Social Justice Articles 5
production suddenly dropped by 25%? Instead of $6 and $12 a bushel as it is right now, we might be looking at $25 to $30 a bushel. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about so much corn going to ethanol because they are already right at the margin and further price increases would soon bring such heavy losses the ethanol and biodiesel plants would have to shut down. The price of beef and pork would skyrocket as well.
With the chemicals we use today, carefully mixed and dispersed in a practice called “precision farming”, we are getting yields far surpassing those of just twenty years ago. And for once our larger family farmers are making enough profit to hope maybe they just might survive another 10 to 15 years.
What remains to be seen, of course, is whether all the many different kinds of chemicals used to produce these fantastic harvests will eventually poison the nest.
I was paging through a photo essay on life in Iowa during the early 1900s, and I came across a picture of chickens so crowded together they could hardly move.
The only difference is, that old confinement was outdoors while the new ones have walls and roofs and are mostly air-tight.
This fall, California voters will consider the most comprehensive farm animal rights law in the country, a measure that would ban cramped metal cages for egg-laying hens, metal gestation crates for pregnant sows and veal crates for lambs, standard industry practices in which the animals are kept so confined that they can barely move.
LOWDOWN ON THE FARM
Peggy and Vernon make some good points in their conversation on the preceding pages. But after having lived and served churches right in the heart of the corn belt I see things now from a still different angle.
On the whole, modern farming methods are kinder to the land than were former “primitive” methods. Drive around Winterset, Iowa where I now live, and you will see field after field with wonderfully designed and implemented soil conservation practices. River bottoms are still often planted way too close to the stream bank but gently sloping hillside fields are wonderfully contoured and terraced, often with hayfield strips banding the steeper ground.
Peggy mentions the no till planting and spraying of fertilizers and herbicides. The past five months I have been driving a “tender truck” to bring these chemicals to the same kind of sprayer which drove her and her daughter into the house. I can tell you this, every time we were sent out to do a field the speed and direction of the wind was noted, and when they were a problem for a certain field that one was set aside.
One time we were on a very large field a long way from town and in the space of about an hour the wind speed went from about 8 mph to over 15 mph. Normally, at 15 and over we pack up and go home. But we had already begun and we knew that if we did not do it now we would not be back. That would mean a contract not filled, less grain, and less profit for the farmer. We had to keep going, trying to keep the boom as close to the ground as possible.
Can we go back to farming as Peggy remembers it? Not a chance. What would the price of corn and soy products be today if