Let’s have a look—shall we not?—at the Environmental Working Group’s commodity-subsidy database. it’s the black book of right-wing Farm Bureau types. According to his bio, Hurst farms in Atchison County, Mo. EWG informs us that farmers in Atchison drew in a cool $131 million in government commodity payments between 1995 and 2006. That’s good enough for 11th place among Missouri’s 50 counties. Drilling down, we find that Hurst himself took home $242,600 in that period; and three close relations took in $400,000, $388,000, and $347,000, respectively. That’s a cool $1.4 million in U.S. treasury cash for the family over 12 years.
Now, hold your howls of outrage. These are corn and soy farmers. They buy tremendous amounts of fertilizers and poisons; they buy pricey GMO seeds from Monsanto; they’re paying huge notes on those combines, which they have to maintain and supply with diesel; and they’re selling their produce into a grain market largely controlled by two companies (Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland) that for most of those years paid them less than the price of production. In other words, your $1.4 million payment to the Hursts didn’t likely stay long in family bank accounts. More likely, it quickly passed into the coffers of Monsanto, John Deere, Mosaic (the fertilizer giant two-thirds owned by Cargill), and other input suppliers. (Of course, in the past couple of years, corn/soy farmers have seen lower subsidies and higher grain prices—borne up by another government program, corn ethanol.)
You see, while their friends at the American Enterprise Institute might mock them as such, it’s not the Hursts who are “welfare queens” here. It’s their agribusiness suppliers and buyers. And we can’t really debate the food system until we acknowledge their massive vested interest in it—and their vast political power, which they’re not shy about using to maintain their income streams.
Well, that guy doesn't live in the southwest.
Pollan, who seemed to be aware of the nitrogen problem in his book The Omnivore's Dilemma, left nuance behind, as well as the laws of chemistry, in his recommendations.
Until we learned to produce nitrogen from natural gas [...] the ability to artificially synthesize nitrogen.
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