Revenge of the Weeds

"“It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts."

Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds.

H/T to Grace Potts.


Mr. Piccolo,  Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 11:57:00 PM CDT  

Interesting. I have heard some people argue that Big American agribusiness is closer to Soviet-style collective farming than to the traditional family farming we all imagine it is like. I probably don't know enough about agriculture to say if that is true or not, but I like repeating it for rhetorical impact when I am lambasting Big Agribusiness.

On the issue of Roundup, maybe the farmers should emulate my Dad who gave up on Roundup a while ago and just pours gasoline over the weeds and everything around the weeds. But then again, my Dad says Listerine cures dandruff. Go figure.

JimB Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 5:45:00 AM CDT  

"Monsanto argues that Roundup still controls hundreds of weeds. But the company is concerned enough about the problem that it is taking the extraordinary step of subsidizing cotton farmers’ purchases of competing herbicides to supplement Roundup."

This is similar to the use of pharmaceuticals in medicine. My dad was a diabetic and had several heart attacks. When they started him on heart medication it set off a series of other side effects for which new drugs were prescribed. This went on ad nauseum for 10 yrs. When he finally passed away last year he was taking a total of 17 different medications, all highly subsidized and propped up in the market by the government of course. That's what happens when government gets addicted to corporate campaign donations. Corporations get to write the rules for what's "safe". There's another dirty little secret behind all this too, what better way is there to control population than food & drugs.

Steven P. Cornett,  Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 5:53:00 AM CDT  

Reminds me of what our pastor at the Latin Mass said.

"God always forgives, men sometimes forgives, but nature never forgives."

In other word, nature always demands payment for the injustices heaped on it. And, whether it is genetically modified crops or contraceptives, the natural world will demand temporal payback.

JimB Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 6:27:00 AM CDT  

“If you control the oil you control the country; if you control food, you control the population.” ~ Henry Kissinger

Chris Campbell Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 8:07:00 AM CDT  

I use something called "total vegetation killer" on weeds,etc...esp with the house we just bought was vacant for a yr and has a lot of vines and weeds springing up.

JimB, to your last comment, how true, here are a list of CFR related quotes to boot and shows the tight amalgamation of big buisness/big Govt:

Piccolo, not sure about dandruff, etc-I am prone to belevie in those old, down home cures and common wisdom, but cant help to think when reading your post of the dad in My Big fat Greek Wedding, Windex was the cure for everything wasnt it?

Doug Chappell,  Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 8:07:00 AM CDT  

Just exactly how does this relate to distributism? For the most part, these are family owned farms. No till and Round-up have allowed fewer famers (smaler families) to manage more acres, thereby remaining profitable. If anything, this has allowed more "small" family farms (which now are about 1000+acres) to stay afloat, which would seem to be a good thing.

Donald Goodman Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 11:42:00 AM CDT  


"For the most part, these are family owned farms."

What's your basis for this assertion? Roundup is used on something better than 70% of the corn, soybeans, and cotton in this country, all massive cash crops. It's hard to believe that most of these farms are small family farms.

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides make small family farmers dependent upon large corporations like Monsanto. This means that they *have* to maintain more acreage to stay profitable. If they weren't sinking thousands of dollars a year on these things---like, for example, Roundup Ready seed so that they can then fork over thousands more on Roundup later on---they could remain profitable on smaller farms, allowing more and smaller farmers.

*That*'s how it relates to distributism. Large-scale chemical farming prevents small-scale worker ownership.

Praise be to Christ the King!

Doug Chappell,  Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 7:36:00 AM CDT  

A "small" family farm these days is likely between 1,000 and 10,000 acres. This is more a result of the large cost of machinery than the cost of seed, fertilizer, and pesticide. No till farming reduces equipment costs. Like evrything else, there is a certain efficiency of scale involved. Efficiency is essential because of the low price farmers get for their product. And for the record, the last I looked, most farm acerage in this country is still owned and worked by the families who live on the land. It may not be true much longer, but I believe it is still true today.

Even if you had smaller farms, no till would make sense because it reduces the amount of fertilizer needed by preserving top soil, reduces labor and equipment costs, and preserves wildlife. If there were an agricultural guild, they would have been supporting no till.

Should we go back to mule-driven plows? Surely we don't want family farmers dependent on large corporations like John Deere.

Donald Goodman Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 12:32:00 PM CDT  


Doug: Yes, it's true that "small" family farms these days are too big. But it's also true that large farms are much too big. I'd rather have one than the other. I'm not sure if that's more or less than 50% of the farmland in this country.

Also, yes, equipment costs are a big problem for small farmers, but that's a separate issue. The fact is that farmers spend a *lot* of money on fertilizers and pesticides, which necessitates greater acreage cultivated with less human labor. That means more fertilizers and pesticides, which means still more requirement for greater acreage and less labor. Organic cultivation has higher labor costs, but much lower other costs.

No-till is necessary to preserve topsoil only because the topsoil is constantly being depleted by the ceaseless application of highly toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Organic methods of soil cultivation keep topsoil firmly in place through the planting of green manure crops when cash crops are not planted and the constant addition of manure and compost. No-till doesn't help in this situation; indeed, it's impossible, because the organic matter can't be properly worked into the soil without thorough tilling.

Farmers are certainly paid much too little for their product; I agree with you there. Part of that is the middleman problem; people expect low prices in the grocery store, so the distributors can only pay the farmers a pittance if they're going to sell for those low prices in the stores. But we're paying for that in other ways.

The high price of cheap food is well-known. Food producers externalize the enormous costs of growing food in order to get us the cheap prices we expect. So we have to pay those prices in other ways; specifically, in cleaning up and dealing with the massive amounts of pollution and soil erosion that result from the heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. I'd rather pay more in the grocery store---or better, to the farmer---than have unsustainable agriculture destroying the soil and poisoning the rivers, which is what we've got now.

You don't need a new tractor every year, if you use a tractor. (Some organic farmers don't; not because they don't like tractors, but because the horse manure is useful, while tractor exhaust isn't.) You do need, every year, ever-increasing quantities of fertilizers and pesticides. That's the problem.

Praise be to Christ the King!

Doug Chappell,  Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 3:15:00 PM CDT  

Donald: Tilling causes massive erosion of the top soil, especially after heavy rains like those experienced over the past couple of weeks in the south and midwest. True you don't need a new tractor every year, but those combines cost over $100,000 and keeping one running for even 5 years without heavy maintenance costs is difficult.

We could go back and forth forever on the environmental and economic strength and weaknesses of no till vs. organic farming. I still don't see the method of production in this case as being a distributist issue. It's like arguing against using assembly lines in an employye owned manufacturing coop. I think we can agree we would like to see more farm products produced and sold for local consumption.

Donald Goodman Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 3:39:00 PM CDT  


Well, we can certainly agree about seeing more farm products produced locally and sold locally for local consumption.

On the other hand, I think method of production is, to a certain extent, relevant. If no-till farming were practical *without* the use of remotely produced artificial fertilizers and pesticides that kill the soil and poison the water, then this would just be a question of method. But it isn't (at least, I've never heard of anyone arguing that it is). Rather, it's a question of farming dominated by distant powers like Monsanto and oil drilling, or farming controlled by local interests.

Tilling doesn't result in significant erosion when it's combined with heavy infusions of organic matter, and when the soil has constantly got roots in it. If you're leaving the field fallow over the winter, and you've plowed last year's remnants under, then it's certainly a problem. But if you harvest your corn, plow in a good load of well-rotted manure, then sow wheat or clover, you've got a good set of roots holding the soil in place, and you've replenished with organic matter what might have been lost in the interim.

At least, so I've read; I'm not a farmer, sadly. But I've read too many good farmers explain this to me to disbelieve it.

Combines are indeed expensive. But good, profitable farming can certainly be done without a combine---provided that a farmer's produce fetches the price that it deserves. Once again, we come back to the price problem, which is really the crux of it at its core.

I have a good friend in Kansas whose family has been farming there for generations. He grows chemical crops for cash, but he grows organic crops on a portion of his land, as well. Unfortunately, that's often necessary because of the wretched state of our economy.

In my mother's family, there are many farmers in rural central Pennsylvania. But they can't make a living on the farm. They take jobs in the coal mines to keep their farms afloat; otherwise they'd have to sell. If that's not a sign of our disfunctional society, then nothing is.

Praise be to Christ the King!

Mr. Piccolo,  Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 7:51:00 PM CDT  

Mr. Campbell,

Yes, that is right, the Dad in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" thought Windex could cure anything. My grandfather was sort of like that, only he was German and was obsessed with the amazing healing powers of Vaseline.

Actually, you make a good point. I did a bit of "research" on the Internet and it seems Listerine does contain some elements that are effective at fighting dandruff, so perhaps I should not be so quick to scoff at home remedies. Looks like I owe my Dad an apology!

Chris Campbell Monday, May 10, 2010 at 1:52:00 PM CDT  

Vaseline huh?? wonder why....liked the Dad in that movie, his name I think was Constantion or something like that, passed away a few yrs ago.....

Viking Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 1:29:00 PM CDT  

Chris, the Dad in MBFGW was Michael Constantine, who's actually of Greek heritage and was still alive at last report. (Looked him up on Wikipedia.)

"Vaseline", which is just a trademark name for petroleum jelly, I believe, forms a coat that is fairly impermeable to water. This means that putting on a coat where dry skin cracking is a problem (the heels of the feet, in my case) does far more good than lotions do, because it prevents moisture from leaving rather than just adding a bit more. This may be part of the reason Mr. Piccolo's German grandfather was so impressed with it.


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