I went down to the state house with Pete Eshelman last fall to testify at the interim study committee on Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in Indiana. I presented largely on the reality of loss of family scale agriculture and the true economic reality of concentration and consolidation in rural America. Just so everyone knows, I don't consider myself anti-ag. I do not like what has happened to rural America and especially family-scale agriculture. I also think "we" should quit claiming what happened is great at the same time that "we" are asking for funding in the next farm bill for mental health help for farmers to deal with the economic stress in a means other than suicide.
I listened after farmer and farm organization member came up and said that contract livestock farming was the way for the next generation to remain on the farm. I can still remember the eye rolling I got from a couple of state senators, including the chairman of the state ag committee, when I told them we need look at that portion of the issue a little closer. (I have found out since the state poultry association wasn't happy with the "misinformation" I shared.)
95% of the eggs are produced on less than 200 farms in this country. The statistic comes from the egg board web site. And the math works out. We keep close to one hen for every person in the US. About 300 million hens. And egg farms now have well over a million hens on each farm. Some as large as 12 million hens. That doesn't take 200 farms to produce 95% of the eggs. 196 farms for 95% of the eggs in this country according to the egg board.
We did have the same number of sows in the US in 1979 as we had in 2012. Only difference was 90% less hog farmers in 2012. We do overproduce calories for the world. Overproduction, not underproduction is the problem. Corn was the same price in 1973 as now. Farmers share of the retail consumer dollar is 30 points lower than 1970. I had sources for all my facts and offered to send them to anyone. Never got a phone call or email.
On the guaranteed loans, the young generation are the ones that are able to qualify for the Small Business Administration government guaranteed loan. We as taxpayers are funding the corporate takeover of rural America and livestock production by guaranteeing these loans at 90-95%. I'd love to be able to expand with the government taking the risk. We are funding multinational corporations through the Small Business Administration.
Well, low and behold the USDA Office of Inspector General came out last week and said exactly what I've been saying for years. These are not independent small operations. The corporations control the day-to-day management decisions. They should not qualify for government guaranteed loans. I'm including an article from Forbes magazine. There have been a few more scathing articles on the subject but I don't think very many people will put Forbes in the fake news column. I wonder if rural America would have looked different if Big Chicken, Big Turkey, and now Big Pig would have had to take the financial risk of funding their own expansion instead of putting it off on farmers and the taxpayers.
(By the way, I just love how Forbes uses a picture of a small independent family farm with hand-filled hanging feeders as the picture to depict this story.)
Read the whole Forbes article here. Then comment below your thoughts on the issue.
4th Generation Farmer
(This article originally appeared as a Facebook post. Find the original post and comments here.)
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