Tag: Agriculture

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In Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravity’s Rainbow, one of the characters explains a ‘European-style gangster hit’, which he says consists of three shots: head, heart, and stomach. Yes, that should definitely ensure the target’s demise. It strikes me that this comprehensive approach to high-certainty murder provides a pretty good analogy for what is going on in […]

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It began when the pastor at a lovely Christmas Eve church service in South Lake Tahoe, California, made a gentle joke about Bakersfield. He was citing how Christ’s influence on society includes the names of major California cities, such as San Francisco (“Saint Francis”) and Los Angeles (“City of Angels”). Insert comments here about the […]

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A Constitutional Right to … Food?


One of the more interesting ballot questions last Tuesday was Question 3 in Maine. The 43-word constitutional amendment, overwhelmingly approved by voters, reads as follows:

“All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to food, including the right to save and exchange seeds and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lants, or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food.”

Spreading Joy to Soyville, RV-Style


Ohio farmers are worried. But a guy named Sonny has swung by in his RV to reassure them. Sonny Perdue, the US Agriculture Secretary, is on an RV tour of several “flyover” states, reassuring farmers along the way that tariff tiffs will not harm them.

As the soybean industry assailed President Donald Trump today for launching a trade war with China, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Trump assured him that farmers in Ohio and across the country “will not be allowed to be the casualty in a trade dispute.”

Richard Epstein reacts to the Trump Administration’s exhortations to “buy American” and tackles common misperceptions about international trade, NAFTA, trade deficits, and manufacturing.

More Robots Are Coming to Farms. How Does This Affect the Immigration Debate?


Yet another reason to marvel at the lack of attention to technological change during the election. Lots of talk about immigration, but overall a backward-looking debate. For instance: Bloomberg reports about the shortage of farm workers — “crop pickers” — as “immigration slows, deportations rise and the prospects of congressional reform look remote.”

Will the crops rot in the field? Will farmers do nothing in response? Turns out, not so much. Again, Bloomberg: “That’s forcing more growers to invest in machines that reduce human involvement in the production cycle.”

Yes, supply and demand still work! And right now that interplay is more and more beginning to favor machines or man in the field. More from Bloomberg reporters Alan Bjerga and Mario Parker:

The First Shall be Last


Plantains in Ghana by Flixtey.

If you’ll forgive a very rough gloss, Homo sapiens originated in sub-Saharan Africa about 200,000 years ago, spread out across Eurasia and, eventually, into the Americas. In the last two centuries, the cultural and technological changes brought by the Industrial, Green, and Information Revolutions flowed back to the corners of the globe where humanity first arose. It’s been a long trip, but we seem to be approaching the end of this particular journey.

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So the Supreme Court has now struck down the Marketing Order which operated the California Raisin cartel, to the cheers and merriment of all. The farmer-plaintiff in this case has flouted the cartel’s rules and enjoyed the higher prices for his product that exist only because the cartel restricts supply. Those remaining in the cartel […]

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The Politics of Farm and Table


FFFMeme309pixelsLast weekend I had the privilege to talk about social media at the Food Freedom Fest held in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The event was a chance for farmers, foodies, entrepreneurs and activists to protect their right to grow the food they love and to enjoy it as they see fit.

In the present era of the personal as political, do-gooders and government bureaucrats are working overtime to regulate every aspect of your diet from the seed to the landfill. Unseen to most consumers is the effect this is having on our independent food producers. Mega agribusinesses can afford the lawyers and lobbyists required to navigate the growing mountain of rules and interpretations. But the people getting hurt are the farmers and artisans who make up the burgeoning Farm-to-Table movement.

At the same time our government praises sustainable, local, and healthy food, it is creating huge obstacles to the people trying to provide it. Just ask the vendors at your local farmer’s market or gathering of food trucks if you want to hear their deep frustration. Even lifelong progressives are noticing this disconnect and acting with a new appreciation for limited government.

Bring Back That Old-Time Elitism


In 1780, François de Barbé Marbois, a French diplomat, sent a series of questions to each of the 13 states. His goal: To compile a report, to be sent back to Paris, on the economic life of the new country. In Virginia, the questions were forwarded to the state’s governor, Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson’s answers were eventually published as Notes on the State of Virginia. Among its most famous passages is Jefferson’s paean to agriculture:

California’s Drought Gets Personal — Suzanne Temple


Next week, California shuts off the water. So says the letter my parents received from their local water district, informing them that the water supplied to the district’s farms in Northern California will be no more. This year, the North Valley will not be filling its water canals.

My parents own a 33-acre orchard and my other family members lease or own farmland all over my hometown. A few years ago, when rainfall began to diminish and irrigation prices began to rise (and environmentalists appeared determined to make all water policy beholden to the goal of saving an endangered three-inch fish, the delta smelt), my parents drilled their own well to irrigate their orchard—as did many other farmers in the area.

The Lesson of Nevada — C.J. Box


What is the takeaway from the Feds vs. Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada now that the Feds have high-tailed it? (Caution: the answer may be disconcerting to some readers.)

I won’t go into all the particulars here. The best and most balanced summary I’ve read was written by Logan Churchwell and Brandon Darby in Breitbart and I’d urge you to read it here.

I’m From the Government, and I’m Here to Help — Suzanne Temple


I was recently struck by all those photos of hundreds (if not thousands) of kids in New York wearing bright yellow T-shirts, holding signs that read “save our schools.” As you probably know, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been attempting to render three successful charter schools homeless. Why? It’s for the kids, of course. As his office tweeted out, they want to make “sure that all our kids get a great education.” I wonder what those kids in their yellow T-shirts are learning from all this. I wonder if it’s anything like what I learned as a kid.
I was eight years old the first summer that my family went to pick fruit in Washington state. It was the ’80s. It could’ve been around the time when President Reagan was quipping about the nine most terrifying words in the English language: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” I’d never heard those words, but in the coming years I would learn what he meant.
I suppose sociologists would’ve called us migrant farm laborers, but to us and everyone in the Tri-cities and Yakima valley we were simply cherry pickers. Our first summer, a family we knew helped us find work at the orchards they’d picked in years past. Their youngest daughter was my age and we became fast friends. Being little, I don’t remember much about that first summer. But I do remember I had my sights set on a purple bicycle with pink tassels on the handlebars that I’d seen at Toys “R” Us. I needed to pick $80 worth of cherries to buy it. And I did. Best bike I’ve ever owned.
We went back several summers thereafter. My parents required that my brothers and I pay for our own clothes and school supplies for the year, but all money we earned beyond that was ours. Though I liked making money, it was the after-work hours I enjoyed the most. At one orchard, my brothers and I would spend our late afternoons playing wiffle ball with a family from Oklahoma whose kids had such thick southern accents that I doubted they were speaking English at all. I recall another family we hung out with in several orchards. They had it tough. The mom was from Mexico and didn’t speak a word of English. Her husband had run off and left her with their two sons, who were close to my age. Along with her uncle, she and her sons picked cherries like their lives depended on it. In a way, I guess they did.
And then the government came to help.
I was probably around 14 years old when we were picking in an orchard where the foreman told us to leave. State law had changed, and my brothers and I were now not old enough to work. I suppose lawmakers didn’t like the idea of “child labor”—and wasn’t it awful that we were around tractors, ladders, and other things that grade-school kids think are cool? Fortunately, we had gotten to know a few growers who were willing to make an exception for us. But we agreed to always keep an eye out for anyone who came strolling into the orchard looking like they might be from some government agency.
In the summers that followed, we were the only family. The crews became uniformly single men or men away from their families. I wondered whatever happened to the family from Oklahoma, the Mexican mom with her sons, and the family who showed us the ropes that first year. I remember thinking that it was all so stupid. Families needed to earn a living. Why wouldn’t the government let them? Did politicians really have nothing better to do than try to save kids from earning money for pink-tasseled bicycles?
Apparently, not much has changed. Bureaucrats are now trying to save children from attending the charter schools they love. Politicians are here to help you, kids. They want to make sure you get a good education by closing down the schools where you’re getting a good education. Thanks for the help, government.