Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gold, The Fed & Terrorism?

US Attorny Says Attempts To Use "Liberty Dollar" As Money Is Domestic Terrorism after Bernard Von Nothaus Found Guilty of Counterfeiting | CoinWeek

Interesting comments- 'clear and present danger to economic stability' I thought the Fed had that covered- perhaps the housing crisis, current recession, and recent events in Wisconsin slipped the court's mind. 

'to challenge the legitimacy of our democratic form of government'- perhaps, but recall the diseases of democracy the founders warned us about in Federalist 10: 

"A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project"

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Comment: Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

My comments on the NYT Opinionator post:

I'm not an expert on animal welfare, and I'm not sure that the laws in Iowa or Florida make sense. It would make better sense to legally require anyone that is aware of abuse to report it. i.e. if you are more interested in taking the time to create and edit a video as opposed to immediately reporting abuse, that should be a chargeable offense. It should also call into question your priorities about animal welfare. Animal welfare aside, one tradeoff that people are not often willing to admit is that the touchy feely, sentimental, emotional agriculture that they may prefer (free range, natural, etc.) isn't necessarily the most efficient or sustainable. Modern production methods that utilize green pharmaceutical and biotech technologies and efficient supply chains have a much lower carbon foot print are much more sustainable than often given credit for. The bigger story of the improved sustainability of modern agriculture in the last 10-2- years often gets lost in the drama created by stories like these, that often appear to be 'pro-family farm' and 'pro-sustainability' but ultimately support practices that undermine long term sustainability and the practices of most family farms.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

National Ag Week

"What I keep finding in case after case, if you follow the food back to the farm — if you follow the nutrients, if you follow the carbon — you end up in a corn field in Iowa, over and over and over again." -Michael Pollan

Today is National Ag Day, and this is National Ag Week.  It is a good time to point out, as Pollan’s quote unintentionally draws attention to, the spectacular fact that we can feed so many people in so many ways with just corn (and a few other commodities).  With modern agriculture, using green technologies brought to market by companies like Monsanto and efficient supply chains created by companies like Cargill and ADM, family farmers  can do this  sustainably using  fewer toxic chemicals, less water, less energy, and with a lower carbon footprint,  at an affordable price.

Today, have your coke and fries, steak and beer, or soy milk and salad, or whatever, but keep in mind the local producer and the modern sustaianable agricultural infrastructure that made it possible. And don't forget, agriculture makes up almost 20% of our national work force!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Do Farm Subsidies Benefit the Largest Farms the Most?

Most people contend that farm subsidies should be eliminated because they benefit mostly larger farms vs. saving the family farm. It's true that many subsidies are tied to commodity production. As a result, those that grow more commodities (i.e. larger farms) will get more money from the government. As a result larger producers take in a larger share of all subsidies (especially those related to commodities). However, subsidies account for a much smaller percentage of income for large producers, and make up a much larger percentage of total income for medium or small producers.

                                                  Definitions:        Commercial farms:  >=  $250,000
                                                                             Farms with sales < $250,000 include
                                                                                 1) Intermediate farms: full time operators
                                                                                 2) Rural residence farms

As the chart above (from the USDA) shows, in 2008 farms earning less than $250,000 /yr recieved a much greater percentage of their income in the form of government payments, while subsidies only accounted for 4% of income for producers with the largest incomes. The chart below indicates that this relationship seems to hold across years for the last decade.

USDA Report- Government Payments and the Farm Sector: Who Benefits and How Much?

USDA Report-Farm Income and Costs: Farms Receiving Government Payments

Modern Sustainable Agriculture is Not Descriminating

Last week I commented about an Environmental Working Group article that seemed to give the impression that women were more likely to be involved in or play a larger role sustainable agriculture. As I concluded, modern sustainable agriculture is driven not by gender, but by markets and technology.

If we take a more global view, far from discriminating, modern sustainable agricultural technology has increased economic mobility for women and the poor, especially in developing countries. Read the following from GM Crops: Engines of Economic Mobility, written by a small widowed farmer in the Philipines:

"Access to biotechnology has transformed my life. The increased productivity allowed me, as a widow, to send my three sons to college. I doubt this would have been possible without GM seeds. Women may have gained the most, according to a new study by the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. In India, cotton harvesting is traditionally a female activity. Since the introduction of GM cotton, women who pick in these fields have seen their income rise by 55 percent. “Overall, [GM] cotton enhances the quality of life of women through increasing income and reducing ‘femanual’ work,” said Arjunan Subramanian, a professor at Warwick. Men, for their part, spend less time spraying pesticides. This leaves them more available for family chores and activities."