Farms need people, not machines
Writing for The Atlantic, Nicollete Hahn Niman argues that gearing federal subsidies toward sustaining natural resources would employ more people while providing better, more appealing jobs.
Hahn Niman is a livestock rancher and environmental attorney. She's also the author of Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms,so her views aren't exactly surprising. She makes an emotion-based case that "mechanization and automation have been disastrous for agriculture," especially when it comes to raising animals:
Although automation and mechanization have reduced the difficult physical labor of food production, they have contributed to our national obesity epidemic, and rendered agriculture utterly dependent on such non-renewable, polluting substitutes for human labor. In today's specialized, segmented, and mechanized agriculture, chemicals are the answer to fertility, pest control, and weed suppression. The farmer's hands, knowledge, and husbandry have been replaced by machines, capital goods, pharmaceuticals, and fossil fuels, used directly to power farm equipment and indirectly to manufacture chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.
Mechanization has reduced conventional animal farming to production and eliminated true animal husbandry. Laboratory-produced vitamin D and antibiotics now make it feasible to restrict animals to the indoors round the clock. Feed and water are delivered mechanically; manure removal systems are automated. Humans have ceased providing individual animals attention. As I noted in Righteous Porkchop, Department of Agriculture studies show that at a typical confinement facility, a pig is in the company of a human for 8 seconds of each day. Such an approach cannot provide appropriate care.
U.S. agricultural policies that foster industrialization persist. And they continue to nudge the remaining farm-related jobs in fields, animal operations, and slaughterhouses in an ever-more unappealing direction -- one that is more machine-based, chemical-intensive, and less connected to natural seasons and cycles. It is increasingly difficult to attract people to those jobs. This is foolhardy -- particularly in our current economy, which we are desperately striving to revitalize.
Click HERE to read the full editorial.