When our sale of raw goat’s milk depended on Yuppie couples driving out to our farm fifty miles southwest of Houston the “invisible hand” of desperation slapped me upside the head with my MBA diploma. Granted, I was not an honor, or even a near honor graduate of Case Western Reserve’s Weatherhead school of business but Anala Goat Company’s on-the-farm sales of $200/week versus a $500/week feed bill foretold, a future going-out-of-business sale. Maybe with a catchy tagline e.g. “Had Milk.”
Shelby, the CPA Systems Analyst brains of the outfit, had already poured money, not milk, into building the dairy, buying the goats, dogs, cows, the land and equipment in order to obtain a Grade ‘A’ Raw Dairy License. In addition to rigorous monthly testing of our product, the Texas Department of Health limited sales to on-the-farm only. The delivery of raw dairy to retail stores, farmers’ markets, or even door-to-door was subject to all kinds of bad things like revoking our license.
Over a double stack order of nachos and fajitas, I asked myself, “what would Gandhi do?” He said, mirror my ‘Salt March to the Sea’ by occupying the Houston Farmers’ Market. I learned at Case Western to look to Harvard Business School case studies for further guidance. Of course, I found zippo raw goat’s milk case studies but Gandhi’s protest of England’s Salt Tax led me to the Boston Tea Party’s, “taxation without representation” caper.
I admit, even as an architect, it was a challenge to connect salt and tea tax revolts to barriers to entry of off the farm sales of raw milk. After all, our neighbors trucked that nasty arugula and okra to the market, waving their ‘organic’ cred banners.
My third data point was the 1920 Prohibition Act.
Prohibition in the United Stateswas a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beveragesthat remained in place from 1920 to 1933.
The sale of raw dairy has been Prohibited since 1912 to the present day. California never eliminated raw dairy from retail stores. Texas, Oregon and five other states allow on-the-farm sales only. I joined the Weston Price Foundation, listed analagoatcompany.com on their website www.realmilk.com and setup my 10 x 10 tent on Saturdays at the Houston Farmers’ Market.
Why pay this guy $15 for a gallon of milk when you can go to Wal-Mart and grab a Great Value jug for just $2.89? Truth is you need his raw – not pasteurized, not homogenized – goat’s milk more than he needs your money.
My Houston Farmers’ Market buddie, Bob Stryk http://texascheese.com/ and I were the two Raw Milk vendors at the market, until a knucklehead board member turned us in to the Texas Department of Health. Even though we were both visited monthly by Vince, the State inspector, our grade “A’ raw dairy license was limited to on-the-farm sales. My farm to market trip was fifty miles up the Southwest freeway. Bob’s sixty head of Jerseys grazed on his 310-acre farm 8 miles past Schulenburg, a 100 miles west out I-10.
After our eviction, I bailed and shortly thereafter moved to China, while Bob relied on ‘drops’ at friendly driveways in Katy and Sugarland. At the market we charged $10/gal. Today, Stryk’s at the farm price was listed at $7.50/gal. That’s fresh raw Jersey cow milk, not pasteurized, not homogenized, pure not-adulterated, 100% digestible nutrient dense butter, cream, yogurt, milk and cheese.
The raw milk movement (the largest form of civil disobedience in America) is led by Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures in Fresno, California. Raw milk can be purchased legally on the farm and more importantly in stores. Organic Pastures’s raw milk, butter, kefir, cheddar, cream, and yogurt is available in over 200 stores in the Bay area alone, including Whole Foods. Brace yourselves, the fresh grass-fed 100% organic milk goes for $12.00/gal.
Why pay the guy at the top $15for a gallon of milk? He’s selling raw goat’s milk the closest thing to mothers’ milk – any species of mammal, save Flipper the dolphin, can thrive and survive on goat’s milk – but works harder than Stryk and McAfee. Their cows have four teats pumping out 8-10 gallons a day versus two teats and one gallon for the goat.
Early in my goat farming career I bought 6,000+ pounds of goats from a scalper named Floyd Thompson in neighboring Higgins, TX. – At the age of twelve, Will Rogers ran away from his Oklahoma home to Higgins to learn how to be a cowboy. – I agreed to pay 80 cents a pound for Floyd’s 68 rag-tag collection. We drove truck and trailer to the grain silo for an empty weigh-in and returned an hour later for the loaded tally. Wrote a $5,000 check from Shelby’s account and started my two-month saga to resell those puppies for at least 85 cents a pound.
For my first attempt I set-up shop on the highway outside Booker complete with a chain-hook scale. Three hours later $20 bucks for one lousy 20lb. goat sold to a Mexican slaughterhouse worker. Next try was a six pack at the Dodge City livestock auction for a whopping 75 cents a pound. A week later it was the same story at El Reno, the auction west of Oklahoma City, where scalper Floyd had purchased most of the sorry critters weeks before.
Before embarking on another furtive sales venture my goat buddy from up-the-road in Slapout, OK – called Slapout because when the general store was out of stock their response was, “sorry we’re slap out.” – Danny Nord, claimed that slaughter goat buyers wanted ‘wethers’ or neutered ‘billies.’ Taking out his pocket knife he performed the surgery on ten ‘billies’ who post op, laid around the pen with sorrowful facial expressions. Four subsequently failed to survive the experience. Dead goats brought zero cents thereby adding to my cost of goods sold.
It was then suggested that I try selling the remaining stock at the sheep & goat auctions in Texas. Goldthwaite was the closest, seven hours straight south of Follett. Friday afternoon the deed was done, 75 cents for the motley ones and 85 cents for those showing Boer blood influence. When I got home to total all the damage I had sold my collection of hand me down goats for an average of 70 cents on the dollar. Of course the diesel fuel, chicken fried steak and cheeseburger lunches were not included. However, sale barn, livestock auction cuisine beats the truck stop any day.
You would think that like Adam Smith, the father of Economics who gathered his wisdom of the law of supply and demand at the Glasgow, Scotland sheep auction, I had learned my lesson. But after Shelby and I relocated the Anala Goat Company to Kendleton, TX, 50 miles southwest of Houston I became incentivized by the West African need for $1.25/lb. billy goats. Mrs. Kettler and her husband had over 200 Nubian goats on two acres in Waco, TX. They were a legend in Texas dairy goatdom for selling $7/gal. raw goat’s milk to David Koresh and his Branch Davidians. The ATF put an end to Mrs. Kettler’s number one customer and to top it off Mr. K, who did all the milking by hand, died.
The opportunity to purchase 40 of the best Nubian breeding stock billies for only a dollar a pound, was too much to resist. Borrowing another $5,000 check from Shelby, I loaded those bad boys up in Waco and drove straight back to the Nigerian chop shop in Houston. Woe is me the deal was off, that $1.25/lb. was good for the Christmas rush, and no longer applicable in January especially since Africans don’t celebrate the Super-Bowl.
Dairy goats in general are docile. Does for sure, Bucks not so for sure but Nubian Bucks are the noisiest, rowdiest, most obnoxious breed known to man. Now, Anala Inc. had forty of them in our backyard. Accidents, described as self-punishment in Louise Hay’s book Heal Your Body came to mind when I fed Shelby’s English Mastiff in the barn stall and all forty bad boys rushed in. The Mastiff sunk his two bicuspids into my thigh muttering under his fangs, “that’s for squandered five grand on ill-gotten ventures.”
Because Allah, like God, protects children, drunks and architects, I was spared from complete failure by my Palestinian goat vendor in Katy, who needed two-tooth billies for the Eid al-Fitr festival celebrated by Muslims around the world, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Alhamdulillah, in 2002 Eid was in February. Eid al-Fitr in Arabic literally means “festival of breaking the fast” and back then it meant saving my ass.
After, the Houston Islamic community had opened every Nubian’s mouth to verify that they were two-toothed yearlings they accepted 39 of the four legged devils. One, the prettiest, had a limp and went home with me. Later, swept up in the biblical sense I branded the dappled fawn colored boy buck, Joseph “coat of many colors.” Although, the Palestinian paid me the over a barrel price of $1/lb. I eventually sold Joseph for $500.
You see, Juan Valdez – he looked like a Juan Valdez, only taller – came out to our farm as the Goat Marketing Rep of the Texas Department of Agriculture and inquired about the handsome “coat of many colors” Joseph. “Did you get that buck from Mrs. Kettler?”
Yes, I did.
“That’s great cause she raises the best Nubians in Texas.”
I wondered if the Muslims thought they tasted good too?
At the end of my 400 days and 400 nights of selling goats door to door, I was convinced that a dollar a pound was a good price for any goat as long as it was still alive. Shelby, the CPA Systems Analyst brains of the analagoatcompany.com begged to differ and sent me and Rudy, my polka-dancing Czech-American goat buddy neighbor, off to San Angelo to deliver a dozen or so of our full blood Black Boer goats for $11,000 COD.
The COD part turned out to be a bad check but Rudy and I got to tour the Producers Livestock Auction, where every Tuesday 4,000 goats and 6,000 sheep are auctioned off. Ali the Turk is the big buyer of sheep and goats in Texas. On Mondays, he’s in Junction, Tuesday he’s front and center in San Angelo, he ends his work week buying for the East Coast ethnic market on Fridays in Goldthwaite. He has his purchased sheep and goats loaded on four level cattle trucks for deliver to New Holland, Pennsylvania.
There are three million goats, six million sheep and 100 million cows in America and 80% of those live in Texas. Save for a couple hundred thousand in Dallas and Houston, the hardcore caprine eaters live in the New York, New Jersey area. Ali either sells direct to a slaughter house or is forced to re-auction them off in New Holland. As Adam Smith and I learned livestock auctions are the Real World of price discovery.
No longer in the goat business per se I’m still interested in economics and especially the value of my fixed income dollar. I was on a jet plane to Rio on August 15, 1971 when the flight was grounded in Panama because Nixon closed the ‘Gold Window.’ At the time I thought that was cute. My 1955 Social Studies teacher claimed the dollar was only worth 35 cents, in 1971 it was 25 cents and after Greenspan and Bernanke less than a nickel. I thought the great Satan Greenspan was having an Adam Smith moment when he recently touted the 1913 (when a dollar was a dollar) economy and a return to the gold standard.
I don’t know how much a goat was worth in 1913 or 1971 but in 2001, I know all too well. As of Wed Aug 10, 2016 according to the USDA Market News, an 80lb. wether – A bellwether is literally the lead sheep or goat wether that wears a bell – got $2.22 – $2.42 a pound or almost $200 at the San Angelo, Producers Livestock Auction.
If Ali was forced to sell his goats at the New Holland sale barn in Pennsylvania on Mon Aug 15, 2016 he would receive a whopping $3.15 – $3.25/lb. or $250 for an unsubsidized, brush grazed, ruminant friend of the environment.
A Return to the Goat Standard says that inflation from a dollar a pound in 2001 to $3.00/lb. 15 years later in 2016 is close to 8% per year. Another way, the current price of our 80lb. wether in 2001 dollars is $2.18 the law of supply and demand at work.
Corn was $2.00/bushel for ever until the Ethanol subsidy goosed it up to $7.00/bushel in 2012 with the subsidy curtailed we’re back to $3.70 in 2016, which is still 40 cents a bushel higher than the 2001 price. The big big problem for the corn producers is their need for $5.37/bushel just to break even.
The cattle price when I was in high school was 20 cents a pound but then a dollar was only worth 35 cents. Cows in Nixon’s 25 cent dollar era went for $0.28/lb. Cattlemen aren’t doing too well these days at $1.32/lb. for the less than a nickel Federal Reserve economy translates to $0.22/lb. in Nixon dollars and $0.15/lb. in my high school years. Unlike goats, cows like alfalfa, feedlot corn and expensive anti-biotics to stay alive long enough to get to the auction. A mid-west farmer puts the cows and corn fiasco this way:
“Come on you guys just look around. I take a road trip every few years across America. Sometimes I cross the northern part of the country. Sometimes south. A few years (2008-11) ago I saw corn in every 3 cornered 3-acre patch of ground for a thousand miles. This year (Feb 2016) I saw cattle in every 3 cornered 3-acre patch. I no longer raise corn or cattle because I grew weary of mine and your predilection to produce ourselves into bankruptcy. If we could get the government out of agriculture, we would probably be ok. Get rid of all subsidies and I do mean all! Then we can let the market settle itself. Forget ethanol and CRP programs. We really don’t need them. The government does. Maybe the next regime will get out of our way…? Until then I will continue digging ditches.”
A Return to the Goat Standard or the Gold Standard as Greenspan calls it, is the only way to stop the Federal Reserve, Obama, Hillary etal. from taking our currency to infinity and beyond. Here is Nixon’s Gold Window fairy tale.
Gold should be $10,000/oz. to conform to amount of digital money that has been pumped into the world economy. It has been suggested that the US Treasury offer $5,000/oz. for gold to bring Nixon’s temporary solution to an end. If not Ali will be forced to pay $625/lb. for an 80 pound wether in San Angelo, Texas. A $50,000 goat sounds like a fair price to me but then what do I know.
“If we went back on the gold standard and we adhered to the actual structure of the gold standard as it existed prior to 1913, we’d be fine. Remember that the period 1870 to 1913 was one of the most aggressive periods economically that we’ve had in the United States, and that was a golden period of the gold standard. Between 1870 and 1912, a period of forty-two years, industrial production in the United States rose by 682%.
“The only time the American farmer made money was from the end of the Civil War to WWI.”
The United States actually did not return to a gold standard until 1879. However, by 1870, most of the rubble of the Civil War, including the floating “greenback” dollar, had been cleared up. However, the American farmer no longer had to compete with slavery and started receiving ‘hard currency’ for his production.
Adam Smith, the forefather of all economists including Alan Greenspan, wrote in his 1776 Econ 101 text book, Wealth of Nations, that
“Agriculture, the Produce of the Land, is the SOLE or the PRINCIPAL Source of the Revenue and Wealth of every Country.”
Smith further states the four factors that destroy and degrade “agriculture, the sole source of wealth and revenue of every nation.”
Soil Husbandry:“the neglect of cultivation and improvement”
Subsidies & Tariffs: “the fall in the real price of any part of the rude produce of land”
Farmer Inputs: “the rise in the real price of manufactures”
Devalued Dollar: “the declension of the real wealth of the society”
All four tend to “lower the real rent of land, to reduce the real wealth of the landlord, to diminish his power of purchasing either the labor, or the produce of the labor of other people.”
The defrocked Central Banker, Alan Greenspan, whose easy-money policies of the Fed during his 1987-2006 tenure that have been suggested by some to be a leading cause of the subprime mortgage crisis, wants us to go back to the gold standard NOW!
Aspirational career options for an ENFP on the Myers-Briggs personality test, were architect at the top and farmer at the bottom. After thirty years of very limited success trying to make my fame and fortune as an architect I gave farming a shot. My ten year goat farmer experience taught me how to survive and thrive as a member of the 98.5% Everyone Else proletariat.
My second wife and mother were both Aquarians, someone born between January 20 and February 19th. “Aquarians know too much about everything, which is a blessing and a curse.” They are like the teacher that knows all the right answers and everybody else are the students each with different levels of understanding. Fortunately for America, Abraham Lincoln was an Aquarian and held fast to his belief, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
“Bloom where you are planted,” was my Aquarian wife’s mantra, her truth, her philosophy of life. It was one of the first cross stitch patterns she completed. She had it framed and intentionally hanging on the wall in our bathroom, as a daily reminder. I didn’t pay much attention or think much of it until we bought nine hectares of land, with a barn, in the countryside, 50 miles southwest of Houston. The acreage 150 years ago belonged to a plantation that was sold to the slaves that had been freed by that earlier Aquarian, Abraham Lincoln.
Shelby, my ENTJ Aquarian wife and livestock farming visionary, chose this location because it was the cheapest real estate in the Metropolitan Houston area. ‘Race’ was the major cause for the low cost of land, Shelby and I, were the only white people in this poor farming community, surrounded on all sides by 3rd generation Czech farms and businesses. Except for the Post Office, all grocery stores, gas stations, or anything you wanted to buy stores, were in the adjacent villages of Needville, East Bernard and Wharton. We didn’t care, we were there to raise dairy goats, not show horses. We were there to, bloom where Shelby planted us and blooming meant joining the 3% income crowd. In 2001 that number was $150,000 ($200,000 in 2016 dollars).
Today, you need a $250,000 annual income to escape the maddening Everyone Else club. Wherever we are planted from Bangladesh to Boston, three percent is the magic number to be a player, but as in Las Vegas, the house odds guarantee that only two percent make it to financial independence. Half of those two per-centers never had to sweat it as they were born rich. George ‘W’ and Trump got their two per-cent creds at birth, while Obama and Hillary chose the Elected Officials route to Financial Independence.
I literally, slept in the barn, with fifty goats for a month until Shelby found a forty-foot park trailer in the “Thrifty-Nickel,” that we called home in our first “down on the farm,” year. Although we planted ourselves in October 2000 we didn’t start to blossom until six years, later. That was a very long, long time and at least, a half million, pre Bush-O-Bama dollar investment. Only, an all-knowing Aquarian could find the funds, patience and resources to endure such a long growing season, two years longer than honest Abe took to free the slaves.
Shelby had carried with her, “Five Acres to Independence,” since high school, after university, she added “Your Money or Your Life” as her guide to financial independence.
Shelby and Abe are no longer with us and I have re-potted myself two, three and four times since ending my farming career to enjoy the expat lifestyle in Antalya, Turkey where “everyday is truly a holiday and every meal a banquet.” Unfortunately, I am still dependent on my PGBC pension and SSA income to continue endow my life of Riley retirement.
Seeds of discontent, aka worry, started sprouting when I began gambling on Binary Options to supplement my endangered entitlements income source. The good news, after three years of practice and six months for real, I’m at break-even status. The bad news, the more I learn about money the scarier it gets. Five and a half days a week five trillion dollars changes hands in the world currency market. That doesn’t include my daily $1 wager at https://marketsworld.com/ because binary options are derivatives, bets on what the real money traders are betting.
My real worry is that the Central Bankers today’s Monarchs and the Bankers, the Landed Gentry of yore, don’t have a clue on what to do about the global economic situation. Remember when Alan Greenspan said that:
“his whole intellectual edifice had been destroyed?”
As an architect I tried to get the Corporate Elite to hire The Austin Company to design, engineer and construct their production facilities. This came to be an ever increasing challenge as manufacturing – Austin’s 100 year-old bread and butter market – moved overseas. China took the company’s bread and butter away and following bankruptcy and my pension was salvaged by the PGBC. Our Central Bankers, Bankers, Top Bureaucrats and even our Top Professional financial analysis say that the PGBC and SSA are broke. However, the scariest scary is our Elected Officials telling us, “not to worry about it.”
New Zealand is reputed to have the most open agricultural markets in the world after radical reforms started in 1984 by the Fourth Labour Government stopped all subsidies.
“In 1984 New Zealand’s Labor government took the dramatic step of ending all farm subsidies, which then consisted of 30 separate production payments and export incentives. This was a truly striking policy action, because New Zealand’s economy is roughly five times more dependent on farming than is the U.S. economy, measured by either output or employment. Subsidies in New Zealand accounted for more than 30 percent of the value of production before reform, somewhat higher than U.S. subsidies today. And New Zealand farming was marred by the same problems caused by U.S. subsidies, including overproduction, environmental degradation and inflated land prices.”
New Zealand is in third place on the Wall Street Journal’s Economic Freedom list. Since, Hong Kong and Singapore are city-states not agrarian power houses, the Kiwi’s are the top of the line. Oh, the United States? America is in 12th place and dropping.
As New Zealand is a large agricultural exporter, continued subsidies by other countries are a long-standing bone of contention, with New Zealand being a founding member of the 20-member Cairns Group fighting to improve market access for exported agricultural goods.
What happened after they cut the chord, nothing but good. 6% annual increase in productivity and agriculture as a percentage of GDP went from 14 to 21%. Notice Australia is number five on the WSJ chart and number two of OEDC countries regarding agricultural subsidies.
The report shows Australia has a producer support estimate of 3 per cent, making it the second lowest in the OECD, and the third lowest in the report. The OECD average is 19 per cent and of the 47 countries in the report the average is 17 per cent.
Today, data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that farm subsidies in New Zealand represent just 1 percent of the value of farm production, which compares to 11 percent in the United States. That 11 percent is times the $900,000,000,000 US Ag-Market, the world’s largest.36 New Zealand’s main farm organization argues that the nation’s experience “thoroughly debunked the myth that the farming sector cannot prosper without government subsidies.”37 That myth needs to be debunked in the United States as well.
Six Reasons to Repeal Farm Subsidies
1. Farm Subsidies Redistribute Wealth: the 90% poor farmer gets poorer while the 10% rich farmer gets richer.
2. Farm Subsidies Damage the Economy: In 2006 the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that all the studies they reviewed showed that both the U.S. and global economies would gain from the repeal of subsidies and trade barriers.
3. Farm Programs Are Prone to Scandal: Perhaps the biggest scandal is that congressional agriculture committees are loaded with members who are active farmers and farmland owners. Those members have a direct financial stake whenever Congress votes to increase subsidies, which is an obvious conflict of interest.
4. Farm Subsidies Damage U.S. Trade Relations: The World Trade Organization estimates that even a one-third drop in all tariffs around the world would boost global output by $686 billion, including $164 billion for the United States. Worse developing and under-developed countries cannot compete fairly with industrialized nations dump their corn, cotton, soy and wheat.
5. Farm Programs Damage the Environment: Farming, like any industry, can cause negative environmental effects, but it is misguided for federal policies to exacerbate those problems.
6. Agriculture Would Thrive without Subsidies: If farm subsidies were ended, and agriculture markets deregulated and open to entrepreneurs, farming would change just as it did in New Zealand.
“What we have hear is a failure to communicate.” Bernie has called for a Political Revolution but he only got us to the gates. Hillary is the guardian of the gates. Think of Trump as a nonsensical talking Trojan horse who can crash the party of the elites. Bernie will be on the inside, Hillary will be on the outside doing what she does best, nothing. Bernie can be the kinder-gentler-wiser LBJ Senate leader humbly allowing Trump to take credit for the Revolution of 2016.
LET’S get back to our grass roots before there is no longer grass or roots to get back to. When our wise ancestors reduced the indigenous buffalo from 30 million in 1800 to just 30, that’s three-zero, in 1900 they destroyed the Eco-system of American agriculture. Not one blessed thing has been done since then to restore, resurrect or rebuild our agrarian soil. Well, there was one thing, Ronnie Reagan did sign into law The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in 1985.
CRP is the largest private-lands conservation program in the United States. Thanks to voluntary participation by farmers and land owners, CRP has improved water quality, reduced soil erosion, and increased habitat for endangered and threatened species. For success stories, click here.
For many years, enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was 30 million to 36 million acres, but Congress lowered that total in the 2014 farm bill to 24 million acres.
“There is a lot of interest in this program that is untapped simply because we have a cap,” Vilsack said Wednesday in an interview.
Vilsack said at the time that farmers were dealing with significantly higher commodity prices, and lawmakers believed producers were more likely to keep land in production rather than remove it and put it in the CRP. The farm bill also was touted as a way to cut $23 billion in spending, and the reserve program was among those programs targeted to save money.
Dan Hansen, an Audubon County, IA. corn, soybean and livestock farmer, said he decided to stop growing crops on 45 acres of his lower-producing land and is considering enrolling an additional 80 acres — together the land would total about 20 percent of his acreage. The CRP is paying him nearly $300 an acre, a more stable return than how much he could have generated by farming with today’s volatile commodity prices.
Hansen also is saving money on labor and input costs he doesn’t have to pay to farm those lower-yielding acres.
Yield-per-acre is farming lingo for how much money can you make per acre of farm land. Adam Smith called it the rent of the land, the individual farmer, the man on the spot, was best suited to get the most out of the land. Karl Marx, didn’t want to let the farmer do his own thing for fear he would rape the soil to produce as much as possible today and not worry about tomorrow.
The Rent: Today Illinois farm land goes for $425/acre the farmer produces 180 bushels on that acre and then sells it for $6 a bushel $6 x 180 = $1,080 less $542 for all that good fertilizer, pesticides, machinery, etc. he’s at $538 minus the $425 rent leaves him at the end of the harvest with $113 per acre profit. The minimum CRP payment is $150/acre or in Dan Hansen, the Audubon County, IA. corn, soybean and livestock farmer’s case $300/acre.
That $6.00/bushel was the 2013 price as of April 30, 2016 it’s down to $3.58 x 180 = $644.40 less $542 for all that good fertilizer, pesticides, machinery, etc. he’s at $102.40 then when the rent of $425 comes due he is –$322.60 in the hole. At this rate Dan Hansen, our Audubon County, IA. corn, soybean and livestock farmer would be wise to convert the remaining 80% of his land to CRP but alas alack there is that Cap on CRP acreage down from 36 million acres in 1985 to 24 million today.
What is so absolutely idiotic, absurd and beyond any economic rationality is the $30 billion/year farm subsidy legislation. The FED’s pay corporate farmers – those who own more than 1,000 acres – to destroy the land with row crops, herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, patented seeds and any non-organic farming practice known to Monsanto. Corn’s draw-down of subsidy loot is a double dipper, first as corn and second as ethanol.
Corn doesn’t do man or animal any good. We feed corn to chickens, pigs and cows because they live in factories. We turn corn into fructose to make people fat. We use more fossil fuel to produce a gallon of ethanol than it does to produce a gallon of fossil fuel. That 14% Corn export amount is achieved with the subsidies and trade agreements like NAFTA.
Can we live without subsidies?
“In 1984 New Zealand’s Labor government took the dramatic step of ending all farm subsidies, which then consisted of 30 separate production payments and export incentives. This was a truly striking policy action, because New Zealand’s economy is roughly five times more dependent on farming than is the U.S. economy, measured by either output or employment. Subsidies in New Zealand accounted for more than 30 percent of the value of production before reform, somewhat higher than U.S. subsidies today.
Since 1984, the value of farm output in New Zealand has soared 40 percent in constant dollar terms since the mid-1980s. Agriculture’s share of New Zealand’s economic output has risen slightly, from a pre-reform 14 percent to 17 percent today. Since subsidies were removed, productivity in the industry has averaged 6 percent growth annually, compared with just 1 percent before reform.
If New Zealand Can, We Can, and Should
Aren’t CRP payments subsidies? No they are infrastructure investments – a 100 years of industrialized agriculture has degraded our soil and water. Instead of bailing out the banks we are buying out the farmers from counter-productive use of the land. Pasture land covers the soil year round, grows with the rainfall, not irrigation and is maintained and fertilized by birds, bees and livestock. New Zealand offered their farmers an exit payment, only 1% chose to leave the land.
Return the prairies to the prairie and let the buffalo roam, God Damn It!
My across the aisle farmers’ market neighbor brought her vegies to the Saturday Houston Farmers’ Market from Wharton 10 miles past our farm on the Southwest freeway. Her answer to, “was it worth it? “Most Saturdays I make over a $1,000 and if I don’t make at least $500 a market I drop it.”
I asked my fellow LLU teacher Ms Permaculture, another vegie pusher, what was her favorite market success story? “The guy who made $250,000 on a half-acre vacant lot in San Francisco, selling specialty greens to restaurants.”
My adjacent vendor always showed up late, bitched at the market manager for not having a space under the car-park canopy, then proceeded to sell out of salad greens in an hour and a half.
Of course my personal success story that convinced me that the only way to make a buck, or several bucks, was Nina Planck’s book Real Food. Her family in Louden, Virginia grossed $375,000 by trucking organic vegies to 17 farmers’ markets a week in the Metro DC area. $375,000 divided by 17 = $500/market, as an architect that was one more data point than I needed to launch my ‘Roadkill Sausage’ career in a Houston parking lot.
Today’s hero Jean-Martin Fortier interned on a farm in New Mexico and when the Santa Fe arugula dealer took home one to two thousand dollars on Saturday afternoon, Fortier was hooked. If he had worked for a Clovis, NM. farmer it would have been a different story.
Fortier and his wife take in that much annually on an acre and a half farm where they raise everything from tomatoes to broccoli, using what they call “biologically intensive” practices and unique farming methods to harvest more vegetables than is normal on such a small piece of land. And they do it all without a tractor.
Fortier is this week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio, and he gives us an overview of his Quebec farm – a farm that has drawn worldwide attention and resulted in him writing a book.
He also tells us:
How his method can be duplicated on any off-grid homestead.
Why he chose not to use a tractor or any heavy machinery.
How he grows vegetables, in such large quantities, in a cold climate.
What he learned on a trip to New Mexico that inspired him to try his methods.
Why he believes his method – and not Big Ag – is the secret to feeding the world.
Fortier’s story is incredible and inspiring, even if you don’t plan on copying his methods. Listen as this organic farm expert shares his methods that are changing how we think about farming!
Only 47% of working age Americans have full time jobs.
There are 250,000,000 work age (16-64) persons in the US of A but only 117 million have jobs. There were 761,700 Farm jobs in 2014 earning on average $20,090 per year or $9.66 per hour.
The above chart indicates that there are somewhere around 2 million farmers (principal operators) whatever the number, none of them made any money or came close to a six figure income
The real question is whether $100,000 or $200,000 in annual income makes a person affluent. Households making $100,000 or more constituted the top 24.7 percent of American households in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. To put it differently, they’re better off than three quarters of the country. Those making $200,000 or more were in the top 5.6% of households in 2014. The threshold income for membership in the infamous One Percent, according to the calculations of Thomas Piketty and Emanuel Saez, was $423,090 including capital gains and $387,810 excluding them in 2014.
Spitznagel “gained credibility in the investment world by predicting two market routs in the past decade, first in 2000 and then in 2008,” as well as predicting the “2000s commodities boom.” He is considered “one of Wall Street’s most bearish” as well as “biggest and boldest investors.”
In starting his farm in 2010, Spitznagel has said he wanted to “capture the terroir” of his native region, as well as “feel engaged with something real, something tangible, and he wanted his kids to have that connection too.” In discussing his life as both financier and farmer, Spitznagel has said “What’s going on in the financial world really shouldn’t matter that much. It’s the tail wagging the dog. What matters is making things, making real things, tangible things people can use.
Spitznagel is a billionaire, a one per-center for sure, from Michigan who likes dairy goats and is my inspiration for moving to the city. Here he is pictured with his girls grazing on the inner city neighborhood of Broadmoor, Detroit. Money not being a problem, in 2010 Mark built this award winning dairy. outside of Ann Arbor.
Shelby Ann Brown and I built our 100 square meter dairy in Kendleton, Texas, 50 miles south west of Houston. We received our Grade ‘A’ Raw Dairy certificate in 2003 and only started to earn an income above the $20,090 average, when we took our raw goat’s milk products to Houston on Saturday mornings.
Our licence was for On-the Farm sales only but sunny weekend customers who made the 50-mile trek to our farm generated less than $200/week. Desperation was the mother of Earth Mother Farms and the visitation to eight farmers’ markets a week, averaging $500 per market.
Carl Linder, in my home town, Cincinnati, got his start on the path to one percent riches with his United Dairy Farmers store. Since rural America has been depopulated, since Teddy Roosevelt banned the sale of raw milk in 1912, the only way to make a six figure income with 50 goats on 5 acres, is move the dairy to the city.
Bernie won New York in all the rural counties. Teachout a shinning star preaching the organic farming breakup Big Ag philosophy did well against Cuomo in 2014 and is running for Congress in 2016.
Howard Graham Buffett serving meals in Sierra Leone in 2007. He spends up to 200 days a year on the road, doing foundation work. (Jeannie O’Donnell / The Howard G. Buffett Foundation)
Howard, Warren Buffett’s farmer son, is one man, a rich one man, working in all 54 African countries developing sustainable farming on the continent with the biggest problems in hunger, poverty, soil, infrastructure, economics and politics. Howard’s dad is bridge buddies with Bill Gates who is also saving Africa. There is hope in 2016 that the Bern fires up the base like Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, while the well informed Buffett Gates partnership puts their money where it’s needed – like not in Panama.
“USAID and others have been at this for decades,” he said. “By now, according to projections, we should have ended hunger. So my point is, what we’re doing isn’t working.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” Buffett told me. “I’m a farmer. I know what I can get from improved seed. I know what I get from fertilizer. They’re huge. But technology can’t build organic matter. It can’t create topsoil. It can’t magically protect water quality. It’s a quick fix, and Africa needs a long-term solution.”
Instead of a green revolution for Africa, Buffett favors what he calls a “brown revolution,” or, to quote the distinguished agricultural ecologist Sir Gordon Conway, a “doubly green revolution”—a focus on environmentally sustainable agriculture that minimizes erosion, preserves and regenerates soil, and makes the land more resilient, while also increasing yields. In contrast to the green revolution, the brown revolution is a tortoise-like approach: Its impact is gradual. Over the past decade, patiently, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to identify and promote practical, low-cost methods of conservation farming—cover crops, no-till farming, locally bred seed varieties—that improve African soil quality and crop yields without chemical fertilizers and costly imported seeds. “If you take a place like Africa,” Buffett told me, “where they have the most degraded soils in the world, very limited nutrients, ground that is farmed to death—literally to the point where you have to move on and farm another piece of ground—and all you’re doing is throwing on synthetic fertilizer, it’s like trying to put an oxygen mask on a cadaver and expecting it’s going to start breathing again.”
The foundation owns and operates four research farms—4,400 acres in Decatur, 1,000 acres in Nebraska, 3,900 acres in the high desert of southeast Arizona, and the farm in South Africa, spanning 9,200 acres—where scientists from Texas A&M, Penn State, and Purdue are conducting experiments on how best to grow crops in places with little water and poor soil. In South Africa, the foundation is testing 14 different cover crops—among them cowpea, lablab, and pigeon pea—to learn which ones best reduce erosion and improve soil fertility. In Arizona, the foundation replicates the conditions faced by poor African farmers: drought, little or no fertilizer, oxen tilling the land. Tests are under way to measure the precise relationship between water and crop yields. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/05/how-warren-buffetts-son-would-feed-the-world/476385/
An upstate Penn Yan, New York farm family is mastering the art of growing organic grain. They want to share their knowledge with the world.
For more than 20 years, the Martens family—Klaas, Mary-Howell, and their son Peter—has pioneered organic and sustainable farming on their farms and accompanying feed mill, Lakeview Organic Grain. Customers throughout the Northeast know them for their grains, regional farmers prize their organic feed, and celebrity chef Dan Barber uses their rotating crops in his seasonal risotto. The Martens farm is a living lab where they study how their soil can best support such non-indigenous crops as kiwis. Mary-Howell Martens, Klaas’s wife, promotes their agricultural techniques on a USDA advisory committee.
As they began paying closer attention to their soil, they introduced a greater variety of crops to their fields. The first time they planted organic crops, 10-foot-tall velvetleaf weeds appeared in their fields. But every year after that, the weeds weakened, finally succumbing to a fungal disease that they had cleverly encouraged. While the weeds withered in the Martens’ fields, they still flourished in neighboring farms. According to an agricultural researcher at Cornell, the Martens farm was the only one where conditions were created that favored the crops over the weeds.
Their quiet victory over velvetleaf was just one among many successes that helped to wear down their neighbors’ skepticism about sustainable practices. They were the first farm in their area to grow organic crops. Today, they are surrounded by 20 other organic farms.