Many people within the libertarian community are skeptical about the science behind global warming. I happen to think the threat of global warming is of uncertain magnitude but of real concern. Most people who share my concern are eager for the government to step in and regulate carbon emissions, and for this reason find it difficult to bring themselves to support Ron Paul's presidential campaign, fearing that a Paul administration would stand back and do nothing to combat global warming.
But this is hardly the case. In fact, a Paul presidency would be a great asset to anyone concerned about global warming. This may seem counter-intuitive at first, but Ron Paul is the one candidate who offers a serious promise to stop the governmental policies that threaten to wipe out our most important solution to the problem — grass-farming.
Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide can be reduced in two ways: the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere can be reduced, and the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered from the atmosphere in oceans, soils, plant and animal life, and other "carbon sinks" can be increased. Reducing carbon emissions only slows the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 while increasing carbon sequestration causes reductions in atmospheric CO2 that take effect immediately.
According to the organization Carbon Farmers of America (CFA), the most promising method of carbon sequestration and thus the most immediate and effective solution to global warming is to increase topsoil formation with pasture-based farming.
According to CFA, the amount of topsoil lost in the Great Plains over the last 150 years can sequester the same amount of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere by human industry since the Industrial Revolution. By restoring the same amount of topsoil, we could reduce atmospheric CO2 to pre-industrial levels. On a global scale, we could achieve the same result by merely increasing the level of topsoil by 1.6%!
CFA promotes the ideas of P.A. Yeomans, who discovered over fifty years ago that the combination of grazing livestock on pasture and a process of mechanically aerating soil between grazing and irrigation called "subsoiling" could lead to astounding rates of topsoil formation. When practiced correctly, CFA claims that 18 to 24 inches of topsoil can be formed by these methods in just three years.
CFA's innovative solution to provide an incentive for topsoil formation involves no government regulation. It pays farmers $19 for every ton of carbon dioxide they sequester into each half-ton of soil organic matter. This is financed by selling $25 "carbon sinks" to environmentally conscious consumers who wish to offset their own carbon consumption or contribute even more. An additional $5 is spent on training and educating farmers about the necessary procedures and $1 is spent on administrative expenses.
Other organizations such as the Weston A. Price Foundation promote grass-based farming because of the superior nutritional value of the foods it produces. EatWild.Com promotes it for its benefits to animals, farmers, and the environment as well. Consumer pressure based on these concerns provides an additional incentive for farmers to turn to grass-farming.
Where does Ron Paul fit into all of this? Without a Ron Paul presidency, grass-farming might not have a future in this country.
As discussed in the documentary The Future of Food, American corn is actually sold at well below the price it costs to produce it because of government subsidies. This distortion of the market is one of the factors that make confinement operations profitable and enable them to overpower pasture-based operations — but this has been going on for a long time.
As the president of the American Grassfed Association has pointed out, the USDA's proposed standards for the coming "grass-fed" label would allow confinement operations to be labeled accordingly without the animals actually grazing on pasture — and thus without the promise of topsoil formation.
The greatest potential threat to grass-farming, however, is the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). NAIS is the USDA's plan to track the movement of every farm animal and certain kinds of pets within the country, ideally with microchip technology. The plan severely penalizes pasture-based farmers by allowing factory farms to use a single ID to register each group of thousands of animals while requiring farmers with more genetically diverse and free-ranging animals to use an ID for each animal.
Ron Paul is the leading opponent of NAIS in Congress. Indeed, he is the only presidential candidate who has spoken out against this monstrosity.
What damage NAIS might cause to small farms and pasture-based farms we do not yet know. But it is very well possible that the fight over NAIS will be the fight over the right of the small farm and pasture-based farm to exist.
Ron Paul also supports the right to raw milk, which is closely associated with grass-farming. Most consumers who demand raw milk for health reasons also demand grass-fed milk, and many farmers conscious of the benefits of grass-feeding are also conscious of the health benefits of raw milk. The website RealMilk.Com promotes both.
The FDA has been revving up its machinery for a full-on assault on the right to drink raw milk and has recently used our tax money to publish a sensationalist propaganda piece called On the Safety of Raw Milk that offers dubious statistics based on shoddy research alleging that raw milk is responsible for 0.4% of cases of food-borne illness and then concludes that it is "inherently dangerous" (emphasis in the original) and that drinking it is "like playing Russian roulette with your health."
Under the executive order of Ronald Reagan and under the decree of the FDA, it is illegal to transport raw milk across state lines, even between two states that allow the sale of raw milk. Ron Paul introduced a congressional bill that would overturn this injustice. In his speech on the House floor, he called the restriction an "unconstitutional restraint" and said that Americans who wish to consume raw milk "have the right to consume these products without having the federal government second-guess their judgment about what products best promote health."
The raw milk issue is not going away. A recent Reuters article predicted it would be the number one top health issue of 2008. We can expect 2008 to see more tax dollars spent trying to drive raw milk producers out of the market whether by propagating fear or by the use of force — and thus indirectly another assault on grass-based farming.
And Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate we can expect to stand up to it.
Rather than simplistically assuming that the only solution to global warming involves government regulation of carbon emissions, we should look at the big picture. Grass-farming and subsoiling may be the most efficient means of sequestering carbon and thus the most immediately effective means of reducing atmospheric carbon. The government has done enough to promote the agribusiness practices that destroy topsoil as it is, but the coming years may see an all-out war that threatens to eradicate the practices that create it. This threatens not only to take away a major tool we have to combat climate change, but would take away the major tool we have to form a livelihood independent of the handful of corporations like Monsanto that are well on their way to gaining control of the entire world's food supply.
Ron Paul will protect our best means of carbon sequestration from the head-on assault of government bureaucrats. His presidency can be part of the solution. I urge you all to join me in supporting him in the Republican primaries and, if he is nominated, the general election.
December 29, 2007