Tuesday 12 March 2019

Cultural Topsoil Erosion

“They are vertically integrated, from animal genetics to grocery store. What they charge isn’t based upon what it costs to produce, and it’s not based on supply and demand, because they know what they need to make a profit. What they have done, through government support and taxpayer support, is to intentionally overproduce so that the price stays low, sometimes below the cost of production. That kicks their competition out of the market. Then they become the only player in town.

“Over time, it has extracted wealth and power from communities. We can see how that has impacted rural main streets. You can see the boarded-up storefronts. You can see the lack of economic opportunity.”


I feel so many things about this. I implore you all to read this, and understand what's going on with our food production, and what's happening where there were once breadbasket communities.

I grew up in Missouri, outside of a small town of ~2,000 people, in the midst of cattle, soybeans, horses, and corn. In that small town, I was given a quality education, which frankly far surpassed the schooling I received when my family moved to the shinier suburbs of Denver. My classmates and I have mostly moved away, equipped with tools gained in a functioning community in a rural, agricultural area.

My family used to farm--not my parents, at least not during my lifetime, but certainly my grandparents did. My grandparents' farm is now part of a conservation area, which is a fairly happy ending as these things go, but it is surrounded by endless miles of fields to feed factory farms, dotted with wind turbines that light up the night sky with their red eyes blinking throughout. It feels very empty.

Visiting there last summer, my father recounted the places where the other families had lived, this house and that one, all gone. I listened to him describing the erosion of an entire way of life. He sounded a lot like the farmers in this article.

I am now the owner of some property in Trump country. When I was growing up in Missouri, it was more politically mixed. Now, so many of the towns seem to be drying up and blowing away on the wind. Sam Brownback hastened Kansas's version of this demise by sucking away the tax base for small-town schools and post offices, but the same destruction can happen more gradually and get to the same result.

Who wants to live in a town with no grocery store? What do you do if your kid can no longer go to school anywhere nearby? What if utilities don't serve your underpopulated or depopulated area?

The way of life my dad grew up with is almost gone, but I actually think the way of life I grew up with is nearly evaporated along with it. I don't know how the odds look for rural kids these days. This is part and parcel of why angry, poor white people voted for the goddamned monstrous administration we have now, which is only selling them out in the same ways faster than ever. These people are rightfully enraged, though their votes remain misdirected at the same economically ignorant Republican grifters that helped them shuffle into this death spiral in the first place.

I wish they could see this for what it is. Poor people in many parts of this country used to understand very clearly that voting GOP was not at all in their best interests.

The destruction is rampant, callous, immoral. Communities of small farms are being razed to rape and pillage our environment, to cram animals together in their own sewage, wages driven down so low that cheaper labor is imported to finish the job, and those migrant workers are demonized and subjected to wage theft, harassment, sexual assault, fear of deportation and family separation.

As ever, a few people at the top are getting very wealthy by demolishing every other living thing in their paths.

It matters how we get our food. It matters that we respect life and the quality of it, whether we're talking about people that do work we need or the creatures and lands that sustain us. And, heaven help us, we cannot survive a world that emulates and propagates this model.


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