My Irish Up: Saving the federal government, Part II

Mike Corrigan

Mike Corrigan

By Mike Corrigan

BN Columnist

In my soon-to-be award-winning program to shrink the size of the federal government and make you important again, or at least as important as the rest of us can stand, I offer Part Two of “Saving the Federal Government From Itself.”

Last week, we solved the energy crisis by getting the feds out of the subsidy loop, primarily by knocking the underpinnings out from the hundreds of billions of dollars going for free to the fossil fuel industries. This would open the energy field up to innovation and honest competition, and free individual Americans and small companies to investigate sustainable alternative energy options, in fair competition against the planet-killers. You’re welcome.

This week, let’s apply a similar democratic-capitalist tactic to agriculture.

Now, it so happens I know a lot about agriculture, having gone to a 4-H meeting once. (Pomona Grange #5, Shelburne, N.H., June, 1959, you can look it up.) At that meeting, I learned all I ever wanted to know about rototilling goats and harvesting Doritos, and other tricks of the trade. Later in life, I was told that my hard-earned knowledge could be shelved because agribusiness had my back, along with their partners in crime, the U.S. Congress. And agreed, the agricultural-industrial complex does a better job than I would, especially on those Doritos — only not as good a job as real farmers would do, if we’d let them.

Here are a few facts, none of which I made up, for once:

• Ten percent of American farms receive three-quarters of federal subsidies. A good many large farms get hundreds of thousands of dollars not to plant crops. What a country! Some receive millions. There's an economy of scale to this no risk-but-reward-anyway system that drives small farmers out, and enriches big farmers, and it’s not fair.

• The “alternative energy” corn ethanol program is basically a garbage in/garbage out endeavor; it requires roughly as many Btus to make the corn ethanol as Btus produced by burning the fuel. More government waste, in other words. It's a harmful scam, too. That corn could be feeding animals and people.

• The larger farms that produce most of the food that shows up in local supermarkets, Maine to California, must be shipped all over the map to get there. The energy costs of transportation are high, and a lot of fossil fuels are burned, if not so many calories. If that system breaks down, the typical American town has only three days’ supply of food on its supermarket shelves. Then what?

• Genetically-modified food concerns some people. A more sinister byproduct of agri-bigness (not counting my expanding waistline) is species diversification, or the lack of it, what with the single-minded promotion of bug-resistant crops and the artificial selection of limited favored species; these choices are made not for nutritive value, but for efficiency’s sake. Consider: If all the corn in the world is of one species, and a new specialized predator comes sashaying down all the corn rows of the world and proves impossible to eradicate, well, there goes all the corn in the world. Concern you?

Local farms, which are a foundation of diversity just because of their size and isolation, have made a slight comeback in this decade. We’ve seen a rise of the farmers markets, even here in the Lake Region. Small local farms could provide local jobs and honest work for those squeezed out by the worldwide hegemony of the industrial/commercial sector.

Local farms and local shops, with local people producing a good portion of what the local community needs — what a vision for America! And local farmers won’t need any federal help, beyond the good people at Cooperative Extension Service, if the big boys don't get their subsidies. Remove the feds from energy and farming; let the real markets work. Democracy and small capitalism over plutocracy and rigged capitalism — what a concept!

Nowadays, as with the rest of corporate America, agribusiness prizes efficiency over quality. Agribusiness does not care not about your health. (Or your waistline.) You'll eat pink slime because that’s how the big boys make their money. You’ll eat low-value junk food because Madison Avenue will make you want it, and it can be mass-produced, and there’s more profit in it.

Giganticism is killing America. Which is ironic, because right now giganticism is America. You ask me, it's a clear case of national suicide.

Next week, since as an American you’ll want to get in on the ground floor, Mike will tell you how to apply for your own corn ethanol subsidy.

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