Sign Me Up For The Union Of Concerned Agriculturists

Buckeye Farm Beat

The Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Cambridge, Mass, has a lot to say about today's agriculture. We are currently in negotiations to bring them back down to earth.

Published on: June 20, 2013

There is no mention of no-till in that summary, and there is no mention of no-till in the entire scientific study!  It talks about phytoplankton, dissolved reactive phosphorous or DRP, 11% more corn acreage in the USA, decreased CRP acreage, large storm runoff events, hydrodynamic  particle transport models, record-breaking nutrient loads and weak lake circulation.

It concludes:

"Lacking the implementation of a scienti?cally guided management plan designed to mitigate these impacts, we can therefore expect this bloom to indeed be a harbinger of future blooms in Lake Erie."

Since that writing, all interested parties including "industrial agriculture" have come together with a plan and we will see how it holds up in light of weather extremes and the nonagricultural factors mentioned above as well as the dramatically shrinking size of Lake Erie. As so often is the case, Doug is much mellower in person than he is on the written page -- to say nothing of how he comes across in the emails of the PR department. He defends his blog  saying he noted the advantages of no-till in his article. He agrees that huge storm events in 2011 played a big role in the situation. He is pleased to hear the extent of the Ohio approach to solve the problem.  And is surprised to find how little no-till is actually carried out in the Lake Erie Basin – 10% or less.  

"I think the purpose of a blog is push the some buttons and stimulate some thought," he admits.  "Our PR people are always urging us put some more controversy in our reports."

He targets cover crops as the solution. I let him know cover crops have been getting plenty of ink in the world of "industrial agriculture." He maintains that conservation tillage is the same as no-till, despite my breakdown. He acknowledges that while he is degreed in plant pathology from Berkley and has studied  wheat and rice at the molecular level, he has not been a "bench scientist" for many years and now works simply as a think-tank scientist summarizing and commenting on the work of active scientists.

He says farmers should not get defensive about what the UCS says. He especially notes that their stand against GMOs is often misrepresented in the press. "We all need to work together," he says.

I'm not sure the UCS is to agronomy what the HSUS is to livestock, but I think they want to be. It's certainly enough to make me want to join the Union of Concerned Agriculturists.