Farming Problems The complexion of farming is changing radically. The land cannot support as many farm families as it did in an earlier time. Small farms are being consolidated into larger ones.
General farms, with several kinds of crops and a barnyard of farm animals, are yielding to specialty farms that concentrate on a single major crop. Family farms are declining; corporate farms are increasing. Efficiency is growing.Crops are changing. Techniques are improving. Just as the train, tractor, truck, and airplane changed farm life in the past, the computer and robotics are expected to change farm life in the future (AOL, 1997). And the outcome of this is that during the early 1980’s and continuing, the farmer’s source of income is indeed being stripped from him. What was once the only means of survival for these farmers, has now become distant memory.
Farming techniques are undergoing tremendous changes. Farming will surely become more efficient throughout the world. It will also become more scientific and, in the process perhaps lose some of its romance. People who formerly lived on farms and have fond memories of their rural childhood will barely recognize the new farms. For farmers of the future, it will not be enough to know how to drive a tractor and plow a straight furrow. Farmers must change with the industry, as it becomes increasingly more sophisticated.
The farmer must become more of a specialist to compete in the marketplace.This is a reason why many of today’s farm families are on a decline; that is, that today’s farmers are not able to purchase the latest machinery or equipment, for they have to be cautious about where they put their money. The 1980’s sometimes referred to as the “farm crisis” decade of the 1980’s, while the 1970’s were referred to as the “boom years”. It was in this time period that farms expanded in size and farm numbers dropped. But in the 1980’s, two unusual things happened. First, older farmers seemed to stay in farming longer.
Some who might have retired didn’t want to sell their land in a depressed market, unless forced by a lender. Second, some middle aged farm families with children who might succeed them quit, or discourage their children from pursuing a farming career. Other younger farmers who had recently borrowed to start farming or to expand their businesses were caught in the interest rate squeeze and forced out of business (Looker 1996, pp9). This fed the decline of family farms, for children, who grew up on farms, did not wish to take upon a career as a farmer, but venture into the city looking for better work and wages, effects that the farm life couldn’t give.
The decline of the family farm has been heralded for decades, as growing numbers of people moved from the country top the city, and then to the suburbs. According to an article in the USA Today, a 32-year-old dairy farmer from Fort Plain, N.Y., says ” You can get an 8 to 5 job, make a good living and still have (spare) time, and in the dairy business, there are huge cycles in prices.
Just about the time you’ve caught up from a down cycle, another one comes along”. This illustrates why young people are leaving the farm in search for better living conditions and money.Both the farmers and the academic experts talk about the key role of money in the decline of the family farm. ” The evolution towards larger farms and more sophisticated equipment puts the initial investment far out of reach for most young people”.
“It’s not a small business anymore”, says John Scott, farm management and land economics professor at the University of Illinois-Champaign. “And because farming is risky dependant on the weather, at the mercy of crop and livestock diseases and victim of wild price swings-banks are unwilling to lend money to finance startup operations, especially after the disastrous defaults of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, when high interest rate plowed under many farms and left lender without uncorrectable debts”. (USA Today) This shows us how hard it is for farmers to receive credit, to keep the operation of a farm working. And without this credit, many farmers face the inevitable, that is, closing and selling their farmland.Farmers, however, do receive aid from the Government, to help them with competing prices. According to an article in the Philadelphia Tribune, it says that if “the Congressional Budget Reconciliation Act now awaiting presidential action is enacted, the historical American farm family will finally vanish”. The Reconciliation Act mandates a $13.4 billion cut in agriculture over the next seven years.
Most of the cuts would effect family farmers who already suffer from a poverty rate twice that of their urban neighbors. “For decades, farmers have been plagued by the low market prices for their crops.Between 1982 and 1993: those prices rose only 7.
5%, yet what they had to pay for agriculture inputs went up 23%, more than three times what they earned selling their crops. Under the Reconciliation Act, decline farmers supports payments over the seven years will worsen the family’s lot. Family farming has always been a hard way to make a living. Since it is getting even harder, more and more people are fleeting farming for city life”. (Philadelphia Tribune) There is also the problem of competition for the land.
In Illinois, for example, the average farm size went up by 40 acres in 10 years, but total farmland in the state actually declined because more land has been urbanized.Much of the farmland was taken over by the suburban development, retail centers, and the setup of business offices. This occur regularly where farmers were unable to pay back their loans, therefore, large corporations would take over the land, and build infrastructures. Agribusiness also posed a threat to many family farms. Agribusiness is the name for the sector of the economy that purchases and processes agricultural commodities and often produces them and fabricates and sells agricultural production materials and equipment. During the winter of 1978-79, the nation capital, Washington, was a host to one of the largest demonstrations in years. The protest came from family farmers, in the heartland of America, who had organized a ‘trader-cade’ to Washington and were blocking traffic in the capital.The protest was to call attention to the crisis in the U.
S. agriculture system, which threatened the survival of the family farm, and this is one of the implications agribusiness has on the family farm. The numbers of family owned and operated farms has long been on the decline, and those who are likely to survive the crisis are large agribusiness corporations. An additional implication is the ‘cost price squeeze’ situation. This is where farmers are caught between declining farm prices and rising costs.
Farmers are constantly trying to increase productivity, but in doing so tend to overproduce for the market, driving down prices and incomes. When this occurs, it leads to bankruptcy for the weakest competitors, typically those who are having trouble buying the basic necessities for the farm (Burnach 1980, pp.22) A critical feature which distinguishes a system of family farming from corporation based factory farming is the use of family labor rather than wage labor. The family farm unit differs significantly from the corporate owned farm in that no matter how large the farm is, or mechanized it is the primary input of labor on the family farm comes for family members. On the other hand, large agribusiness firs owned by such companies as Unite …