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.”
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.