We've got mail

Hand, quill, letter

[MUSIC: "I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter . . . "]

KAI RYSSDAL: We're gonna do something just like that. Sit right down and open up the mailbag. It was chock full this week about a two-part series from our Sustainability Desk. Sam Eaton traveled the Mississippi River, from the Gulf of Mexico up to Iowa. Tracing farm fertilizer runoff in the river. How it adds up to subtract from Louisiana's multibillion-dollar fish industry.

Tom Shillock from Portland, Ore., says Sam left out an important part of the equation, though. Tom points out that back in 1973 the government decided to help farmers by paying them in cash for growing more grain.

TOM SHILLOCK: Rather than support prices, however, the change drove them down. Leading to their use of engineered seed, excess fertilizer and consolidation. The real beneficiaries were large agri-businesses, such as ADM and Cargill. Farm bills favored their interests and lower grain prices, and led to the industrialization of American farming.

So, Tom thinks the culprits are ADM and Cargill. But Celia Andriello wrote in from Orange Country, Fla. She imagines this dinner conversation that families might have after hearing Sam's reports.


CELIA ANDRIELLO: Oh, those evil farmers! Let's get a lynching party together right after we eat. How dare they add nitrogen to the soil and pollute our precious waterways! (Pass the potatoes.)

Well Josh, honey, don't we put nitrogen to our lawn? And don't all our neighbors do it too? (Can you pass the mushrooms and the corn on the cob?)

Yeah, but lawns are important. I know that that golf course I work at relies on nitrogen more than it relies on its employees. (That butternut squash needs to revisited at this end of the table.)

Well, heck. You can't go attacking golf courses. Next you'll go after football stadiums and baseball fields. And how American is that?

And where do you watch all that football and baseball, anyway? Well, on TV, of course. Networks like CBS. We mentioned last week CBS is going to promote its fall schedule by printing its logo, the eye, on thousands of chicken eggs. Rob Vugteveen hears our show in Tucson, Ariz., where he has a henhouse out in the backyard.

ROB VUGTEVEEN: Every day, our two dozen or so chickens provide plenty of fresh eggs for our family and friends. TV reception on this side of the mountain is lousy, so if the CBS "eye" ever shows up on our eggs, those hens will probably start demanding cable TV for the hen house.

Just can't help wondering which marketing genius first tried running an egg through the ol' LaserJet. Do they come out sunnyside up or over easy? And how do they explain that to the printer repair person?

I don't even know, Rob, and I'm not going to guess. Don't leave us guessing. If you have something to tell us, head over to our website. It's Marketplace.org. Click on the link that says "contact."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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