Thursday, May 22, 2008

T.R. Raymond, welcome to the 19th century

Your morons for today:
High gas prices drive farmer to switch to mules

MCMINNVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — High gas prices have driven a Warren County farmer and his sons to hitch a tractor rake to a pair of mules to gather hay from their fields. T.R. Raymond bought Dolly and Molly at the Dixon mule sale last year. Son Danny Raymond trained them and also modified the tractor rake so the mules could pull it.

T.R. Raymond says the mules are slower than a petroleum-powered tractor, but there are benefits.

"This fuel's so high, you can't afford it," he said. "We can feed these mules cheaper than we can buy fuel. That's the truth."

And Danny Raymond says he just likes using the mules around the farm.

"We've been using them quite a bit," he said.

Brother Robert Raymond added, "It's the way of the future."
I'm not saying the mules aren't better for the Raymonds' purposes, which apparently is just collecting hay, but do you hear his damn fool brother who thinks this is the "future"? And you thought the jackass was the one pulling the rake. I wouldn't be this critical if he hadn't made such an absurd comment. So what he's saying is that the future of mankind is regressing to famine and want, though we've had two centuries of the Industrial Revolution (the single reason the ordinary man could finally produce enough so he finally had a chance against nature). The future is that developed nations will devolve one hundred years, back to worrying about animal excretion contaminating our agriculture?

Again, I'm not arguing the mules aren't better for what the Raymonds need. Fundamentally, it's their right to spend their time as they see fit, and they've decided they don't mind spending more of their time plowing. I just hope it's purely on their dime, but odds are it won't be. I wouldn't doubt they'll someday soon get a nice fat check from the federal government, paid for by the rest of us. If it's not from the upcoming bloated "farm bill" presently debated, it'll be a special "farmers assistance in the face of high fuel prices" fund.

If the future of American farming is the Raymonds' example, then American farmers will clearly plow and harvest less. Therefore, food prices will go up even more, and the U.S. will have less food for ourselves as well as for exporting to the rest of the world. Remember that the U.S. is the world's biggest food exporter, no matter what those idiotic Larouchers think. So surging food prices and global starvation are what the brother thinks is the "future"?

For those whose livelihood depends on harvesting as much as possible, animal power is not the "future." It's been and always will be industrialization. Why do people fear it? Go out to the Philippines' provinces to observe the cost-effectiveness of "cheap" animal labor, the very kind that the Raymonds seem to cherish now. I can't imagine a single Filipino farmer alive who has just a carabao or two, which he uses to work fields often in desperate hope this season will be enough to feed his family, and wishes he had a John Deere. If he can work more land, there's a certain point where his extra earnings will pay for the tractor, and anything else is higher income. When he has more income, his family can live in a better house with running water and a sanitation system. His children can finish school, instead of dropping out at 7 years old to work alongside the parents. That is the future.

Last October, on the four-hour drive from Caticlan to Iloilo (opposite points on Panay Island), I remarked on some farmers we passed by, and my mother-in-law and I talked about the difference between Philippine and American agriculture. In some ways the scenery was reminiscent of parts of Sonoma County, where my best friend lives, but I knew the fields were hardly the same. The typical Filipino farmer toils in the heat of the sun, then carries the harvest by hand. The typical American farmer can drive not just mere machinery, but air-conditioned machinery. In the Philippines, half of the population (some say 40%) works in agriculture. It's not enough to feed the country: the Philippines for a long time has had to import sugar, and as a nation it's become the world's biggest importer of rice. In the United States, only about one percent of workers are in agriculture. Think about it: a mere one out of every hundred American workers is enough not just to feed the country, but the rest of the world too. That's the difference between industrialization we have here, and the "animal power" the Raymonds extol.

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