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originally posted by: ClovenSky
a reply to: [post=24496016]Boadicea[/post
Farmers in this area like to pretend they grow food, but that is highly debatable. I think the closest they come anymore is growing feed for livestock that is considered actual food. Corn and Soybeans...sure, pull the other lever.
There are countless families tied into the farming lifestyle and community. Very down to earth people that are trying to sustain themselves.
I probably am not very accurate in my criticisms. It just seems there is a lot of poor me stories out there that go beyond simple market forces of supply and demand.
Dairy and Grain at the Epicenter The first half of this decade was a “golden period” for farmers growing commodity crops like corn and soybeans. Yields were up, prices reached record highs, and many farmers made long-overdue repairs or bought new equipment. For some, this meant accruing debt that weighs heavily now that crop prices have plummeted. And plummet they have: Soybean prices have fallen 19 percent since early May, to a 10-year low, and corn is now down more than 15 percent.
Both grain and dairy farmers rely heavily on loans to operate, borrowing early in the season for seed and other inputs and paying it down when they sell their harvest. The unpredictability of yields and prices can make the whole endeavor feel like a gamble, especially for farmers carrying additional debt. An emergency expense or several years of low prices can be catastrophic.
Farming is inherently a risky business, but it hasn’t always been this precarious. For more than 60 years, federal farm policy controlled commodity production and stabilized prices for both farmers and consumers in a system known as supply management. The arrangement ensured a floor price for farmers—essentially a safety net—and kept them from overproduction that would cause their prices to drop. But moves toward a more free-market approach, exemplified by former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz’ call for planting “fencerow to fencerow,” encouraged farmers to produce as much as possible, relying on direct payments and other government subsidies to make up for the low prices that followed.
“Agriculture is sort of like the rest of the U.S. economy in terms of income and asset inequality—except more so,” he explains. With the focus on production and no safety net, smaller farms have sold out and relatively few big farms have expanded. In 2015, about 65,300 farms making over $1 million in gross income accounted for 51 percent of the value of all U.S. agricultural production. At the other end, the nearly 1 million farms making under $10,000 accounted for just 1 percent of production. As farms have consolidated and turned to technology to replace human labor, jobs have dried up, rural communities have shrunk, and isolation has grown.
Seventy percent of farmers make less than a quarter of their income from farming and only 46 percent have positive net income from their operations.