Agricultural Elephant in the Room
An Environmental Article from

FROM Evaggelos Vallianatos,
February 2021

These agrarian monarchs remade rural America into toxic cornucopia gardens and feudal mills of animal feeding and slaughter, disease factories of pandemics.

Jeffrey St. Clair
Abandoned dairy barn, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

I find it strange Americans and, especially, scientists and politicians talk so little, if at all, about agriculture. And yet agriculture gives us food and, surreptitiously, threatens the future.

Vast number of Americans live in large cities like New York, Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Miami, Atlanta, San Francisco and Lost Angeles. These cities have great museums and, possibly, universities, but are agricultural deserts.

City merchants, grocers and government institutions buy most of the food they need for their large population from farmers or agribusiness, which grow food as far away from cities as they can.

The reason for the separation of the city from the country was the original sin of America: the savaging of the Native Americans and the outright theft of their land.

There was a second grabbing of land, what the British called enclosure. This time, during the twentieth century, large farmers and agribusiness put out of business small family farmers. This substantial amount of stolen land made agribusiness and large farmers kings in the countryside.

These agrarian monarchs remade rural America into toxic cornucopia gardens and feudal mills of animal feeding and slaughter, disease factories of pandemics.

Urban food deserts

This political economy employs millions of the most exploited Americans in our midst. This explains, to some degree, the illiteracy and apathy of urban people for what sustains life: food and drinking water.

Urban people don’t know how to grow food. As long as they have the money to go to the “super market,” they will continue to be divorced from life, to the point that, in fact, some have already reached, believing that bread and milk come from the refrigerator.

In other words, the scientific and political elites have signed off the end of civilization played out for millennia. They no longer worry about the quality of food and water and democracy that made civilization possible.

Political abyss

Trump was the hero of these elites. He read these sold-out Americans so clearly that he even had the audacity of launching an insurrection against the government of which he was the chief executive. This treasonous act failed, but not its underlying purpose, that billionaires own the country and its government.

These are delusions, though not to the more than seventy millions who voted for Trump. The billionaire propaganda has been so effective that these largely white Americans bought whole sale the lie of Trump that the Democrats stole the election.

The uneasy peace after the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters is unlikely to last for long. Biden’s reconciliation, his olive branch to the Republicans, will not bring Americans together.

Any rich madman becoming president or, quite possibly, ambitious military men or billionaires will come back to the Capitol with much better organized insurrections.

The Department of Homeland Security issued a warning, Wednesday, January 27, 2021, that the assault on the Capitol is inspiring more of the same attacks by “ideologically-motivated violent extremists” to “target elected officials and government facilities.”

Apparently, this leaves the Republican senators indifferent. Most of them are against putting Trump on trial. This nearly guarantees that the planned February 2021 Senate trial of Trump will declare him innocent of treason.

A result of this nature will forever be a stain on the history and reputation of this country. The United States will not be able to even pretend it’s a democracy. Moreover, it will inspire the next insurrectionists, unleashing conflicts resembling civil wars.

America is like the Roman Empire, which spent decades fighting civil wars as a prelude to actually becoming a monarchy. But, in contrast to the Roman army fighting with bows and arrows, the American army possesses nuclear weapons. This makes a real civil war unthinkable, thought the Republican politicians would love a civil war to kill the so-called leftists and socialists.

Big agriculture

This civil war-like atmosphere all but freezes agriculture to what it is: a giant extractive factory producing very large amounts of food for humans and food animals.

This factory is fueled by petroleum and petroleum-based pesticides, which wipe out honeybees, birds, and small animals, threatening and killing biodiversity, and wrecking ecosystems.

Pesticides, in addition, end up in the food people and food animals eat, thus spreading diseases like cancer and neurological disorders.

This anthropogenic toxic agriculture becomes almost science fiction and literally invisible in the animal enclosures holding about nine billion hogs, chicken, and cattle, all scheduled to be slaughtered for the satisfaction of the American palate.

However, in their short life of perpetual feeding, these animals are forced to conditions resembling those of an inferno of mountains of excrement, filth, brutality, and disease.

The 2020 coronavirus pestilence most likely escaped from these sardine can-like prisons of animals all over America and the so-called industrialized world.

The ag elephant in Biden’s oval office

I am not sure Biden is aware of this domestic agricultural nightmare. I sent him a letter outlining the emergency conditions that need remedy. Probably, he never saw my letter / article.

His climate change program promised to put America back to the Paris Agreement, revoking the license of the Keystone Canadian pipeline, and ending leasing federal land for the extraction of oil and gas.

Moreover, Biden’s executive orders on climate change promised the termination of government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and tried weaving climate concerns throughout the federal government.

These are necessary but modest steps in the right direction. Biden is open to small changes in agriculture, feeding more children, even eliminating hunger, which in 2020 touched fifty million Americans.

But where are the drastic changes necessary to convert agriculture to a life-supporting biological, social, and economic activity?

Biden picked the Obama Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, for agriculture. This man, however, is an agent of big agriculture, not a friend of remaking rural America democratic or a supporter of small family farmer who grows food without pesticides, genetic engineering, sludge, or radiation.

Agriculture remains America’s invisible hope and threat. 

Return to Environmental Articles
Read more at The Meat and Dairy Industries