Food a greater concern than oil | PostIndependent.com

Food a greater concern than oil

Out on a Limb
Ross L. Talbott
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Now that Americans are waking up to our culture’s dependency on petroleum products, we are making some efforts to mitigate the situation. We need to lock the barn door while we have some horses left.

Another issue which is more foundational and is being totally ignored by everyone is the state of agriculture. If you are having trouble cutting down on your use of gasoline, try doing without food.

Several factors are at work here. The increased urbanization has resulted in a great ignorance about agricultural issues. First of all, agricultural education is absent from schools. Our kids watch cartoons and get a really warped and erroneous idea about animals. Pigs that talk and are sweet and lovable and lions that are gentle protectors.

Experience has shown me if you want to hire honest, reliable, dependable and hard working help, hire people who grew up on the farm or ranch.

People get all worked up about global warming, but it could increase food production. On the other hand, NASA is predicting a period of cooling due to the 200-year cycle of sunspot activity. The little ice age a couple of hundred years ago caused several food shortages and starvation in Europe.

The energy crisis is causing loss of agricultural land. Wind turbines cover large areas. Drilling for gas and oil has removed a lot of land from agricultural production.

Another downside to the drive for alternate energy is the large amount of land which is no longer producing food because it has been converted to corn for ethanol production.

Urban sprawl is consuming ag land at a fantastic rate. Planning and zoning exacerbates the problem by dictating low density. Sometimes they require multiple acres per house.

Probably the worst effect of urbanization on food production is the increasing consumption of water. Agricultural water is taken out of the food production cycle and used to grow lawns and flush toilets.

Government agencies from state to federal keep coming up with efforts to seize water rights for the benefit of the cities. Such efforts could be disastrous for agriculture.

Government regulatory agencies also put a burden on agriculture with permits, fees and regulations. There was even an effort to tax tractors $25 per horse power. That would be around $2,000 per tractor, which would show up in increased food cost. So far that one has failed, but they keep bringing it back.

Small family farms are becoming nonexistent because the cost of production has continued to rise, necessitating production by large corporations.

Many of the mountain ranches have been bought by wealthy people to enjoy the mountain rural life style. They no longer produce food but have beautiful thoroughbred horses munching the grass.

Labor has always been an issue in food production, and there is no relief in sight.

Hollywood and the cartoons have always made fun of agricultural people and portrayed them as folksy ignorant rednecks. Frankly, it’s the city people who are clueless.

Food production is foundational to our very existence. There are enough factors out there which could become critical virtually overnight. Storms, drought, wars, urbanization or a combination of factors could bring crisis.

Then as if things aren’t bad enough, we periodically get some kind of scare. There were the cyanide grapes, and the Alar in apples, the cranberry thing and the cantaloupe thing. Or how about mad cow or Mexican tomatoes? There were the Odwalla e-coli, which killed a lot of cider businesses.

It’s time we learned to value our food production. We need to appreciate the farmers and ranchers and value the land and water they use.

The Farm Bureau reported 89 percent of farms need off-farm income to survive, which means the wife works in town or the farmer holds a side job. What’s wrong with this picture?

There is a good side. We wouldn’t worry about being overweight.

Ross L. Talbott lives in New Castle.


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