely say that there are very divergent thoughts and actions that fall under this broader definition.

Obviously, there are some fundamental points to agrarianism and I think most of this group could find common agreement to support this framework of principle. That said, one does not need to agree on everything to get along and act cooperatively for what consensus would assuredly agree to as the common good. Furthermore, this broader framework establishes things in a way that allow community, neighborliness, and good stewardship to take their rightful place above that of contemporary political identity and acts as a counterbalance to the prevailing rot of industrial society that seeks to undermine the values of a rural, agrarian society.

While many writers have offered thought in this tradition, this summary is quite astute:

"Opposed to the industrial society is the agrarian, which does not stand in particular need of definition. An agrarian society is hardly one that has no use at all for industries, for professional vocations, for scholars and artists, and for the life of cities. Technically, perhaps, an agrarian society is one in which agriculture is the leading vocation, whether for wealth, for pleasure, or for prestige – a form of labor that is pursued with intelligence and leisure, and that becomes the model to which the other forms approach as well as they may. But an agrarian regime will be secured readily enough where the superfluous industries are not allowed to rise against it. The theory of agrarianism is that the culture of the soil is the best and most sensitive of vocations, and that therefore it should have the economic preference and enlist the maximum number of workers." -Donald Davidson (1930)

As for your writings on political parties in the US, James Madison did an exemplary job of arguing against political parties in the Federalist Papers. It seems he was quite prescient.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

vince mautino says 2017-04-12 22:57:34 (CST)

I have tried to stay out of this for fear of arguments.However, I take issue with several remarks. Not all big farms are capitalist/communist. That is slur to many farmers out here in the west.Those big machines make it possible or a family of 3-4-to farm and not hire farm labor. Many, don't till road to road, but leave corners of pivots for wildlife and other conservation measures..Most are members of local soil /water conservation districts. They have tail water pits for water runoff. Every other year, a field is usually left fallow to gather water,so only about 60% of that land is being farmed each year. The new machines can keep track of the exact amount of fertilizer that is needed. No till implements are used now days, so the plowing/discing that let what little topsoil is out here blow away isn't done anymore. They worry just as much about their land as the 300 acre farmer in the east.

In the cattle Industry, it takes 30-35 acres as a minimum for cow calf per year. So to run 100 cows,you need 30,000 acres.To grow forage, you don't get he 40 bales an acre , more like half that,so it takes more land to grow that and bigger and more efficient machines to cover that much round. In eastern Co,there are only private grazing leases and they don' t come cheap

To believe that thousands of small farmers doing business with a local community could feed all in the U.S. alone is ludicrous and not reality.

In eastern Colorado,I know several big farmers.They are not pawns for ConAG ,Cargill,etc.They are honest, hardworking salt of the earth families much like folks on here. Maybe capilist trying to make a buck,but certainly not communist. I'd call everyone of them good neighbors and would be proud to have them as neighbors

To use broad brush and classify such as has been done, goes against the very rules of this forum of attacking someone personally,only this is a group.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-04-13 08:57:34 (CST)

Vince, I do not think that anybody in this discussion has attacked big farms per se. It is quite obvious that different soil and climatic conditions require different size of operations. That applies primarily to ranching operations. But it is also obvious that growing row crops should first of all be done in those areas where soil and climate are conducive and that these kind of operations, the bigger they are,have an impact on the environment and rural communities by the way they have to be run due to their size. We have discussed that here on the Front Porch before. While you are right that with the present number of small farms left we can't feed the nation, it is not ludicrous to assume that if we had many more small farms the job could be done. Small farms may not be as efficient per man hour in their production, but it is proven that small farms generally produce more in income AND agricultural goods per unit of land, and that's where it counts.
Brian, parties are here to stay , we have to understand , though, that in our present system they lead to stagnation due to their antagonistic mechanisms. In a system that represents the people' s political will proportionally, you likely get more parties, nobody gets an absolute majority, and therefore has to look for partners, which means they have to be open to dialog and compromise. More people have more ideas, these will need to be taken seriously and be discussed, and have a chance to be put into action. The history of the USA shows exactly that agrarian ideas went down the political drain because they were only marginal ones and were not viable within the two opposing parties.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Dris Abraham says 2017-04-13 09:26:24 (CST)

I agree Vince. There is a big difference on the west side of the big river. It takes alot of land out here. Its a minimum of 10 acres for a draft mare and colt. I farm and pasture a huge amount now. I am not a big shot I just have great neighbors and picked the perfect place to pracrice my craft. My neighbors are hard working, salt of the earth folks who are not beholden to anyone except family and neighbors.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Redgate says 2017-04-24 09:07:08 (CST)

I have lived all over the U.S., and everyone is a "conservationist" and land steward in their own minds. Out west, farmers/ranchers have seen the result of desertification, and many are doing their dead-level best to stop it on their farms. East of the river, where grass and top soil are still plentiful, most farmers hardly give it a second thought, with many making the same mistakes as their ancestors. Big or small is not the point. Stewardship and methodology is. You could call hubby and I extremists in the sense that our goals and mindsets are to be as organic, self-sufficient as possible, using our land to produce as much food as possible. We practice sustainable permaculture, no-till, are implementing cover cropping, building berms and ponds for water retention (while other farmers are tiling to remove water), and so forth. We attend sustainable permaculture farming events, where you could say that, frankly, every party line and personal belief co-mingle. As, I think it was Joel Salatin, once said, this type of farming, and these events brings all sorts together.....the liberals and the conservatives, the Christians and the atheists. We all care about the land to some extent. The foundational belief behind it often weighs our we worship the creation or the Creator? Level of education (and not necessarily schooling in this case) will also be a determining factor in just how farming is done. A farmer will never be perfect, but I am happy to see one growing and adapting, as he constantly tries to improve and make the animals, the people, and the land healthier.

2 years ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

forum rules icon

Forum rules
Read these first

forum monitor icon

Uncle Joe
Forum Moderator

Search forum
Search the forum ARCHIVE

Banner Ads

Available on-line
Rural Heritage
The June | July 19
edition of Rural Heritage
is now available at
Tractor Supply Stores
throughout the US.
Check out a preview in our Reading Room.

calendar icon
Rural Heritage
Calendar of Events
Home of the webs most
extensive Draft Horse, Mule &
Oxen Calendar of Events.

Wagons for Warriors
Traditional chuck wagons
parade, cook & serve
cowboy fare to raise
money for US Vets

Visit RFD–TV for the
Rural Heritage scheduled
times in your viewing area.
  • Copyright © 1997 − 2019 Rural Heritage
    Rural Heritage  |  PO Box 2067  |  Cedar Rapids, IA 52406
    Telephone (319) 362-3027

    This file last modified: Aug 13, 2018.

    Designed by