The Future of Industrial Agriculture

Thinker and writer John Michael Greer describes why organic farming is the next step in the evolution in agriculture that is unfolding in the United States. Excerpts below.

Link: The Archdruid Report: Agriculture: Closing the Circle

It’s extremely common for people to assume that today’s industrial agriculture is by definition more advanced, and thus better, than any of the alternatives. It’s certainly true that the industrial approach to agriculture – using fossil fuel-powered machines to replace human and animal labor, and fossil fuel-derived chemicals to replace natural nutrient cycles that rely on organic matter – outcompeted its rivals in the market economies of the twentieth century, when fossil fuels were so cheap that it made economic sense to use them in place of everything else. That age is ending, however, and the new economics of energy bid fair to drive a revolution in agriculture as sweeping as any we face.

Industrial farming follows an extreme case of the extractive model; the nutrients needed by crops come from fertilizers manufactured from natural gas, rock phosphate, and other nonrenewable resources, and the crops themselves are shipped off to distant markets, taking the nutrients with them. This one-way process maximizes profits in the short term, but it damages the soil, pollutes local ecosystems, and poisons water resources. In a world of accelerating resource depletion, such extravagant use of irreplaceable fossil fuels is also a recipe for failure.

…organic farming moves decisively toward the recycling model by using organic matter and other renewable resources to replace chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and the like. In terms of the modern mythology of progress, this is a step backward, since it abandons chemicals and machines for compost, green manures, and biological pest controls; in terms of succession, it is a step forward, and the beginning of recovery from the great leap backward of industrial agriculture.

Organic Farming Absorbs CO2

Giant agricultural conglomerates hate this kind of information — they have to hire more lobbyists and make more campaign contributions to get government to ignore the facts and continue to subsidize them.

Link: QuantumShift.tv – Soil: The Secret Solution to Global Warming – USA video

Research by the Rodale Institute reveals that sustainably-farmed soil holds up to 30% more carbon than conventional agriculture. Converting US farmland to organic on a wide scale would reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 10%. The extra carbon in the soil also increases food nutrients, which could greatly reduce health care costs. In this QuantumShift special report, farmer Percy Schmeiser urges the President and Congress to shift existing agricultural subsidies to support sustainable farming practices.