COMMENT: SOIL DEPLETION IN THE UNITED STATES: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE LOSS OF THE AMERICAN FARMER'S INDEPENDENCE AND THE DEPLETION OF THE SOIL. Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1992 Lewis & Clark Law School
Environmental Law

COMMENT: SOIL DEPLETION IN THE UNITED STATES: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE LOSS OF THE AMERICAN FARMER'S INDEPENDENCE AND THE DEPLETION OF THE SOIL.

SUMMER, 1992

22 Envtl. L. 1539

Author

BY DEAN SMITH *

Excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

The preservation of the food-giving value of the soil as used by civilized man depends on the efficiency of the means by which he keeps the passage of the soil to the sea at a rate no greater than that at which it is restored by the decay in the materials on which it rests. 1

Thomas Jefferson envisioned the United States as a democracy supported primarily by independent family farmers. However, the small family farm is virtually a thing of the past. The land is not divided into small parcels that are held by the many. 2

The elements of nature are tamed and our silos are filled with grain, but few Americans earn their bread by the sweat of their brows. Perhaps the evolution of our country from an 83.5% farm population in 1800 3 to a 2.4% farm population today 4 was progress. Perhaps it was mostly inevitable. 5 Yet to uncritically accept the labels of progress and inevitability as descriptive of this evolution would be to take Jefferson lightly. Jefferson believed the strength of a democracy was the independence of its citizens. 6 However, modern agricultural gains have come largely at the expense of the independence of the farmer. 7

The primary resources of the Jeffersonian economy were soil, weather, and the sweat of its citizens. 8 The necessities of life were generally found close to home, or not found at all. However, except for the most basic human needs, necessities ...
 
 
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