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Adding to the Family Farm with Wildlife Preserves & Hunting?


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I want to throw out an idea. I'll admit up front I haven't done research on this, so I don't know costs and numbers and feasibility, except tangentially through reading about and discussing other subjects that touch on this. Now moving on...


For years, through programs on PBS television and reading the news and seeing farms bought up and developed into suburbia locally, I've been aware that farming seems to be on the decline in the US. Several farmers have switched to growing organic foods, which can command higher profits and high demand, but also are labor intensive compared to most modern farming techniques. Also, humans and the planet face the problem of global warming. I have often heard, and I too believe, that farmers can help to slow or reverse the trend of global warming, by changing farm practices, sequestering carbon or receiving carbon credits, changing crops, and proper land management. However, I often wonder if they will play a role if their role in society is increasingly marginalized and unprofitable. In my eyes, farmers are an endangered species.


What farmers need, IMO, are more options and abilities to increase profits. In a world increasingly driven by global markets, competition, and profits, farmers also need to increase their profitability to survive. Many farmers try to do this by increasing production or acreage. I believe these are only likely to work in the short term and may even damage profits in the long term, by forcing farmers to grow unprofitable crops, flood the market which lowers crop prices, crops such as corn and soy become animal feed for animals turned into cheap meat, and get caught in a vicious circle of expensive fertilizers, pesticides, and GM seeds & crops (which are controlled by large biotech/ag companies like Monsanto). Organic farming may not be the right answer or a viable option for many farmers, either.


To help farmers increase profitability, I suggest that they may need to consider more options, including:


--Private wildlife reserves. E.g., if one has a large farm in the Great Plains, perhaps states should offer incentives to farmers to try to restore part of their farms to prairies and should be allowed to reintroduce native species such as prairie dogs, pronghorn antelope, American bison (buffalo), wolves, coyotes, etc. This could lead to wildlife tourism, similar to how they are conducted in Yellowstone or in African wild reserves and parks. Also, this helps to restore biodiversity and maintains the land for future generations. Farmers might be able to work with divisions or departments of wildlife resources in their states and obtain licensing and oversight. Very large tracts of land, possibly hundreds to tens of thousands of acres, would be the best for these.


--Private hunting, possibly trophy hunting. Personally, I really don't like this idea, but I'm also aware that some wildlife reserves, parks, and private ranches/reserves in Africa do this. Trophy hunters could pay the farmers and state to hunt on the land. Hunting is a very popular sport in certain states, including my own (Utah), where deer, elk, and moose are hunted in the mountains and on BLM land.


--Better land management through avoiding destructive farming practices, replanting forests and grasslands, restoring the land to its original status, or augmenting the land's productivity through techniques such as terra preta. If terra preta could be used on tens to hundreds of thousands of acres in this country, with the intent to store extra carbon (and maybe receive carbon credits for it), increase crops or ecosystem health, and thus the health and productivity of animals in those lands, it would take a large chunk out of current carbon emissions and future ones as well. Think of the thousands to millions of tons of carbon that could be stored.


--Changing crops to ones which are more profitable, such as blueberries, cranberries, etc. where possible. Probably a better bet for mountainous states (such as Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, California, etc.) or states where there are sufficient water resources. In states like Iowa, I've read that the majority of corn and soybeans (70-80%) are grown to be fed to animals. This seems like an incredible waste of resources and loss of possible profits. In my biology classes, I learned that only 10% of the available energy from food is stored in animals as one progresses up the food chain. Thus one can imagine the tremendous amounts of water, fertilizer, pesticide, solar energy, etc. that must be used to produce the millions of cattle, hogs, chickens, and turkeys in the country. With fertilizer prices set to rise in coming years (due to rising energy costs and scarcity) and water reserves becoming more limited, I wonder if feed prices can be sustained as cheaply as they are now.


In countries such as Taiwan and Japan, many farmers have switched from growing staples to growing other crops like tea and berries, which produce much better profits and demand is much higher than supply. Tea growers in Japan and Taiwan, for example, are often rich and are encouraged by economic necessity to maintain their land and produce high-quality products.


TTES homepage-1.An Introduction to the tea Industry in Taiwan

Oolong - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (has information on high-quality Taiwanese teas and prices at the bottom of the page)


I am not saying that farmers should grow tea, coffee, or cocoa (unless they wanted to), but that they may need to consider other possible crops which will increase overall profitability, either through less costly resources or labor.


I hope that other alternatives such as growing switchgrass and other prairie grasses may be possible for many farmers.


Switchgrass - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Farmers could be able to grow native plants that could help to fuel a biofuel/bioenergy economy and industry. These plants seem to require less resources (fertilizer, pesticides, and water) to produce than traditional crops, and could possibly provide higher profits for farmers, since their expenditure and maintenance would be less. I don't know if this will come to pass, because I have some doubts as to whether American politics or necessity will encourage the growth of a sustainable biofuel industry in America.


All right, I'll conclude here. If other people can provide critiques of the ideas or numbers and extra links or analyses, I would much appreciate it. As I mentioned, I expect that the ideas presented here will be at a very superficial level, because I'm a biology student, not a farmer, a corporate businessman (although I do have some experience in business), or wildlife researcher or hunter. I am more interested in getting people to consider more possibilities and to stir up healthy debate and discussion.

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One thing that I can add to this post is the hinderance for change over via the subsidy programs on the Fed level. There was an article somewhere recently about this issue and a push to allow more fruits and vegetables into these kinds of programs to allow farmers more options and in turn allow consumers more choices. Here is a different article, covering some of the issues (and new to me information):


Relaxing Fruit and Vegetable Planting Restrictions - Amber Waves-February 2007


Related to this is the issue of ethanol and corn growing, and the potential for shortages in other areas that rely on corn, and potential shortages of other crops as farmers switch over to grow corn rather than other crops, and the potential for the price of corn rising to the point of negating any potential benefits.


Heres one link:


same article, html view

Staying Home?: How Ethanol will Change U.S. Corn Exports


Heres another:

Corn has deep economic roots as high prices create ripple effect - USATODAY.com


I've read that the majority of corn and soybeans (70-80%) are grown to be fed to animals.

These animals also include pets such as cats and dogs and horses etc. ERS/USDA Data - Feed Grains Database: Yearbook Tables

Another link which may be useful for the topic:

USDA ERS Browse - Natural Resources & Environment

Land use map:

ERS/USDA Data - Major Land Uses: Map

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funny you mention this, they are doing this in taiwan right now. i will scan teh article when i get a moment. i think its a good idea. but organic and profits don't go hand in hand so much it seems. chemicals are cheap (financially) and you get bigger size/quantity that has a longer shelf life. the only problem is that now many vegetables are likely BAD for us :)

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