Southern agriculture
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Southern agriculture. The agriculture itself. There’s still a lot of money to be made in agriculture, for somebody at least. Here’s a map of how much money is made from crop production across the country .

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The agriculture itself l.jpg
The agriculture itself

  • There’s still a lot of money to be made in agriculture, for somebody at least.

    • Here’s a map of how much money is made from crop production across the country.

    • All statistics and maps from either the U.S. Census or the U.S. Department of Agriculture, unless specified differently.

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Who’s producing what?

  • Although maps for production of most commodities are available to your heart’s desire, let’s look at brief views.

    • What about cotton? (Or as a percent of harvested lands.)

    • What about tobacco?

    • What about livestock? More specifically, pork or poultry?

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Where does the value come from?

  • How much is being made from this agricultural production?

    • Look at this map of the average crop value per acre.

    • Where are the most valuable crops per acre being produced? The least?

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  • A complicated word meaning that there are two peaks to whatever you’re measuring—in this case at the ends of the scale.

  • So, in Southern agriculture today, the income of farmers is “bimodal”—there are many farmers who earn little, a smaller but important number at the top, and few in the middle.

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Small vs. Large Farm

  • For example, look at this map of the number of farms from 50-99 acres.

  • Now compare it with a map of the number of farms from 500-999 acres.

  • Or in general the distribution of farm sizes across the country, by the percent of farms of a certain size.

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Family or Company?

  • When you think of “farms,” it’s pretty easy to imagine a family farm.

    • How common are they?

  • What about corporate-owned farms? How common are they in the South? (At least in 1997.)

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Bimodality, part 2

  • Most production value comes from a relatively small number of large farms.

  • Yet most of the land in agricultural production is still in the hands of ‘small farmers,’ though that definition is changing.

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Making a living

  • As the O’Sullivan article from SRDC explained:

    • “family farming is becoming an increasingly rare social phenomenon.”

  • Let’s see. How many farmers in the South make most of their living from farming?

  • And conversely, how many farmers made their living mostly from some other occupation?

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Diversity is increasing

  • The O’Sullivan article discusses in detail the increasing diversity of farm ownership, operation, and management of Southern agriculture.

  • Here’s one example of diversity in ownership: female-operated farms in the U.S.

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Rise in corporate agriculture

  • Why has more and more production come from corporate-owned and operated farming enterprises?

  • What is “vertical integration?”

  • What are the benefits of “scale?”

    (Meaning, you produce on a larger scale.)

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So what troubles are faced by small farmers?

  • Economic (see pp. 4-8) such as profitability, cash flow, investment, loan availability.

  • Research availability.

  • For a long time, African Americans had a harder time getting USDA-backed loans, and successfully sued.

  • Do many people you know plan to launch an agricultural career? Why or why not?

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What to do?

  • Should small farms be assisted?

    • If so, what is an economic argument to help small farmers?

    • What would be a social argument?

  • Should larger corporate farms continue to grow as a proportion of agriculture?

  • What does the SRDC report recommend?