This has been one of those oft whispered questions in Washington and beyond, but it’ll most likely never get answered because everybody knows it’s political poison. After all, who wants to be labeled as anti-farmer?
But the reality of the American farmer is much different than those days of a tightknit family working their land for all its worth. That’s not to say that those situations don’t still exist…but…
Today, most of the nation’s food is produced by modern family farms that are large operations using state-of-the-art computers, marketing consultants and technologies that cut labor, time and costs. The owners are frequently college graduates who are as comfortable with a spreadsheet as with a tractor. They cover more acres and produce more crops with fewer workers than ever before.
The very policies touted by Congress as a way to save small family farms are instead helping to accelerate their demise, economists, analysts and farmers say. That’s because owners of large farms receive the largest share of government subsidies. They often use the money to acquire more land, pushing aside small and medium-size farms as well as young farmers starting out. [...]
Large family farms, defined as those with revenue of more than $250,000, account for nearly 60 percent of all agricultural production but just 7 percent of all farms. They receive more than 54 percent of government subsidies. And their share of federal payments is growing — more than doubling over the past decade for the biggest farms.
Ultimately, we’re going to have accept that we’re funding a vast corporate infrastructure with welfare checks. It doesn’t matter that these are farmers, it’s still corporate welfare. So either we start to move away from that or we begin to redistribute some of this money so the government isn’t funding the formation of regional agricultural monopolies.
I mean…tell me the following situation doesn’t make your blood boil…
From the perch of his $180,000 six-row combine, churning through cornfields that stretch as far as the eye can see, John Phipps has a rare view of American farm policy. [...]
Today, he calls himself an “industrial farmer” who uses computers, technology and science to get the most out of the 1,800 acres of corn and soybeans he plants in an area of Illinois where the weather and soil are ideal for farming. The strategy has paid off with bigger and better yields.
Yet to Congress and federal agricultural officials, Phipps and his wife, Jan, are struggling family farmers. Last year, the government sent the Phippses a check for $120,000. Thousands of similar checks arrived throughout the Corn Belt, even as many farmers had bumper crops.
Ridiculous stuff. We can do better.
Any farmers out there who want to share their story?
This entry was posted on Thursday, December 21st, 2006 and is filed under Economy, Welfare. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.