The power of industrial agriculture in the U.S. and in other urbanized nations is not only driving the degradation of the soil but controlling the politics of agriculture and causing havoc in rural society. Farmlands are increasingly depopulated, family farms (dairies in particular) are going bankrupt, suicides are up, farming is increasingly a part-time occupation (especially in chicken farms under contract to giant corporations), dependency on heavy chemical inputs and proprietary seeds is ever increasing with ruinous effects on soil health, pollinators, and the quality of product — and all this is defended in the halls of power as essential for food security.  Industrial agriculture has compromised all the supposedly green certifications by its political power: Certified organic does not mean real organic, cage free does not mean real freedom, grass-fed does not mean real access to pasture, and so forth.

The soil-regenerating, high-productivity, social and economic alternative has been resoundingly demonstrated in countless instances worldwide.  True sustainability and the capacity to feed the world and control carbon emissions, and especially to control malnutrition and susceptibility to adverse environmental conditions in developing countries is available if industrial agriculture is kept at bay, sternly regulated, insurance for crop failure eliminated wherever truly regenerative practices are not followed. The losers in such a case will be the mega-corporations, and the winners will be the people of the world now and in the future.

But in the halls of power, industrial agriculture reigns and regenerative agroecology is never mentioned. The Bill Gates of the world will only hear of profit-making for the giant corporations, with superficial greenwashing similar to that of the fossil fuel companies and their transition from power to plastics. There is hope for the future habitability of the earth only if the new administration is insightful and determined enough, and resourceful in shifting toward small-scale, real organic, year-around, diversified productivity farmed by a new generation of young recruits who pride themselves in learning the fabulous intricacy of the natural systems that are suppressed by industrial monoculture.  Cooperatives can achieve scale, the supply chain can be modified to a more local one — the pandemic has shown how this can be done. Consumer preference is shifting toward organic products and  people are reaping the benefits of better health.  We all have a vital interest in the health  of our rural lands, so we need to think big and not shrink from the magnitude of the change that is required.

John H. Brown ’52 *59
College Park, Md.