A person can easily get down in the dumps about wildlife in the Great Plains in the face of seemingly uncontrollable economic forces. Been there, done that. Wrote about it several times: here, here, and here. I talked about it here.
So, it was with astounding refreshment that I watched the ENTIRE 36 minutes of the embedded video, below. The Nebraska Farmers Union invited a renowned trial lawyer, David Domina, to speak about the state of agriculture in Nebraska during the NFU's 100th Annual Convention in December of 2013. Next year, I will be in the audience.
Domina suggests that ag is sexy and strong for only a segment of agriculture, at present. He presents a compelling review of the forces that are behind every farmer's set of decisions--what crops to plant, where and when to sell, what chemicals to use, and how to manage the crop. These are decisions that affect our Rural Future.
The Farmers Union thought his message was important for farmers. I'll suggest it is equally important for wildlife biologists who care about private lands. And, Domina lists some real solutions. Spoiler alert: they don't include planting irrigation 'corners' to sorghum to try to prop up pheasants. He's talking changes to banks and the way we treat corporations in the US. Big changes.
Watch the video. Think about landscapes as he talks. Tell me it doesn't make sense. I dare you.
I highlight some of the segments I really enjoyed below the video.
00:31 "The state of Nebraska agriculture appears, on its face, to be extraordinarily strong. In the last five years, many Nebraska farmers have seen their personal net worths increase in a way that they never increased in the history of this state."
19:35 "Farmers have enjoyed a tremendous run, and gotten great publicity about it. Others in rural communities have not done so well and are struggling. Farmers have become softer because good times make us soft...."
20:40 "...market concentration is an enormous problem. Eight-five percent of the cattle slaughtered in the US by 3 slaughter houses--75%, nearly, of the hogs. Seventy percent of the seed controlled by 4 companies and the traits--nearly 100%, nearly, by one."
21:45 "We cannot demean ourselves and dignify the corporations that enjoy that consolidation by treating them as our perfect and uniform legal equals. We are citizens of the United states and we have the rights to vote. We have the right to due process of the law. We have the guarantees of the constitution, and we create corporations. They are not citizens. Unless we deal with that problem, the transitory prosperity of the Nebraska farmer will be transitory."
34:15 "That is the challenge of Nebraska agriculture. No matter how much your land has inflated, no matter how good it feels to think about your net worth in light of that increase in price, no matter how much you enjoyed $7 corn and long to have it back--and think it may come back...as long as you are a price taker, and subject to manipulation, you have to defeat that manipulator by insisting on a vibrant market. And, that market begins with a quality financial institution system."