Where have all the farmers gone
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Where have all the farmers gone? - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Where have all the farmers gone?. Brian Halweil . Farmers: An Endangered Species. Industrialized countries – fewer & aging farmers Global South, Asia – increasing farmers, smaller land parcels Since 1950 agricultural employment fell 80%. Urbanization. Falling incomes Rising debt

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Farmers: An Endangered Species

  • Industrialized countries – fewer & aging farmers

  • Global South, Asia – increasing farmers, smaller land parcels

  • Since 1950 agricultural employment fell 80%

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  • Falling incomes

  • Rising debt

  • Rural poverty

  • Urban migration -- seek more employment opportunities

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  • Marginalization of farmers, loss of extensive knowledge

  • Loss of community ties

  • Unemployment & health problems in the cities

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WW II as Watershed

  • Pre-WWII farmers saved seed, used livestock manure as fertilizer, crop diversity functioned as pest control

  • Wartime chemicals converted to fertilizers and synthetic pesticides

  • Earl Butz: “Get big or get out”

  • Monocrop, fence-row to fence-row

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The Food Chain

  • Vertical integration of the food chain

  • Corporations, processors, distributors, warehouses, supermarkets

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The Squeeze of Food Cartels

  • Oligopoly control of the food system

  • Mergers, takeovers and alliances create extreme profits

  • Widening gap between farm prices and retail food prices

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A Vicious Cycle

  • Increased production costs, declining profits, new technologies, increased production, oversupply, decreased prices

Increased demand for technology

Over-supply, declining prices = lower profits

Increased outputs & expenses, declining prices

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The Food Dollar

  • Today, farmers receive only 10 of the food dollar

    Farmer’s Processing, packaging,

    Share distribution, sales, etc.

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Goldschmidt Study

  • Compared two small towns-Dinuba & Arvin

    - Alike in every way except farm size

  • Small farms have more complex farming systems, (vs. more simple on large farms)

  • Farm systems require thorough and intimate knowledge of the land—neglected by corporations

  • More efficient use of land, water, more ecologically sustainable

  • More efficient use of land, water, etc.

    1) More biodiversity

    2) Planting crops with differing drainage

    close together on land with varying


    - Neither can be done with heavy tractors

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Goldschmidt, cont.

  • Small farms create stronger communities

    - support 20% more people

    - higher standard of living

    - 2 times as many business establishments

    - More participation in politics

    - More schools, parks, churches, newspapers & civic organizations

  • Small size alone is not enough –

    must have ecological awareness

    & motivation

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Simplicity of Industrial Farms

  • Large farms appear more productive because yield/acre is based on only one crop rather than total food production per acre

  • The 2-crop (corn-soy) system is more simple

    • Increased dependence on fertilizer

  • CAFOS – more waste/day than Los Angeles

    • Nitrogen pollution & methane gas:

      1) Manure lagoons

      2) Run-off into Gulf of Mexico

      (The Dead Zone)

      • Loss of ecological diversity (our ultimate insurance policy)

      • Loss of knowledge and experience

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Backfire: Tearing of the Social Fabric

  • poverty

  • social class distinctions

  • mental stress

  • breakdown of families ties

  • high rates of suicides

  • security threats