Evaluating Ideas and Methods in Agriculture

One of the partners and I have been engaged in a discussion that starts to take our farming methods work and determines a protocol to evaluate the integration of a ‘new idea’.

The exchange began because of a concern about genetic manipulation… but could easily extend to any agricultural innovation.

My anxiety arises based upon the broad question of ‘How do we know?’ the impact (both short and long term) of any new method.

As a general statement, I would hypothesize that agricultural science has been severely underfunded in comparison to medical science. I also think it is fair to hypothesize that agricultural science research has been severely anthropocentric.

From a bit of Internet research:

U.S. healthcare research spending in 2016 appears to be approximately $50B (Federal government portion). The only statistic I found on industry investment was from 2010 for $76.5 B.

U.S. agricultural research spending in 2016 appears to be approximately $3B (Federal government portion).

Given our society and the Earth are suffering from 20th Century anthropocentric ideas and methods, I’d also hypothesize there would be enormous social, environmental, and cultural benefit to broadening the ‘human centered’ perspective that drives research spending in America.

Now comes the BIG question…how to develop a research protocol for agriculture 1) intelligently linked to other disciplines, 2) free of species biases, 3) sustainably funded, and 4) capable of answering sophisticated scientific and cultural question.


Lucille and the Domestication of Animals

Lucille the Dog is a bit of a free spirit.

I’ve always been resistant to the kind of training done by many dog people.

My thought has always been she (Irish Setter and Poodle mix) has a given character that I need to respect.

She loves people, she loves to run, she loves to chase in the woods or the yard.

Around people she is enthusiastic, yet understanding. If you are comfortable with her, she is comfortable with you. If you are hesitant, she is respectful.

Part of her is wild, part of her is a domestic homemaker.


Mitch Seavey’s Dogs Won the Iditarod

What Mitch Seavey had to say about winning the Iditarod…

” ‘They love speed,’ Seavey said of his sled dogs. ‘I think it frustrated them to go too slow, so I just let ’em roll. It was scary because I’ve never gone that far that fast ever, but that’s what they wanted to do and maybe it’s a new chapter.’

“Seavey’s team recorded 10 and 11 mph runs and the separation he built over other racers gave him the flexibility to bank generous rest for his dogs, and himself, as they moved up the Norton Sound coast in the race’s final days.

” ‘They only know one thing and that’s 9.5 to 10 mph and they hit their feet, and they hit their speed and that’s what they do. And they trusted me to stop them when they needed to be stopped, and feed them, and I did that, and they gave me all they could. But I guarantee they’re tired now,’ said the new champion.”

The Economic Arts

A few years ago Wendell Berry made a speech with the following paragraph:

But I would insist that the economic arts are just as honorably and authentically refinable as the fine arts. And so I am nominating economy for an equal standing among the arts and humanities. I mean, not economics, but economy, the making of the human household upon the earth: the arts of adapting kindly the many human households to the earth’s many ecosystems and human neighborhoods. This is the economy that the most public and influential economists never talk about, the economy that is the primary vocation and responsibility of every one of us.

The making of a household has for almost 40 years been a central part of my health (or lack of health). Over the past two years my ability to make a household has been interrupted – both in the practical sense and in the psychological sense.

My home literally ‘fell apart’.

During those two years, I have allowed the practical part of homemaking to become disjointed, uncertain, uncomfortable, and unhealthy.

It has pointed out how important and sustaining is the work of the homemaker.


Who Owns America?

“When democracy goes down before monopoly capitalism,” Agar writes, “the result has been a greedy tyranny, preserving all the vices of capitalism and extinguishing its virtues.”

Russell Mokhiber, editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, and Robert Weissman, editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor in 2000 wrote the following about the 1936 published book Who Owns America?

The other day, at our local bookstore, we passed a book. And then doubled back.The book is titled Who Owns America?: A Declaration of Independence. Sounded like it was written by people we should know. But on further investigation, we recognized none of the names on the cover.Who Owns America? was written by 21 “conservative” decentralists. And it was first published in 1936.Re-released this year, with a new introduction by Seton Hall University History Professor Edward S. Shapiro, Who Owns America? (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware, 1999), is highly critical of large corporate institutions that controlled the political economy in 1930s America. Its publisher believes the book is as relevant today as the day it was published.Edited by Pulitizer Prize winning Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Herbert Agar and southern poet Allen Tate, Who Owns America? puts forth the type of scathing critique that you just can’t find in today’s political debates.Like today’s corporatist conservatives — George Will, James Glassman and Charles Krauthammer — the conservatives who wrote Who Owns America? believed that the specter of big government threatened individual freedom and the ideal America.But unlike the corporatists of today, Agar, Tate and their colleagues understood that public authority was the only antidote to the excesses of big corporate power.Agar, Tate and their colleagues argued that to attain the conservative goal of less government, you’d first have to limit the size and power of the large corporate institutions that were roaming the land. Typical of the 1930s conservatives writing in this volume is the pro-decentralist economist Richard Ransom.”The permanent lease on life which corporations possess tends more and more to concentrate within a few hands the ownership and control of general property,” wrote Ransom in a chapter titled Corporate and Individual Persons. “The disproportionate distribution of the national wealth is very evidently due in large part to the corporate tendency to mass larger and larger aggregates of ownership which are held together by corporate permanence and corporate inertia. …”Ransom’s solution to the problem of corporate control of the national wealth? Federal chartering of corporations doing interstate business.And what should the states do about excessive corporate power? The states should limit the “profitable business life of the corporations which they charter.”And how could the states accomplish this end?”This could perhaps be done by means of heavy selective inheritance taxation on the transfer of corporate shares or assets,” Ransom answers. And what would this achieve?”Such a shorter term of corporate life, either accomplished indirectly as suggested here or accomplished by more immediate means, will produce a more direct personal responsibility in corporate managements,” Ransom says. Once interstate corporations are federally chartered, Ransom proposes that the personal liability of stockholders should be extended to an amount at least equal to twice the proportionate investment of each stockholder (currently, you can only lose what you put in.)  Can you imagine Will or Krauthammer contemplating these thoughts? Lyle Lanier, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, wrote a chapter titled “Big Business in the Property State,” in which he observed that “the American people have long recognized the danger to democracy of economic power concentrated in the hands of big corporations.”Lawmakers passed the antitrust laws at the turn of the century, “but these laws have been impotent to stem the rising tide of big business organization,” Lanier wrote. Industrial capitalism, Lanier wrote, “has followed a course of development which is both self-destructive and dangerous to democratic institutions.”Lanier, like his co-authors, finds hope in a Jeffersonian ideal of small business and small farmers. The publication of this volume today makes George Will, James Glassman and their conservative contemporaries look like empty suits compared those who wrote Who Owns America?. Big corporations still roam the land and still threaten a fragile democracy. But there is no Agar on the right to challenge them. Needless to say, we cannot and do not agree with everything written by these 21 self-proclaimed “conservatives” of the 1930s. We do agree with the conservative sentiment put forth in the book, as summarized by Agar, that corporate concentration and democracy are at odds.”When democracy goes down before monopoly capitalism,” Agar writes, “the result has been a greedy tyranny, preserving all the vices of capitalism and extinguishing its virtues.”

This is remarkable, very relevant to our current economy/society.

I also find their notion of limiting the lifespan of corporations extremely insightful (and, by the way, a very Christ-like perspective on society).