Money Fertilizer for Cook County Farms

Money Fertilizer for Cook County Farms
Yet Another Black Tax?

Hedge funds, insider traders begin dumping Monsanto stock as reality of GMOs sinks in across Wall Street. (Natural  This article was posted on my FB page this morning.  I rejoiced!  Our little fledgling not for profit has been working our collective butts off to get a substantial sized education/urban agriculture project off and running for over thirteen years.  One of our motivating factors has been our absolute terror regarding the ills of mega-commercial-GMO- Monsanto-like monsters. We love the idea of local food production for a zillion reasons.

·        Agriculture is the largest single non-point source of water pollutants including sediments, salts, fertilizers (nitrates and phosphorus), pesticides, and manures. Pesticides from every chemical class have been detected in groundwater and are commonly found in groundwater beneath agricultural areas; they are widespread in the nation’s surface waters. Eutrophication and “dead zones” due to nutrient runoff affect many rivers, lakes, and oceans. Reduced water quality impacts agricultural production, drinking water supplies, and fishery production.

·        Water scarcity in many places is due to overuse of surface and ground water for irrigation with little concern for the natural cycle that maintains stable water availability.

·        Other environmental ills include over 400 insects and mite pests and more than 70 fungal pathogens that have become resistant to one or more pesticides; stresses on pollinator and other beneficial species through pesticide use; loss of wetlands and wildlife habitat; and reduced genetic diversity due to reliance on genetic uniformity in most crops and livestock breeds.

·        Agriculture’s link to global climate change is just beginning to be appreciated. Destruction of tropical forests and other native vegetation for agricultural production has a role in elevated levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Recent studies have found that soils may be sources or sinks for greenhouse gases.

If that’s not enough, here’s more

  • Economically, the U.S. agricultural sector includes a history of increasingly large federal expenditures and corresponding government involvement in planting and investment decisions; widening disparity among farmer incomes; and escalating concentration of agribusiness–industries involved with manufacture, processing, and distribution of farm products–into fewer and fewer hands. Market competition is limited. Farmers have little control over farm prices, and they continue to receive a smaller and smaller portion of consumer dollars spent on agricultural products.
  • Economic pressures have led to a tremendous loss of farms, particularly small farms, and farmers during the past few decades–more than 155,000 farms were lost from 1987 to 1997. This contributes to the disintegration of rural communities and localized marketing systems. Economically, it is very difficult for potential farmers to enter the business today. Productive farmland also has been pressured by urban and suburban sprawl–since 1970, over 30 million acres have been lost to development.

There are more reasons to advocate local farming including minimizing the carbon footprint.  We’re already at the CO2 400 ppm tipping point.  News that Monsanto stocks are tumbling does not bother me, a would-be urban farmer focused on aquaponics (naturally organic).  In fact, this was inspiration for us to continue our research on ways to ease our organization into farming.  You see getting seven acres of land donated to you in Cook County is great.  Assuming the tax liability is not so great.

We and our attorney met with the County Assessor’s office to talk about strategies.  What’s best?  Agricultural designation?  Educational?  Since we plan to do both, this is an important consideration.  Agricultural we thought would be a good choice because there are funds for small farming that would help us to get things rolling, i.e. producing food and fish to help offset the cost of providing FREE education about sustainability, urban agriculture and basic sciences.

Our team is pretty small.  There are four of us who try to split up work assignments (none of us get a paycheck).  I was assigned research into the land designation topic.  You will never know how happy I was when I discovered that the land in our donation agreement could be considered “farmland other, woodlot”.  GREAT the tax rate is 1/6th of the lowest, officially assessed rate!  I found the table on line that calculated the rates for 2013.  JOY!  We can actually pay this!  It was less than a $1.00/acre for undeveloped “other farmland”.  NOT SO FAST.  Cook County does not, I repeat NOT follow the rules of the rest of the state of Illinois.  If you have the audacity to want to farm in Cook County you have to pay $2,500/ per acre no matter what farm land category you are in. 

I don’t like to play the race card but come on.  Black farmers are becoming an endangered species.  There has been so much discrimination against black farmers that the United States Department of Agriculture had to cough up 1.25 billion dollars in a lawsuit.  This fact led me to look at some of the black farming organizations I know of in Illinois.  The Black Oak Center for Sustainable Renewable Living has been teaching sustainability and farming officially since 2006 but unofficially since 2003. The organization has its farm outside of Cook County.  Now I know why it’s outside of Cook County.

In 2010 the Chicago Reader did an article on local black farmers’ markets supplied by black farmers.  The thing that struck me was that the produce being brought in for the Chicago “food deserts” was from Arkansas and Mississippi.  Big carbon footprint.

Instead of bags of compost on Cook County farms you need bags of money for fertilizer. So, I’m sending this blog to the County, the City, and Al Gore.  If we, the city of Chicago, the County of Cook want to be sustainable why the hell would we make local farming so damned expensive?  I’m sure agribusiness must love Cook County.  Monsanto is the only group who can afford to grow here.

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