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Unnatural disasters killing farms 

LowDown

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 ripoff artists.

Meanwhile, among those who’re learning about the “truthy-ness” of The Donald are farmers who voted for him, having bought his campaign promise to restore farm prosperity. Once in office, though, he quickly sold them out, throwing a hissy-fit of a trade war with China that ended up slapping U.S. farmers by lowering the already-low prices they get for their crops. Instead of prosperity, the average farm profit last year was minus $1,500!

Then, on March 11, Trump proposed whacking $3.6 billion from the safety-net programs that offer a measure of relief to hard-hit producers when crop prices crash. Revealing his plutocratic core, his cuts specifically targeted programs that benefit small farmers — a deliberate manipulation meant to drive more families off the land and increase corporate monopolization of agriculture.

To help counter all of this insanity, join forces with the grassroots power of FarmAid at FarmAid.org/issues.

You can contact Hightower at jimhightower.com.

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