Industrial Bloggers

I had an experience on facebook a few weeks ago that makes more sense to me now.  Sometime ago I had noticed that a friend “liked” something called the U.S. Farmer and Rancher Alliance.  Because I enjoy news feeds from farm-friendly groups, I “liked” it too.

I don’t have time to read all the links I see on facebook, of  course, but one later posted by these folks caught my attention.  It was a blog post by a woman which said, among other things, that she does not buy organic food for her children, that she doesn’t believe there is any benefit to doing so and that women who insist on organic food for their children behave like members of a cult.

The post created a bit of a facebook dustup, primarily from folks like me, who didn’t appreciate the comparison of supporters of organic agriculture to a cult.

Wondering why they’d post something like that, I did a little research and learned that the “Farmer and Rancher Alliance” is actually some kind of propaganda front for ag-chemical companies.  The organization takes funding from “industry partners” which include Dow, Monsanto, DuPont and the like (in fact, a mere $500,000 will land a spot on their Premier Partner Advisory Group).  They use facebook (and other social media) to disparage organic agriculture, while posing as an alliance of “farmers and ranchers.”

What I’ve just learned is that this is part of a larger effort to promote industrial agriculture through social media and blogs.  Recognizing that “Moms” make most of the food decisions in American families, and faced with data showing that said Moms believe organically grown food is better for their families, the industry has recruited (or created) bloggers to promote industrial processed food.  Their hope is that these “Mom” bloggers will accomplish what their massive advertising budgets cannot–persuading American families to favor their products over organic food.  According to one article I read, “Research shows that consumers put less trust in promotions funded by companies with a profit motive.  Individuals are perceived as more genuine ag advocates.”  So these companies seek to benefit from the undeserved credibility of these “Mom” bloggers.

Hopefully folks will see through this.  It is hard to imagine any reasonably informed consumer taking seriously a blog post from a “Mom” who prefers to feed her family processed food and GMOs rather than whole natural foods.

One of their current efforts is to convince “Moms” that pink slime (which they call “lean, finely textured beef (LFTB)”) is a good food choice for the family.  Good luck with that one.

Bottom line:  just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s true.  Until you’re satisfied with the credibility and independence of the source, don’t take anything you read on a blog about food, including this one, as necessarily accurate and reliable.

Advertisements

Sitting Mamas

We have five hens “sitting.”  They’ve decided they’d rather hatch eggs than lay them.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

If things go as they should (and they never exactly do) we will have a lot of little chicks on the farm over the next few weeks.

Ridiculous

In 2000, taxpayer-funded Federal subsidies paid for (on average) 38% of crop insurance premiums and the “farmers” (typically large industrial commodity operations) paid the rest.  These days those numbers are reversed.  Now taxpayers pay for 68% of the insurance premiums and the farmers pay for only 32%.  The subsidy levels vary between 38% and 80%.  These subsidies cost taxpayers nearly $9 billion per year, making it the most expensive program for farmers in the USDA budget.

As I’ve mentioned before, government-funded insurance coupled with record high prices has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of land being planted in corn and soybeans.  The combination of government insurance and price supports has created incentives to plow up marginal land, with resulting environmental damage.  And since the insurance insures not only against crop loss, but also against a drop in price, then it essentially is an income guarantee (using tax dollars to guarantee 85% of the operation’s income).  Most of the subsidies go to the largest operations at a time when crop prices and farmland values are at all-time highs.  There are a lot of folks hurting in America these days.  Industrial farmers, as a group, aren’t among them.

Some fiscal conservatives and environmentalists joined to try to bring some sanity to this.  Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, one of the most fiscally sensible members of Congress, introduced a bill (the Crop Insurance Subsidy Reduction Act of 2013) that would roll the crop insurance subsidies back to the 2000 level, but the bill never made it out of committee.  The version of the Farm Bill that passed the Senate actually increases the subsidy program (which also requires taxpayers to pick up 100% of the operating costs of the so-called “insurers”).  The Bill failed in the House, but not because of opposition to subsidized insurance, which will almost certainly be increased in the final version of whatever passes.

No doubt there are hundreds, if not thousands, of equally ridiculous counterproductive corporate welfare programs within the multi-trillion dollar fiasco that is government spending.  Even if folks came to their senses and ended this one, the overall situation would still be an unsustainable mess.  But I see no evidence that this is going to end, regardless of the fact that it’s bad policy, which we can’t afford.  When we look back at 2013 in ten years or so, I’m fairly confident that the government will be using its printing presses and Chinese credit line to spend even more on industrial crop insurance subsidies than it does today.  Assuming of course that the entire house of cards hasn’t collapsed by then.

A Pleasant Suprise

Fifteen of our 26 Dominickers survived the hawk attacks.  All are supposed to be pullets.

But a couple of them seemed more feisty than the others.  When we combined the two groups, they battled briefly.  We’ve been wondering–might they be roosters?

Now that those two have started developing wattles and combs, it’s pretty clear.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

So we have 13 hens and 2 roosters.  That means fewer eggs, of course.  But it also means we’ll have the opportunity to hatch Dominickers, helping the breed survive.

We ordered (and paid for) pullets. But after they arrived we began wishing we’d gotten a couple of rooster chicks as well.

As it turns out, we did.

Telling

We’ve had a couple of opportunities to tell our story lately.  Cherie and I spoke to a local garden club and I spoke to a local Rotary group.  Both talks were well received.

Tomorrow we’ll be talking about our story and practices at a meeting of our local goat farmer association. In a couple of weeks we’ll be leading a group discussion on sustainability and creation care as part of a way of following Jesus.  Also in a few weeks I’ll be participating in an on-line video presentation on food and faith (I’ll pass along details once they’re firmed up).  In August we’ll be presenting at the Wild Goose Festival as part of a series of talks on Food, Faith and the Future.  They’ve asked that one to be in Pecha Kucha format, rather than my usual free-flowing ramble.

I enjoy talking about our journey and what we’re trying to accomplish.  At the events we’ve done (and at our Open House) we generated lots of questions.  Both times the Q&A at the end went longer than the talk itself.  People seem genuinely interested in learning more about their food and their food choices.  So far anyone who thought we were nuts has been polite enough not to say so.

I’m particularly excited about being a part of Wild Goose, which has been an amazing life-changing experience for us the last couple of years.

Maybe we’ll say something that will do someone some good.  At a minimum, I hope we’re helping to keep the conversation going.

P.S.  After posting this one of our members sent us a link to this article promoting our upcoming talk, which we hadn’t seen:

http://www.newsadvance.com/work_it_sova/news/article_04c6f7ae-ddf4-11e2-9942-001a4bcf6878.html

Plan B

For now at least, we’ve given up on keeping the Dominickers in the portable coops on another part of the farm.  We just couldn’t keep them safe from hawk attacks

We loaded up the coops and moved them.  “Portable,” by the way, is debatable.  These things are heavy and awkward to lift.

SAMSUNG

We combined the survivors into one coop and we’ll use the other one as a brooder.

They seem to be enjoying their new location, and it’s so close to our house that we don’t think hawks will bother them here.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

We don’t plan to move the coop again.  Instead we’ll just move the fencing, rotating them through the gardens in the immediate area.

Hoping we won’t need a Plan C.

It’s in the Barn

Our hay is in the barn.  What a challenging and frustrating time we had with it.  The actual haying went very smoothly–no equipment problems and much greater volume than I expected. But Mother Nature seemed intent on stopping us.

After I had raked most of it, we got an unexpected rain and I had to do it again.  Cherie and I worked late getting it in Friday night, but being dog tired and facing the farmer’s market requiring us to be up very early the next morning, I ran out of gas before we got in the barn and quit loading it  around 9:30.  After the market on Saturday I baled a field for a neighbor and he and his son helped me get up the last of ours.  I backed the trailer into the barn and began unloading it, and was soon hit with a strong shower blowing in from the east, which is very unusual. So the rain was blowing in through the barn door and wetting the hay.  I managed to get a tarp over it and it’s (hopefully) drying out now.

The good news is that we have close to 400 bales in the barn.  The not-so-good news is that we probably have 600 bales-worth still on the ground, some raked already and all rained on twice.  

But stuff happens and this has just been a crazy wet year.   And no matter what happens, we no longer have an empty hay loft.

SAMSUNG