Extreme Policies for Organic Farming Ignore Soil Science: Former USDA Soil Scientist

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Under pressure from environmentalists, some governments have implemented extreme nitrogen fertilizer restrictions that ignore the time needed to restore depleted soil microbiology, resulting in protests from some scientists and farmers who are seeing the concerning effects of such restrictions.

According to organic farming proponent and former U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) soil scientist Kelly Walker, in order to keep the billions of people around the world fed, a paced switch to a hybrid approach is needed over any extreme changes based on an arbitrary number to allow the soil the many years it needs to transition away from chemical fertilizers to a more organic future.

But unfortunately, there has been an ongoing conflict between some environmentalists and regulators with landowners and producers who make a living raising crops and cattle off the land on the approach and extent to take to move toward the common goal of going organic, Walker told EpochTV’s “Crossroads.”

This battle has been going on for a long time, according to Walker, who has done work with groups on both sides of the conflict. There were some people who were willing to meet in the middle and compromise, who have worked through some issues and found solutions. But lately, there have been some more extremist views appearing, “kind of seizing power on this issue.”

“We can’t feed the world strictly on organics,” he said, citing one of the first things he learned in graduate school.

Some environmental groups are portraying chemical fertilizers as toxins or poisons, but that isn’t the case, he said.

“It’s a matter of how you manage them, how you use them,” so there’s no need to switch over 100 percent to organic, according to Walker.

“Nitrogen is nitrogen,” he said. “And the plants recognize it as such.”

It’s a challenge to switch large industrial farms, which operate on small profit margins and have to be very efficient, to organic farming in an instant, Walker said. A largely organic approach can be successful on smaller farms, he noted, but it has to be carefully managed.

By Ella Kietlinska and Joshua Philipp

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