A Few Thoughts by John Nalikva – on the environmental end game | TSLN.com

A Few Thoughts by John Nalikva – on the environmental end game

I firmly believe that the talk of sustainability is truly the “means to an end.”  In writing this opinion piece, I thought it would be insightful to begin with some of the adjectives to the word “sustainable” – maintainable, supportable, justifiable, workable, defensible, and viable.  These are likely in line with most our ideas about “sustainability.”   There are others which include ecological, environmental, green, natural, balanced, and organic. 

The corporations from packers and food manufacturers to food retailers have been put in a position with little choice but to get on board and talk “sustainable” agriculture.  Ranchers and farmers are in the same position to show they are on the correct side of this ideology and the consumer.  The result is giving up control of your business until you no longer have a business.  There is nothing wrong with being concerned about sustainability but I personally believe we are going beyond sound resource management, animal husbandry, and financial management. 

There is a very strong environmental initiative in this country to change resource use – public and private.  At one time, federal lands grazing, oil and gas leases, and coal mining were the enemy and everyone else was safe.  I think we are now at the point where the “everyone else” are now the target of these radical environmentalists.  Agriculture and resource use as we have all known it has been sustainable and no one must apologize.  But that is where we are headed until we reach the point where ranchers and farmers will be asking the environmentalists, “am I doing okay and is there anything else that I need to be doing?”  I am wondering how much of this is consumer demand for red meat versus “consumers” wanting to simply change the system.

USDA announced this week that they have additional funding available to farmers and ranchers who are suffering “financial stress.”  Certainly, financial stress is a significant part of production agriculture for most farms and ranches.  We probably do not need the Secretary of Agriculture to tell us that.  But, more importantly, sharply higher costs of production largely driven by fuel prices and land prices are the primary culprits.  I don’t think the changes driven by the environmentalists idea of sustainability will lessen those costs and in fact, will only lead to higher costs.

Sound resource management with a drive toward increased production efficiency will support production agriculture well into the future.  Simply promoting sustainability for the sake of being “green” will not.  Farmers, ranchers, and the USDA will likely run out of money first.