Charlie Preston-Townsend: What makes local?

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Steamboat Springs has been blitzed with the idea of “Buy Local” for some time thanks to a successful campaign by local businesses in the day of online shopping. We are similarly faced with the local option as the popularity of the Farmers Market continues to grow.

The premise of buying local is that you are supporting the local economy. It has been suggested that by keeping money in the local economy it has more benefits than if you send it away via online shopping. But what percentage of our buying power do we need to keep local to have effect? And what does it really mean for us to buy “local” in Routt County and abroad?

Let’s discuss the existential before we figure out the economics. The local movement is a protectionist mentality. We think community is valuable, and by purchasing from within our community, we are expressing that value. To know who is benefiting from our purchases is rewarding. Like water to a plant, money permeates our local economy, encouraging its slow growth.

The word “economy” is rooted in the Greek meaning “household management,” thus we must consider households. One constant expense in any successful household is a constant supply of food. While some consumer products available are still manufactured in the area (think Moots bicycles), even their component parts are from elsewhere. Food, on the other hand, is considerably local.

With opportunities to express our value of community as routinely as we buy food, let us be sure to purchase wisely. At places like Elkstone Farms and Cacklin’ Hen, Firefly and Pura Vida Gardens, people are pouring their hearts into providing consumer products grown from Champagne powder melt-off. The Yampa River Valley continues to be an excellent summer grazing ground and provider of delicious beef. Places like Rockin’ J Ranch continue this tradition.

While a limited selection of Routt County products is available at area grocers, even they tend to miss the mark.

However valuable taking “Colorado Proud” and “Buy Local” into consideration may be when buying things, how “local” can things like coffee, tents and energy bars really be? And although the seeds used by Tasty Tomato to grow their delicious heirloom tomatoes may have been outsourced, a seed gives a 1,000 percent return on investment. Pair that return with the intrinsic value of knowing the couple who have poured their hearts into the production of that tomato and we’re talking a good investment.

A stable household is forced to make choices when it comes to purchases. Because an up-front cost comparison would point any frugal shopper to the industrial model, it is here where we are forced to quantify the intrinsic value of the “Buy Local” model. And although we have not yet successfully done so, next time you are at the grocery store, ask yourself where your money might be better spent.

Charlie Preston-Townsend

Steamboat Springs

Comments

Brian Kotowski 1 year, 6 months ago

Pricing, value, and service dictate my buying decisions. I find little "intrinsic value" in knowing the seller, and 'buying local' is never a priority. Proprietors 'pouring their hearts into products from champagne powder melt off'... That one had me rolling my eyes. If I like their product enough to pay what they're asking, I'll buy it. If not, I won't. It's no more complicated than that.

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Jeremy Johnston 1 year, 6 months ago

The local food question is much more than an economic one, it is also one of morality and social responsibility. Our only real vote is in our pocket book and consumer demand drives future production. Of all our consumer choices, the one that we are constantly making is what we eat. It can and should be our vessel to making a difference, to being a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.

The real value in knowing who makes our food comes in knowing that we are not supporting Monsanto controlled multinational conglomerates and big box bullies who routinely lower costs by cutting corners at the expense of worker safety and pay, the environment, quality, and (gasp) our tax dollar subsidies. Not to mention that the fresher it is the more nutritious it is.

By making the small sacrifices of going out of our way to find and purchase locally grown whole foods, paying a little more than we're used to, and taking the time to get educated on true costs of industrialized food we can all make a big difference. See you at the farmers market.

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rhys jones 1 year, 6 months ago

So home-grown: Buy local, eat healthy, and talk good.

[Not you Jeremy -- you used the proper "locally" -- just sayin'...]

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 6 months ago

It is all politics meant to benefit us over others.

So "Buy Local" to benefit local businesses.

So promote the tourists trade (travel to us) to benefit local businesses.

Local products that are better don't need a campaign to buy local. When a local farmer brings product straight from the farm then the buyer gets a fresher product and the farmer is receiving a retail price. So it works well for both as a mutually beneficial economic transaction. But "buy local" is not about that. It is about buying the same item in a local store vs online. It is about making a political and moral decision on whether the seller is good.

But a "buy local" campaign in a major resort tourist area is hypocritical. If the tourists paid attention then they'd realize they should not have left home to vacation here.

As a bit of political theater, I'd love to see Mark and Tom to sell locally made products at the farmer's market wearing NRA hats and see how many people are offended and refuse to consider to "buy local" from them.

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mark hartless 1 year, 5 months ago

"Home-Grown" used to have such negative connotations.

I'm not a member of the NRA, Scott. So It just wouldn't be right for me to peddle trinkets wearing their garb.

Are you surprised that I don't belong to the NRA?

"I would never be associated with any group that would have someone like ME as a member"

-Mark Twain (I think)

You actually did make a good point about buying local meaning "STAY AT HOME"!!!

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

Mark,

Ok, I didn't mean to impugn the NRA suggesting that you were a member. :)

Anyway, you get the point that, as described above by Jeremy Johnson, that buying local is a political decision. And thus, an interesting bit of theater would be to see how that sort of person would react when being asked to buy local from a seller with opposite political views.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 year, 5 months ago

Scott, I agree it would be an interesting bit of theater. Unfortunately it appears the left has already become good at that type of theater. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2008/11/gay-marriage-ba.html

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2009/10/the-price-of-prop-8

http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/27/us/chick-fil-a-controversy/

I am sure there are occurrences similar to this from the right, but off the top of my head I cannot recall any. Cheers, Dan

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Jeremy Johnston 1 year, 5 months ago

Ag and water are, simply put, the most important issues facing the world today. The industrial model is beginning to fail and and it is urgent that we develop a more sustainable model.

Please read this and decide if your local farmer might be using resources a little more wisely than Monsanto, DuPont, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, General Mills, and Bunge.

http://www.organicconsumers.org/corp/fossil-fuels.cfm

Sorry if this is a bit of a downer. Responsibility can be cruel. Luckily we do have the resources (water, soil, sun, game, and livestock genetics) to feed ourselves here, thought it will take a concerted effort.

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John Weibel 1 year, 5 months ago

Really local should not nor be any more expensive than stuff coming from elsewhere. The two problems are government subsidies for row cropping systems that have depleted the top soil - thus taken carbon out of the biggest carbon sink and put it the atmosphere. The other being the capital required to be in agriculture full time. The only way around that is to try and layer the enterprise with others pitching in so that no one is worked to hard. long hours for less than minimum wage really should not cut it for anyone. getting to a scale that can support ones self is critical, which either requires a lot of capital and a low return on investment or trying to work with others on the same land all doing something different, while at the same time adding to the whole so 1+1 is greater than 2

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mark hartless 1 year, 5 months ago

Responsibility is cruel.

Shoving your's off onto the rest of us, who already have our own, is even more cruel er rer.

Ag and water are becomming more important. Of that there can be little doubt.

But to presume that "WE" (whoever "we" are) can make decisions for everyone is preposterous.

An economy is smartest when it allows the decision-making to be done by ALL the people interacting together.

Millions of times each day, each minute, each second, the market (everybody acting on their knowledge) adjusts the price of water, or "Ag", and of everything else. If the market opens tomorrow substantially higher OR LOWER it is not WRONG... it simply IS the market... And the market is ALWAYS right... ALWAYS.

Leave it alone, and it will adjust the price of water and AG upward at the appropriate rate... not too soon, not too late.

Start calling for "plan to prepare for the "water wars of tomorrow" (or whatever) and you will do NOTHING but SCREW IT ALL UP.

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Jeremy Johnston 1 year, 5 months ago

Sorry, I did not mean to get preachy there...

but I for one cannot in good conscience knowingly contribute to a system that's goal is to use up all available resources as quickly as possible for the monetary gain of a few.

"We" are a community. Without a plan there is no goal and achievement is impossible.

The Market works as long as there is supply and demand. Two sides of a coin. If there is no supply (or no demand) there is no market.

80% of all fresh water usage in the U.S. is agricultural. Our current rate of usage is draining reserves (aquifers) 60% faster than the rate of return. Supply is dwindling. Demand is soaring. What happens when there is not enough to go around? Only those who can afford it get it?

The industrial model denudes the soil, while small sustainable farms build the soil up making it more fertile and drought resistant, able to produce more food with less water.

The Market works right if it is truly free, which ours is not. Though there is a (farmer's) market that allows me to choose the sustainable model, I have to pay more as the industrial model is heavily subsidized and it's costs externalized. That's not a level playing field and lessens my purchasing power.

As for "Buy Local", I think it can certainly jive with tourism in a "when in Rome" kind of way. I doubt the "Buy Local" campaign has convinced anyone not to come here. In fact the draw created by Steamboat's ranching heritage as promoted by Ski Corp. could be considered Agri-tourism... local, sustainable agriculture as a draw to tourists. Just sayin'.

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mark hartless 1 year, 5 months ago

Jeremy,

It sounds like you have your mind made up. That is unfortunate, because I believe you are operating under some very faulty assumptions.

I would invite you to read Thomas Sowell's "Basic Economics" and Murray N. Rothbard's "Man, Economy, and State"

Rothbard points out one of your biggest mistakes when he writes "The first truth to be discovered about human action is that it can be undertaken only by individual actors. Only individuals have ends and can act to attain them. There are no such things as ends of or actions by groups, collectives, or States."

In other words, Jeremy, this "system" you refer to has no goals. Only the individual actors within have "goals".

Sowell points out that "Nothing is easier than to have good intentions but, without understanding of how an economy works, good intentions can lead to disastrous consequences for a whole nation. Mant, if not most, economic disasters have been a result of policies intended to be beneficial-and these disasters could often have been prevented if those who originated and supported such policies had understood economics."

When you write about how industrial farming is bad and sustainable models are good, I believe you are falling into the very trap Sowell was thinking of.

The "industrial model" you refer to feeds more people / acre than the "sustainable" model.

Had people 100 years ago insisted on only "sustainable" practices, there would not be enough food to feed the worlds populaton today. Sustainability is not good if it holds back and hinders the natural progression and technological advancement mankind requires to survive in an ever-changing world.

Another quick example I would point out is with fresh water. If water gets to a certain point and we don't hamstring ourselves with all this "planning" crap then we will likely have desalination far enough along to make sense...

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Jeremy Johnston 1 year, 5 months ago

I may have much to learn about economics, but I don't think you can convince me that pouring toxic chemicals onto our food and water supply is a good thing.

I definitely agree that good intentions can have disastrous consequences for a nation. The "green revolution" of the 1950s that brought about our current industrial agricultural system is a perfect example of your point.

It is not true that industrial ag can feed more people. Sustainable ag is certainly more labor intensive and requires a lot more farmers per acre, but side by side it has comparable production per acre using less water and energy with higher profits. ,http://rodaleinstitute.org/our-work/farming-systems-trial/farming-systems-trial-30-year-report/

If people 100 years ago insisted on sustainable practices, the worlds population would still be at a sustainable level, or sustainable innovation would have come forth to meet that need.

I think Charlie's point is that as individual consumers we hold the power to create a more vibrant local food economy. Thus increasing our food security and health.

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mark hartless 1 year, 5 months ago

In other words, Jeremy: We have an entire ocean full of water, so we are, in fact NOT running out.

As with most things that environmentalist reactionaries harp on, it is simply a matter of how much getting an acre-foot of fresh water would cost.

Knowing that the cost would rise substantially, the market would/ will begin to factor that into the price of our current supply of fresn water so that , when it's time for the transition, there will not be an "over-night" jump in water costs.

Does that make sense?

Also, one thing that is currently wasting much of our fresh water is Ethanol. And Ethanol is a reality today of that "community planning" you spoke so highly of.

It is a disaster. It CAUSES elevated food prices and scarcity of water, and it was PLANNED to help the environment. But the fools who thought they knew it all didn't account for the consequences.

Had the free market been left alone, resources would flow to the place where they are needed most, and the residual resources would flow to the second-most needed area, and so on, and so on.

It is when men have the audacity to think they, or a small group can "PLAN" for and make decisions for all mankind that things really get screwed up.

And when you say things like "only those who can afford it get it", you just sound silly. Why would we want water, or other resources goping to those who refuse to pay for it? Wouldn't FREE water just encourage more waste of that precious resource?

With all due respect, I think you need to do a little reading and reconsider your economic viewpoints.

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Jeremy Johnston 1 year, 5 months ago

Sustainability by definition is a system that works in perpetuity. Industrial ag is not sustainable.

Just sayin'

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John Weibel 1 year, 5 months ago

Mark, I think Jeremy agreed with you that "good intentions" can have disastrous consequences - if you read his comment.

The industrial model that you are defending is a direct result of community planning, in grain subsidies. Also, Jeremy points out that the industrial model can not produce the same yields as other methods.

You are both making the same point. Though, the difference is in trying to convince others to spend more for local food. However, in achieving economies of scale, one can produce food as inexpensively as the "industrial" model, with creativity which limits the needs for harsh chemicals to treat symptoms of problems. A good example would be chickens following cattle - to eat the emerging flies from poop. Yielding a free food for the chickens to eat, reducing the input costs of the chicken operation - to bring it more in line with industrial models. Though that can only be achieved when one achieves some level of scale - raising 1000's of chickens as opposed to 100's - or more.

Doing it the right way, does not mean you can not provide a decent product at a decent price. Though, as in the industrial model, efficiencies have to be attained. Waste products from the harvest of cattle, needs turned into a viable product as it is in the industrial model. Yet on a more tolerable scale. So that if you desire to test your beeves for mad cows dis-ease, you can - that is if the USDA would let you.

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mark hartless 1 year, 5 months ago

No static, set in stone method or "system" works perpetually.

And how do we know when to adjust it?

Do we set some Czar in Washington DC in charge of telling us when to produce more cotton and less ethanol? More nails and fewer bricks? More gasoline and less diesel fuel?

Of course not.

The only way we know what product we need more of, and which we need less of is PRICE.

When industrial ag becomes less productive than something else then the "something else" will take over... IF we have not sold out and committed artificially inordinate amounts of resources to the old, wrong method. This is EXACTLY what we have done with Ethanol... built huge GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIZED ethanol plants, only to find out that ethanol is a disaster... but now we are committed, we have a huge ethanol lobby, huge facilities, ... a "system" if you will. And we've staked so much on it that we are now STUCK with it.

If we had just let the market figure it out it wouldn't be a millstone around taxpayers' necks.

Saying that something needs to be done the "right way" implies that is is now being done the WRONG way. If that were true, the market would adjust itself without coercion from meddling busy-bodies.

If chickens and cattle worked so great together in Routt County winter weather then I would expect to see them everywhere... I do not.

What I do see is plenty of relatively cheap food on supermarket shelves, something Americans have long foolishly taken for granted.

I attribute much of the rise in food prices to government over-regulation of the actual food, the delivery system (ie fuel, trucking, etc), the food producers, their land, their employees, their salaries, ad infinitum.

Finally, I see a populace that understands little about economics and which thinks the free market can be "regulated" and "directed" by a few individuals, even though that concept has been proven utterly false over and ovr and over again.

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 5 months ago

The populace understands what the free market cannot see.

Profit is hands down the single most easily understood and efficient organizing principle on the face of the planet. At the same time the profit principle is, for example, blind to the mercury and CO2 sent into our environment by coal power plants. Increasingly, it is blind to the needs of the 4th quarter, ten years out. We plan to be here for another 200 years. No?

Balance is required. The scrubbers on the Hayden powerplant were fought by the free market. Balance won. Does anyone seriously argue those scrubbers should never have been placed? A clean place to live is indeed good "economics".

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George Hresko 1 year, 5 months ago

I am not joining the fray, so do not feel a need to answer my questions, which I put out simply for your (and all) consideration. 1) Who is the 'populace' and how does it differ from the 'free market'? Is not the free market simply the expression of the decisions of the populace? 2) How does this 'populace' know (in your word understand) what the free market does not? What is its mechanism for arriving at the truth as opposed to say a preconceived notion of what is 'good' and what is 'bad? 3) What is this thing called 'balance'? How does anyone know when it is achieved? What are the measurements? What are the costs? A reminder, cost is what we could not do, 'B', because we chose to do 'A'. Again, no response required, for contemplation only.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

" Increasingly, it is blind to the needs of the 4th quarter, ten years out."

Or so the smarter than the market nannies would have us believe. Investors are not going to invest in a company that is operating in such a short term mode that there is a dead end and it won't exist in 10 years.

The sort of person that can accurately predict the needs of the 4th quarter 10 years out would be so much smarter than everyone else to be the greatest long term investor ever and thus should be wealthier than Warren Buffet. Or be able to see companies that will fail and be the greatest short seller ever.

In the real business world, there is constant recognition that the long term is reached by constant attention to the short term. That a business cannot ignore currents trends just because it likes its long term plans.

There is no comparison between government putting a cost on business using a public resource and government claiming to be smarter on business planning than the businesses. The first is putting a cost on a business disposing of waste by polluting the air or water. That polluted water becomes an expense for downstream water users that now need to spend more on water purification or find another source of water. So yes, Hayden Power Plant needed to install scrubers because otherwise they were transferring costs to SB and so on.

But when government says to make certain business decisions because government know what will be best n the 4th quarter 10 years out then government's predictions will be simply wrong. And thus, the forced business decision will have wasted money.

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 5 months ago

Scott, I don't believe this is about government being smarter, and I don't think our government is claiming to be smarter. To George's comment, this is about differing goals.

There are a few companies planning 10 years out. I'm not saying that is a fault. It fits the nature of profit taking. On the other hand, nearly every municipality in the U.S. is planning 10 and some, 20 years out. A company being smart will reach a very different strategy than a municipality being smart. So comparing who is smarter requires two different grading metrics, one for each.

That being said, business will win "smarter" almost every time. Putting maximum cash in your pocket is much simpler than growing the best town. Also, easier to be right about the next quarter than right about 10 years from now. Obviously, government does have the luxury of planning only for the next quarter.

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 5 months ago

I meant to write: Obviously, government does NOT have the luxury of planning only for the next quarter.

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rhys jones 1 year, 5 months ago

It's ironic that power generation was brought into this discussion, with the 252 thing going on, but now that it has...

GW didn't do anybody any favors when he exempted most of the coal-burners from EPA Clean-Air requirements, policies kept in place by Barack today. The rationalization was to not burden the power generators with the substantial cost of compliance; it took a Sierra Club lawsuit to force scrubbers and precipitators at Hayden -- and anybody who remembers our brown cloud in the winter agrees that it was money well-spent. $450 million.

The power companies can't justify the expenditure, absent an explicit need, to their shareholders. Which even they realize is too bad, because the named enhancements would result in a more efficient plant, saving money for years to come. Not to mention the clean-air advantages.

So NOT installing that equipment is short-sighted in the extreme. I don't know much about ag, but when the discussion turned to power I had to squawk up. Thanks for the link. See my comments under the 252 thread, where I say renewable is nice, but there is no way it will touch nuclear and fossil fuel in the foreseeable future -- and the government is throwing our money away trying to kick-start it. Speaking of short-sighted...

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 year, 5 months ago

“An active policy of government intervention in a free market business system is a contradiction in terms. Trades of private property are either voluntary or they are not; one cannot legislate the free market or create competition. To have a free market the government must leave the markets alone; to have the state make free markets‘free’ is again a contradiction in terms.” Dr. Dominck Armentano, Emeritus Professor of Economics oftheUniversity ofHartford

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Jeremy Johnston 1 year, 5 months ago

Mark, Still not sure I'm getting it. You are arguing against government planning and interference in the "free" market and at the same time arguing for an agricultural system that is only still viable because it is propped up by government subsidies? The same subsidies that prop up ethanol?

The beautiful thing about sustainable ag is that it is not static. It is not tied down by quarter million dollar grain silos and chicken houses and can change as the market dictates.

The reason you don't see such sustainable practices as cows and chickens around yet is that because of these government subsidies, factory farmed meat is still cheaper. You say that the market is always right. So is the earth. The more closely a model can follow the natural systems that have evolved over millenniums to exist sustainably on this planet, the more sustainable it will be.

Just as the power plant is required to not externalize it's costs by shoving the burden of cleaning up it's own mess on downstream users, the same should be expected of any business such as farms that treat crops with toxic pesticides that contaminate water supplies.

I'm certainly not suggesting any sort of legislation to fix this problem. Just and end to the legislation that is causing it and let the market do it's thing. As the founders of this nation did, WE the people can use economic pressure though our consumer choices as leverage to bring positive change to an unjust system.

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John Weibel 1 year, 5 months ago

Jeremy Johnston states - "Mark, Still not sure I'm getting it. You are arguing against government planning and interference in the "free" market and at the same time arguing for an agricultural system that is only still viable because it is propped up by government subsidies? The same subsidies that prop up ethanol?""

Mark, this is what I stated also and you fail hear it. That the industrial system is based upon GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION.

In addition, for a free market to operate freely, those production costs which are externalized by business', should be dealt with and internalized. The Diesel exhaust in inner cities causing asthma in its population, mercury poisoning and acid rain from power plants making lakes sterile.

There government intervention is needed, not in telling people how to live because it is "green". The McMansions created by a tax break for carrying a mortgage, are far less sustainable than a cottage is and yet both get held to the same standards. There are far more instances in which the government involvement is simply making things more expensive to do business.

Though a grain silo, that is operated as a coop or some other way, to help reduce feed costs for the local food model - allowing one achieve some economies of scale would be a very good idea. Fortunately, the structure already exists and it is being revived by the Delaney's, to provide local flour, grain and maybe bread.

The great fears of the sustainability crowd is global warming and the most recent data from NOAA would indicate we are either entering a dalton minimum or worse the Maunder Minimum which lasted for about 60 years and was the most likely cause of the little ice age. Having seen negative 50 here I hope it does not get much colder, though the neighbor has seen -60 which does not sound like fun for any livestock or me.

In addition, most meat chickens are seasonal here, as they arrive via the post office for their short lives, except the layers, and mine stay in the barn - that should be heated at some point, with the least costly heat source for the long term as I prefer to have a 50 year fix, without government coercion. I will do it because it is the right long term decision for me - wether or not that is what the government states I have to do (though they should have ZERO involvement in that decision, it is mine to make, wether right or wrong). It could be that my decision in five years needs to be rethought as the market has changed - but that is a risk I take and one I should be taking by my own free will, not by government coercion.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

If I ignore the global warming part then I can agree with you. (I think the facts on Global Climate Change is that greenhouse gas emissions are another cost that needs to be paid for)

A coop grain silo is different from most government subsidies because it is like a road. It benefits any wishing to use it with extremely little restrictions on how it may be used.

I would also suggest that the industrial system for ag is currently largely defined by government intervention. If government intervention would to go away then there would probably would be a different industrial system, but it would be far more innovation and varied. The current system is dominated by a few giant companies expert at using lobbyists to creating rules that favor themselves.

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mark hartless 1 year, 5 months ago

Sorry guys,

I certainly was NOT defending subsidies and /or government intervention.

I kind of think the "mcmansions" create more jobs than a habitat house, and its the owners business what they want to buy. But again, I'm fine with eliminating ALL the subsidies... ALL of them.

Jeremy, I actually do agree with you that the current model, with the subsidies, cause great displacements from what things would be if there were no meddlers playing the system.

I guess I just wanted to make the point that, if governmeni is screwing it up now, then government is not the way to fix it. We agree on the basic concept of having industries NOT dump what should be their costs off on consumers and, thereby, remain hyper competitive against otherwise good alternatives.

Sonds like John was right, we do agree and I was too hard-headed to see what you were saying, or I totally misunderstood. Sorry.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

"There are a few companies planning 10 years out. I'm not saying that is a fault. It fits the nature of profit taking. On the other hand, nearly every municipality in the U.S. is planning 10 and some, 20 years out."

What government has a credible 20 year plan? Best that could be said about Washington DC is that maybe they can make adjustments to not collapse and merely stay in a constant state of crisis. State of Colorado has any number of constitutional amendments that need to be changed because they promise eternal increased spending for various purposes such as education and available money is not increasing fast enough.

Steamboat that had money for Iron Horse, but not storm water maintenance, police or fire stations has a credible long term plan? A city with a long term plan can be surprised that there is an urgent need for a police station?

Virtually every company has a more credible long term plan. Successful tech companies know enough to know they don't know the future, but they are investing to stay current and be ready for whatever comes in their field. Oil and gas companies are constantly seeking to increase their reserves. Big ag like ADM sees trends like more expensive land and water so believes they need genetically modified plants to meet the demand. If they are wrong then their company will lose, but they certainly have long term plans.

Sure there are companies that have deep questions on how they will survive for another 30 years, but they are acutely aware of their situation. They are reorganizing to be bought out, or hope their next product will turn things around or whatever. But they are all internally far more honest about their future than virtually any government about it's future issues.

And what farmer or rancher is happily continuing along losing topsoil with expectations of having lost it all? They know that losing too much topsoil ruins the value of their land.

The long term planning of virtually every company is more credible than government.

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John Weibel 1 year, 5 months ago

I am glad there is some agreement that the government intervention has had an effect on how crops are produced. I suppose the best course for government action would be to phase out those programs which are causing distortions within the free market.

That is the best corrective action the government could take, to positively make an impact on the dead zones in the gulf of Mexico, the lack of carbon in our topsoil (now in the atmosphere), the loss of nutritional value in our foods, higher employment and a myriad of other issues, most likely would be positively impacted by phasing out the USDA's crop subsidies. Yet those subsidies, serve to consolidate wealth in the hands of the few.

Scott on Solar activity warming or cooling the planet, does it not stand to reason that if the sun provides more energy to this beautiful rock, reduces deliveries then we will see cooling and conversely if more energy is thrown at this planet then warming will occur. Simple logic, imo. and usually the simplest solutions are the right ones. yes CO2 has an effect, however, nowhere near the effect the sun has. Cold spring, during the supposed solar maximum (yet activity is well below predicted levels today).

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

John,

The simple argument for global climate change is if earth atmosphere was not trapping heat then it is a straightforward physics thermodynamics calculation to determine what would be the earth's temp. It would be -18.8 C.

Thus, since the earth is warmer than that (16C) shows that the atmosphere is trapping infrared radiation from the earth's surface that would otherwise escape to space. Water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and such are known to capture infrared and thus warm the atmosphere.

Thus, clearly if we double atmospheric CO2 then we should expect to capture more of the IR radiation and warm the atmosphere.

It appears from the various detailed computers that the effect of greenhouse gases has a substantially larger impact than normal variations in solar energy. The variation in solar energy for the past 40 years is between 1366 W/m^2 and 1367 W/n^2. Sunspot activity can range from near 0 to 150. and the variations in solar energy do track with sunspot activity. But the actual net change in solar energy is minor compared to changes in greenhouse gases in affecting climate.

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John Weibel 1 year, 5 months ago

Scott,

The Russian academy of Sciences seems to be worried more about global cooling because of the Sun going into a cool phase, in the near future.

If CO2 is the problem, then the fastest way to reverse the carbon in the atmosphere is to get rid of crop subsidies. Plain and simple, yet the government would prefer a program of cap and trade, which would line the pockets of the large land holders, who can sequester large amounts of carbon in the soil - through irrigation and grazing versus row cropping.

Anyway, the main point is that government intervention, has not helped and has harmed just about everything possible - when it comes to their agricultural policies, imo..

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

That "Russian Academy of Sciences" report is actually by a MEMBER of the academy, not the official view of the academy.

His opinion that the sun is about to sharply reduce solar intensity is not shared by other astrophysicists. It is purely a prediction so it cannot be proven or disproven until it either does or does not happen.

His view that observed melting of polar ice on Mars means that earth's recent warming is a shared event due to a more intense sun is not shared by other astrophysicists. First, we have satellites able to accurately measure solar intensity and it has cycled between 1366 and 1367 watts per square meter for 40 years. Second, the polar ice melting on Mars is generally seen by astrophysicists as being the results of Mar's orbit and the tilt of the planet which is causing more sunlight to the polar region.

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Charles Preston-Townsend 1 year, 5 months ago

I love the discussion this article has sparked! It appears there are two primary schools of thought at work among the respondents. There are those that believe in free market capitalism and those that acknowledge that the market is no longer "free." I tend to believe that the market is not free, but rather is controlled by a government whose purpose is to maximize profit, and a feedback mechanism that values wealth over health.

To suggest that our current system is a "free market" is foolish. To believe the system is set up with anything but financial gain as a goal is similarly foolish. The degradation of our natural environment, of our personal health, and the health and resilience of our communities is viewed as an external cost of the status quo.

In writing this article I was suggesting that food is a useful avenue to express our disapproval of the current system. It is my belief that investing in a vibrant local food system can help to address many issues we face today; from the health of our land, our community and ourselves, to the toxic financial system we've seen propped up by the federal government, to the costly pharmaceutical-industrial complex being pushed on us.

I'm glad to see there was a consensus reached, and it is my hope that through these agreed terms we can continue moving forward in providing an alternative to the status quo. Competition is necessary in any healthy market place, and while the chips are currently stacked against the small farmer, the tides of change are upon us.

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