COLUMN: Our nation’s vanishing resources

Published 12:36 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2023

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There are a lot of controversial issues occurring now in this nation. One of the most disturbing things that I am witnessing is the complete absence of “love of country” being exhibited by our young college age children. Today we are seeing these young people cheering the atrocities committed by the Hamas terror group on innocent Israeli citizens Saturday, Oct. 7. They have been so indoctrinated by their socialistic elitist professors that they no longer can think and rationalize for themselves. The loss of these young minds could be our greatest loss today.

The above thought is not the main focus of the article however. What I want to talk about is the loss of three of our nation’s greatest assets.

Lately, in the news, have been discussions about the rezoning of good fertile farmland into sites for mammoth sized warehouses. Land so zoned will never see a growing crop of soybeans, corn, peanuts, or anything anymore. For years everyone in our county proudly proclaimed that we were an agricultural county. Growing crops and raising hogs and cattle was our purpose in life. Now, it seems that absentee owners and people with no farming background are dictating the fate of our agricultural heritage. 

I come from a long line of farmers. I, myself, farmed for 30 years. It is a good life and a very vital profession. I do not rant and rave when I am delayed on the highway by a farmer moving his equipment from field to field. In fact I make sure that I do not get in his way or hinder him in any way.

The loss of farmland and the farming talent that tends the land are two of our vanishing resources that should be of concern to everyone. One only has to take a ride to Boykins to see another conversion of fertile farmland into something else. Solar farms are sprouting up everywhere, not only in Southampton County, but Isle of Wight County and everywhere else. That farmland is gone for good.

According to the Brookings Institute, 15% of our workforce works in government, serves in the military, etc. These jobs produce nothing toward the Gross National Product. They regulate and defend.

The USDA Economic Research Service says that, in 2021, agriculture added roughly $1.264 Trillion dollars to the GNP. The National Association of Manufacturers says that manufacturing contributed $2.3 Billion to the GNP. I see that as a significant difference in favor of agriculture!

20 % of our exports are from agricultural production according to the USDA. Only 10.5% of our workforce works in agriculture says the same report by USDA. The USDA also reports that the number of acres of farmland has declined by 915 million acres from 2012 to 2022!

We know that around 500 thousand acres have been bought by the Chinese Communist government. Bill Gates has also accumulated many thousands of acres. For what purpose I have to ask?

There once were family farms. A family could work and make a living on 100-200 acres of land. No more. Now one farmer tends 3,000 to 5,000 acres of land. He also has the expense of large equipment to pay for. Sadly many young men are diverted from farming to other jobs. With these young displaced farmers goes the knowledge of how to farm. I read, the other day, where a man said he wanted to buy a house in the country where he could grow his food. He also wondered where he might be able to buy some bacon seeds. This is true, and not funny. It takes a lot of know-how to be able to farm and prosper at it.

The other resource that is being intentionally destroyed is our petroleum industry. We already are at a point where it might be able to recover, but it would take a long time for this country to become energy independent again. I have said my piece. I hope you begin to worry about it a little. I am concerned.

Jimmy Howell is a native of Southampton County. He can be reached via email at