The Blogging Farmer
Alex Tiller’s Blog on Agriculture and Farming

Turning The Screw

Interesting thing happened during the last Depression. Prices on goods and services actually dropped.

This isn't mysterious or complicated; it's a simple function of supply and demand. The same thing is happening today; a lot of prices are either holding steady, or even declining.

Except for the farmer.

Damnedest thing you ever saw—last year, farmers wound up paying over 30 percent more for seed corn than in 2008. Soybean seed went up too—almost 25 percent.

What the hell's going on?

Big corporate ag firms are at it again. In the great tradition of huge corporate conglomerates, it's all about more. "Enough" is the dirtiest word in these guys' vocabulary.

Except now, they might just have gone a little too far over the line. Now, the Justice Department is looking into every farmer's favorite company—Monsanto. Remember, these guys are probably the same ones who bought off politicians in India and are getting them to make it a felony even to criticize their product, which is GMO seeds.

What ticks me off is, these guys are always mouthing off about "competition" and "free markets"—and they're all fine with that, as long as it doesn't apply to them. Over the past several years, Monsanto has been buying up all its competitors and pretty much getting a lock on the market for GMO corn. Not surprisingly, we’re paying well over twice for these seeds what we paid ten years ago.

Is President Obama going to be another ‘trust-buster’ like Teddy Roosevelt? Maybe...it seems that Monsanto has crossed a line.

This isn't new. We've been there before—about 120 years ago. They called it the "Robber Baron Era." It was a time when a few powerful individuals—J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller and a few others—managed to create monopolies in certain key industries and stick it to everyone else. Then, in the early 1900s, the American people decided they'd had about enough.

We're at about that point today. Is President Obama going to be another "trust-buster" like Teddy Roosevelt?

Maybe...it seems that Monsanto has crossed a line. The head honcho is having to answer some pretty hard questions. Of course, he's claiming just the opposite. In a recent article in the New York Times, he said: "We were the first out of the blocks, and I think what you see now is a bunch of people catching up and aggressively competing, and I’m fighting with them."

So tell me, Mr. Grant (that's his name)—how come we’re paying over twice as much for seeds today as we did ten years ago?

Mr. Grant also went on to say that farmers are buying his company's products because they liked what those seeds produce, not because they don't have any choice.

I don't know much about all the legal issues involved here, but I know this – if it looks like a cow pie and smells like a cow pie, I don't have to pick it up to know that it's a cow pie.

Source: Neumann, William. "Rapid Seed Prices Draws U.S. Scrutiny." New York Times, 11 March 2010


Support Your Local Agriculture Through CSAs

I've ranted about corporate agriculture, their complete disregard for the environment, for workers, for communities, for anything but their bottom line.

By now, Americans from across the political spectrum, from the Tea Party to the Coffee Party, know all too well who their congressmen are really working for.

Whether you lean to the left or the right, there's no avoiding the fact that our federal government doesn't seem to care anymore. If we're going to fix things, we're going to have to do it on our own and at the local level.

This is where Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) comes into the picture.

Since the 1980s, CSA has really been catching on. The way it works is actually a lot like what happens when a businessman takes a company public by selling stock. The farmer offers shares of his harvest to local subscribers. These folks pay up front or make arrangements, and once the harvest starts coming in, they get to come out to the farm every week and pick up a box of fresh, seasonal produce.

‘When the family buys into CSA, the kids experience a sense of ownership—and guess what? Suddenly, they're eating those veggies and loving it!’

This is a win-win system for everyone. When a CSA grower sells subscriptions, it helps their seasonal cash flow—so they don't wind up having to take out loans to buy my supplies so much. It also means they can do marketing early on in the year before they’re out working in their fields from sunrise to sunset.

It also gives the growers a chance to get to know you folks and for you to know them, building relationships—which means building stronger communities.

Meanwhile, you're going to be tasting food that's fresher and better (including better for you) than anything you've ever tasted. By eating seasonally and locally, you're helping the environment by reducing the use of fossil fuels (to offense to hard working truckers, but transporting food a thousand miles or more is an issue we need to be thinking about), and chances are good that you're going to taste some things you haven't tasted before.

Best of all is the effect it has on kids. If you're a parent, you know how hard it is to get kids to eat their vegetables. However, when the family buys into CSA, the kids experience a sense of ownership—and guess what? Suddenly, they're eating those veggies and loving it!

You can learn more, including where to find CSA farms in your community, at Local Harvest, http://www.localharvest.org/csa/, an online non-profit organization dedicated to this growing institution.

tillerHello, and thanks for checking out my blog.  My name is Alex Tiller and I grew up in rural Ohio (Clark County), where my family still owns farmland (corn and beans). I am a member of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers and am also an agribusiness author/blogger. I write about commercial farming, family farms, organic food production, sustainable agriculture, the local food movement, alternative renewable energy, hydroponics, agribusiness, farm entrepreneurship, and farm economics and farm policy. I visit lots of farms in different areas of the country (sometimes the world) that grow all kinds of different crops and share what I learn with you through this blog.
You can contact me via email by clicking here

Alex Tiller’s Blog on Agriculture and Farming is at http://blog.alextiller.com/

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024