Topics: Economic & environmental resilience for farming; California & environmental regulation
This episode of Solutions News focuses on FARMING and solutions to bring economic resiliency as well as support farms in addressing climate change & corporate consolidation. We were also thrilled to welcome California Assemblymember Monique Limón, as our guest for this show. We also discuss how states are playing a significant leadership role in creating policies to address climate change. And of course, we have some fun “didyaknows”
Story 1: Midwest states invest in Wind Energy
Our first story takes a look at wind power in Iowa, which happens to be one of the most successful renewable energy programs in the country. In 2017, wind power accounted for 37% of all of Iowa’s power. Republican Governor of the State, Kim Richards points out that the wind energy industry employs between 7,000 and 8,000 Iowans and is making the state an attractive place for large tech companies due to the availability of cheap, green energy. Since it can easily be installed in the fields for an extra revenue burst, using more wind power is a great way to help create a greener energy future, while also giving farmers a revenue stream that is independent of crop price instability.
Other interesting blendings between agriculture and energy include the methane capture and use on dairy farms - which we mentioned on the show last week, and which works even better for pigs AND solves a major source of water pollution as well! Or the installation of solar panels on some organic farms in Massachusetts, which we discussed back in January. Along these lines, a new fund being developed by Cliff Bar, the Cliff Ag Fund, will fund investments by Organic Farmers in midwest states - including Iowa, Minnesota, North and South Dakota - to install wind turbines on their land - as a way to improve their resilience - both economic and in the face of climate change.
Story 2: Breaking up the Corporations
Elizabeth Warren has been making headlines nearly every week lately - calling for sweeping reforms to anti-trust laws that break up monopolies in the tech industry, finance, and most recently in agriculture. She’s positioning herself as a modern day Teddy Roosevelt - Mr. “Trust-Buster” himself, who also happened to be a Republican.
In her most recent policy outline -which came out on April 3rd, she calls out several companies specifically that dominate the food industry -Tyson, Dow-DuPont and Bayer-Monsanto. She focuses in on the example of chickens, where the top three chicken companies have a 90% market share. The chicken industry is completely locked down because larger companies can mandate everything in the process from the number of chickens that can be produced, to what they are fed, to the way in which they are processed. The result is that the business is completely vertically integrated and chicken farmers are essentially involved in “contract farming” - which more closely approximates historical TENANT FARMING than anything resembling being an independent Farm Operator.
Her policy paper also points out that the Department of Justice has not updated its guidelines for vertical integration in 35 years. And in that time, many many mergers have occurred, consolidating every aspect in the production chain - and squeezing out the small or midsize family farm. Chicken is only one aspect of the agricultural business that’s been affected - hogs, soy beans, corn, transportation, banking… the list goes on, and what it amounts to is that it’s harder and harder for a small farmer to make it today. Even if they do everything right, even if the weather cooperates.
For something as essential to our country as food production, we can’t let a handful of companies control every aspect of it. It’s time for some smarter policies, and rational rules to break the corporate food monopolies and support our farming communities. Good on ya Liz! We like where you’re taking the conversation!
Story 3: The Power of California
It is very easy to see that the federal government is completely against any type of environmental regulation. In fact, the current administration has made it a primary focus to undo key environmental regulations, namely, extensions of the Clean Water Act. As a result, it falls to the individual states to be the progenitors of environmental regulations. Here in California, the state government is using more stringent regulation of the environment to reject federal projects and ensure the environment remains a central issue. For a state like California that is equivalent to the fifth largest economy in the world, using influence is not only a way to lead change in the nation, but around the world. Environmental regulations have led to increased economic success, meaning that it is not necessary to sacrifice economic success for environmental protection. In fact the opposite is true.
Iowa - leading the country in wind energy use.