Oregon farmer sounds alarm about contamination

Genetically altered seeds sound alarm for contamination
Genetically altered seeds sound alarm for contamination

Anyone who has driven through central Oregon has witnessed first-hand some of America’s most fertile crop ground. And what farmers there grow are, in large part, seeds to supply other farmlands. Oregon farmers right long and hard to ward off invasive grasses. It is a constant threat and battle so that they can continue to reap the yields that such grow-friendly soil/climate allows.

That has meant there’s been an urgency for Oregon farmers to plant genetically-altered seed stocks, so that they can ward off invasion from grasses. But what if the altered seed stock turns out to be a threat with serious implications, too?

Great story from the Associated Press today about potential contamination from altered seed. An organic farmer in central Oregon who is worried that cross-pollination of these altered sugar beets will take up with table beets and Swiss chard, among other crops being grown in the area.

“Who’s responsible if it isn’t on a leash?” said Frank Morton, a certified organic grower.

Morton began organic farming in the Willamette Valley 20 years ago, growing lettuce varieties for restaurants. He considers it a moral obligation to keep his seeds free of contamination from transgenic crops.

Four-fifths of the nation’s crops are grown from genetically-altered seeds, with Monsanto leading the way.


Sweet deal in Montana for timber land

We loved the statistic put forth by the Wilderness Society that half of U.S. timberlands have changed hands in the past decade. As an investment commodity subject to unique market conditions, it is interesting to look over aerial maps of the U.S. and see how much undeveloped land now in the hands of timber companies gets put into play.

Last week, a forestry expert in Seattle, Kim McDonald, penned a very interesting piece in Crosscut.com which she described the purchase of 500 square miles in northwestern Montana by conservation groups. The land was bought from Plum Creek, the largest and most diverse private land owner in the U.S.

In addition to the seismic shift in thinking this deal signals, McDonald addresses a Farm Bill funding mechanism that will allow the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land to issue Qualified Conservancy Bonds, for which a secondary buyer can receive a tax credit.

Anyone got $500 million to invest — tax credit included?

It’s rural Unity for Obama, Clinton

obama clinton unity

Ever since Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announced that they would make their first appearance together post-primary season, TV cameras have been broadcasting images from Unity, N.H.. The rural town on the Vermont border is where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each got 107 votes in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. It is also where Clinton and Obama will appear in public for the first time since Clinton ended her bid.

We’re all for the symbolism of this photo-opportunity moment for the presumptive nominee and Clinton. However, what we’re more interested in is … the land.

According to the Economic and Labor Market Bureau of New Hampshire, the territory was first chartered in 1753, when land grants were dispensed and disputed until a resolution was reached in 1764 and the town of Unity was incorporated.

Ah, we see: Dispute between two parties. Agreement! The tracts were divided into … “EQUAL SHARES for all those named in the grant!”

Equal shares? That’s where the Unity, N.H. metaphor breaks down. Still, we of land-loving leanings applaud the choice, not just for the symbolism, but because WHY NOT put Obama and Clinton in the middle of a rural township and call it the right move? The myth of America is that we are all urban hipsters when, in fact, a majority of Americans live in rural areas.

As for Unity: It is 37 square miles and its population is 1,715. It is, in other words, rural — with most residents perplexed but intrigued about being the spot of such national intrigue, thanks to tomorrow’s Obama-Clinton event. This is a place where logging and welding are the major activities, according to one message board item about how the formerly unified township experienced a hiccup when a developer from “down state” bought a 500-acre parcel to build a retirement community. It’s only rural until it’s a commodity, which most rural land in America is. They don’t make it any more.

unity nh rural land sale acreageMaybe the presumptive nominee Obama and Senator Clinton can stop off and pick up some organic food stuffs, which seem to be growing in abundance in and around Unity, according to the Valley Food & Farm site.

Or, perhaps the power pair of Democrats can do what we’d do if we were in Unity: Land shop!

Here’s a listing for 7 acres in Unity, NH, with a house and little ol’ structure: $225K.

Or this 15-acre lot for $135K, and all we’d have to do is ditch the mobile home!

Looks like some deals can be had, even if the cash-rich Obama doesn’t need a land bargain.

Iowa Flooding & No Wonder Al Gore’s Fired Up!

Al Gore made his first political endorsement since “losing” the 2000 presidential election and, oddly, Gore’s political resurfacing on behalf of Barack Obama came the same week that the corn-growing state of Iowa — the state where Obama essentially WON the 2008 Democratic race for the White House — was inundated with floodwater.

Corn — now at $10 a bushel. Land. Ethanol. More corn. Global warming. Change. Climate Change. Gore. Obama. Farmers. Corn. Future. Futures. And, then, there was this item in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It was an article that elucidated the terrible impact that all the corn-growing in Iowa will have on the Mississippi Delta and the Gulf of Mexico.

We’re talking: Energy crisis = Ethanol = Corn Crops for fuel source = Food prices surge = Runoff into Gulf means dead zone = More global warming impact.

Scientists predicting the biggest-ever “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico are blaming Midwestern corn grown for ethanol for higher levels of pollution escaping down the Mississippi River.

“In the past several years, there’s been an expansion of corn, which has the highest fertilizer per acre … and that’s for biofuels.” said R. Eugene Turner, a Louisiana State University professor who directed the study into the gulf’s water quality.”  from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

If there were ever more clear signs as to how our entire system of life is, well, basically screwed, this was the week to see it.

National Cattle Grounds used for immigration bust

Bust at meat-packing plantLandCrazed had heard reports in mid-May out of Waterloo, Iowa about how Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement had rented the National Cattle Congress grounds at the Iowa fairgrounds. Turns out that the land lease was ahead of a bust at the local meat processing plant in nearby Pottsville, Iowa.

About 600 people were busted and brought to the fairgrounds, where federal officials had hooked up generators in order to use barns and out buildings to “interview” detainees regarding residency status.

Nice to know our government can be so efficient when it really needs to show some muscle!

$34 million going to KY. land heirs

Lawyers in Louisville traveled to western Kentucky last week to meet with Camp Breckinridge land heirs about how to pay out the $34 million settlement they finally won April 18, 2008. Look for the movie one day.

We’re talking ‘A Civil Action’ meets ‘Ellen Brockovich.’ That kind of blockbuster. Our only hope is that the heirs and the lawyers in this case can now find a way to make everyone involved in this suit happy.

It’s been a long time coming, this settlement. Sixty years after the U.S. government forced landowners in western Kentucky to sell their land so it could be used for the Camp Breckinridge army base, a federal judge took a courageous final step and approved compensation.

The case it absolutely fascinating, if only because of the tenacious fight waged by the Kentucky land heirs. They battled the government in Congress and court, refusing to go away despite efforts by government officials and branches to stall and stymie the compensation effort.

Judge Susan Braden made good on her word to rule on this case. She found that the government benefited to the tune of $127 million on the land “bought” for the army base, but was then re-sold in huge lots to developers, with gas, coal and mineral rights also leased for huge gains. The landowners were able to prove, despite the government’s suppression of evidence, that gas, coal and mineral rights were not theirs to sell or lease.

What’s Cheaper: Bread or Farmland?

There’s a reason that a loaf of whole wheat bread is about what it costs for a compact car. Farmland prices were up 14 percent in 2006. Now figures are in for 2007 and guess what? Post another 23 percent rise in farmland values.

Oh, praise be the Energy Bill that slathers subsidies to corporate farmers growing corn! It’s amazing how swiftly Congress can act when it’s politically advantageous to do so. Ethanol is not the answer to our longterm energy needs, especially when some estimates say it costs a gallon of gas to produce a gallon of ethanol.  As this post on Oilism.com says, not much of green or sustainable energy sources are green.

Good thing we’re in Iraq, protecting “our” oil supplies!

Anyway, USA Today reported that the average farmland valuation has doubled since 2000:

“As home prices continue to slide nationwide, the value of farmland is setting records.

Demand for grain for food, fuel and export, along with low interest rates and a weakened dollar have raised farmland prices by double digits the past two years. Average values have doubled since 2000.

Farm real estate prices rose 20% to 23% in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming in 2007, according to Farm Credit Services of America, an agricultural lender.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago reports that prices rose 15% for the first three quarters of 2007 in its district, which includes Iowa and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. That’s on top of a 14% increase nationwide in 2006 — to a record average of $2,160 an acre — the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. Figures for 2007 will come out in summer.

The growth has attracted “a tidal wave of investors,” says Murray Wise of Illinois’ Westchester Group, which manages $500 million in client assets. “It’s everybody from the person concerned about the stock market to large government and corporate pension funds, insurance companies, hedge funds.”