An Ag Coalition Puppet, Free Farm Electricity and More

An Ag Coalition Puppet, Free Farm Electricity and More

Bayer Spawns Another Meaningless Ag Lobby Group

An Ag lobby group bearing the name “Modern Ag Alliance” was recently formed by Bayer, with the catchy tagline “Control Weeds, Not Farming.” Although the group’s website doesn’t come right out and say it, their unmistakable mission is convincing state legislators to give immunity to pesticide manufacturers and scaring people (mainly farmers) into believing the world will starve without more glyphosate.

It would almost be funny except for the hoard of uninformed, mindless endorsements from other Ag organizations. There is little doubt that most (if not all) of the so-called “Partners” listed on Modern Ag’s website have signed on to the mission without even asking what they’re actually supporting – for example, the “risk” that Modern Ag is targeting involves just three states (Idaho, Iowa, Missouri) yet Ag groups from far and wide have lent the use of their names as “Partners” for the project (e.g., the Agricultural Council of Arkansas). Idaho, Iowa, and Missouri are all states where Bayer has substantial operations and introduced legislation to give itself immunity. Does an Ag organization in California (i.e., the California Specialty Crops Council) really give a damn whether Bayer gets statutory immunity in Missouri? Of course not.

The sad reality is that many Ag organizations that claim to support and protect farmers and ranchers too often agree to serve as puppets for the likes of Bayer and its ilk. These same groups were conspicuously silent when Bayer announced earlier this year that it would be banning its farmer-customers from participating in class actions and requiring more burdensome record disclosures to plant its seed. Indeed, these same groups have been conspicuously silent when the big seed and trait makers remove products from the market just as patent protection expires, thereby eliminating generic alternatives with lower costs (and competition). Shouldn’t these groups be fighting to preserve their member’s rights and market access, and to make the management of farm operations easier?

When Ag organizations thoughtlessly lend their names to corporate agendas, the result is a distorted reality that gives the appearance of American farmers’ support on a “burning” political issue. But when the curtain is pulled back it’s pretty easy to see these so-called coalitions are nothing more than corporate initiatives to shield the bottom line on financial statements.

A healthy dose of skepticism and introspection would serve these groups well. Otherwise, they’re just sheep being led to slaughter.

Free Farm Electricity

Demand for installation of solar panels on farms has started to take off as federal subsidies and grants have reduced the cost to almost nothing (and in some cases, to zero). A recent article by Patrick Thomas and Amrith Ramkumar of the Wall Street Journal highlighted the availability of incentives for smaller solar projects, like those that fit an individual farm, to cover installation costs and the opportunity to sell electricity back to the grid. One example noted in the article was a South Carolina chicken producer that obtained incentives to cover the $300,000 cost of a solar panel system on his chicken barns. The new system will essentially eliminate $10,000 in annual electrical costs. While it takes some effort to assemble the right combination of tax credits and grants, the potential financial benefits are substantial. You can read more here on free farm electricity

A World of Fewer Folks

Recent demographic data indicates that instead of the world population racing to more than 10 billion souls, the global population will instead peak much sooner and much lower – around 9.5 billion by 2061 – according to a recent article by Greg Ip of the Wall Street Journal. While the global fertility rate has been dropping since the 1960s, the common assumption among researchers was that demographic changes occurred relatively slowly. But newer data indicates that changes are happening much quicker, and that the global fertility rate may soon drop below the replacement rate required to maintain a stable population. According to Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, a University of Pennsylvania economist, “The demographic winter is coming.”

Most economic models are built on the assumption of ever-expanding growth, and a world that stops growing doesn’t fare well. Innovation becomes stagnant, governments struggle to provide services, and economies falter. Some argue for a shift in economic thinking away from the proposition that we should continually create and consume more stuff, and towards economic models premised on no growth or even de-growth. Some also point to a distinction between economic growth and economic development, where growth is based mainly on increasing G.D.P., while development focuses on increasing quality of life without increasing consumption. These are remarkably challenging propositions, but if the demographers are right, these challenges will become reality sooner rather than later.

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