#UNRIG Video (28:13) VITAL Insights from a Small Farmer on Looming Food & Energy Crisis USA


J. C. Cole is a small farmer with global experience and a double engineering degree from Lehigh University. In this short interview he SOUNDS THE ALARM on the looming food and energy crisis and ends with specific suggestions for the President of the United States of America — create a small farm advisory council with no suits; invest in small farms; end all government regulations that keep small farmers from reaching the market place, and localize farming everywhere, starting with the East Coast where government regulations have killed the small farmer.

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  1. Andy, good to meet you here on VT. I am glad to hear about farmer’s markets and ecologically produced food by small farmers in Russia. I was just reading in a permaculture journal about the efficiency and production of the small farmers in Russia, which destroys the myth, believed by many, that small farmers cannot produce enough food for the world’s needs. The opposite is true and the small farmer can manage their land to make it all ecologically sustainable without all of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides which are giving so many cancer. Your question is a good one. In the U.S. there are many cities with farmer’s markets now and there are community supported agriculture (CSA) farms surrounding most cities, where consumers subscribe to and commit to taking regular deliveries (at least weekly) from the farm they support. Usually a well managed farm can make a living this way because the consumer is willing to pay a higher price and know their food is ecologically, sustainably produced by a family who are good stewards of their land and care about the health of the people who eat their production. As you can probably guess, as good as this model is, this kind of human scale, sustainable agriculture is a tiny minority (perhaps 1%) of farm production here in the U.S. There are a lot of reasons for this but suffice it to say, just like America’s never-ending wars of imperialism, America has also colonized by means of corporate agriculture, its rural peoples and communities, in order to extract cheap resources (commodities especially). This is why I believe that a society that truly values its small farmers (and urban workers!) will not be an imperialistic war-making one. Peace and Parity truly go hand in hand.
    A question for you. Did President Putin and the Russian government actually give out 10 hectare plots to families willing to farm it? I would love to visit Russia and get to know Russians and their noble culture.

    • Greetings Craig. In the Russian Federation, the Far Eastern hectare program is currently operating. Any citizen of the Russian Federation can receive for free use 1 hectare of land in the Far East for free use for 5 years with an extension. But 1 hectare is not enough and I’m not sure that there are good sites. There are no communications. Not everyone will be able to fully create something there without big financial investments. Even if it is a greenhouse.
      Yes, the Russian Federation is traditionally an agrarian country. Now we are leaders in the export of grain in the world. We sell about $ 50 billion worth of agricultural products. This is 2 times more than we sell weapons.
      The big impetus for the development of the agricultural sector was Western sanctions, import substitution and our agrarian war with Turkey, which supplied a huge amount of its products to us. We call it Tomato War. There really was a paradox: before the crisis of 2014, the country had a lot of money, people lived well. Everyone reasoned – why produce, when you can buy everything abroad. That was a mistake.
      Now the state supports agricultural production, pays great attention to this. I live in the Krasnodar region in the south of the Russian Federation. Krasnodar, Sochi, maybe you heard. This is a traditional agricultural land: a warm climate, rich soil (black soil), fields, orchards, vineyards. As we say – stick a pencil in the ground, water and it will take roots.
      In my region, land is very much appreciated. I do not know how much a hectare of land in the United States is worth, so it’s hard for me to compare. But I am sure that it is much more expensive than ours. In the USA, everything is expensive. Our farmers – small and medium (I’m not talking about large agricultural complexes, in which billions of dollars are invested) take loans for development if they do not have start-up capital. They lease equipment – everywhere in our fields you can see John Deere, Aktros, Klaas. Excellent combines makes Rostov-on-Don. Some buy Belarusian combines.
      Farmers hire professional agronomists, engaged in breeding. As I said, GMOs are strictly prohibited in our country. Of the main problems of farmers, as far as I know, this is animal feeds, fuel for equipment. Our diesel fuel is more expensive than the main brands of gasoline. It all depends on what the farmers do. They plant a lot of sugar beets, sunflowers – they pass seeds to creameries, corn (maize), wheat, rice.
      I myself am not a professional in this. But I know that we must love the land and work. And this is very hard work. And it becomes insulting to farmers when they are forced to give out goods at low prices, earning almost nothing. This is in many countries. Today I was in the store: good, natural flavored cucumbers and tomatoes cost $ 1.10 per kg, 10 pieces of chicken eggs – $ 0.60, natural bread – $ 0.25 per 900g loaf. Pork meat – $ 3.50 per kg. In other regions of the Russian Federation (and we have 86), prices may vary. Especially in the north. If you are interested in anything else, I can share information, Craig.

  2. Craig, greetings.
    My question may seem primitive. Can you have a little farm, grow the vegetables, fruits or have domestic animals for meat and to sell it in a little shop? Or at farmer markets. I suppose if you got a big farm and land, you better deal with retailers/supermarkets, but i suspect they give low price to farmers, like it is in Russia, too. But our small business farmers produce eco food (it is normal) and can sell it without any problems. Now it is a bit worser situation because of Covid-19 and its bad step on economy. But actually it works well.

  3. Thank you Mr. Steele for this interview. It is too bad that it takes a crisis like we are experiencing for the American public (or its leaders) to even start to think about sustainable food security in terms of national security. There have been a number of important social movements to save small family farmers in America. The most successful ones brought together farmers and labor to enact legislation that gave the working person a liveable wage and the farmer a fair (“parity”)price for his product. A big part of the problem is that the neo-cons and neo-liberals insist that agriculture be treated just like any other capitalist business/free market. Agriculture and the good people who try to make a living from it, cannot be sustainable ecologically, economically, or even culturally if it it treated strictly as a free market business. Small and medium sized farms need more than just getting rid of regulations that make it hard for them to market their products (certainly this would be a help). But without a fair price, a family farm cannot go on producing for very long, no matter how much access to the market it has. Few Americans know the history of the agricultural programs developed under the FDR’s administration, by the political genius of Henry Wallace, who was responding to the leftist grassroots movements uniting family farmers and family laborers during the Great Depression. The prevailing ideology was fair wages for labor and fair farm prices for family farmers, equals national security. Their slogan was “peace and parity”. Those activists understood that true security begins at home with the means of sustainable food production in the hands of small and medium sized farmers. The Community Supported Ag (CSA), Organic Farming, and Permaculture movements have all been significant and have tried to move agriculture back to families and away from corporations. These movements have had some success, but I would argue they will never bring the needed long term sustainable prosperity to the families involved because government policies favor corporate agriculture. The FDR/Henry Wallace farm policies brought prosperity to family farmers for decades. These programs were deliberately destroyed by corporate America because the oligarchs (including the owners of banks) couldn’t get rich enough under those policies. One would need to read about the Agricultural Adjustment Act and the Ever Normal Granary to understand how Wallace was able to use the power of the government to give family farmers the power to get a fair price (“parity”) in the market place—-without any subsidies such as the billions big family farms and corporations now receive.

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