Eric Stubben is a mechanical engineering sophomore and Mustang News conservative columnist. | Ian Billings/Mustang News

Ian Billings/Mustang News

“America needs to wake up when it comes to agriculture … As more and more of our farmers retire, there will be fewer people in line to take their place. Production will decrease, demand will increase and prices will soar.”

Eric Stubben
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Eric Stubben is a mechanical engineering sophomore and Mustang News conservative columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.

Ever since the first settlers arrived in America, we have been a culture dependent on farming and agriculture, whether we recognize it or not. George Washington’s primary source of income wasn’t from being a war hero and it wasn’t from being the first President of the United States. His primary source of income was from his farm; he was one of the most innovative farmers in colonial America.

Although Washington and the Founding Fathers didn’t set any principles for agricultural policy, today’s America has a shameful disrespect for the people who put the food in our supermarkets and on our tables.

The current farming industry in America is far from being an attractive one and, quite frankly, why would it be? The lack of agricultural awareness, funding and support is a potential danger to the agricultural sector for years to come. People who have never even taken the time of day to speak with a farmer or visit a farm are waging a war on corporate farming, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the use of pesticides to protect crops.

America is the third-highest crop-producing country in the world, only behind China and India. Yet agriculture makes up only 1.2 percent of the United States’ annual gross domestic product. Less than 1 percent of the 300 million plus Americans claim farming as their occupation, while less than half of that 1 percent claim it as their “principal occupation.”

To bridge the gap between fewer crop producers and a growing global population, many farmers are beginning to find innovative ways to strengthen crops and reduce crop losses from storms and unforeseen natural events throughout the year. One way they are doing this is through the use of GMOs.

GMOs are crops that have had their DNA modified without chemicals to enhance their immunity to weeds, diseases and resistance to severe drought, heat or freezing. But of course, not everybody sees them that way. Many protestors around the country are outraged that modified foods are not “natural” or “certified organic.” However, organic foods are significantly more susceptible to diseases such as E. coli and salmonella than genetically modified foods. With today’s instant media and access to the Internet, everyone seems to think they are an expert on agricultural issues.

Pundits of large-scale agriculture often chastise the use of corporate farms in today’s agriculture system, clamoring over controlled prices and a widespread use of GMOs. Although only 4 percent of farms in America are considered corporate, they are essential to regulating the farming industry.  In large-scale farming operations, systems are optimized for more thorough and high-tech harvesting, cleaning and testing via significantly higher profits and funding than small family farms are able to achieve. Corporate farms do not necessarily produce a larger net percentage, but a higher volume of crops.

Perhaps the most alarming part of the agriculture industry is the lack of federal attention or funding towards it.  When the Industrial Revolution struck and people flocked to the cities, so did America’s political policy.  Ever since the 1970s, the Farm Bill — America’s funding and regulation of farmers through subsidies — has been paired with food assistance in order to win enough votes to pass through Congress.

Last July, Republicans opted to remove the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as “food stamps” from the Farm Bill. SNAP, which took up 80 percent of funding from the Farm Bill, was the main attractor to Democratic votes to pass the bill. Although the Farm Bill is unlikely to pass without the food stamps, the separation does make sense. The Farm Bill and SNAP each support vastly different parts of society. Almost all farmers live on rural land with far different needs than people on SNAP, who mostly live in cities. It’s not to say that one bill is more or less important than the other, but each one deserves special tailoring to the needs of its demographic.

Although the Farm Bill passed through the House, it did not receive a single vote from Democrats. One trip through the “Dust Bowl” and a historical look at Democrats’ voting against agriculture will make it painfully evident that the Democratic Party does not support the advancement and innovation of agriculture. Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer’s votes to reduce funding for water supply, while sending more water to cities, has increased rural water prices while making it nearly impossible for farmers in central California to irrigate their crops — the effects have been catastrophic.

America needs to wake up when it comes to agriculture. The average age of a farmer is older than 57 and 60 percent of farmers are 55 years or older. Right now each farm worker is, on average, responsible for 740 acres, opening the door to several farm jobs. Without support and funding to the agricultural sector, kids and young adults will not want to become farmers. As more and more of our farmers retire, there will be fewer people in line to take their place. Production will decrease, demand will increase and prices will soar. Agriculture is currently related to 23 million jobs around the country — jobs we can’t afford to lose.

I can personally attest to the hard work and dedication farmers put into feeding America. My grandfather was a farmer, and I’m from a small town surrounded by crops tended by some of the hardest working people in America. We live in a society where we focus more on petty social issues than the labor of our food source. Support our farmers. We need them just as badly as they need us.

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6 Comments

  1. Great article, Mr. Stubben. No, folks, your food does not come from the grocery store, you just pay for it there. Americans need to appreciate that throughout the world, we spend one of the smallest proportions of our income on food. We are blessed by our great agricultural industry.

  2. food stamps have been part of the Farm Bill since 1973 even though not directly related to agricultural subsidies, the two parties have passed them together in order to insure compromise. House Republicans separating the two is going back on a legislative tradition in order to screw the poor out of food while giving tax payer dollars to corporate farms. Your historical example of the “Dust Bowl” showing Democratic lack of support to farmers is incorrect as the Midwest was a huge part of the New Deal Coalition. FDR used the Civilian Conservation Corps to plant trees in order to stop the dust from blowing. He passed the Drought Relief Service, the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation, and the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act all intended to help the common farmer. In fact the most well known farm advocate is three time Democratic nomination for President William Jennings Bryan.

  3. I’m glad to read an article that brings attention to one of the most important and respectable careers in America. Farmers are arguably the most important people in the country, yet you could never read about the state of the agricultural industry on a mainstream media site. However, the article addresses GMOs without mentioning Monsanto. The two cannot be separated because Monsanto is the global leader in corporate farming and patent lawsuits. Rather than funding efforts to to genetically “enhance (the plants) immunity to weeds, diseases and resistance to severe drought, heat or freezing,” they focus on creating plants that resist a toxic herbicide that they also happen to manufacture.

    This is the reason their is a stigma against GMOs; they eliminate the incentive to create less harmful pesticides, insecticides and herbicides. Putting aside centuries of warnings from philosophers and more recently from chaos theorists about playing God, creating entirely new species to harvest food from is going to have totally unpredictable consequences. And I don’t mean potential long-term health effects of genetically modified food on consumers. I don’t even mean potential long-term health effects of Round-Up exposure on farmers and their families. I mean the possible effects on the market and on the environment. What if all crops are no longer edible to a particular type of mite or beetle? Does that species die off and does that have a catastrophic effect on an entire ecosystem? If there is no longer a need for companies that produce soil additives or herbicides, does that have a ripple effect on several different industries leading to massive layoffs?

    Lastly, if every farmer in America is planting patented seeds, isn’t the entire agricultural industry now controlled by politicians and lawyers rather than the farmers themselves? THAT would be a disaster and that is a good reason to avoid GMOs. Not to avoid unproven health effects, but to support the remaining independents farmers and take a stand against lobbyists. Also, don’t make this a Democrat/Republican issue. They are both guilty as sin and will gladly collapse the entire agricultural industry if the money is right.

    1. “Lastly, if every farmer in America is planting patented seeds, isn’t the entire agricultural industry now controlled by politicians and lawyers rather than the farmers themselves?”

      This is a great point. You cannot advocate for GMOs without advocating for the company that monopolizes the GMO industry. If there was a more balanced market, maybe GMOs would be created that are uniquely adapted to certain ecological zones and environmental conditions, making farming more efficient and sustainable for the growing human population. As long as Monsanto is controlling the market, however, it is in their best interest to PREVENT innovation and push a one-size-fits-all system that they already own.

      The author of this article is right–the average US citizen does need to be better connected with farmers and know where their food actually comes from. But when I read opinions like this, I can’t help but think that some modern agriculturalists are also disconnected. Please do not blame the mass exodus of farmers in America on poor, inner-city, food stamp-using liberals, when they are so clearly being driven out of business by giants like Monsanto. There are countless testimonies of small and mid-sized farmers who will tell you this, and anyone who does a little research can read about it.

      I have a ton of respect for farmers–I admire their intimacy with the land and its ecology, as well as their pragmatism and work ethic. I think the control of farmers by big business threatens their independence, their freedom to innovate and their ability to think for themselves. I know there are some movements to support small- and medium-sized farmers that grow food locally. I think this is great, not only because it can start reconnecting average people with farmers, it supports small farmers that are independent enough to innovate and make their own decisions.

    2. This is where you are wrong. The pesticide which some GMO crops are made to resist, glyphosate, aka roundup, is far less toxic than many of the organic certified pesticides. Research into the Median Lethal Dose, aka LD50, of roundup will tell you that the acute oral LD50 in the rat is
      5,600 mg of product per kg of rat body weight. Versus pyrethrum, an OMRI certified organic insecticide which has an acute oral LD50 in the rat of 700-2140 mg/kg depending on sex. Lets put this in another perspective. Nicotine which can be considered an organic pesticide but isn’t used in industry anymore due to it’s toxicity has an acute oral LD50 in rats of 50mg/kg. So whats potentially more deadly? Smoking or spraying roundup? Or even in this perspective. You would need to drink a gallon of roundup per kg of your body weight, that equates to the average person having to drink approximately 70 gallons of roundup to kill themselves. You could probably kill yourself quicker by attempting to drink that amount of water in a short period of time.

      It also must be noted that GMO crops have permitted the farmer to NOT need to enter the field multiple times for such reasons as cultivating to kill weeds, spraying insecticides multiple times in a season, working ground more, etc.. This relates to less sediment runoff, less fuel consumption, less labor, less crop inputs, and the list goes on. All the while relating to ever increasing yields per acre. Sounds pretty sustainable to me….

      Let’s even move away from the GMO topic for a second here and look at insecticides today versus in the past. Today we have neonicotinoids, spinosyn, and the list goes on. All chemical classes which have been made by corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer, etc. These chemical classes are far less toxic than chemicals used just a few decades ago such as organophosphates and carbamates. In addition the new classes tend to be selective going after the problem insect rather than decimating every living thing where you happened to spray an organophosphate. So why are we saying shame on you to these corporations that have spent millions on millions of dollars researching, testing, marketing, etc. to produce products. You would be amazed by the amount of leaps and bounds they have to go through to get their product approved. So why shouldn’t these corporations protect their interests and investments by going after people who aren’t playing by the rules and are full of hyperbole.

      As for your argument of killing off a species I can’t see your point considering that the number one GMO crop, corn, is a man made plant anyways. And the other GMO crops such as wheat, soybeans, rice have also all been raised from wild species. Not to mention many insects which prey on our crops are generalists and do not need one particular type of plant.

      And innovation always leads to certain industries to go extinct but out of that rises new industries so I don’t really see where you are going with that.

      I could go on but I have to little time. Please look into these topics more. There is more to it than simple one sided documentaries, media stories, etc..

      1. Mmmm, much of this smells like copypasta. But I agree with your point on human health effects. Personally, I think the long-term effects of high sugar and sodium intake is far more of a threat to life expectancy than RoundUp, but you didn’t really address the point expanded upon by the previous poster; you’re talking about a monopolized industry with an owner intent on squashing innovation. Also, some of these “one-sided documentaries” directly contradict your statement that corporations having to go through “leaps and bounds” for product approval and they provide some evidence for their claims. And when you ask why these corporations (Monsanto) shouldn’t go after people who “aren’t playing by the rules,” you should also ask yourself if these farmers ever agreed to these rules when they began farming and whether they have a choice to opt out of this GMO game and farm traditionally.

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