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The Impact of Large Farms
Nov 21, 2011
***Editor's Note: The following comments were received in response to the November 19-20, 2011 edition of U.S. Farm Report...
#1: John...just wanted to comment on your editorial in part of your Sunday November 20th show. You made a statement regarding the role of the USDA, perhaps connected with the existing farm programs. Although you need to be commended for raising the question, my thoughts about it, however does not fit the entire situation. I do see things happening that should be looked at, but the question always before us is who should do the looking. I personally have been involved with the NRCS part, formerly the Soil Conservation Service, preparing soil surveys mostly throughout SE Minnesota. I now serve in an elected position as a Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor for my local county, which I do voluntarily. I was also asked to chair the Hiawatha Valley Resource and Development Council, which is a part of a series of 370 councils that were formed as a part of a program started by the former secretary of the USDA, Orville Freeman and administered under the NRCS budget. The latter part of the 2011 USDA's budget year zeroed out funding for this organization, which was a real disappointment for me for a number of reasons.
What I saw with these RC&D's is a direct link between local and federal governments and the states coming in as partners to the programs offered. The members of these various councils included locally elected soil conservation supervisors, a commissioner representative from each of the member counties and a person appointed at large from each of the counties. This past June the Obama administration issued an executive order regarding the need to work with rural America and my thought was, why wasn't there a need to refund these RC&D organizations, especially when one of the elements or responsibilities included community development. What I find concerning to me is when much of your programming is directed to the large farms, which does rather little for help to these small communities. I see this with the number of their store closings, but one could argue that this is not fully related to the large farms because more of the activity is directed to the larger towns.
Part of the problem that we are seeing with these large operations is the release of unused nutrients and fertility generated in the runoff to the streams and infiltration to our underlying ground water. We already have one small community with its well having excessive levels of nitrates in them according to health standards. In places where the ethanol plants are operating, there is also considerable depletion of our ground water to develop ethanol. Too often, I see these large producers ignoring this situation, mainly to further their operations.
I think some of your programming should start looking at these situations more, especially when some of the evidence of their activities is well expressed in the Gulf. I don't have any answers, but you ask for some thoughts so I thought that I would send you mine. By the way I do enjoy your programming. George Poch
#2: Good Morning! I just watched the Sunday morning show, and I really enjoyed the Farmall tractor story. I didn't know they had made white tractors. I also applaud your Country Church Salute. These days that kind of thing is rare. Keep up the great work!