Soil is a non-renewable resource (NyTimes)

First the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/05/opinion/05berry.html?_r=1
It was nice to see something like this in a mainstream news outlet. It is going to take a lot of work to fix our messed up Ag. industry and it's good to see that someone is working on the problem. It is just a little depressing that so many people in our government are working against them.
With big government firmly in the pockets of big Ag. and Bio-tech (they are all happy to see each other), and considering Obama's pick for Secretary of Ag., it seems that the political situation is only worsening.
Tom Vilsack: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Vilsack#Secretary_of_Agriculture_selection
BIO Gov. of the Year 2001: http://www.bio.org/news/pressreleases/newsitem.asp?id 01_0920_01
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I think what the authors criticized, in the article, appears generally shared by a lot of people up there and, mostly, all us, somewhere in the world we need to take more frequently advantage, by newspapers columns, of what can tell us AG professionals, having them a wide point of view: from agronomy to economy; this allow people to best comprise the choices and generally what could be behind the door. But also in professional, academic and research area are frequently many different point of views, so that lot of people could offer you a 'starway to heaven' altough not always there is (e.g. talking about re-forestation and 'extensivization'; you probably understand the possible wide interests around this 'natural' aproach to agriculture, similarly to many completely different situations). There are not only environmental issues to understand, but also the economic impacts on human communities. Isn't it what we can see every day?
What I think is that the carbon footprint is not the main problem and what anyone can frequently wonder is why there are not other more simplier ways to reduce this carbon footprint (e.g. to use only timber in our heating systems .and little by little to save more energy). In my European Country, many of the farmers seem to be not happier than American ones and their profits decrease day by day, although many of them practice widely crop rotation and other low impact practices taking, sometimes, also subsidies from it.
If you think from the carbon-footprint point of view You (the Americans) seem more ecologically developed than us (altough USA has not subscribed the Kyoto protocol), infact is difficult to prove nuclear plants produce as CO2 as (e.g.) coal ones, besides US farmers, widely practice biofuels productions (mainly for the economic reason of increasing the farmers' and National income). The biofuel-crop productions are popularly seen (here in Europe) the best solution to ecological issues but, what the New York Times' article, make all us to understand (speaking about the no-tillage, sod-seeding, and chemical-weeding) is that monocoltural management of soils, like that of biofuel-crop production too, frequently make these crops not so ecological. Besides the increasing production of biofuels affects the food prices. Nevertheless, this could be not a so great problem in a strong economy like yours and also you have many different landscapes and ecological environment, permitting you to have, contemporaneously, very different agricultural policies, in different areas e.g. CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) areas and biotech districts. Moreover how much can be interested to environmental impact of agriculture, those people who live in countries where many environmental factor prevent them to feed enough? The only thing that many average people can see is that they have a great biodiversity, or a wide forestal areas! Sure, but not all of them can take advantage of it!
To make biofuels more rentable you use biotechnologies too. In Europe, farmers mostly don't do it and while your choice permit you to have really rentable productions, the contrary one permit European farmers to prove lot of their productions are really 'low-impact, organic, natural, traditional and so on' and to have in some cases good revenues back. Besides (in Europe) farmers don't use some agro-chemicals active matters used in other Countries and mostly european Countries don't use GMO.
Many of our rulers are very committed about increasing biofuels crop production to reduce carbon footprint, but at least in my country this is not so rentable as in USA, or in Brazil and probably will negatively impact the agricultural economy. In some other countries the biofuel-crop production have different kind of problems. Anyway under this point of view european agricultural productions looks to me more closer to my food quality targets.
Nevertheless here in Europe lot of people want to reduce the carbon foot-print and talk a lot about the Kyoto protocol as a major necessity, while many people welfare decreases. What is more important?
The main reason of this tendencies, in my mind, is we had (no more now) a food-surplus, but lot of people, here, not having the same alimentary problems of others, prefer again to increase biofuel productions, perhaps by means of subsidies. I think this could be not the just way. They don't understand this choice will necessary introduce the biotechnologies in our farm system and this could be dangerous to our agricultural economy (being people mostly against GMOs) that take advantage of many quality certified productions, that are besides strictly linked to the profitable tourist economy.
So I can notice: everywhere different economic reasons produce different and opposite agricultural choices. For these reasons I think agricultural policies need to be defined in macroeconomic-areas not only on an environmental but also economic basis, aparto of ideologic aproaches. This is what seems to be happened till now and I think we need to keep on taking care of it.
For this reason I think it is not so simple to find the Just Way dribling among ecological, environmental, economic, energetic and other issues and I wish your President to met all of them, at least for the reason many of the Europeans seem to trust him. L.F.
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