Category Archives: POLITICS

George Washington was the first farmer politician but Lincoln was the last.

Feeling the Bern Up on the Farm

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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.

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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/

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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.

Free Trade Begins Down On the Farm

whiskey prohibition Prohibition

The prohibition of alcohol lasted only 13 years, while the prohibition of raw milk has been enforced in the United States for more than a century. The ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution–which banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors–ushered in a period in American history known as Prohibition. The result of a widespread temperance movement during the first decade of the 20th century, Prohibition was difficult to enforce, despite the passage of companion legislation known as the Volstead Act. The increase of the illegal production and sale of liquor (known as “bootlegging”), the proliferation of speakeasies (illegal drinking spots) and the accompanying rise in gang violence and other crimes led to waning support for Prohibition by the end of the 1920s. In early 1933, Congress adopted a resolution proposing a 21st Amendment to the Constitution that would repeal the 18th. It was ratified by the end of that year, bringing the Prohibition era to a close.

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In the 1890s, Nathan Straus, co-owner of Macy’s department store in New York, was already building a reputation as a philanthropist. In the winter of 1892, he distributed 1.5 million buckets of coal to impoverished New Yorkers so they could heat their homes. The following year, he organized a series of shelters that provided beds and breakfasts to the city’s homeless population. In 1893, he tackled the problem of unsafe milk.

Straus had been reading up on Pasteur’s work and the theoretical benefits of pasteurization. He knew that nearly 10% of all children born in New York City died by the age of five -and despite all the recent improvements in milk quality, he still suspected that milk was to blame for many of the deaths. His reasoning was simple: Milk spoiled quicker in the heat of the summer, and the city’s childhood mortality rate increased at the same time. He figured there had to be a connection between the two. In 1907, the reform-minded president Teddy Roosevelt ordered his Public Health Service to look into the pros and cons of pasteurized milk. In 1908 the Service issued its report: Pasteurization, they found, did not affect the taste, quality, nutrition or digestibility of milk, but it did “prevent much sickness and save many lives.”

roquefort

French Roquefort, a famous blue cheese, which is required by European law to be made from raw sheep’s milk.

According to the regulations in the European Union all raw milk products are “legal” and considered “safe for human consumption”, and can be sold without any price, variety or quantity restrictions. However, raw milk and products made with raw milk must be labeled to indicate this. Also, European countries are free to add certain requirements. Usually special sanitary regulations and frequent quality tests (at least once per month) are mandatory.

Today, no one would suggest making the sale of whiskey illegal. Marijuana will soon be legal nationally, sooner if Bernie gets elected. However, milk, “nature’s most perfect product” is the best restraint-of-trade example, for why Free Trade Begins Down On the Farm.  The universal pasteurization requirement industrializes the production of all dairy products manufactured in the US and imported from other countries. European countries especially France treat their citizens’ freedom of food choice with respect and appreciation. The ‘frogs’ wouldn’t think of cooking their wine, their milk and certainly not their cheese.

farmer income

Family farming hasn’t made money since World War One. The individual dairy farmer sells cow’s milk to Big Dairy Inc. for $1/gal. or $1.05/gal. if it’s a Jersey. A report by the Agricultural Credit Association forecasts a $12/cow annual net profit with a 1,500 head dairy operation. Thirty head of cattle is above average for the small farmer. Like Bernie says the individual farmer is an endangered species with barely over two million left down on the farm. Is it any wonder that 56.6% had less than $10,000 in sales, that half had a primary job other than farming?

NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement are big deals for Big Dairy Inc and Monsanto. Factory farms can crank out tons of UHT milk, that has a shelf-life to infinity and beyond. As the world’s biggest ag-exporter Free Trade Agreements force our partners to accepting Monsanto’s GMO patented seeds.

Free Trade Down On the Farm could begin tomorrow with a stroke of Obama’s magic ‘directive’ pen, permitting the sale of labelled raw milk just like they do in gay Paree.