Commentary: Union of scientists hate conventional ag

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“U.S. agriculture is at a crossroads: continue the polluting, soil-depleting industrialized farming methods of the past, or invest in modern practices of the future,” so says the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

And what are those “modern practices?” The UCS explains that the four key healthy farm practices that would “modernize agriculture” to meet today’s challenges are:
•    “Operating farms as part of the natural landscape, preserving uncultivated areas that can harbor beneficial wildlife, actually reduce farmers’ costs and reduce water pollution;
•    “Growing and rotating a wider variety of crops, which can increase yields while reducing the need for chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers;
•    “Reintegrating livestock and crops, reducing the problem of manure waste and enhancing soil fertility; and
•    “Growing cover crops to prevent erosion, reduce weeds, capture and hold nutrients in the soil, and protect farmers against drought.”

Those four points sound like reverting back to agriculture of the 1950s rather than farming of the 21st century. Of the four, the cover crops concept is one that has the most utility and potential for high-volume agricultural production practices.

If family farms were to follow these practices, then a large percentage of the world’s population would starve. Claiming food is grown by “industrialized farming” is the biggest lie that these activist “scientists” use to claim farmers are the henchmen of agribusiness corporations. Family-owned farms grow U.S. crops.

To those 95 percent of farmers who grow crops the “conventional way,” with modern scientific inputs, the ranting of the UCS has to be like fingernails scrapping on a chalk board.

The claim that today’s modern farming is killing the earth, plays well with consumers because it is coming from a group with a name that inspires trust—the Union of Concerned Scientists. The promoted assumption is that these people should be trusted because this union of scientists broke away from being bought and paid to lie about scientific discoveries harming the world.

I totally disagree with almost all of what the co-authors of the UCS’s latest policy brief say. I’d never agree that the brief is a credible scientific look at what agriculture should be in the future or the damage that it is doing to the U.S. environment.

“Industrial agriculture sounded good in the 1950s, but it’s not serving us well in the twenty-first century,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist with UCS’s Food and Environment Program and co-author of the policy brief. “To meet the environmental, resource, and production challenges of the future, scientists, policy makers and farmers must work together to invest in a more sustainable kind of agriculture.”

The Healthy Farm: A Vision for U.S. Agriculture,” is the full policy brief.

“The benefits of healthy farms make them a no-brainer,” said Margaret Mellon, senior scientist with UCS’s Food and Environment Program and another co-author. “Backed by science, these practices are productive and profitable, and ultimately benefit farmers, consumers, rural economies, and the environment. It’s a win-win.”

The UCS announced the policy brief comes as “Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduces the Balancing Food, Farm, and Environment Act, legislation to consolidate and fund conservation programs in the farm bill. And with debate on the farm bill expected this month, UCS is calling on the House and Senate agriculture committees to prioritize research and incentives to support healthy farm practices.”

Too bad the healthy farm practices of UCS are completely off base compared to reality and the needs of the average family farmer to stay in business without huge government subsidies.

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