Target: Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (head of USDA)
Goal: Encourage sustainable livestock farming practices that protect the environment from harm.
The prevailing methods of livestock management — unrestricted pasture grazing and the use of feedlots — wreak havoc on the environment. Rotational cell grazing provides all of the benefits of both practices with none of the drawbacks. By demanding that financial incentives be given to farmers adopting this sustainable practice, we can shift our current trajectory from ecocide to sustainable abundance.
Current unsustainable farming practices promote the following environmental problems:
- Depletion of soil fertility and biology
- Undue soil compaction
- Pollution of freshwater sources
- Prevention of the evolution of forest ecologies
- Excessive water consumption
- Excessive greenhouse gas emissions
In rotational cell grazing, livestock are confined to a paddock (cell) long enough to graze, but are moved into an adjacent cell before the first has become overgrazed. This pattern is repeated along a circuit, while previously grazed cells are allowed to regenerate. By the time livestock are returned to the first cell grazed, its vegetation has regrown, and it is ready to be grazed again. Because the amount of time the livestock are allowed to graze a specific cell is limited, the soil doesn’t become overly compacted, it isn’t depleted, and it doesn’t erode. Instead of being washed away and becoming pollutants, manure and other livestock outputs become fertilizer that perpetuate the system naturally. This reduces the need for other inputs that would otherwise become pollutants, like chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Because the movement of livestock remains controlled under rotational cell grazing, the animals are also not allowed to disrupt forest succession as free range livestock do. If other Permaculture strategies are implemented in conjunction with this one, like mixed orchard agroforestry and water harvesting earthworks, a dramatic reduction in water consumption and gas emissions can be effected as well. Additionally, these elements represent the opportunity for the farmer to capitalize on additional yields.
The primary drawback of implementing rotational cell grazing is the cost of its initial setup, which involves extensive installation of movable electric fences and mobile structures for feed, water, and shelter, and (ideally) consultation with a Permaculture professional. Subsidies would provide a financial incentive for farmers to switch from abusive land use practices to sustainable, beneficial ones that, additionally, produce a better final product.
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
I am writing to voice my dissatisfaction with the prevailing methods of livestock management — namely unrestricted pasture grazing and the use of feedlots — which promote depletion of soil fertility and biology, soil compaction, erosion, desertification, pollution of freshwater sources, prevention of the evolution of forest ecologies, excessive water consumption, and excessive greenhouse gas emissions.
I urge you to subsidize the adoption of an alternative strategy, known as “rotational cell grazing,” in compliance with the recommendations of a team of certified and experienced Permaculture consultants, which would eliminate the majority of these issues. In tandem with other Permaculture strategies, it would in fact address all of the aforementioned issues. Conventional methods have failed. I insist that you fund Permaculture solutions like this one.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Bill Boaden