EU policy could take ag a step backward

Although Europe is facing the same food and agriculture challenges as the U.S., Europe's position is often baffling. Take for example, proposed European Union legislation to outlaw up to 85 percent of pesticides currently used by European farmers.

How does a modern society decide to get rid of the products that allow it to grow the food it needs as arable land is shrinking, fuel prices are rising and populations are increasing globally? The answer eludes me.

The EU Commission's proposal could lead to 20 percent to 30 percent yield losses in cereals. Professor Sir Colin Berry, emeritus professor of pathology at Queen Mary College, University of London, who opposes the legislation said, "The costs of implementing this legislation will be high-crop yields will fall, food prices will rise, more land will have to be farmed and fewer habitats conserved."

How do those actions best serve people in those countries? It's a vary narrow and short-sighted view. But I think the difference is that Europeans are more emotional about their food than Americans. Americans born after 1970 have come to expect a bounty of cheap, available food.

Americans born before 1970 remember when times were lean and you made due with what you had. Most Americans are typically not that elitist about their food choices, and Europeans seem to be more "food purists."

But underlining all of that, Europeans also seem to be more idealistic about their food, although there is a class of elitist thinkers popping up in the U.S. who are propagating the idea that food needs to local, organic and pesticide and fertilizer free. For example, Michael Pollan, a journalism professor at the University of California-Berkeley and author, has proposed nearly identical theories for U.S. agriculture.

Pollan's latest view is for farmers to graze cattle only on grass, these cattle would fertilize our fields, which could then be rotated so that the need for fertilizers would be eliminated. He suggests insects and weeds would disappear and remove the need for insecticides and herbicides. That's an amazing leap in logic and too fantastical and idealistic for most farmers and ranchers to implement.

Pollan has failed to take into account the length of time it takes to bring grass-fed beef to market, increasing methane gas emissions and producing waste, not to mention potential eroding of the soil.

I give Pollan credit for trying to find alternatives for agriculture. I appreciate his idealism, but logically, his system doesn't work, and it's not economically feasible in our current economy.

The United States and Europe are victims of their own affluence. You do not see third-world countries turning away from fertilizer and pesticide use if they have access to it and can afford to use it. In fact, fertilizer and pesticide use is increasing almost exponentially worldwide. Those countries are not elitist regarding where the food comes from or how it's grown. They simply want their bellies full at night.

Agriculture is the emotional bedrock for any community. The problem is that some people in the U.S. and Europe have lost sight of that. These people have forgotten how their industries and communities cannot grow if a majority of people have no food to eat. Food is the fuel that powers the global economy. Without an abundant supply of affordable food we all fail.

So, as we head into the holiday season, consider how important agriculture is to the entire world. U.S. agriculture is the best in the world, and we should be very thankful for that. Happy Holidays!