Sunday, December 21, 2008

NAIS, Agriculture, and Government

NAIS, Agriculture, and Government
What are we to do?

Although I haven't read a lot about this, I have read enough to form at least a basic understanding.  As I look at my dairy, and the potential for using technology, I already will include radio tags for my cattle.  This is an expense that will assist me in identification of my cattle, for breeding and milking.  I have a strong database that tracks the linage of my cattle so that I can document the genetics, for breed conservancy.  I also track their health in many, many documents, all electronically documented in my database.  I also track their food through the same database, so I can be certain that we are feeding a high quality feed to our cattle.  I track their milk production and heat or dry stages, and other details, and all of this is helped by my use of radio identification.  I track their behavior as well, using herd notes (written by the herd manager, the milker, and by my personal observation), using radio tracking (demonstrates herd movements in the field), and using video surveillance in the field and in the barns.  All of this data is keep in our database and we also publish it in our herd book, which is provided to breed associations, the National Organic Program (we operate a certified organic dairy), the USDA, our contract buyers, our customers and for other farmers whom we have contracts with.  All of this is done to help me manage my farm.  I am not doing this because the government is asking or telling me to do this.  Will I ascribe to a national database, this depends on if they charge me to do so.  If they ask me to voluntarily provide the data in aggregate form to them from my database, then sure I see no difference there, I do this already for my milk contract buyer.  If they demand that I provide this data and tax me either for providing this information, or for not providing it, then the program is a profit center for the government, and that we do not need.  Should the large producers be required to do this, I think that is just as ridiculous, if they feel it will improve their tracking, then they should do it.  I am certain they do for the purpose of streamlining their operations, so what is the big deal right.  It may very well seem like they are doing this to get rid of the family farm, and that may very well be the result to some extent, in that often family farms (as they are referred to) are really small farms that do not have sufficient profit streams to survive.  If you haven't been aroung enough to realize that to one extent or another almost all farms are run by families, so I think the term "family farm" is a bit deceptive.  What are we talking about.  I have seen dairies that have three cows that are run by a family, and those that have a 1,000 cows that are run by a family.  In fact the largest dairy in the world is in Saudi Arabia and it is also a family owned farm, and they milk 800 cows every 8 minutes 24 hours a day 365 days a year (you do the math).

So that said we need to determine what we are talking about.  Family Farm, first and foremost is a deceptive term, and therefore it should be scrapped.  Second corporate farm should likewise be scrapped, because many of the farms owned by families are actually corporations, for tax purposes, for transition purposes, and for purposes of land conservation/protection.  Categories that denote the structure of the operations of the farm is useless in determination of what a farm is.  Did you know that Cargill is a family run corporation (mostly).  Walmart is run by the Walton family.  Let us stop confusing the structural terms, because it is distractive of the real issues.  So now let's talk about size of operations, because that is the next deceptive practice.  There are many farms that have 700 cattle that operate with better health programs than some farms that only have two or three cows.  Granted there are farms out there that use industrial or institutional type practices, such as feed lot beef, and milking factories, but that is the case of those practices, not that they are larger, smaller, or family owned, or corporate owned. In fact that stigma about corporations bothers me, our government is a corporation, run by a charter we call the constitution.  This concept that corporations run the government is ridiculous, the government is a corporation.  The idea that we the people have no power in the government is based on our own decision not to utilize the mechanics of government.  We become disenfranchised because we do not want to be bothered to do the work that we need to do to become part of the process.  If you want to affect something, there are people who do this for a living, they are called lobbyist, and they are there for the purpose of representing your interest, if you support them.  You also have government officials that represent you, and they do have people that work for them that read their mail and email, so that they can be made aware of what you are concerned with.  Believe me if you are a voter in their district, and you can show that your opinion is shared by enough others in their district you will get your audience in the government.  This is what a petition is for, if you get a petition from around your neighborhood and send it to your local congress representative, it will get an audience.  If you can not get enough signatures for your petition and you still believe that the objective is important enough that you feel passionate about it, you can probably find a more national response for it, and through the vehicles of lobby, petitions and yes proper application of lubricate (money) you will get your audience.  If this process seems like a corruption to you, then that's fine accept that it is, and apply your effort to that end, but in the meantime utilize the process as it is until you can bring the corruption to light.

So no how can we determine what is a small family farm, and what is an industrial milk producer?  Well that is not as complex as it seems.  First you can determine it through direct action.  If you do not like industrial milk, do not buy it.  Go to the local farmer and ask who does he sell his milk to.  If he says he sells to some mega corporate company you do not agree with, ask if he would sell direct to you, if you could help him develop a local market for it.  You see the farmer has to sell to the buyer who will buy his milk for the most profit, because he or she has bills to pay for too.  If you can get to your neighbors, and work with them to develop a local market, in other words you can get a petition or better yet an agreement from them that if they could buy milk directly from the local dairy they would, then you can take that back to the local farmer and say, okay local dairy farmer dude, we have a market, how can I help you to provide for this market need.  If the farmer is still not interested, then maybe you should look for another farmer, because if you can prove that there is enough market and the farmer is to stupid to realize the profit in selling directly, then he or she won't be in business long enough anyways to make it worth your time to work with them.  So then you and the local farmer(s) can begin to organize maybe a local creamery to process the local milk and distribute it to either the local stores, or to the customers directly.  This is direct involvement, and would require a lot of work on your part, and you should consider that maybe there is some local organization that may have the manpower and resources that could help you in this, if you were to provide some assistance, including money and volunteers.  The point is you should not complain about big government, and ask them to solve the problem for you, it works against your progress.  If you want something, set the objective, determine what you are willing to give to achieve that objective, and then make it happen, or find the people who will make it happen and assist them in what way you can.  This of course goes for every aspect of life, including health insurance, social problems, and the list goes on.

However this does not identify the problem with NAIS or with identifying what a farm is.  So let me get back to that.  What is a farm?  A farm is generally to be accepted to be a operation who earns a majority of its income through agricultural processes.  This means that such operations that are hobby farms are really not farms, per se, but that does not matter, because hobby farms are supported from outside income, therefore they don't matter, except in the case of NAIS, but we will get to that.  So if the operation gets the majority of its income through agricultural processes, we then have to determine what are agricultural processes.  Agricultural processes are those that generally include the raising of livestock (animals), the growing of crops (field and market crops), and such related processes that they are considered source converters of raw materials that start with land resources being converted into raw materials that are eventually converted into food materials that are then sold either directly or further processed into other materials that are then sold to the consumer either through direct markets, or through secondary processors or wholesalers.  I am sure there are other descriptions that could clarify this description but for the purposes of this document this will suffice.  For the purpose of NAIS it does not apparently matter if you have one cow or three thousand, so for this to matter, the basis of the description is meaningless.  I believe that if you are a certified organic producer (farm) than you already are keeping enough records that the addition of radio identification and submission to a national database is moot, even if you have one cow.  If you are selling your products derived from the process of agriculture, and especially if you are certified organic under the guidelines of the NOP, then you are already in the national database, so this issue is relatively moot.  There are concerns that government involvement, but this is already a concern with the NOP, and so again the problems are already there, and the point becomes moot again.  If you sell your produce on a local level, ore even a regional level there are many USDA regulations that you must comply with, including USDA inspection of your produce and by products, and this is oversight to some degree, so the ability to step this process into the 21st century is again a matter of perspective on the ability of the government to administrate this program any better than they do the programs that are already there.  The USDA is already inadequate at policing the problems, but perhaps this program will increase their ability to do so, mostly because technicians will be watching instead of the people who are now administrating the inspections.  Will this help the problems that they are attributing to the rationale for the program will continue, because the problems they are purporting to solve with this program are by products of process procedure not value or other determinants.  It is based in consumers consuming.  Let us take the beef issue, because this one issue is the most dramatic.  IN the case of beef, the American consumer continues to purchase beef from their local stores in such quantities that they are sending the demand back to the farmer, produce more beef.  Because of this there is a high demand for beef, and because of this there is interest in making high profits in beef if you can control the cost.  This indicates to many industrialist that if you can control the cost, you can profit from the appetite of the American and global demand for beef.  This being the case these people who are interested in profit rather than procedure, they see that if they produce beef faster and cheaper, they make more money.  This process decision means cutting cost in many areas, including wages, inputs, and in resources.  To limit these resource allocations it only makes good business sense to reduce the cost of inputs by not wasting anything, so there you have the quality issues.  It is only an issue of good business practice, if you were manufacturing a widget.  The problem is that living animals are not widgets, and all the scientific intervention will not change the general nature of nature.  This being the case, they too are subject to the whims of chaos, and therefore as they try to control this they compound the problems, eventually realizing that the only way to remain competitive is to eliminate any opposition to their processes.  Then if they are the only source for beef, then the public will accept whatever they propose for development in processes, and to the extent that they will then have the ability to synthesize the process, so rather than be subjected to the whims of nature, they are able to take a small population of donor animals and synthesize the actual protein materials and form them in such a way that the public of consumers will accept it as they have no other option, short of growing or raising their own, which with regulation could be made judicially illegal.  The question is it socially unacceptable, and is it morally objectionable?  Because these are the issues that are important to consumers, then they have to vote with their dollars, do they want to purchase beef produced or eventually synthesized or do you want naturally raised beef, raised in a natural way by someone who is at least in some respect approachable and local to the area where you reside.  This is the real issue, what will you the consumer buy.  I can not express this enough, it is about what you will buy.  All the rants on all the websites in the world, and all the concern expressed to your friends and neighbors won't change anything if you continue to purchase millions of pounds of beef raised utilizing industrial processes.  If you can not change yourself, do not expect that the process will change.  If you want to make this entire point about NAIS moot, stop buying your beef from the industrial beef producers.  Investigate the sources of your food, and make informed choices.  This will solve the problem faster than any legislation.  If you stop buying industrial sourced foods they will no longer have the profit stream to continue, it is that simple.  To make the change, change your self.

Once you have done this then you might have impact on others and through a process of your friends and neighbors making the same changes as you have instituted, then the entire program begins to deflate.  This can be said for any program that the government at this time provides to the public.  If you want the government to stop providing these programs, stop asking them to, by exercising you right to chose from who you will purchase, and to who you will give your money. Of course you still have support the corporation that is the government (supposedly a not-for-profit organization), but as you take less, and ask less of it, it then can make the cuts in its operations that will allow it to shrink.  Of course when it comes to national security, protecting the rights of individuals, and some other such items should still be administered by the government, as their scale is such that it is necessary to nationalize certain issues, however it is absolutely necessary to ensure that the issues that the government does administer to is scrutinized by the public in the publics interest.  So this is where the trouble begins, what is the limit that we limit the government to.  What is a national issue and what is a local issue?  These are the problems and questions that will continually be asked and should be asked, and if they have no easy answers, well that is the price we pay for our Republic and our rights to call ourselves people of the United States of America, or for that matter people of the United Countries of the Americas, but of course that too is yet another subject.

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