Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wes Shoemyer and the Threats of Bad Policy

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: Hannah and I interviewed Wes Shoemyer on Farm and Fiddle last night. Wes was a Missouri state rep until he termed out and then a state senator until 2012 when he returned to the Monroe County farm where he farms with family members including his dad and his son. Pretty great to hear from a guy who’s still farming the land his dad grew up on. We talked about that—the wisdom of the elders—and agreed that the years of experience give them a special insight into the land, their ecosystem. And, as Wes pointed out, whatever a youngster comes up with, the elders have probably tried at some time, so you can benefit from their experience as you tinker with your system. We spent most of our hour talking about the effects of policy on farmers. Wes was speaking particularly about genetically modified crops (GMOs) and confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Both these strategies have received plenty of backing from corporations and the government. For GMOs, there’s a whole body of U.S. patent law that prevents farmers from saving seeds. So that when they need to plant soybeans, they’re paying $65 a bag this season. Just a decade ago, when they saved seeds, they could clean out the weed seeds and plant for free. Our wheat farmers still benefit from cleaned seeds, free ones from last year’s crop, because no GMO wheats have been approved. But all the soybeans, corn, canola, cotton and sugar beets have the GMO gene now. If the GMO protection act sneaks through congress as a rider on one bill or another, our wheat crops will be in a similar predicament. Wes also pointed out that when it comes to Confined Animal Feeding Operations, which are known as single-use buildings, there’s a U.S. guaranteed loan that the boys can get. To a banker, it’s a no-brainer to lend to a CAFO instead of a diversified farmer. If they both go belly-up, the banker gets taxpayer dollars to cover the loan. Clearly, these policies have changed rural America and the generations that kept the land are being moved off. We need to get rid of these policies, or change them, so the land and the American food system can be restored. That’s it for today. March 21, 2012. Happy Equinox, ya’all!

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