[Market-farming] the future of small farms

STEVE GILMAN stevegilman at verizon.net
Thu Feb 8 17:01:40 EST 2007

	Most likely the European model is just as non-sustainable as the  
U.S. one when it comes to agriculture. You can see where they're  
coming from, however -- there's nothing like experiencing repeated  
ravages of war and starvation on your own soil. The U.S. has never  
come close, but the European memory runs deep. A main response has  
been to do what it takes to support local and regional agriculture  
for the sake of the security of maintaining a national food supply.  
In many areas the farmers live in town because it would be foolhardy  
indeed to put houses on farmland and there are appropriate  
prohibitions. Of course we do that all the time here and the latest  
USDA stats show yet another decrease in land under cultivation.

	 Also, the U.S. has some of the largest subsidies in the world --  
averaging some $20 BILLION a year for the past 5 year Farm Bill. Over  
80% goes to big commodity crop farms -- corn, soy, cotton, wheat and  
rice. According to an incredible series in the Washington Post last  
fall, this dumps cheap food priced below the cost of production on  
economies here and around the world, putting smaller farmers out of  
business. Another article focused on a Houston surgeon who put a  
mansion on former hunk of rice land. He receives sizable annual  
subsidies because the subsidy runs with the land...

	In this country, farm programs were initially a response to ravages  
on our  own soil -- the Dust Bowl days and Great Depression. A  
primary response to the soil squandering practices of extreme over  
tillage combined with chemical fertilizers was outlined in the 1936  
Yearbook of Agriculture, authored by some of the preeminent soil  
scientists of the day. It reads like an organic manual, recommending  
soil organic matter building techniques, cover cropping, minimized  
tillage, etc. Since then, the farm programs have been captured by the  
industrial-scale agribusinesses that got big as the smaller farms got  
forced out. This year's farm bill negotiations may finally produce  
some beneficial changes in what eaters are willing to support, however.


On Feb 8, 2007, at 3:07 PM, market-farming-request at lists.ibiblio.org  

> From: Brigette Leach <avalonfarmshomegrown at earthlink.net>
> Subject: Re: [Market-farming] the future of small farms
> Before accepting the statement pertaining to European farms at face
> value, explore the means used by their governments to support small
> farms. While not labeled as subsidies in the same manner that we think
> of them here in the States, payments of many types are made  
> directly to
> farmers. For example, my husband visited a British wheat producer 3
> years ago who was paid the equivalent of $12,000 to put in a hedgerow
> and another $12,000 not to remove an existing one. Hence the good
> living. This is merely one example. There are many. Consider the Swiss
> dairy farmer who is paid to put bells on his cows because the practice
> benefits tourism. Not a subsidy, but also not generated directly from
> production practices. French farmers are limited to produce what the
> central government allows them to grow.
> European attitudes toward both land and food supplies are definitely
> different than here in the US. And they've made the connection between
> agriculture and tourism. Many European farmers live in town and not on
> their farms. If they live on the farm, changes in buildings and houses
> are closely monitored by their governments, and some types of new
> construction are restricted. The notion that each family, farm or non,
> needs a single family dwelling isn't as strongly ingrained as here.
> Recognize as well that changes in the EU in recent years have impacted
> policies and practices for all of European agriculture. Access to land
> in former Iron Curtain counties and changes in the workforce, e.g
> migrant workers, have had impacts both positive and negative. What  
> year
> was New Organic Grower published? If the quote isn't current within  
> the
> last couple of years...is it germane?
> Brigette
> Avalon Farms Homegrown
> www.avalonfarmshomegrown.com

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