The situation in Winona County and Daley Farms should not be an either-or proposition ("Judge says board was biased when it ruled against dairy farm's expansion," Dec. 23). The farm claims it must get bigger to survive; opponents decry the scale-up and the problems it might entail.
The Daleys currently farm on 3,500 acres and employ only two dozen people. Were even some of those acres shifted to regenerative agriculture, such as dairy grazing, they would employ scores more — and profitably. The county would have cleaner water, the soil would absorb carbon, and the farmers would have fewer worries about low milk prices, especially if they are able to become certified organic, which carries high demand and a higher base price.
The farm provides jobs, to be sure, but a couple dozen jobs on 3,500 acres is pretty measly; Minnesota has many dairy grazers who can operate profitably on significantly fewer acres. Several are profiled in our recent publication, Soil Health Case Studies.
More family farmers on those 3,500 acres would create more children in the schools, more money spent on Main Street, more people in the church pews, and many more benefits — including more people invested in the local community who would likely spend accordingly, such as buying from local businesses and other area family farms.
The Daleys have options other than just getting bigger. And if they do scale up, there's a good chance that, to survive, the next generation will have to make this decision again in 20 years.
There is a middle ground here, and it would be advantageous for everyone involved to pursue that alternative.
Jason Walker, Minneapolis
The writer is a communications associate for the Sustainable Farming Association.
NORMAN BORLAUG's LEGACY
Green Revolution is not the right model for the planet. Here's why:
In the 1950s there were some 2.5 billion people on Earth when Norman Borlaug was developing his wheat. To say he saved 40% of earth's population is a bit of a stretch ("U honors innovator 50 years after Nobel Prize," Dec. 20).
There is a sense in which Borlaug's Green Revolution can be viewed as one of the most serious and sustained human-caused pollution events in history.
Similar to U.S., Midwest, and Iowa and Minnesota farmers, other countries farmers' use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides as part of the Green Revolution has resulted in dead zones, algae blooms and polluted surface and groundwaters. We find agricultural chemicals in many of our private wells. And, we have seen recent stories about poison algae blooms and Iowa's and Minnesota's contribution to the continuing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Again, like many agricultural areas in the U.S. and around the world, because of drenching soils with chemicals for 50-plus years, the soils in some areas of the Punjab, India's Green Revolution breadbasket, are now so polluted and bereft of beneficial biological organisms that crops can no longer be grown without the use of chemicals. And similar to what has happened to the Ogallala Aquifer, because of the Green Revolution's need for water, the Punjab's and other water tables have been significantly lowered.
Although it has been claimed that the Green Revolution has saved millions (a billion is the myth now) from starvation, we know that millions of subsistence farmers have been put off the land through not having the capital resources for the machinery, chemicals and hybrid seeds required by the Green Revolution. Millions of people have moved into urban areas, contributing to urban problems that come with overpopulation. Similar to the U.S.'s illegal immigration problem, millions have been forced to migrate to other countries looking for work.
We have a tendency to pat each other on the back and give each other awards and accolades. Meanwhile, unintended but very real consequences are conveniently brushed aside and ignored.
Borlaug's admonition that no food revolution will help unless we deal with the problem of overpopulation is seldom remarked upon. It should be. But, his Green Revolution is not the right agricultural model for the Earth or for its people.
Bob Watson, Decorah, Iowa
ELECTORAL COLLEGE ORIGIN
Leverage for sparsely populated states was not the central purpose
A Dec. 19 letter writer opines that the Electoral College was intended by the founders to give "sparsely populated states … some measure of leverage in the presidential election." That was not the founders' central purpose in creating the Electoral College.
At the Constitutional Convention, the slaveholding states objected to a popular vote for president, recognizing that their power would be threatened and diluted because, of course, slaves were not allowed to vote.
James Madison, the architect of the Constitution who favored a direct popular vote of the president, "obviated this difficulty" by proposing the Electoral College. The founders had already agreed to consider a slave as 3/5 of a person for purposes of allocating seats in the House of Representatives and incorporated this 3/5 compromise into the Electoral College, thereby overcoming the objections of slaveholding states to a popular vote.
Born in part as an accommodation to slavery, the Electoral College clearly was not created by the founders, as the writer states, "as an ingenious way to give all voters in the country a say." Indeed, in this century it already has twice enabled the election of a candidate who received fewer votes than his opponent. By giving only a minority of the voters a say, the Electoral College undermines our representative republic's legitimacy.
The writer asserts that only "the Electoral College provides a check or balance against the exclusive rule of the popular vote" in federal elections that advantages large population states.
The writer conflates the purpose of the Electoral College with that of the Senate. The Senate is composed of two senators from each state regardless of population, and it was the Senate, not the Electoral College, that was intended by the founders to empower the "sparsely populated states."
Where the voices of a majority of voters is unduly denied, the legitimacy and stability of our form of government is undermined. Minority rule is neither "ingenious" nor intended by the creators of the Electoral College.
Brad Engdahl, Golden Valley
'FOLLOW THE SCIENCE'
Of course it's not the whole answer, but if one side says it's no answer …
Ross Douthat is very good at cloaking polemics in the aura of moderation (" 'Follow the science' is no answer to choices we face," Dec. 22). He argues, sensibly — indeed, obviously — that many public issues can't be decided by science — they turn on difficult political and ethical choices. Yes, I agree the sky is blue. But then he claims that liberals avoid these hard decisions by constantly harping on the need to "follow the science."
What he conveniently ignores is that Republicans (with some lonely exceptions) have so thoroughly denied scientific truth, in so many areas, for so long, that calling attention to science has risen to the top in our public discourse. Of course science is not the whole answer to anything — it's the basis for finding answers. But just review the record on climate change, gun control, the recent election, and now COVID: Republicans deny well-documented facts whenever those facts contradict their political inclinations, so we have no common basis to debate the best response. Exasperated liberals have to keep pounding the "science" drum just to keep the Enlightenment alive. Has the pounding gotten obnoxious? Maybe. But sometimes that's only way to get someone's attention.