As a farmer told me, “You can still make a small fortune in agriculture, but you have to start with a large fortune.”
Farmers tend to be optimistic pessimists. The odds are against them — the bankers, bugs, monopolists, weather and sorry politicians. Yet they keep at it, battling the odds to nurture the seeds that bring us an abundance of foods. Coping with natural disasters is to be expected, but it’s the unnatural disasters of rigged economic policies and unrestrained corporate profiteering that slam the door on good, efficient family farmers.
Now in the sixth year of plummeting prices, farmers are producing more, getting less… and going broke. For example, it costs dairy farmers on average $1.92 to produce a gallon of milk, but monopolistic buyers pay them only a-buck-32 per gallon. No surprise then that since 2000, half of America’s dairy farmers have been squeezed out of business. Overall, farmers’ profits have fallen by almost half in the last five years, so farm debt, bankruptcies and suicides are rising again toward the calamitous levels of the 1980s farm crisis.
A central cause of today’s spreading farm depression is the increasing monopolization of all things farmers must buy (from seeds to machinery) and monopolization of the markets that buy from them. Just four biotech giants, for example, control 63 percent of all commercial seeds sold in the world; four meat processors control 84 percent of the U.S. beef market, and four global traders control 90 percent of the entire world’s grain sales.
This monopolistic structure is robbing farmers, ransacking rural vitality, and ripping off consumers. Yet, Congress and Trump are coddling the robbers, ransackers and rip-off artists. To help counter their insanity, join forces with the grassroots power of FarmAid at www.FarmAid.org/issues.
this opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.