Industrial Agriculture

Intensity doesn’t equal sustainable productivity.

In the mid-20th century, technology and chemistry began to replace manpower in agricultural production. More people moved to the cities. Efficiencies gained through chemical fertilizers and pesticides, allowed fewer people to produce more livestock and crops, intensifying and industrializing agriculture. Monocultures are easier to manage than diversity.

Consolidation and economies of scale further intensified production. Independent producers slowly gave way to large-scale corporate farms and confinement livestock operations with attendant environmental issues such as non-point source pollution. Lags in yield were compensated for by the addition of chemicals and intensifying management practices. The pace continues to increase.

While selection and crossbreeding have improved human life since hunting and gathering way gave way to agrarian society, in recent years it has been accelerated by the advent of direct genetic modification. There is nothing inherently bad in precisely modifying genes, but advancing techniques without careful thought opens the door to unintended consequences. It’s the unintended consequences, not the techniques that have the potential for devastation.

Case in point, crop plants with inherent resistance to Roundup ®, a now ubiquitous herbicide developed by Monsanto, a agri-chemical giant which merged with Bayer, another chemical behemoth, in recent years. While developers and testers heralded it as a way to decrease the use of herbicides, there is now evidence that weeds have developed resistance to Roundup® actually requiring more herbicide instead of less.

Critics argue Bayer-Monsanto positioned itself to reap profits at the expense of the environment. Bayer-Monsanto maintains it is addressing the rising need to produce more food for more people on less land.

While the argument continues to rage, it points out the need for holistic approaches that require looking at the big picture and conscientiously trying to identify and avoid unintended consequences. At some point, an unbalanced system can’t be sustained by adding inputs.

And unintended consequences aren’t limited to farming and row crops. Confinement livestock operations take animals off the range where they efficiently convert the sun’s energy in the form of plants into protein and put the grazers in an artificial environment that is maintained with inputs such as grain. When animals of any species are overcrowded in an artificial environment it creates problems with health and behavior as well as logistical concerns like waste management.

Game species, such as elk and deer, succumb to the same pressures when they are subjected to an unnatural environment. Case in point, Chronic Wasting Disease, a fatal neurological disorder that is now spreading through elk and deer. While the disease may have been present in isolation in the wild, it appeared and first became a threat in a confined elk herd at a research station in Colorado. With the advent of intense deer management, where whitetail deer are managed like livestock to grow large antlers, it has spread at an alarming pace and is now considered a serious threat to the well-being of free-ranging herds.

In another example at nearby Yellowstone National Park, the park herds of bison and elk serve as the nation’s reservoir for brucellosis, a livestock disease that has been almost eradicated. Instead of being managed holistically, the herds are managed intensively. They congregate because they are fed. They overpopulate because they are protected from predators and hunters. They are not vaccinated because it’s “not natural.” They incubate and transmit infection.

Now is the time to stop, look at the bigger picture and begin to restore the earth’s productivity by working in concert with nature instead of against her.

Latest articles

Read more about invasive species / biology:

Bright Future For Texas Oysters

Quoting the very interesting article below, “The future of oysters in Texas looks pretty bright. From thriving oyster restoration to new oyster mariculture opportunities, it will be exciting to see how things continue to evolve […]

Counterfeit Cows: Cheating the Grass-Fed Beef Label

“Why “grass-fed” doesn’t mean what you think.  

Native American Lawmakers Seek Federal Help on Montana Bison

“Because they are mismanaged, bison carry and spread brucellosis, a highly contagious, bacterially-caused disease that causes spontaneous abortions in cattle and other animals, and also poses a serious threat to human health. The goal of […]

Holistic Grazing in the Arizona / Sonora Borderlands

Cattle are grazed in any spot for 6-hours, followed by 18-months recovery.   NOTE: this post was originally published on April 5, 2017  

Wildfires Threaten Urban Water Supplies, Long After the Flames Are Out

The article below discusses the long term effect of catastrophic forest fires on drinking water. The authors say that 2/3 of America’s drinking water comes from forests. The fires greatly increase soil erosion and this […]

Biodiversity and Holistic Management

These excellent thoughts on the importance of biodiversity apply to wildlife as well as agriculture.  

Judge Rejects Bayer Proposal to Resolve Future Cancer Claims

It took a brave judge to go up against Big Ag in this way.   It is unbelievable that Bayer’s board payed $63-billion to jump into the quicksand of Roundup liabilities. As reported below, Bayer’s […]

Holistic Management at Work

Holistic management uses a long term planning process that assigns to environmental and social outcomes the same importance as profits.  In addition to being particularly suited to the deserts of far-West Texas, its grazing and […]

The Environmental Upside of Modern Farming

“The article below offers thoughts on how to make industrial farming less harmful to the environment.

Weather-Upending La Niña Is Headache for Farmers World-Wide

“According to the article below, “La Niña 2020 has evolved quicker and with stronger intensity than many leading climate models predicted.”

Carbon Credits: Environmental Boon or Boondoggle?

As discussed in the article below, the new “green” climate initiatives will probably include carbon credits. If the past predicts the future, proponents of these subsides will claim they are for small operators, but in […]

Grass Fed Beef: Farm to Fork Wyoming

Fourth generation Wyoming ranchers, Bobby and Brendan Thoman, return cattle to the family operation – using an elegant logic of healthier soil and a focus on both the cow and customer.  

Livestock: A Powerful Tool for Wildfire Control

Quoting the article below, “Livestock grazing is also proposed as a potential solution for wildfires such as those that have devastated several western states this year. Researchers with the University of California Cooperative Extension are […]

Brucellosis Outbreak in China Worsening as Disease Spreads to Farms

The many sincere and well-intentioned “defenders of wildlife” who oppose treating the brucellosis that infects Yellowstone Park’s elk and bison should read the article below.   The current Covid pandemic demonstrates once again that animal […]

Climate Change Mitigation is a Side Effect of Regenerative Ranching: Insights From Australia And The United States

“Whatever the causes of climate change, human damage to our environment cannot be denied. As the authors of this paper explain, more and more people are rejecting industrial agriculture in favor of regenerative (restorative) ag […]

2020 Tony Coote AM Memorial lecture – with Allan Savory

The Mulloon Institute presents a unique opportunity to hear from one of the world’s leading experts in Regenerative Agriculture, Allan Savory, as he presents the 2020 Tony Coote AM Memorial Lecture.

Beavers Are Accelerating Climate Change in Alaska?

According to the article below, which repeats claims of CNN, beavers change climate. This is not correct.   Global climate has been warming for at least 15,000 years. Because climate has warmed, the habitable area […]

Radical Changes Urged for Huge E.U. Farm Program

According to the article below, “The European farm subsidies program accounts for nearly 40 percent of Europe’s budget, making it one of the biggest in the world. It is riddled with corruption and self-dealing, especially […]

Huge Feral Hogs Invading Canada, Building ‘Pigloos’ As They Go

Cold weather is kinder to larger animals, because of “thermal efficiency”. This is why the largest bear, whales, deer and even quail are found in the northern extremes of their ranges. Pigs are no exception, […]

Could an Invasive Snail Save Your Morning Coffee?

More often than not, “invasive” plants and animals are responding to human damage to ecosystems. So-called exotics are usually viewed as competitive to the systems where they have arrived, but on closer study, most turn […]

The Resistance to Holistic Wildlife Management

Across the West as well as in Texas, agencies, universities, governmental and conservation organizations resist holistic wildlife and agricultural management practices. Most Western public grazing rules make holistic grazing very difficult if not impossible  In this […]