Occupation with the highest suicide rate according to the CDC in 2016...
Farming, fishing, & forestry: 84.5 suicides per 100,000 people in the occupation
The next closest industry is construction and extraction workers with 53.3 suicides per 100,000 workers. Farming takes the lead in a race that no one wants to win; not only by a few paces, but by a mile.
The real shocker. Guess what the farmer suicide rate was during the farming crisis of the 1980's? It peaked in 1982 at 58 suicides for every 100,000 farmers. A farming crisis is described as times of agricultural recession, low crop prices and low farm incomes. If you are a farmer reading this, I can't help but wonder if you shake your head reading that definition. When are crop prices and farm incomes anything but low? Are we in the midst of another farming crisis?
I relate back to hogs for my examples because the pork crisis in the 90's is what had the largest impact on my family. One generation ago, there were 600,000 hog farmers. Now there are roughly 60,000. I've often been told that these farmers who went out of business were simply bad businessmen, but can 90% of an industry be bad at business or is the industry simply impossible for businessmen to be anything but bad?
For those who aren't familiar, in the late 90's Tyson bought two hog slaughter plants with the sole intention of shutting them down. The first plant, Dakota Pork in Huron, SD, was bought and shut down in August of 1997. Their capacity was 5,000 hogs per day. Farmers in the northern part of the United States and the southern part of Canada would now have to truck their hogs as far as Iowa. Then once they got to the plant, they had to accept whatever price they were given, which was often around 5 cents per pound live weight. It was cheaper for many of these farmers to shoot and bury their hogs instead of trucking them to a slaughter plant. They literally could not afford to sell their pigs. The second plant, Thorn Apple Valley, was in Detroit, MI. This plant had a daily capacity of 14,000 hogs. When they shut their doors, Tyson was able to make $10-$15 for every $1 they spent on the deal due to the fact that they could now pay & charge whatever prices they wished to for live hogs and the resulting pork products.
Tell me again that the 90% of hog farmers who disappeared over the course of the last generation went out of business because they were bad businessmen?
The American farmer has been trampled on by the industrial agriculture industry and along with it, rural America has been destroyed. Many Americans probably agree with this after the results of the last election. Rural America cried out for something different because the same old politicians and the same old big businesses are simply not working. They put their vote with the most radical candidate who promised that he saw the desolate remains of rural America. The following paragraphs are an excerpt from An English Sheep Farmer's View of Rural America that was published in the New York Times and I think he hit the nail on the head.
"The future we have been sold doesn’t work. Applying the principles of the factory floor to the natural world just doesn’t work. Farming is more than a business. Food is more than a commodity. Land is more than a mineral resource. Despite the growing scale of the problem, no major mainstream politician has taken farming or food seriously for decades. With the presidential campaign over and a president in the White House whom rural Kentuckians helped elect, the new political establishment might want to think about this carefully. Suddenly, rural America matters. It matters for the whole world."
Recently my dad was kicked off of some "agvocates" blog pages. My question for these "agvocates" is simple... while you are advocating for the industrial agriculture industry, who is advocating for you? Who is standing up for the actual farmer and fighting for their right to a decent wage? Who is fighting against the high suicide rates in the industry? Who is helping farmers stay in business? Who is standing up for anything other than the right to produce extremely cheap food?
If Farm Babe, the Farmer's Daughter, Tyson, Smithfield, the Pork Checkoff, etc., are not going to fight for the farmer, I will. No farmer (whether they are conventional, organic, or whatever other category they put themselves in) deserves to be walked all over, especially not by companies and individuals who are supposed to be on their side. So no matter what kind of farmer you are, know that I will fight for you. Obviously someone needs to.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Allow your passion to become your purpose and it will one day become your profession.
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