John Klar: Regenerative politics in the Vermont GOP

Conservatives must lead Vermont in initiatives supporting regenerative agriculture and small, local farms. This is an imperative to benefit Vermont’s economy, craft a sensible environmental policy to present to voters, and expose the multiple problems with progressive “initiatives” in renewable energy.

The official platform of the Vermont Republican Party recites “We promote and support … wise stewardship of our air, land, and waterways, recognizing that we hold our natural resource in trust for future generations.” The Democrat Platform commits “To enhance the quality of every Vermonter’s life within the carrying capacity of our supporting ecosystem and to fully implement the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act.”

John Klar

This is great for conservatives, in that the GWSA is an unconstitutional, regressive disgrace to governance, a fact that must be explained to voters in coming years. What is not so great is that voters deserve more than an eco-platitude: there are no environmental policies specifically identified in the GOP platform: the Dems offer nearly two pages.

If Vermont’s left-leaning Democrats are going to dominate our environmental planning, Vermonters are doomed. But we who incorporate “conserve” in our very name must do more than criticize — we must fashion sensible policy that appeals to voters. This is where regenerative farming practices come in.

Regenerative farming strives to minimize the fossil fuel and chemical inputs involved in food production. This includes organic farming, but other changes in practice that reduce the use of these inputs can be said to be “less degenerative” to soils and the environment.

The far-left focuses on “carbon footprint” as the No. 1 measure of environmental impact (as seen ad nauseam in that pitiful Democrat Party platform I referenced). Importantly, conservatives need not battle over CO2 to agree that non-organic inputs in agriculture contribute pollution to the environment. This cause can be championed without bowing down to the “global destruction” ideology. This was, in fact, how Americans once agreed about the ecosystem — on chemical pollution, which Richard Nixon and conservatives led the nation to sensibly regulate.

Truly, this issue is not about party affiliation — nurturing small farms is more important than ever. As I explained in the 2020 Farming Manifesto, local agriculture benefits Vermont’s economy, health, tourism, food security and preservation of culture. There are no downsides.

One of the greatest assets of local organic farms is their environmental benefits. Regenerative farming is much better for Vermont’s pollution issues (and scenery) than solar panels, EV cars or windmills. Growing food locally does not depend on manufacturing products using fossil fuels and chemicals in faraway lands, then shipping them (using fossil fuels and chemicals) for installation in Vermont, supported with regressive rate and tax structures that compel poor Vermonters to subsidize the special interests who manufacture, sell, and install these products. Lastly, solar panels and EVs are not readily recycled, and create long-term environmental liabilities that are not present in regenerative agriculture.

Environmentalists say regenerative agriculture (together with forests) is the only way humanity can forestall climate change:

More and more people now understand that we can achieve, through enhanced photosynthesis and drawdown, the “Net Zero” emissions goal in 2030 to 2050 that nearly everyone now agrees will be necessary if we are to avoid runaway global warming and climate catastrophe. … Increasing plant and forest photosynthesis (accomplished via enhanced soil fertility and biological life, as well as an adequate amount of water and minerals) is the only practical way that we can draw down a significant amount of the excess CO2 and greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that are heating up the Earth and disrupting our climate.

Carbon sequestration is a scam, but supporting local agriculture offers nothing but positives for Vermonters, and Vermont conservativism. All “real” Vermonters (wherever born) are sensitive to the vital importance of local farms — especially since COVID struck.

Consider these words from Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry, penned in 1970 (“Think Little,” from “A Continuous Harmony,” p.77):

Most of us … not only do not know how to produce the best food in the best way — we don’t know how to produce any kind in any way. Our model citizen is a sophisticate who before puberty understands how to produce a baby, but who at the age of thirty will not know how to produce a potato. And for this madness we have elaborate rationalizations, instructing us that dependence for everything on somebody else is efficient and economical and a scientific miracle. I say, instead, that it is madness, mass produced.

It doesn’t matter where you draw these food awareness lines — flatlander versus woodchuck; urbanite versus ruralite; City Mouse versus Country Mouse; modern, techno-dependent slave versus independent human being. The other lines — skin color, gender, sexual orientation, political party — will all blur appropriately into relative insignificance as healthful food becomes humanity’s central future concern.

Hyper-monetization of debt under COVID ensures inflation when the spending spree ends. Wages will shrink in purchase power as food prices escalate. Food-price inflation will be compounded by layers of commodity inputs such as fossil fuels used in the cropping, processing, packaging and shipping of massive quantities of food extraordinary distances.

Perhaps the frantic migration of out-of-staters to Vermont stems from a growing urban awareness of a dependency which is amplified by foreign solar panels, EVs, school-bused food and government splurging. Perhaps this is what prompted Wendell Berry’s subsequent warning in 1985 (“What Are People For?”):

Equally important is the question of the sustainability of the urban food supply. The supermarkets are, at present, crammed with food, and the productivity of American agriculture is, at present, enormous. But this is a productivity based on the ruin both of the producers and of the source of production. City people are unworried about this, apparently, only because they do not know anything about farming. People who know about farming, who know what the farmland requires to remain productive, are worried.

Vermont conservatives must champion this cultural cause. We already own it, as Vermonters — let us lead in policy initiatives that demonstrate the numerous positive benefits of renewable agriculture instead of favoring “renewables industry” special interests.

Help our farmers; help ourselves.

John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield, and the former pastor of the First Congregational Church of Westfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2021. All rights reserved.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Nicholas A. Tonelli

10 thoughts on “John Klar: Regenerative politics in the Vermont GOP

  1. When it comes to politics, I am a supporter of John Klar – smaller government, constitutional adherence, individual responsibility, freedom to fail or succeed … the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
    But when we have to use terms like Regenerative agriculture, rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems, focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil which ALL sound wonderful and really, exciting we can completely miss reality when it comes to the bottom line – economic stability in agriculture.
    Where, for instance does regenerative agriculture find all the necessary nutrients to feed to corn, beans, wheat and to replace the nutrients that leave the farm in the form of beef, chicken, eggs and so on.
    If we are reading here a quest to establish a communal form of existence who and how will this be implemented?
    Philosophical musings, including those of Wendell Berry, when penned on to paper can be quite inspirational and encouraging but when it comes to feeding 322 million let alone 7.9 billion people there is going to have to be a high level of sustainability in both the methods and the economics.

    • Good points Mr. Russell.

      Larger farms are high producers. The dairy farm in Strafford where I worked 40 years ago is the only one left in our town. It has expanded and now produces around the same amount of work as the many small ( and in some instances tiny farms) that were here back then.

      However one of the disturbing things about dairy farming in Vermont these days is the reliance by many of the larger farms on undocumented illegal workers. Using these unregulated workers puts other Vermont farmers at a competitive disadvantage.
      We should hold those both employers and employees who break the law accountable. We should also at the same time provide a guest worker program similar to are program for temporary workers in our fruit and vegetable farms modified for the dairies when needed help can not be found within our own state.

  2. Thanks John for this and your other commentaries. Much food for thought.

    I do think that there is a need to articulate an alternative vision for Vermont based on the sound foundations of the best of rural living and there may be an opening for creating a broader coalition around this. This could include those who have opposed the consolidation of school districts and elimination of local school boards under Act 46.

    It will be tricky. I was involved in the founding of NOFA, the organic farmers organization in 1971 and later served at the marketing manager for the 1973 season. I was also involved a revival of the consumer co-op movement that started at the time. While they were decentralized, without any governmental support, and involved voluntary participation, many of those farmers and co-op members have a left leaning perspective. It is tough for people to think beyond their own ideological perspectives, even when the goals articulated, such as yours, are for the kind of Vermont in which they believe. This does not mean you should in any way slacken your efforts, just that it will be a tough row to hoe.

    Finally, here is a short Wendell Berry poem that always reminds me of how I want to live:

    When I rise up
    let me rise up joyful
    like a bird

    When I fall
    let me fall without regret
    like a leaf.

  3. Thank you John for another thought-provoking piece! I’m reminded of a survey the Town Planning Commission conducted several years ago (South Hero). It asked residents what they wanted more of. And the top choice was – more restaurants! Apparently 5 restaurants aren’t enough!

    I agree John, us hard-working self-reliant people who don’t need to be constantly served and entertained should just leave the disconnected, out-of-touch, Orwellian world behind and enjoy our authentic and meaningful lives.

  4. It is always nice to hear positive, productive thought of what we CAN do, rather than the present governing powers telling us what we CAN’T do, or what we MUST do according to them!! We conservatives must champion practical, logical efforts to protect our food-producing farmlands. Regenerative farming is a positive in all aspects. Let’s run with it!

    Thanks for another great article, John.

  5. There is so much that can be done.

    Velomobiles, that have a bit of electric assist. If we allow more creativity we can have a cottage industry and flourish.

    Allowing and fostering the use of small motor transportation, onder 100cc no license required, bit must pass test. This allows those restarting their lives to afford transportation, and promotes transportation with 75 mpg+

    Allowing small cars to import that we can’t get in Vt , like the Kei truck class made by Subaru

    Allowing and fostering homesteading, homes under 1000 sq ft, no permits fees, no building restrictions to foster innovative design.

    Financing available for straw bale construction. One of the greenest and most efficient designs.

    Become and foster heritage breeds and seeds throughout the state.

    John is right there is so much we can offer and do, win-win

  6. Great word of truth John!!You remind me of John Adam who said,”The Constitution is for moral religious people,and is therefore inadequate to govern others!” It is also written ,”A wise man’s heart is at his right hand,but a fool’s heart at his left!” This battle of left and right is actually light vs darkness,and the comfort is we win with Him!!

  7. These are riotous, troublemaker, deranged, cancel-Vermont-culture zealots.

    They want to remake Vermonters, break their will, subdue them, cow them to fight climate change, or whatever, i.e., a futile tilting at windmills; even the all-knowing, no-mask-wearing John Kerry admits it, as would any sane person.

    They have gotten hold of government power, by hook and krook, and to command and control, to drag free-thinking Vermonters where they think we should go, which would end up serving THEIR INTERESTS, not ours.

    Republicans have to vote them out!!

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