Feed the People

September 10, 2009

September 10, 2009

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the Renewable Fuels Association, Wal-Mart Stores, Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Almost every week, there is a new article, a new documentary, a new commentary that is critical of the way we farm. They don’t like “factory farms.” Not organic. They don’t like commercial fertilizer or biotechnology. It’s not natural. They want to turn back the clock. Send everyone back to the land.

Now, I’m happy to acknowledge that we probably could be better. However, someone has to answer this question. “What is better?” “What is the objective of food production?”

First and foremost, I think it is to feed the people. We are doing that. Americans spend less than 10% of their income on food. In 1960, it was 20%. Sounds like progress to me. People in many developing countries spend 40% of their income on food. Why is it that they fail to measure up to the American farmer? Because they don’t employ the best technology. Their plants aren’t genetically engineered to protect against suffocating weeds and destructive insects. They don’t have modern precision machinery to reduce the labor cost. They don’t use commercial fertilizer to feed the plants. That’s what fertilizer is. Fertilizer is feed for the plant so it can reach its maximum level of production.

The loud mouth critics of modern commercial farming would have us farming like we did 100 years ago. They are champions for “sustainable” agriculture. What about sustaining the world population? We could not feed the billions of people without modern technology.

Food is inexpensive and it tastes good. Unfortunately, that’s why we eat too much. But the answer isn’t to see the price skyrocket.

Our critics argue that our increases in food production on the same acres are at the expense of the soil and the environment. I could not disagree more. Our soils are more fertile than ever before because they are tested and fed according to their needs. Our soil conservation practices protect the environment.

We’re not perfect, but the “sustainable” agriculture elites don’t have a better answer because they couldn’t feed the people.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.