Monday, October 26, 2015

Farm Quotes

Finishing cotton harvest and shredding stalks.
Time to run the demolition derby- get the ground worked and the wheat planted before we break everything and the winter rains hit. Rock and Roll.

Here are some of my favorite farm quotes I have picked up over the years.

“When tillage begins the other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.”
                                                            Daniel Webster

            “No other occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought as agriculture.
            Let us hope that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us, and the intellectual and moral worlds within us, we shall secure an individual, social and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.”

                                                            Abraham Lincoln
                                                            Address to the Wisconsin                                                                   Agricultural Society
                                                            September 30, 1859

            “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are toed to their country, and wedded to its liberty and interests by lasting bonds.”

                                                            Thomas Jefferson
                                                            Letter to John Jay
                                                            August 23, 1785

 “I am one of the class of people that feeds you all, and at present is abus’d by you all; in short I am a Farmer.”
                                    Ben Franklin
                                    On the Price of Corn and Management of the                                     Poor
“The cultivation of the earth is the most important labor of man. Unstable is the future of the country which has lost its taste for agriculture. If there is one lesson of history that is unmistakable, it is national strength lies very near the soil.”

                                                            Daniel Webster

            “It is the marriage of the soul with Nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination.”

                                                            Henry David Thoreau

            “Of all the occupations from which gain is secured, there is none better than agriculture, nothing more productive, nothing sweeter, nothing more worthy of a free man.”

                                                            Marcus Tullius Cicero
                                                            106-43 B.C.

“Sometime in the future, when all the accomplishments of the 20th century are recorded for posterity, it will finally be acknowledged that our greatest achievement by far has been the introduction of high-tech, high-yield agriculture. Measured in terms of benefit to human society, an adequate diet of nutritious, abundant and affordable food eclipses all other developments of this most remarkable century. Neither computer technology nor transistors, robotics, advances in communication and transportation, life saving antibiotics and modern medicine, nuclear energy, synthetics, plastics and the entire petrochemical industry rank as high in importance as the advances in food production. And all these other wonderful breakthroughs probably would not have happened without a well fed population.”
                                                Dixie Lee Ray
Environmental Overkill

            “Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
            It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”

                                                            Walt Whitman
                                                            Song of the Open Road

            “Farmers are the only people I know that buy high, sell low and pay freight in both directions.”

                                                            John F. Kennedy

            “If you want to behold a truly religious man in action, go to Fresno and watch a farmer watering his trees, vines and plants.”
                                                            William Saroyan

            “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from a cornfield.”
                                                            Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Burn down your cities and leave your farms, your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city of the country.”
                                                            William Jennings Bryan
                                                            Cross of Gold Speech
                                                            Democratic National                                                                           Convention
                                                            July 8, 1896

“If you have a garden and a library you have everything you need.”


“In no other country do so few produce so much food, to feed so many at such a reasonable price.”
                                                            President Dwight Eisenhower

“Cultivators of the earth are the most virtuous and independent citizens.”

                                                            Thomas Jefferson

“The problem is not supply- it is access to food and natural resources like land and water.”
                                                            Jose Graziano de Silva
                                                            Director of the UN Food and                                                               Ag Committee

“Feeding the world is going to be a big issue and science is going to help that.”
                                                            Ellen Kullman
                                                            CEO of DuPont

“Whoever makes two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before, deserves better of mankind, and does more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.”

                                                            Jonathan Swift
                                                            Gulliver’s Travels 1726

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Three Strikes for the Choo Choo

Well, that was interesting. It's the first time we have had to worry about rain during harvest in a while. Nice to see the dust settled. Halfway done. The next field will be ready on Monday.

Some of you have not seen this piece on the Choo Choo. I was reminded of the issue while visiting with a non-farmer friend who supports the Choo Choo. So, I thought I would run it up the flag pole one more time.
   Of course, it got me thinking. We are so concerned about saving prime farmland. Has anyone done the math on how many acres will get gobbled up of this continues?

Three Strikes for the Choo Choo
By Paul H. Betancourt
Copyright February 2015

            I like trains. I travel by train to visit my family in San Diego. I wish it was a three hour trip instead of an eight hour ride. That being said, I can no longer support high speed rail. I supported it ten years ago when it was a $30 billion dollar project. Then it went to $100B and back down to $65B. I suspect that $65B number will grow. But, that is not why I reluctantly withdraw my support. I have three main problems with high speed rail, and in baseball it’s three strikes and you’re out

Strike One: Eminent Domain
            Eminent domain doesn’t mean much to most people. But, I hope at least you can understand that when you threaten a farmer’s land you are threatening his livelihood. For the record, I do not have land near the high speed rail corridor. But, there are a lot of people who are surprised by the strong negative reaction from farmers on this issue. We are a pretty patriotic bunch and we generally support the greater good. But, it is fairly obvious the government does not have our confidence on this project. When you threaten people’s means of making a living with the blunt force of eminent domain you should expect a reaction like this. (If, on the other hand, they wanted to build a canal, we might even donate the land.)
            Please remember, the Founding Father’s had read John Locke who said the purpose of government was to protect “life, liberty and property.” Instead of protecting our property our government is taking our property and with it our means to make our living.

Strike Two: What You Can Get for 10% of the Cost of a Choo Choo

            For less that 10 cents on the dollar I can help every Californian. The cost of the high speed rail is supposed to be $65B. I’ll ignore the likelihood of cost over runs. Even if it comes in on budget and on time, it will help relatively few Californians---at a cost of $65B! I can help every man, woman and child; every farm and every business in California for the bargain price of $5Billion. All we have to do is fix the water system! We can increase water storage and reliability for a fraction of the cost of high speed rail.

Strike Three: The Price of a Train Ticket            
              The other problem on cost will be the cost of a ticket. My wife road the bullet train in Japan and it was the cost of an airline ticket. Are people really going to live in the Valley and commute to the Bay Area or LA if they have to pay the equivalent of an airline ticket every day? How many jobs pay enough for that? One advocate told me that was OK since it would be more convenient than an airplane ride since we won’t have to go through airport security. Isn’t $65B a high price for that kind of convenience?

There Are Even More Issues-
            These three strikes don’t even include serious issues like conflict of interest, or incomplete funding. Should Senator Feinstein’s husband’s company even be eligible to bid on a government contract?
            How can we start a project if this size without all the funding in place? Either we will throw money down a rat hole that gets’ stopped part way, or we’ll be held hostage with the logic, “ It’s already half done, we only need X billion dollars to finish. The Governor often reminds us he was once a seminarian. Did he remember to read Luke 14:28-33?

            High speed rail would be nice. If I could afford a ticket I would ride it. I just think we have to put first things first. A water supply might not be sexy, new and exotic for our politicians, but without a stable farm sector can California ever really be strong? Let’s secure our foundation before we start building expensive trinkets that will only benefit a few. As I see it, three strikes and you’re out.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Satisfaction of Harvest

The Satisfaction of Harvest
By Paul H. Betancourt
Copyright September, 2012

                  You have heard me whimper and whine about a lot of farming and how tough it is. Sorry about that. This morning I want to talk about the satisfaction of farming. There is nothing like bringing in a good harvest: seeing the picker fill up p with cotton, seeing the wheat pouring into the trucks, seeing the almonds being swept up and shipped off. The satisfaction of a productive year’s work. That’s good stuff.
            Unlike many people farmers don’t see the daily result of their work. Right now we are waiting to see how this year’s cotton crop will turn out. We started working the ground last Fall. We planted in April. We have been tending the fields all summer, but we won’t know how it will turn out until next month.
            But, all that waiting has a payoff. I love Fall weather. It’s cool and crisp after the oven heat of the summer. And then we fire up the pickers and head into the field.

We still have work to do and bills to pay. But, there is a real sense of satisfaction seeing how the year’s work turned out.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

It Doesn't Matter How Much You Water Your Lawn

The cotton picker is ready. New heads. Fully serviced. Module builders are ready. New hoses. The cotton is opening up. We have been tending these cotton fields since before we planted in April. Now we will see if we have a crop.

It Doesn’t Matter How Much You Water Your Lawn
By Paul H. Betancourt
Copyright October 2015

OK, now that I have your attention let’s talk about what is really going on.

The enviros have us at each other’s throats over a few hundred gallons of water a day to water our yards.  Let your lawn turn “gold.” No, it’s brown and it’s dead.

What gets lost in the shuffle is the water we consume in our food. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)says we each consume 800 gallons per day in our food. So, a family of four letting their yard die to save 200 gallons of water is consuming 3200 gallons of water per day in their food. We are fighting over the wrong stuff.
            Another way to look at this is the World Wildlife Federation calculates it takes one liter of water to produce one calorie of food.  Do the math your self. Calculate how many calories you ate today and you know how much water it took to produce your food. (Granted I am not the only one who needs to go on a diet. But, there is still a basic need to feed people.)
            In fact, there are numerous reports indicating we will need to increase food production by 70% by 2050. Do you really think we are going to do that with rain fed agriculture? Do you really think people really care about the fine points of environmental policy when they are hungry? We forget as recently as 2008 there were global food riots when wheat prices spiked.

Please don’t get me wrong. I agree with the Pope that we have a divine mandate going back to Genesis to be caretakers of this world.

Our environmental friends preach conservation. That’s good. Waste is never good. As a farmer I am careful with each drop of water we use. Even in non-drought years we have never had ‘extra’ water. BUT, there are not enough low flow toilets to solve this problem. We have to increase supply.  Unless a lot of people are willing to check out we have to increase our water supply.

Last Spring I flew back from a sustainability conference in Portland. As we landed in LA we flew over the LA River. I had never seen that from the air. It is over fifty miles long and paved from end to end. Not a drop of groundwater recharge. What happened to the ‘reuse and recycle’ portions of ‘Reduce, Recycle and Reuse? Why aren’t we recycling the water we use?
            If you poll the fine people if California they all say they care for the environment. But, every time the issue of recycling water comes up the voters turn it down. Why? Are we scared of drinking pee? Don’t you realize we are all drinking recycled dinosaur pee? [Maybe we don’t’ trust the government to safely recycle water. Ahh, now you may be on to something.]

My left leaning friends ask- how can you say our drought is not about the lack of rainfall. That is a fair question. Take a look at water storage at Shasta, the water level is higher than previous droughts like 1977-78 and 1986-93. The facts are that we have a population of 38 million people and a water system built for 19 million. There is no question that we are using more of our developed water for environmental uses than ever before.

Recently the San Diego Union reported only 20% of the water from an El Nino winter will be caught and stored. Are you kidding me? They have just spent two years turning off all the water in California. We have a wet winter on the way and they are going to let 80% run out into the ocean?
If they truly believe in climate change then they should be leading the charge to build more water storage. Their own logic says there will be less snow and more rain. In the past precipitation was ‘stored’ in the form of snow pack. Doesn’t their logic dictate we should build more storage to catch the rainfall?

There is a difference between solving problems and ‘just doing something.’ After each natural disaster or tragic mass shooting people run around saying we ‘must do something.’ No, we must solve the problem. There is a world of difference between ‘just doing something’ and solving a problem. It may take longer because we have to dig out the real roots of the problem. It may not be as popular because you can’t fit the slogan on a t shirt or bumper sticker. Bet, it is a lot more effective in the long run.

Summary- If the government wants to control things then it must also provide. Sacramento and DC have ignored a fundamental problem- we have 38 million people and a water system built for 19 million people. Right now they have us arguing over trivia. The 200 gallons we save on the lawn is dwarfed by the 3200 gallons each family consumes in our food each day.