Biofuel Boom – Bad Business for Farmers, Big Business for Big Business

By now many of you have seen the NY Times article on Sticker Shock in the Organic Aisles, in addition to that I suggest that you read this piece on Organic in Trouble from the blog Mulch. The poor federal policy decisions to support biofuel production (which continues to be shown to be a false panacea for positive energy and environmental impact) is now having a very serious detrimental impact on one of the great success stories of modern agriculture, particularly in organic dairies. The abandoning of Conservation Reserve Program acreage in order to fill gas tanks instead of feed humans is inextricably linked to agrochemical conglomerate powers of companies like Monsanto, and the huge influence they wield on our political and public system. Monsanto’s profits continue to skyrocket as more land gets converted to bt corn and RR soy for ethanol and biodiesel. They win, the rest of agriculture and our food security loses. Farmers may see some short term profits, but watch for the blow back. An article in Delta Farm Press from March of 2007 (which was based on some naive projections about the price per barrel of oil remaining at around $60) predicted that farmers would be back to “break even” within 2 years – that’s by 2009. Farmers want to believe that the fuel driven big prices of today will be their longterm economic security, but the only folks who are going to make out in the long run are the CEOs and major investors of the ag-chemical-seed companies who are driving this boom. Boom, bust – the Hegelian dialect innit? – and you can be sure who WON’T be on the bust side and who will. Farmers never win in these situations.

Cautionary note on the long term economics

And another

And of course perpetual growth illusions rely on the allied illusion that yields in corn and soy will forever increase via genetic engineering, but that is also being shown to be false. As the researcher says, every organism has its physiological peak – it’s unlikely a human will ever be able to jump 20 feet into the air, or run a sub 3 minute mile.

We can’t solve the energy-climate-agricultural crises with quick fix technological solutions. Changes in food and fuel consumption, break-up of unhealthy concentration in agriculture and energy sectors, and an acceptance that perpetual economic growth is not possible (or desirable) are more realistic platforms to build a longterm, economically and environmentally sustainable fuel-food-farm culture. Cultural, ethical, and institutional shifts can nurture greater societal health, wealth, and happiness.

Health, Wealth, and Happiness lead me to Ben Franklin, and to a particular quote of his that I used to have written above the office of one of antique stores: “I conceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things.”

Pertinent thought not only for trading in antiques, but for the get rich quick rush towards biofuel crop production.

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