Corn Liquor, Corn Liquor: What Makes You Do What You Do?
Our post title comes from the first line of a Buck Owens song verse, penned August 1971, which, we think you will agree, is perfectly fitting to this news item: Via Wisconsin Ag Connection , we learned that the US Department of Agriculture may "allow contract holders to withdraw acreage from the Conservation Reserve Program earlier than they otherwise could, in some cases years earlier There is a need for corn, there is just no doubt about it," [Secretary of Agriculture] Mike Johanns told reporters after a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing Wednesday...USDA has estimated that 4 million to 7 million acres of CRP land, primarily in the Midwest, could be suitable for growing corn. Landowners are normally required to keep land in the program for 10 to 15 years. The acreage, which is considered environmentally sensitive, must be planted to trees or grass while it is enrolled. Landowners receive an annual payment in return".
Lets finish Buck's verse before we explain the title:
"Well, they feel no pain
When you touch their brain
Corn liquor they love you".
Just as Buck put that song out, the US Department of Agriculture of the then Nixon Administration was planning to pull out all the conservation stops on cash cropping, enabling increased grain exports (corn and wheat) and improving the US balance of trade. One publicly-stated impetus for encouraging US farmers to plant "fence to fence" at that time was to overcome world hunger, as well as to have the political carrot of food exports to help open up global trade with formerly isolated (and hungry) nations. There were unintended consequences, of course, as lessons of the dustbowl, almost 40 years prior, were overlooked. Headlines characterized the result as "Exporting America's Top Soil".
This time around we have the need, as before, to improve the balance of trade, plus the drive to decrease our dependency on imported oil for fuel. Once again, in the name of foreign policy and trade portfolios, it would seem, North American governments are set to export North America's topsoil (we are assuming Canada will follow suit).
Much more is at stake than just topsoil. The grassed areas protected by the USDOE supported conservation reserve program (CRP) are essential for reproduction of ground nesting birds such as pheasant and the native sharp tail grouse. Plant or cut for hay when the birds are nesting and mortality is high. When the grass and shrub filled areas, such as the one to the left of our picture, disappear to cropping incentives, the game birds and many song birds go too.
As James, one of our readers points out, " it seems like hunting is enjoying a bit of a resurgence lately with people trying to source their food locally and shorten the food chain". Take away those grassed fencerows and that opportunity for local sourcing food will quickly fade away. That loss will be compounded with reduced inputs to small town economies that might otherwise come from hunters visiting Northern Midwest and Great Plains states, through southern Manitoba.
Even if you are opposed to hunting, game birds such as the Sharptail Grouse are a surrogate of overall environmental health that comes from having a balanced habitat. No amount of "Homeland Security" or "Balance of Trade" one-off analysis changes that reality.
We've been there and done that in the early 1970's. So easy to forget, when we join in the refrain. Corn Liquor, Corn Liquor: What Makes You Do What You Do?
Buck Owens ref: Good Bye Buck, Bakersfield.com .