What's wrong with industrial food production and our approach to farming in the US?

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There are many problems in the US, jobs, health, hunger, energy, housing, environmental disasters, population concentrations etc. etc. How many of these issue have to do with something as basic as our approach to food production and farming?

To understand how we got to where we are you have to look back in history. As we first settled in America of course our first needs were food, shelter and basic products. Much needed to be imported as we worked to built our infrastructure and independence and grew our population. The industrial revolution demanded labor which was in short supply. Much of the labor was on the farms so if farming was industrialized labor could be freed up to build cites and manufacturing of other needed products. Energy was abundant and cheap and could be used to mechanize agriculture and grow products taking less labor. We often here of figures of how many farmers it has taken over our history to feed and provide fiber for people. Energy in the form of oil and natural gas drove increased production per farmer. These energy forms powered the equipment, was the source for fertilizing the land and the base for the chemicals to controls pests. Though somewhat successful in a sense in the past this approach was not without many shortcomings that we are now starting to understand.

Have the driving forces changed in todays situation? Is labor still in short supply? Is energy still cheap and abundant? Is irrigation water still cheap and abundant to add to soils were chemical fertilizers replaced organic matter nutrients that conserved water needs? Is chemical pest controls still the best approach? Are genetically modified seeds really the new answer to some shortcomings? Can we really survive on corn and soybeans and only a few crops that work well with an industrialized food system? Presently, how safe and healthy are these products to people and the environment.

Now I'm not saying there isn't a role for industrial agriculture. But the new broadly called sustainable agriculture movement I feel can also have a role in dealing with many of the issues I first mentioned. It has much room to grow and can as it has in the recent past actually help to improve many of the approaches of the past industrial ag. monopoly.

EdBourgeois's picture
May. 14, 2010 11:24 am


Industrial farming provides exponetially higher yeilds per acre. Less industrialized farming will require more land and more water to produce the same amount of product, that is why organic products tend to be more expensive.

gumball's picture
Dec. 12, 2013 10:02 am

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