[p2p-research] The one thing depleting faster than oil is the credibility of those measurin...

J. Andrew Rogers reality.miner at gmail.com
Wed Nov 18 06:18:55 CET 2009

On Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 5:34 PM, Paul D. Fernhout
<pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:
> So, the USA has essentially no need to produce corn or soybeans, because it
> has no real need to eat that much meat (in fact, the USA would be far
> healthier if it ate less corn-fed and soy-bean fed meat).

Americans would not even have to eat that much less meat, it would
just be a matter of switching the mix of meats Americans eat to
something better suited to the mix of open range and non-arable
ecosystems found in the US. More sheep, less pork.

In truth though, they plant feeder crops because it is the most
valuable thing you can do with a lot of the land. It would be a wasted
asset otherwise, and they still have to pay taxes on the land whether
it is productive or not.

> But, here is a deeper issue. Lots of people like to work outdoors around
> plants and animals. Maybe not everyone, but certainly more than the 1% to 2%
> doing that now in the USA -- probably more like 10% to 30%, I'd guess,
> considering gardening is the most popular outdoor recreational activity,
> with more than 50% of households. Organic methods of agriculture might
> require twice the labor, but would yield more with less fossil fuel inputs.

There is a very serious labor *shortage* in agriculture at all scales
and of all types. In parts of the country where there is an illegal
labor pool they use that to compensate, but in many other areas where
there is not an established illegal alien population, they have to
automate because they can't find people that want to work in

In areas where there is not an illegal labor pool, the wages offered
are generally quite good for the area, people simply do not want to do
it. It is a lot of hard, dirty labor and that is not really comparable
to what most people do in their garden if you have to scale it up to
useful levels of productivity.

> In general, most farms are
> electrified in the USA, and all sorts of electrical implements, either
> battery powered or corded could be made to do farm tasks.

Facts not in evidence in most farming regions.  The primary power
source on most farms, when they have them, are diesel generators.  It
costs a small fortune to run electricity out to the fields, so most
farms don't. It simply isn't worth the investment.

> As I see it, the "tractor" represents an entire system of profit-maximizing
> exploitive centrally controlled agriculture, where one farmer owns hundreds
> of acres and takes all the profits themselves.

Farming is fairly capital intensive, and the revenue/profit you might
realize on a single acre is paltry. You need a farm that is large
enough to cover the overhead costs.  Above the dangerous subsistence
level, there is a minimum scale below which it doesn't even make sense
to attempt productive farming.

Note also that the scale of the farm required is dependent on the
local ecology and climate.  In some very rich areas you have a
reasonable farm on a mere tens of acres, but in other areas the
revenue per acre is so low that you need thousands of acres just to
cover basic overhead.

> They work by doing mowing every day, so they do not need to be so powerful
> or massive or noisy, and the grass is (they claim) healthier. This is an
> example of rethinking the agricultural problem. You can replace big heavy
> tractors with lots of smaller machines.

Uh, no.  The farm terrain is pretty rugged even with modern field
conditioning technology.  That is why in some places the tractors have
tires that are two meters in diameter -- it is so they can traverse
the hazards.  If you used swarms of small robots you would never see
half of them again and they would burn a lot of energy and time just
trying to traverse obstacles that a larger vehicle could traverse
easily.  Also, the use of big machines is not entirely accidental,
they tend to be more efficient in many cases.

In some parts of the US, they still use animal power in some limited
contexts, mostly because you can get that into places that machines
(big or small) have a hard time dealing with.

We can definitely do agriculture better than we do it, but the
problems and difficulties are not in places most people think they

J. Andrew Rogers

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