Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Agriculture is the bad guy?

In discussing other topics here at Rainy Day and reading blogs elsewhere, it's evident that agriculture as traditionally practiced-- livestock on open range-- is pretty unpopular with a lot of city living people. It comes up in resentments regarding stream rehabilitation but also dealing with predators-- most recently encouraging wolves back into Oregon.

Ranchers, who do not raise their stock under roofs with lots of antibiotics, who place them out in the open, have their animals at risk of predators or stream stomping-- not to mention the broken fence that causes them to get out and sample the neighbor's flowers. Increasingly they also face the wrath of city dwellers who don't seem to connect the produce in their grocery store with how it got there.

In the last few years, I have seen city people vote in measures that impact rural living people-- their numbers are greater-- and where there is this disconnect between food and who grew it, there is not a lot of sympathy for the rancher or farmer and his problems.

Several years ago an Oregonballot measure banned hunting cougar and bear with methods that those in the city felt were not nice. So we who live out are dealing with an increasing number of cougar. Cougar can't tolerate others too close to their range; so when young are born, eventually they are forced to move elsewhere. That elsewhere gets closer and closer to human habitation but does someone in Portland worry about that? Only if they like to hike in the woods, I guess.

Then there was the measure that would have forced farmers to fence their land way back from the creeks. In our case, we do fence our livestock from the creek but this measure, if it had passed would have prevented the use of about a third of our land. And what for? Stream habitation, I guess, but that can be accomplished by a fence not that far from the creek-- that gets replaced with every flood, of course. That measure didn't pass as the majority didn't see it as being fair, but I'm sure the issue isn't finished.

I see all of this with prejudice, of course, from the viewpoint of a small rancher who works hard to see our animals grow up healthy and strong and would like to see them receive a merciful end when that time come. I know the joy of looking out at fields and seeing the cow licking her offspring-- last year's and this year's. I also know it from the worry of predators chasing or killing the livestock. I see it from the standpoint of someone who has a hard time marketing the animals because of that desire to sell them from the place and not see them forced into fattening feed lots (often using cake which can be animal bi-products that has led to some of the problem of mad cow disease). I also see it from that work that goes into the good fences and enough feed and for no real profit in our case because we are small growers. We do it for the joy of being with the animals and the satisfaction when someone buys our beef and says it tastes better and we know that it's as healthy for them as fish would be given the Omega-3 levels in beef that is grassfed, not grain fattened. (If you don't believe me on the difference, do some research online. )

I don't know if city dwellers would like to keep the rural areas pristine and pure for their fishing, hunting and hiking and agricultural dwellers get in the way of that. I don't know how most would eat if nobody wanted to do the work of raising food as very few people raise all their own anymore. Some would say well hunt or fish for all your food-- except there isn't enough ability or wild game to feed everyone. Plus if you eat fish more than a couple of times a week-- from any source in nature-- you are facing too high of mercury and sometimes other contaminants. And the deer that look so clean can have wasting disease which has led to human diseases.

Nothing is without cost. I favor responsible agricultural practices but would also like understanding from city dwellers that that food in their market didn't get there magically. (By the way, we came home from our recent quick trip to Arizona to a new calf and lamb).


Parapluie said...

Wonderfully written from the view point of the rancher! We agree that feed lots are horrific. Also that the no hunting of preditors legislation is not going to work. We will be overrun with cougar and wolf and bear any year now. Look right now what we got for protecting some sea mammals. We have too many sea lions and seals endangering salmon and steelhead runs.

Larry Olaf at Large said...

I'm a city-girl born and bred but my son married a ND farm girl. Her huge family is still in farming and ranching in the upper midwestern states. I'm abosoutely with you on the feed-lot thing. It makes me sick.
Keep writing, Rain, we need your voice---and my vote!

Larry Olaf at Large said...

Our family is so thoughtless. Larry Olaf didn't sign off before I started my comment. Sorry!!

goldenlucyd said...

Yet again,
Mea Culpa. Larry is a most naughty boy!
sincerest apologies,

Winston said...

Congrats on the new "babies".

Those who have no rural roots, and those who do but have forgotten, have no concept of nature and how things happen when we do not meddle. Somehow, the earth thrived when animals had free range and stomped in the streams. Sure we need some regulation to keep the greedy in check, but I fear we are on a dangerous route to destroying our resources even more by turning the job over to politicians.

Rain said...

hi lucy and thanks winston, glad to see you both commenting, hope you will frequently on various topics

Parapluie-- I have heard that about the sea lions. It's not like wild creatures are as noble as some would like to think. The sea lions will take a bite out of one salmon or steelhead and onto another. Wastefulness is not just a human characteristic!

I do understand farmers and ranchers can use poor practices and that doesn't make anyone happy to see. Basically a rancher (I'll talk about that as I know more about it) should see himself as raising grass and livestock. He has responsibility to do well by both. You drive across the west and it's obvious some don't take that responsibility seriously.