The editorial “Why is only some Oregon agriculture ‘good’?” (The Observer, Sept. 18) stated: “Every one of Oregon’s more than 38,000 farms and ranches is evidence of all that is good about agriculture.” The author uses three farm categories — “conventional, organic and even biodynamic practices” — as our forms of agriculture. “Conventional” implies agreed upon and historical. But in this case it is meant to represent recent, chemical and antibiotic-dependent industrial agriculture.

Small farms, particularly dairies, are being driven out of business by dairy operations such as the Boardman Threemile Canyon Farms. There, cows are treated as machines. They do not graze but are fed to maximize production over the short term, then slaughtered young. Due to close confinement conditions, they must continually be given antibiotics to avoid disease. These antibiotics go into the milk and those who consume it. Huge facilities also consolidate the entire process from udder to market. This sort of agriculture deserves the label “industrial” farming, not conventional.

I was raised in Minnesota, a dairy state. Cows grazed in pastures and were milked twice daily, the milk was taken to be processed and packaged then delivered to stores. Cows lived long, healthy, productive lives. Milk did not contain antibiotics. Those were conventional dairies, and they have not survived the transformation to industrial milk production. Small farmers across America go bankrupt daily. However, small farmers outnumber industrial owners, and by banding together their lifestyle and livelihoods might be salvageable.

Yes, “conventional, organic and biodynamic” farmers must stick together to combat the uneven playing field imposed on agriculture by the advent of industrial agriculture. Government policies generally favor industrial agriculture, which can afford lobbyists. Environmental damage done to the soil, water, air or the quality of products produced is not factored in. Profits are privatized while larger costs become socialized.

Agricultural practices that care for the health of the soil, plants and animals produced are being driven out of business in America by those focused solely on profits. Industrial agriculture must be forced to pay for the overlooked costs of their production and the health care expenses resulting from eating their contaminated “food.” Then they would not be setting market prices below production costs for small farms. The same process is happening to beef producers.

Industrially produced food is cheaper than sustainably produced food. Our purchases ultimately help determine American agriculture. By wasting less, eating less and avoiding processed products, sustainably produced food becomes affordable.

Mary McCracken

Island City

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