Friday, May 22, 2015


We went up along the north side of Lake Ontario yesterday on our trip toward Nova Scotia.  The agriculture became smaller and by all indications more part time as we went and by the time we left the lakeshore for a final straight run into Ottawa we were in the jackpine area complete with stumpy trees, burnt over in one place and thin soil.  The farms focused upon grazing, hay and firewood mostly.  We did see a few small pastured dairy herds and more than a few small stock cow herds and sheep flocks.  The train spent ten minutes idling next to a New Holland Agriculture lot, allowing another train to meet.  The machines displayed were of the kind we used twenty years ago:  haybine sickle models, twelve feet in width, small bale balers, small round bale machines and one self propelled haybine, also a twelve footer. 

The soil was in small irregular fields, mostly in grass cover.  Tractors in use were mostly "one step up" models-good old man machines-and very few tillage implements or row crop planters were in evidence.  This is all logical, of course, given the soil and the shortness of the season, but it does prompt the question about why it is that the more expensive land is, the more poorly it is cared for.  In the corn belt, the chase to make the payments supercedes good farming practice, evidently. 

Why does the government connive to make row crops the highest return to any agricultural land?  And what will it take to resurrect a decent farming culture despite this?  Is it possible?


Thursday, May 21, 2015


Traveling across mid Wisconsin this week on our way to Canada via Detroit I got the same feeling as driving through mid Minnesota, or southeastern Minnesota.  The fields are poorly maintained, as they are at home, open to erosion both wind and water.  Family dairy has been pretty much shut down and the pastures and hayfields are gone.  There is nothing prettier than a grazing farm in spring, and we passed several areas that featured several grazing operations based close together and mostly dairy, which provided a welcome relief from a depressing picture.  Generally the Amish areas looked better as they featured more grass and hay. 

The occasional machinery dealer displayed huge thirty and forty foot wide planters, completely inappropriate to the small irregular fields.  These machine lots at least featured the occasional manure spreader or feed mill, something nearly impossible to find close to home.  Progress overcoming logic.  Cargill and Monsanto are enforcing their will, ensuring their profits.
We are considerably in a bad direction and still headed the wrong way.


Sunday, May 17, 2015


All the trade agreements are called free trade.  But most of it has little to do with free trade.  They are about extended patent protection, about enhanced copyright laws and certainly go far to enhance the power of corporations and their bottom line.  This is protectionism and the only reason it doesn't get called by that name is that a kind of "gentlemen's agreement" among the pundit or know-it-all class holds to the effect that only things that benefit the working people, such as job security for instance, get labelled protectionism.

As a practical matter, the trade agreement that the Democrats just fast tracked would work this way, as I understand it.  A bio-tech company could sue a state like Minnesota for restraint of trade, if Minnesota passed a law requiring genetically engineered products to be so labeled.  The argument would be that the state's action reduced the company's profits.  Similarly, if Minnesota wanted to give Minnesota companies preferential treatment in supply of the goods the state needed, for example requiring Minnesota's schools to search first for Minnesota grown foods for the children's lunch, the state would be open to lawsuit by any food company that could prove its bottom line to be injured.

The politicians who favor this will earn our disgust when they pass the thing in a month or two.  They speak for corporate money.  No one speaks for the American people, near as I can tell.



Obama's Transpacific Trade agreement, a copy of which is kept in a locked room in the Capitol basement under armed guard where representatives are allowed in one at a time to see it, unaccompanied by aides, expert counsel or recording devices of any kind was greenlighted by the Senate this week with only show or token opposition from the Democrats to the proposal to "fast track"-pass without amendment-and evidently little or no discussion.  Anyone ever heard of free speech or representative democracy?

This free trade deal, like its predecessors NAFTA, CAFTA and the like essentially gives over the powers and perogatives of the government to the international corporations which gain the right to sue any government-including our state governments-over any action that might interfere with a corporation's profits.  By signing the TPP as with NAFTA and the others, our government essentially abolishes itself. 

I have come to expect nothing more of that collection of cowards known as the Democratic party.  But the Tea party surprises me.  They should have been more useful in their opposition.  Their "Don't Tread on Me" attitude evidently does not extend to corporate control.  It has been possible to label the government corrupt both from the right and the left.  But for the right, it is government itself that is the problem, not the corporate control of the government.       

Thursday, May 14, 2015

fifty years

Agweek is a conservative conventionally oriented news report for conservative conventional Red River Valley farmers.  Surprising then that the program recently featured two academic soil science folks who said essentially that at current levels of waste we have about fifty years of topsoil left in that area.  One said it makes him sick to his stomach to see a treeline being bulldozed out. The situation here on the prairie is not different. 

Fifty years is within the working time frame of a twenty year old who wants to farm.  These young people should quit thinking of what their fathers and grandfathers taught them about the occupation and begin by assuming that all of it was wrong.  We all sleepwalked through the "dust storms" again this spring as usual.  It is well past time for all of us to wake up.  We are going to need that soil in order to eat when the economy spins out of control and we have neither work nor money.  Us grandfathers particularly should start to wonder if our grandchildren will someday soon be cursing us.


Thursday, May 7, 2015


An inch of rain in this very dry and windy spring is welcome indeed.  And there may be more coming this weekend.  The lives of all humanity, labs and technology to the contrary notwithstanding, depend upon a few inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains.  This simple fact should produce widespread humility; the fact that it generates no notice at all, let alone humility, in our amnesiac population is indication how far gone we are.