Sunday, December 11, 2016
opendemocracy | Don Halcomb is a 63-year-old farmer who grows corn, soybeans, wheat and barley on his 7,000-acre family farm in Adairville, Kentucky. According to a report in the New York Times he’s expecting his profits to vanish this year because crop prices are falling and seeds and fertilizer are increasingly expensive, their costs driven up by Monsanto, Dupont and other agribusiness giants.
“We’re producing our crops at a loss now,” he told the Times, “You can’t cut your costs fast enough…It’s just like any other industry that consolidates. They tell the regulators they’re cost-cutting, and then they tell their customers they have to increase pricing after the deal’s done.”
The ‘deal’ cited by Halcomb concerns Monsanto’s recent announcement that it plans to merge with Bayer, one the world’s largest producers of agricultural chemicals and biotechnology products, spiking fears that the new conglomerate will raise the cost of inputs even further. Less competition equals more room for large corporations to dictate their prices and raise their profit margins, producing a virtual monopoly on seeds which will prevent farmers from diversifying and encourage the trend towards highly-vulnerable agricultural monocultures.
It’s a fearful image that’s been exercising my imagination in recent weeks, evoking some powerful theological memories in the process. Yes, I did say ‘theological’, though perhaps ‘spiritual’ is a better word, so what’s the connection between spirituality and seeds?