Farmers On The Climate Frontline

When The Progressive magazine asked me to write about how farmers are addressing climate change, it posed an interestings challenge: Farming practices are both an accelerant and a retardant of a warming Earth.

Factory-style farming gets the blame. As I explain in the April-May 2022 issue:

“Corn is the problematic linchpin of factory farming. It is the nation’s biggest cash crop, and it dominates the richest farmland in the Midwest. Heavily dependent on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, corn poses a major water pollution problem. Researchers blame nutrient-rich runoff, draining through the Mississippi River from the Upper Midwest, for a vast ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research organization, did the accounting and found that the federal subsidies for corn production totaled an astonishing $116.6 billion between 1995 and 2020. This is a testament to the powerful agribusiness lobby to which both Democrats and Republicans pledge fealty.

“Only 10 percent of the annual corn crop actually becomes human food; even then, it’s mostly sweeteners and refined oils used in making highly processed items. About another 40 percent feeds cars and trucks in the form of federally mandated corn-blended ethanol—a “renewable” fuel whose purportedly favorable environmental impact is fiercely disputed.

“The rest of the corn becomes livestock feed and is mostly consumed in huge factory-style farms called CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations. This is how most of our beef, pork, and milk is produced, and these industries cause huge environmental problems of their own.”

The bulk of the story deals with what farmers are doing right.

If you know the issue, you won’t be surprised to learn how Wendell Berry, the great chronicler of rural life, points the way. To learn more, please follow this link.

Explore posts in the same categories: Local Food, Organic Farming/Local Food, The Progressive

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