The future of the family farm is a matter of urgent concern to Richard Nolan, Congressman from Minnesota's Sixth District. According to Nolan, the number of farms in the United States dropped from 6.8 million in 1935 to just 2.3 million in 1974 ... and will likely fall to under 1.5 million by 1981!
There's a reason for this decline, asserts the Minnesotan ... and it's not simply economy of scale: "U.S. government farm policies have tended to fuel the trend toward larger and fewer farms ... with production-oriented, crop-specific government payments to farmers and a continued emphasis upon specialization, bigger size, and mechanization in agricultural research, education, and extension." Nolan also points out that "U.S. tax policy gives the large farmer competitive advantages, too, by allowing artificial accounting losses to be credited against substantial off-farm income."
Well, the problems government policy has helped to create can be changed by adopting different policies ... and that's exactly what Nolan and Congressman George Brown Jr. of California plan to do. Nolan and Brown have introduced the Family Farm Development Act of 1980 in the House of Representatives ... and the intent of the bill is to redress the balance between agribiz and the family farm.
There are a number of separate provisions in the proposed legislation: One would redirect the USDA's focus toward research benefiting small-and-medium-sized family farms ... another would provide incentives to improve the energy efficiency, productivity, conservation practices, and economic viability of the smaller farms ... and yet another would set up farmers' home loan programs to offer balloon payment loans to growers who adopt sustainable agricultural techniques or integrated pest management programs.
On the other side of the coin, the bill would amend the IRS code to help prevent non-farm corporations and outside investors from using farm losses or expenses to offset off-farm profits.
All in all, it's a complex piece of legislation and impossible to summarize fully here. But we tip our hat to Congressmen Nolan and Brown ... for recognizing that the family farm is essential to America, and for their courage ... in taking on the giants of commercial agriculture in an effort to give small-scale farming a fair shake.
Poet Gary Snyder uses his keen wit and silver pen to attempt to change the way we live by focusing on environmental problems and suggested remedies for them. Snyder's latest book The Real Work: Interviews and Talks 1964-1979, is a series of autobiographical interviews that covers a 15-year period in the life of America's leading poet/environmentalist.
In the book, Snyder recalls the 12 years that he spent in Japan, studying Zen Buddhism ... his return to the United States and his involvement in the environmental movement ... his Pulitzer Prize-winning volume of poems, Turtle Island ... and his life in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. According to the poet, the "real work" is "what is to be done:" learning about one's environment ... mastering the skills of appropriate technology ... and committing oneself to the preservation of man, animals, and the land.
And what is the role of poetry in "real work?" Snyder says that poets should "live in a place with some intention of staying there — and begin to find their poetry playing a useful role in the daily life of their neighborhood." He sees poetry as "a tool, a net or trap to catch and present ... a sharp edge ... a medicine, or the little awl that unties knots."
As you may know, MOTHER hasn't endorsed political candidates in the past ... and we're not doing so now. But there is one candidate for President in 1980 — Ed Clark, the Libertarian standardbearer — that you might not hear too much about. And that would be too bad, because Clark, like him or not, has some fresh and vital perspectives on the issues that confront our country.
Clark's political stance is grounded in a belief that "people, not government, know best how to solve ... problems in an intelligent, benevolent, and voluntary manner." And Clark is just as brief in defining his party's goal as "liberty ... meaning that we intend to use every chance we can to get government out of our pocketbooks, and out of our lives."
One specially interesting thing about Clark is that he's not afraid to follow his beliefs to their logical consequences. On energy, for example: Clark advocates an immediate end to all energy subsidies (including the hidden ones, such as the Price-Anderson liability limitation that helps support the nuclear industry), price controls, and allocation programs. Only when energy costs — as determined by a completely free market — accurately reflect scarcity, he says, will we start to come to terms with our real problems ... and begin to find real solutions. On the draft: "Conscription-for military or civilian purposes-is nothing but shortterm slavery," claims Clark. "It is completely alien to the American tradition, it is a violation of individual rights, and it is tremendously costly." And on crime: "The first thing that we can do to control crime is to put top priority on stopping violent crime, and stop wasting time and money on vice squads, drug busts, and political spying." If only as an antidote to the usual political buncombe, we need candidates like Ed Clark.
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