What Can Be Done to Keep Grasslands Healthy?
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What Can Be Done to Keep Grasslands Healthy?
At present, we’re doing everything wrong: Reducing animal numbers to rest
the land actually causes desertification — the very things we’re trying to
combat. Ditto for using fire. According to Savory, there is ONLY ONE OPTION.
We must use livestock, bunched in very large moving herds, mimicking the way
they used to roam when wild, or as they were herded in our agricultural past.
He offers several before and after scenes in his lecture, showing how
allowing large herds to trample the area, covering the soil with left-over
vegetation, manure and urine, makes it absorb and hold the seasonal rains. As
a result, the soil stores carbon and breaks down methane.
So, what we need is MORE moving, grazing animals, not less!
Savory has developed a holistic management and planned grazing system
which is now being implemented in select areas on five continents. In one
area, increasing grazing cattle numbers by 400 percent, planning the grazing
to mimic nature, and integrating the cattle with local elephants, buffalo and
giraffes, has achieved remarkable results. I encourage you to view the video,
because seeing is believing. This technique is literally turning desert into
lush, highly productive environments. In Patagonia, 25,000 sheep were put
into a desert area, and with planned grazing they increased production of the
land by 50 percent in one year.
How Federal Policy Contributes to the Problem
In the US, federal policy is presently worsening the environmental
concerns addressed by Savory in his talk. Corn and soy — much of which are
genetically engineered — are rapidly overtaking native grasslands in a number
of US states. A consequence of this is that we also lose our ability to
secure our food supply long-term... As discussed in a recent Mother Jones
article,1 this conversion of grasslands to crop fields is the exact opposite
of what might be in our best interest.
“...to get ready for climate change, we should push Midwestern
farmers to switch a chunk of their corn land into pasture for cows,” the
featured article states. “The idea came from a paper2 by University of
Tennessee and Bard College researchers, who calculated that such a move could
suck up massive amounts of carbon in soil — enough to reduce annual
greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 36 percent. In addition to the
CO2 reductions, you'd also get a bunch of high-quality, grass-fed
beef...Turns out the Midwest are doing just the opposite.”
According to another recently published paper3 by South Dakota State
University researchers, grasslands in the Western corn belt, which includes
North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska, are being lost at
a rate "comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia, and
Indonesia." Between 2006 and 2011, nearly 2 million acres of friendly native
grasses have been lost to corn and soy — two of the staples in processed
foods that are driving chronic disease rates in an ever steepening upward
incline. The same thing is happening in South America, where native forests
are leveled in order to plant soy.
The researchers claim the land being converted into corn and soy fields
is actually much better suited for grazing than crop agriculture, as it is
“characterized by high erosion risk and vulnerability to drought." So why
would farmers opt to use such risky land for their crops? According to the
“Simple: Federal policy has made it a high-reward, tiny-risk
proposition. Prices for corn and soy doubled in real terms between 2006 and
2011, the authors note, driven up by federal corn-ethanol mandates and
relentless Wall Street speculation.
Then there's federally subsidized crop insurance... When farmers
manage to tease a decent crop out of their marginal land, they're rewarded
with high prices for their crop. But if the crop fails, subsidized insurance
guarantees a decent return. Essentially, federal farm policy, through the
ethanol mandate and the insurance program, is underwriting the expansion of
corn and soy agriculture at precisely the time it should be shrinking.”
Current Agricultural System is Unsustainable, According to the USDA
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) also recently released a report
titled: "Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States." According to
the report, our current agricultural system, which is dominated by corn and
soy, is unsustainable in the long term. Should temperatures rise as
predicted, the US could expect to see significant declines in yields by the
middle of this century.
Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) also play a key role in this
impending disaster. Gone are the days of large grazing cattle herds.
Today, food animals are typically reared in cages and tightly cramped
quarters, and their feed consists of grains, primarily genetically engineered
corn and soy instead of grasses. These animals are literally imprisoned and
often tortured by unhealthy, unsanitary and unconscionably cruel conditions.
To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding and
lack of vitamin D, animals are fed antibiotics and other veterinary drugs.
Those antibiotics pose a direct threat to the environment when they run off
into our lakes, rivers, aquifers and drinking water, and drive the rise in
antibiotic-resistant disease in humans and animals.
According to Ronnie Cummins:
“CAFOs contribute directly to global warming4 by releasing vast
amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere - more than the entire global
transportation industry. The air at some factory farm test sites in the US is
dirtier than in America’s most polluted cities, according to the
Environmental Integrity Project. According to a 2006 report by the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), animal agriculture is
responsible for 18 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions,
including 37 percent of methane emissions and 65 percent of nitrous oxide
emissions. The methane releases from billions of imprisoned animals on
factory farms are 70 times more damaging per ton to the earth’s atmosphere
Indirectly, factory farms contribute to climate disruption by their
impact on deforestation and draining of wetlands, and because of the nitrous
oxide emissions from huge amounts of pesticides used to grow the genetically
engineered corn and soy fed to animals raised in CAFOs. Nitrous oxide
pollution is even worse than methane – 200 times more damaging per ton than
CO2. And just as animal waste leaches antibiotics and hormones into ground
and water, pesticides and fertilizers also eventually find their way into our
waterways, further damaging the environment.”
What’s the alternative? Just as Savory discusses above, the alternative
to CAFO’s is a smaller-scale system created by independent producers and
processors focused on local and regional markets. Following Savory’s
strategy, large herds could be moved across areas in planned grazing
patterns, which would be beneficial for the environment, the health of the
animals, and subsequently the health of humans consuming those animals.
God Bless Everyone & God Bless The United States of America.
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