Where will we get our food?
We take for granted that all we have to do is go to the grocery store or restaurant for food. We are spoiled. Anything we want to eat at any time is available, and we tend to forget where the food actually comes from.
Our bread and cereal comes from wheat, corn, or grains. We eat fresh, frozen or canned fruits, vegetables, and juices. Even pizza is a combination of grains, meats, and vegetables. Some form of soybean is in many of our food items. Of course, all dairy and meat items are produced on the land where the animals are fed grain and hay.
The American public should understand that before conservation easements, wetlands, open space, green space, heritage preservation areas, parks, refuges, floodplains, and all the other land preservation programs take over, we need to ask, "What will I eat when this land is no longer producing food?"
The extensive environmental propaganda machine has turned public opinion to favor the preservation of every inch of land, and take it out of private ownership. This conversion could cost the taxpayer well into the trillions of dollars, but people are so afraid we are going to run out of land and that builders will develop it all, they are willing to pay the cost.
It is important to understand that no one takes care of property like the man or woman who has worked and paid for their property with sweat equity. Millions of acres of government owned property now stands in neglect, and yet, they want to take property from private ownership and preserve even more land.
Ranchers in western states are being thrown into jail over accusations they are grazing cattle on government land without permits. It has been reported that government agents are actually cutting the fences, letting cattle onto government ground, and then the ranchers are charged with the trespassing violation. Ranchers are being hit hard, but we don't hear it on our local news. Why?
They are not only fighting government agents, but they are subject to having their herds ravaged by wolves, and now cougars, that have been listed as endangered. The rancher is the one who will be "endangered," if he dares to kill one of these wild animals as it preys upon his livestock and domestic animals.
Government officials cutting fences and letting the rancher's cattle meander onto government ground is much like the fiction novel written by William Jud entitled Greenwar Chronicles which will soon be released for sale. Jud's intriguing novel appears to parallel true stories happening to real people.
In California and other states, there have been major conflicts as to whether the farmers will have access to water to irrigate their vegetable and fruit crops. It has become increasingly difficult for these farmers, and some will, sooner or later, be forced to quit farming.
Farmland in Florida is now being turned back into swamps on behalf of the Everglades restoration project, part of the Wildlands Project.
Hundreds of people are losing their homes and farms. Florida panthers (reportedly shipped from Texas) are becoming an increasing menace, but no one can touch them, as they are protected. Alligators have been overly protected, and now they are coming into people's yards.
Will we become as dependent on third world countries for food as we are for our oil? This land taken or regulated will most likely never be returned to the farmers who farmed the land. Will farmers become the next endangered species?
When land goes out of production, and grazing is no longer permitted, food costs will skyrocket. If we have to import our food, will we have control of the safety standards as we have in America? Will our choice of food always be readily available? What will be the cost?
What happens when we continue to take land off the tax rolls to be owned by environmental groups and the government? The answer is simple - the burden of the property tax will fall on the people who still own property, and their taxes will become more than many can afford to pay.
We hear about "urban sprawl" using up all the farm ground. Granted it is taking some, but only a small portion compared to the land purchased and taken under control through government and environmental programs.
Millions of acres have found their way into the hands of not-for-profit non-governmental organizations and land trusts who have used government grants to purchase the land for "preservation" - and they pay no taxes.
Farmers are fighting to barely make a living while paying high input costs on machinery, fuel, fertilizer and seed, farm payments, taxes, insurance, labor, and a long list of hidden costs. Every piece of equipment takes simple items such as batteries, tires, and regular maintenance. Major repair bills can run into thousands of dollars each year.
At the same time, they are being controlled by farm programs, wetlands, easements, endangered and invasive species, EPA, and a whole list of other regulations. Can anyone blame a farmer for throwing up his hands and caving in, when the right price is offered for his land?
Forced to go to town and get a job, he will now receive health and retirement benefits, along with a guaranteed weekly paycheck and a lot fewer worries about too much rain or not enough and where the money is coming from to pay the bills. But, a link to the continuing chain of the family farm has been broken. His children will never have the opportunity to learn the arts and skills of being a farmer.
Mary Myers, President of the Adopt a Farm Family/Rural Restoration organization located in Sikeston, Missouri, has made bumper stickers available to the public saying "No Farmers - No Food." Can we afford to lose our family farmers who have trained for their vocation since they were toddlers, following in the footsteps of their daddy?
Food and water are critical for man to survive. Will groups like The Nature Conservancy and the Federal Government always "preserve" the land they have taken, and will food ever be grown on that land again?
According to a May 15, 2003, Washington Post article, "The Nature Conservancy is hiring outside lawyers and one of the nation's largest public relations companies to help head off a congressional investigation following disclosure that the nonprofit has sold scenic properties to its own trustees, internal Conservancy memos show."
Although allegations have been made and investigations are ongoing, they just keep taking more land, with the help of the federal government.
Before falling into the trap of "total preservation of our creation," it is important to know the Creator and His parables on farming. It is His design that we must labor to grow our food, and He has given us the land from which to grow the food.
Our earth is extremely resilient, but we are meant to be good stewards and to conserve and care for our land. We need to ask - "what is the real purpose behind all of this 'preservation?'" God has provided the resources He knew we would need, but we have the responsibility of being wise in their use.
Joyce Morrison lives in southern Illinois. She is a chapter leader for Concerned Women for America and she and her husband, Gary, represent the local Citizens for Private Property Rights. Joyce is Secretary to the Board of Directors of Rural Restoration/ADOPT Mission, a national farm ministry located in Sikeston. She has become a nationally-recognized advocate for property rights.
This article first appeared in the Illinois Leader, and appeared here with permission.
Commentary on the Commentary...
Ah, an expert
A lady that I have never met, recently wrote an article titled Where will we get our food? She is a rural Illinois lady concerned about the growing power of government over her land, her activities, and our way of life. For her efforts, she received the following broadside from a fellow Illinian from the suburbs of Chicago. His comments follow here, and my response to him follows his comments.
Insatiable American appetite is the real enemy
Friday, July 02, 2004
Ms. Morrison raises many interesting points in her article [Where will we get our food? June 30, 2004]. Unfortunately, she provides little, or no evidence, to back up the assertions she makes.
She is apparently under the impression that land that has already been set aside, or is under consideration for "conservation easements, wetlands, open space, green space, heritage preservation areas, parks, refuges, floodplains, and all the other land preservation programs" (I'm curious as to what she means about "all the other land preservation programs," as she seems to have pretty well covered the gamut) is currently being farmed. The vast majority of these parcels are natural remnants that were generally passed over as being unsuitable for farming, particularly deserts, hilly and mountainous country, wetlands (those that weren't drained), and floodplains (floodplains flood).
She goes on to say that "the extensive environmental propaganda machine has turned public opinion to favor the preservation of every inch of land and take it out of private ownership." Really? Every inch, Joyce? That's a pretty extremist statement if you ask me. People are rightly afraid that developers will develop it all. I live in northeastern Illinois, and over the last 30 years, I have seen this corner of the state paved over with subdivisions, shopping malls, parking lots, business parks, and golf courses. The amount of land set aside for conservation and environmental purposes in the same period is dwarfed, by comparison. This region once boasted the finest soils in the world. Today, those old cornfields grow nothing but townhomes.
Morrison's' wide-ranging argument then jumps to the issue of grazing rights on public lands in the western states, where ranchers are being thrown in jail "over accusations that they are grazing cattle on government land without a permit." (Again, public land, Joyce, public land.) She states without attribution that "It has been reported that government agents are actually cutting the fences, letting the cattle onto government ground, and then the ranchers are charged with the trespassing violation." Who is making these claims, and where is their evidence? She says that "Government officials cutting fences... is much like the fiction novel written by William Jud." I agree. I believe it is fiction. She claims that wolves and cougars are "ravaging" the herds, but fails to provide any statistical data, or to mention that the federal government reimburses ranchers for these types of losses.
I don't intend to address every wild-eyed point raised by Morrison in this rebuttal, although I could. I agree with her conclusion that the small family farm is in serious trouble, but it's not for the reasons she gives. Suffice it to say, the environmental movement, wolves, panthers, and that enormous target called the Federal Government (you know, the one that George Bush is currently running) are not the villains. The real bad guys are the huge corporate farms, unchecked development in the name of progress, and the American appetite for more, and more, and more. We are our own worst enemy.
Harold A. Plein
I, too, am from northeast Illinois. I grew up in Saint Charles. You have no corner on the nostalgia market, i.e. "I live in northeastern Illinois, and over the past 30 years, I have seen this corner of the state paved over". The shore on the Fox River where I had my duck blind for years is no longer buttonbush, it is a girl's College campus. The marsh where I trapped muskrats has been filled, and is covered with million dollar homes. The ravine, that always was good for a rabbit, is gone. Many of the cornfields I shot pheasants in have disappeared. There are deer everywhere now (there were none when I was a boy.) The filthy River we used to swim in and eat bass and catfish from, is now clear water and a trophy bass fishery. The old willow I used to tie a trotline to is gone, and a fancy pier now touches the shore there. Do I miss it? You bet.
It's different now, but what is wrong with schools and homes and families? So deer eat landscape plants where ducks used to sweep into picked corn for a meal? It is unwarranted nastiness for you to use this as an excuse to disparage Ms. Morrison as "wild-eyed." Let's see how sharp your comments are.
You think there are not many "land preservation programs," and that the "majority of these parcels are natural remnants that were generally passed over." Not true. I say that as a retired Federal Refuge Manager who was Chief of National Wildlife Refuge Operations in Washington for seven years. The Federal government owns over 40 percent of the nation. They buy new Parks and Refuges every year, and it is mostly prime lands. They own millions of acres of National Forests, and have enormous landholdings in the West known as BLM lands that were kept in Federal ownership - like much of the National Forests - to be used by ranchers, loggers, local communities, hunters, fishermen, and other citizens from across the nation in sustainable ways. Those uses, access, and the management of those resources are disappearing. A large portion of such lands would have never been purchased, or set aside, by Congress if the current situation was even suspected or imagined, by the Federal and State politicians who set them aside or purchased them as long as a century and more ago.
As far as "other land preservation programs," there isn't enough room to list them. New Parks, new refuges, roundouts of current Parks, Refuges, and Forests and the proposed multi-billion dollar GO Act. Add in the Federal regulatory land encumbrances - Wild & Scenic Rivers, Heritage Areas, Conservation Easements, Wetlands Easements, Historic places and areas, USACoE regs for waterways (down to odd wet spots), Critical Habitats for Endangered Species, Migratory Bird habitats, areas adjacent to Federal areas - like closed beaches on Cape Hatteras, State Road closures - like Manassas Battlefield, prohibitive entrance fees to areas purchased with public funds, federal claims on nearby lands and land uses, and even "viewsheds", Wilderness designations, Roadless Areas, failure of the federal government to pay the promised replacements for lost local tax revenues, more, and more federal and state lands closed to hunting, fishing, trapping, pets, horseback riding, mushroom picking, and on, and on.
Add to this, all the "partnerships" between the Federal government and multi-million dollar environmental organizations like The Nature Conservancy, and you have millions of more acres doing the bidding of federal bureaucrats. This is because of the purchase of land (at a profit) by the federal government from such groups; as they enjoy tax benefits and breaks that allow them to outbid any other buyers. Oh, and don't forget, the shadow of "condemnation" that falls over every parcel the federal government shows an interest in buying. Yes sir, even those of us who caught your snide remark about the Federal government "you know, the one that George Bush is currently running," believe, in all honesty, that the overall effect of these federal and state programs can no longer be viewed in isolation. To advocate an examination of processes that continually get a pass from any critical examination is merely a sensible request for the sake of our government, and way of life.
Illinois still has "the finest soils in the world." Do you think because there are town homes there, and the soils are not planted that they disappear? The soils can be used again. There are plenty of old towns all over the Midwest that folks thought would always be there, and today they are beneath corn and soybeans. I'll bet you were uncomfortable before, with the farmers that destroyed your version of nature by planting a mono-culture all over the places that are now raising families.
Ms. Morrison does not have to present statistical data for facts known to every westerner and rural resident west of the 100th meridian. Wolves and cougars are ravaging stock, game, and pets - and even humans. Sorry, but it is a fact. Your level of familiarity with the subjects you harangue Ms. Morrison about is best shown in your comment that she "fails to mention that the federal government reimburses ranchers for these (sic: stock losses to cougars and wolves) types of losses." Wrong on all counts. States are responsible for cougars (except for a handful in Florida) and they pay NO reimbursement for stock losses to cougars. The federal government pays NO (zip, nada) reimbursement for any wolf, or cougar, depredations or livestock losses.
In order to make folks - like you - think so, while the federal government is spreading wolves all over the west and Midwest, THE DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE, an anti-wildlife-use outfit, brags that they pay ranchers for wolf damage. The truth is that they only pay for a small percentage, since they require ironclad "proof," and often other animals feed on the carcass and/or the carcass disappears. Some ranchers claim they are paid for less than a quarter of the wolf damage. Oh, and they are also refusing to pay for wolf loss where they "think" ranchers shouldn't be allowed to graze. And, guys like you go around with their hook, line, and sinker dangling, as you repeat this nonsense. Pretty soon, there will be too many wolves for even this veneer to be maintained, but by then it is too late for ranchers, horse owners, pet owners, and other rural and suburban folks where the wolves want to be, and urban guys like you will be blithely unaware and uncaring about the matter, since it NEVER AFFECTED YOU.
Last, but not least, if there is any "unchecked development" in NE Illinois (the natal den of powerful and over-regulating government), I would be surprised. I may be an overweight old guy, but I still think that the "American appetite for more and more and more" is a sign of the freest and most powerful nation on earth. We are doing things right, and better than others. If your only suggestion is more socialist government, and more regulation, and more government ownership and control of private property, like Europe or Zimbabwe, well you can put that where it will do you more good. While Ms. Morrison is a lady, and would not address you like that, I find it best to call a spade a spade. We are not "our own worst enemy." We are a community that has been more successful, and free, than any other, in the history of man. People like Ms. Morrison are trying to keep it that way.
You are the real speaker for "the extensive environmental propaganda machine" you disparage Ms. Morrison for mentioning. I suggest that if you don't like the amenities of NE Illinois, do what many of us do - move. If you don't like George Bush, keep it to yourself, if you want to make a reasoned response to something. I, for one, am constantly tempted to write as you have here, about how socialist Illinois has become since I left it. Your gun laws and wildlife management and over-regulation are a disgrace in a free republic, but I keep it to myself. The reason I do is that, as a sworn and loyal Cubs fan, I speak no evil of the place of my forebearers. If you have any such devotion, to say the Sox, or the Bears, or the Bulls, I suggest you remember that Ms. Morrison is one of us, too. She is a committed lady doing what many of us appreciate, and feel is important. Her claims to accuracy are every bit as good as yours.
Jim Beers is a retired Refuge Manager, Special Agent, & Wildlife Biologist U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Ms. Morrison's article and the "letter to the editor" were originally published in the Illinois Leader.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]