116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
As Iowans, we've long been proud of our agriculture, it's heritage and history. Blessed with some of the world's most fertile soils and abundant rainfall, we've become a breadbasket (and a pork, beef, and egg basket) to the world. Now, with so much of our grain crops going into the production of biofuels, we've also become an energy supplier.
With the ever-increasing global hunger for food and energy, an honest appraisal reveals that our current agricultural practices are hopelessly inadequate — even antiquated. In the capitalist world market, where everything is monetized, nothing that is exploitable must go unused. Stop and think. How much of the extraordinarily valuable land in our state now goes "unused?“ Land that's occupied by dying small towns, rural and suburban "dwellers," needless parks, swamps and so-called "preserves."
Consider instead, turning our entire state into one giant field! It's actually been happening right in front of our noses, but few have acknowledged the logical necessity. Imagine! Nothing between the Missouri River and the Mississippi, nothing between Missouri (the state) and Minnesota, but corn and beans!
The practical steps to accomplish this might seem large, but since we're already well on our way, a little bold thinking reveals many possible pathways.
First (as our pioneer ancestors had to do), we must "clear the land." Thankfully, this now doesn't require killing or displacing any Indigenous populations. There will be some native Iowans who will have to be moved, but more on that later.
Clearing the land this time will require killing all the trees. We're well on our way to that anyway, in case you've missed the rampant destruction of fence rows and field-to-stream-bank farming. Thanks to modern science, we'll now be able to use powerful chemical defoliants, instead of broad axes.
When all the trees are dead, gigantic new machines can move across the land, chopping, shredding, mulching, and leveling whatever remains — machines that will be large enough to pulverize even small towns.
To convert the entire state to one tillable field, we also will need to eliminate all surface waters — meaning our rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. This can be accomplished by creating vast underground drainage systems (just a bit bigger than the ones we've been using to drain all our wetlands for the past century and a half). All this water can either be dumped into the Missouri and Mississippi or, more profitably, sent by giant pipelines to the desert Southwest and sold for really big dollars.
And this should stop all those environmentalists carping about Iowa's "impaired" surface waters — since there won't be any.
When you start to think of Iowa as one big field, it's really logical to think of it as one big farm. Let's call it Iowa, Inc. So many of the "farms" and farmland in Iowa are now corporate anyway that this should be an easy transition to make. We could give anyone who now "owns" farmland (or a house in the country, or in some soon to be liquidated small town) shares in Iowa, Inc. — non-voting, of course, since the voting ones will be reserved for the folks financing this entire endeavor. (Note: the Iowa Legislature and the Iowa Utilities Board now seem poised to eliminate the idea of "private property" anyway.)
Where will all the Iowans go? Obviously, they will have to become urban residents. The question remains about whether they should be consolidated in our larger cities, or whether the entire population should be moved out-of-state. At any rate, they could all be housed somewhere in luxury high-rises, with big screen televisions, indoor pools, boutique shops, upscale restaurants and plenty of bars. They should have no cause for complaint about the new, easier life they face.
But who would do the work out in that one giant field? Well, with the new giant farm equipment that will be able to plant and harvest a section or more at time, we won't need many workers. We can fill these jobs with temporary immigrants — just like our modern industrial meat producers and slaughterhouses do. These workers could live in underground bunkhouses, so as not to reduce the amount of land devoted to cropping.
Speaking of meat production, what about all those CAFOs that dot our landscape? Well, good economics dictates that they should be moved into town. I know, the stench would be awful, but, as corporate agriculture often reminds us: "That's the smell of money!"
I have to admit that none of this constitutes much original thinking on my part. It's just suggesting that we move more quickly to where we've already been headed. There are many to thank for getting us here: the professoriate at Iowa State University, the United States Department of Agriculture, the corporate titans at John Deere, Pioneer, Monsanto, et al, the Farm Bureau and politicians such as Tom Vilsack and Terry Branstad. But a special thanks has to go out to Bruce Rastatter — who now owns our state government.
You may object to some of the details of my proposal, but ask yourself this: who are you to stand in the way of progress? In the capitalist system, it's capital that counts, not you.
Jim Walters lives in Iowa City.