Imagine that I’m a small-business owner, and I can’t sell the product I produce profitably. The prevalent advice from the reputed experts is to produce more of it. Any smart person would stop me at this point and say, “Wait a minute, why would you do that?”
Yet this seems to be the advice given to dairy farmers. Go big. Buy more equipment. Build more complicated systems. This leads to the tragedy behind the sign we saw on a dairy barn on our way to Malone: “[A big dairy company] got the goldmine. I got the shaft.” Small family farms are slurped up by disguised real estate holding corporations that “farm” in a completely different way. The modern way — so advanced.
There are 300 acres in Pierrepont that swallow up between 3 million and 7 million gallons of liquid manure twice each year. This is the waste product of a Canton farm that used to have cows on grass but now has cows in buildings. Virtually every acre of that farm is now in corn, but even that amount of corn can’t eat up all that manure. So the rest goes off to Pierrepont by tractor-trailer to grow more corn.
Each tractor-trailer labors all the way up Waterman Hill with the equivalent of a swimming pool worth of liquid manure. Six trips per hour times a 10-hour day, times a week or more, twice a year: 600,000 gallons per day times a week means 3 million gallons of liquefied manure are trucked by tankers in a week. How much fuel does it take to move 3 million gallons of liquid? Is this an efficient use of finite fuel resources?
Common estimates state that the U.S. farmer expends about nine calories of energy for every calorie he or she produces. When you consider the expenditure of the diesel fuel needed to move millions of gallons of liquid miles away to another location, I think the cost around here must be about 25 calories to one.
Would you spend $25 in order to get $1 back? No? Not logical? Well, it’s perfectly logical if you have several corporations, and one of them is used to “lose money on paper” to reduce the taxes on profits made by your other corporations.
Northern New York farms deserve a better fate than becoming tax shelters for the rich.