The Plight of America's Farmers
What are the issues at stake when it comes to America's farmers? Let's discuss their plight, and what can be done about it.
There are several things that are at issue when it comes to what is effecting the American farmer. These issues are effecting the small independent, local, family farmer, and have caused the number of family farms in America to decrease by 5 million farms since the 1930’s, so that only about 2 million still exist. At the same time, the number of corporate-owned farms has increased by almost 50% just in the last quarter century.
The first thing at issue is the fact that our United States government has been in the business of having large amounts of control over farmers since the 1930’s, since the days of FDR’s New Deal, through farm assistance programs which, perhaps unintentionally, have helped to keep the price of different foods artificially low, causing farmers to not make the amount of money they need to stay afloat, driving many to foreclosure or bankruptcy. Another problem is that the U.S. government, particularly through the U.S.D.A., has a more globalist policy than a family farm policy – they are in favor of large agri-business-based farming operations, otherwise known as industrial agriculture operations, at the expense of the small independent family farm. Some people might say that the small family farm is just being pushed out of the way by natural market forces, but when our government is deliberately manipulating the situation in favor of large agri-businesses, at the expense of the smaller farms, it means that they are more a victim of a government-controlled market rather than a casualty of free market forces.
One important reason why it would be better to have many smaller family-based farm enterprises rather than fewer industrial-sized agricultural operations is because the small family farmer is more in touch with the land than the large-scale industrial enterprise. The small family farmer is more likely to take care of the land, be better stewards of the land, to be more organic, be more likely to better control or not use certain pesticides which can eventually ruin the soil, and to not have excessive amounts of manure on hand that stink up the air.
Another important reason to have smaller family-based farms rather than large industrial-sized operations is because it is better for the rural economies of small towns. Small farms are more likely to get their machinery from local dealers than from out of town, to buy the goods and services that they need locally, are more likely to sell their foods locally, and allow for any wealth acquired through farming to spread over many local families rather than a few distant business owners. The smaller rural communities, these days, have economies that have been decimated, where people are living in poverty for the most part, and where the unemployment rate is very high in comparison with elsewhere, forcing people to leave these small towns for the big city in the hopes of landing a job they couldn’t attain in their small town.
Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that the average age of the American farmer is 55 years old, meaning that the American farmer is getting older. Why is this? Because the younger generation is very unlikely to want to go into farming – they want a more urban-based job that allows them to have steady employment and a secure income. With farming, a secure income is almost an impossibility. One year might mean surplus crops and surplus cash, but the next might be drought or flood-ridden and make the crop yield, and thus the cash income, quite low – a few years of bad yields usually brings foreclosure or bankruptcy. This means that there are less people wanting to go into farming, causing the farms that still exist to have to grow in size in order to be able to grow the same amount of food nationally as they did before.
So, what can the United States do about the plight of the American farmer? For starters, they can stop intermeddling in the affairs of farmers, and allow free market mechanisms to reign, which would allow farmers to work with the market instead of against it. They can make it easier for farmers to sell their food products to local markets, or directly to families. They can go the opposite direction in their policies than they do now, and provide protectionist policies for small farmers, with things such as tariffs, and the like, in order to protect local food sources, rather than going with a globalist agenda which hurts local farmers, and helps drive the growth of large industrial-sized agricultural firms. These are just a few of the things our government can do to help local farmers out. Besides, having many farming families who are middle-class, with a fair amount of discretionary income, is better for the economy at large than a few extremly wealthy agri-business owners and a bunch of poor folk struggling to get by.
Other articles to read:
- Farm Policies and the Treachery of Farmland Administration
- Official: US needs more young farmers, ranchers
- Young American Farmers Are On The Brink Of Extinction
- Farm Aid: Great music, supporting farmers, and strengthening America since 1985
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