Renewable Farming

Two signals of megatrends pushing farmers toward financial and federal captivity

Today, two stories popped up on my computer which coincided to dramatize how farm consolidation, technocracy and federal “help” are making farming less resilient and more stressful.

March 28, 2021  By Jerry Carlson — Sunday. I’ve long resolved to avoid writing for our website on Sunday. But today, the Wall Street Journal bannered a feature by Jesse Newman on higher farmland prices. Its subtitle: “Rising prices for farmland sideline many smaller growers.” I had to tell you how significant they are together.

My first reaction to the land-prices report was to expect that this front-page story will trigger the New York Times and other urban media to pump the land price uptrend with even more breathless examples including, of course, Bill Gates’ ventures into U.S. farmland. 

I’ve learned that a media outburst over soaring land prices should be taken as a warning that market consensus is approaching 100%, and the wise investor should be wary of diving in at the top. I started writing the newsletter LandOwner for Professional Farmers in 1979, with great enthusiasm for soaring land values. I learned the hard way, after buying 460 acres in 1981, that land price uptrends can end dramatically. 

Ironically, my e-mail from Dr. Mercola today delivered an interview with one of my favorite contrarians, Dr. Vandana Shiva. She has proven the health and profit benefits of ecologically sound agriculture worldwide. Mercola’s story-at-glance summary makes this point:

“The answer to the environmental problems we face is not more of the very things that created the problems in the first place, which is what Bill Gates proposes. The answer is regenerative agriculture and real food.”

The Wall Street Journal article underscored the prescient views of Dr. Shiva: Current trends in farming are headed for a technological and economic dead end for most farmers.

Vandana Shiva

The arrival of that Wall Street Journal feature describing the intense bidding for farmland underscores the need for a contrasting approach to farming which makes you resilient, not squeezed by high rental prices, high fertilizer prices, and the inevitable relapse of commodity prices when demand catches up.

We’re encouraging farming in a biologically sound way that rewards your management, not just your landlord. Methods that upgrade yields without piling on ever more costly outlays for NPK and chemicals.  

I encourage you to read Dr. Mercola’s report, and download the transcript of the interview with Dr. Shiva. I first met her in March 2015 when she presented her view of healthy global agriculture during a lecture at Iowa State University. More than 700 people packed the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

Also, please listen to North Dakota farmer Gabe Brown as he reports on his testimony to the House Ag Committee on Feb. 25, 2021. Gabe’s podcast, a 52-minute interview with No-Till Farmer’s Julia Gerlach, describes in detail how the new administration can guide farmers toward “Regenerative Agriculture.” Gabe makes the point that generally, farms have adequate NPK fertility, but there’s a severe lack of biological activity to create soil health and make nutrients available to crops.