After another summary of the book’s key arguments, which is really unnecessary, we get to this chapter’s crux: can monocrop agriculture be replaced with regenerative systems and feed the planet’s population (give or take a billion people)? The short answer is yes.
However, our authors admit a problem: it takes more land to “produce well-managed grass-finished beef.” Where would the land come from? One obvious answer is a lot of current monocrop farmland would be converted into regenerative systems. Most of those acres of Midwest corn would become pasture. The authors note that around forty percent of corn goes into animal feed anyways (the rest is for the terribly unhealthy high-fructose corn syrup and economically worthless ethanol). There are also hundreds of millions of acres of privately owned pasture in the US of which only thirty percent is being used for animal husbandry. Finally, there are twenty million acres of land the US government pays farmers to keep in fallow. Couldn’t some of that land be used for regenerative systems?
What is to be done?
So how do we get to this place of regenerative farm practices? The rest of the chapter is devoted to this. This is a mixed bag of recommendations. I’m all for calls to action, but books like this can descend into a list of boilerplate, pie-in-the-sky recommendations that will never happen. There is a little bit of that here, unfortunately. There are some good ideas too.
Rodgers and Wolf suggest governments stop subsidising farmers to produce things like corn and other monocrops. This is never going to happen until the federal government goes bankrupt. Bankruptcy is going to happen, probably sooner rather than later, but subsidies, government programmes, etc. are not going to go away until then. There are too many vested interests who profit massively from the current state-capitalist system.
Education is another recommendation. Again, if it’s changing government dietary guidelines, which our authors suggest, good luck with that. Vested interests and food lobbyists will never let that happen. Nearly all politicians are bought and paid for. Don’t expect government schooling to help either. They’re indoctrination camps now. The only real education will come from books like this one, Youtube videos and the like. Don’t expect the government to come round with good advice. It is not going to happen.
At the individual level, Rodgers and Wolf suggest improving your diet; consider where your food comes from; think about the impact those avocados had on the environment; buy locally from farmers who follow regenerative principles; grow your own food; and show your kids what good farming is. This is all good advice in my opinion. This is where change will come from: at the margin. I’m surprised, however, that the authors do not suggest challenging vegans when they utter their views. The novelist Ayn Rand had this advice in the political realm: never let the other side allow their claims to go unchallenged. Even if it is just stepping up and saying I disagree with you, you are making a difference. I did this two months ago at a little get together when a vegan colleague said his lifestyle was better for the environment. I simply said “I disagree with you and would love to tell you why sometime.” Silence allows the other side to hold the moral high ground; don’t let them hold it when they are so wrong. By the way, he never took me up on the offer.
The passages dealing with converting monocrop agriculture to something sustainable was the best part of this chapter. It is possible, in theory, to change American agriculture. At the margin, a small group of farmers are doing this. When the US government defaults and can no longer micromanage, subsidise and otherwise meddle in the agriculture life of the country, I think Americans will see much more of this kind of farming. Until then, however, I think the authors’ advice about individual action is the only realistic thing in this chapter. There is no chance that the federal government will change its ways until bankruptcy forces it to change.