Tractor by Andrew Swartz

Considering the growing list of problems erupting from destructive modern agriculture practices, it is clear that new leadership is desperately needed at our Department of Agriculture (USDA). Many of these problems have been issues for decades, and only superficial responses have been made by the USDA.

Seed diversity and the small farmer are under siege by the advent of GMO crops. The estrogenification of our environment is growing at a startling pace. Our agricultural communities are becoming increasingly impoverished. We are losing important pollinators due to toxic agricultural chemicals in the environment. We are killing our waterways, as is evident by the increasing oceanic dead-zones, and we continue to lose our precious soil through unsustainable farming practices.

Looking at the  USDA website’s smokescreen photos of happy family farmers, I am left wondering why these urgent issues are not being addressed.  I agree that supporting and increasing our family farmers is very important, but when the boat is sinking maybe a significant amount of effort needs to be spent fixing the hole.  In essence, our national farmlands and waterways are being destroyed by businesses who have little incentive to conserve these treasures; their only motivation is short term profit.

The most depressing aspect of this dilemma is that all this is happening under the corrupt leadership of a government agency who is in bed with many of the largest agricultural corporations responsible for the majority of these problems. Corporate profit has taken over the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and we are all suffering from the destruction wrought by unsustainable management policies that are driven only by the desire for money.


 Top Ten Modern Agricultural Problems:


  1. Soil erosion
  2. Seed diversity
  3. Impoverished agricultural communities
  4. Monsanto/Dupont/Dow/GMO/corporate influence 
  5. Waterway pollution/ ground water contamination
  6. Oceanic dead zones
  7. Estrogenification of the environment
  8. Honey bee deaths
  9. Decreased nutrient quality of  food crops
  10. Attacks on small family farmers by multi-national corporations
I am left yearning for a visionary leader like former Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace. In the introduction to the Dept of Agriculture Yearbook from 1938 Wallace wrote:

“THE EARTH is the mother of us all—plants, animals, and men. The phosphorus and calcium of the earth build our skeletons and nervous systems. Everything else our bodies need except air and sun comes from the earth. Nature treats the earth kindly. Man treats her harshly. He overplows the cropland, overgrazes the pastureland, and overcuts the timberland. He destroys millions of acres completely. He pours fertility year after year into the cities, which in turn pour what they do not use down the sewers into the rivers and the ocean. The flood problem insofar as it is man-made is chiefly the result of overplowing, overgrazing, and overcutting of timber. 

This terribly destructive process is excusable in a young civilization. It is not excusable in the United States in the year 1938. We know what can be done and we are beginning to do it. As individuals we are beginning to do the necessary things. As a nation, we are beginning to do them. The public is waking up, and just in time. In another 30 years it might have been too late. 

The social lesson of soil waste is that no man has the right to destroy soil even if he does own it in fee simple. The soil requires a duty of man which we have been slow to recognize. In this book the effort is made to discover man’s debt and duty to the soil. The scientists examine the soil problem from every possible angle. This book must be reckoned with by all who would build a firm foundation for the future of the United States. For my own part I do not feel that this book is the last word. But it is a start and a mighty good start in helping all those who truly love the soil to fight the good fight.”

 — HENRY A. WALLACE, Secretary of Agriculture


These issues were of the utmost importance back in 1938, and they are even more pressing now. Nobody has the right to diminish the quality of the soil, regardless of ownership. Soil and land are not disposable — especially not land that is essential for growing the world’s food. Water will surely prove to be the most valuable commodity on earth as our population expands. What do we want our naton’s heritage to be?


Tractor photo by Andrew Stawarz

Interesting related articles:  Know your bites: Does the USDA’s local-farms program have a chance?