God Made a Farmer

February/10/2013 10:20AM
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The Paul Harvey ad in the Superbowl really struck a nerve with most of America. Mostly due to Paul Harvey. When’s the last time you heard God mentioned in a commercial of any kind.  It’s like watching old tapes of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He still makes me laugh. Leno hasn’t made me laugh in years. Paul Harvey touched your emotions. Today we have Bill O’Reilly,an angry bully. Or, Croft,  who looked like he wanted to shine Obama’s shoes on 60 Minutes with the infamous Hillary Clinton campaign 2016 kickoff. 

My Dad grew up on a small farm. He wanted no part of farming. He was a builder. I wanted no part of construction. 

As I watched the Paul Harvey/Dodge Ram truck ad during the Superbowl, I wondered who is the American farmer today? Do big corporations really grow all our food and raise all our livestock today?

Here’s what the EPA says:     

Small Family Farms (sales less than $250,000)

  1. Retirement farms – Small farms whose operators report they are retired  (excludes limited-resource farms operated by retired farmers).
  2. Residential/lifestyle farms – Small farms whose operators report   a major occupation other than farming (excludes limited resource farms).
  3. Limited-resource farms – Any small farm with: gross sales less than   $100,000, total farm assets less than $150,000, and total operator household income less than $20,000.
  4. Farming occupation/lower-sales farms – Small farms with sales less than $100,000 whose operators report farming as their major occupation  (excludes limited-resource farms whose operators report farming as their major occupation).
  5. Farming occupation/higher-sales farms – Small farms with sales between $100,000 and $249,000 whose operators report farming as their major occupation.

Other Farms

  1. Large family farms – Farms with sales between $250,000 and   $499,999.
  2. Very large family farms – Farms with sales of $500,000 or more.
  3. Non-family farms – Farms organized as non-family corporations  or cooperatives, as well as farms operated by hired managers.

Based on these definitions of farm types, the number of farms within each type is shown in the following table:

Farm Type
Number of Farms
Percent of Farms
Non-Family Farms
42,300
2.0
Farming Sales > $500,000
61,300
3.0
Farming Sales $250,000 – $499,999
91,900
4.5
Limited Resource
150,300
7.3
Farming Sales $100,000 – $249,999
171,500
8.3
Retirement
290,900
14.1
Farming Sales < $100,000
422,200
20.4
Residential/Lifestyle
834,300
40.4
TOTAL
2,064,700
100.0

Given the different types of farms described above, it is easy to see that there is a wide variation in what constitutes a farm in the United States. Any criterion for declaring a farm small or large, viable or otherwise   is open to debate. When asked the question, “How large would a crop and livestock operation have to be to be considered economically viable  for the long term?” a group of Purdue University agricultural economists offered the following response in 2002:

An economically viable crop/livestock operation in the Corn Belt would have between 2,000 and 3,000 acres of row crops and between 500       and 600 sows.

This page is sponsored by EPA’s Ag Center.

Here are other statistics.

The number of U.S. farms peaked at 6.8 million in 1935. Today, there are more than 2 million American farms, of which about 180,000 account for more than 63 percent of all agricultural products sold, according to data from the 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture.

As for the faces of farmers in America, 71 percent of agricultural workers in the U.S. were born in Mexico and Central America, according to a 2011 U.S. Department of Labor National Agricultural Workers Survey. Just 29 percent of U.S. farm workers were born in the USA and Puerto Rico

Here are what I get from the numbers: 9% of the farms produce 63% of the revenue and almost none of the workers Paul Harvey referred to are US born. Plus, Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank in Washington,  D.C., has written extensively about farm subsidy programs and advocates ending  them. Contrary to claims from subsidy proponents about aiding small family  farmers, Edwards wrote that subsidies disproportionately benefit the nation’s  largest farms. According to Edwards, the 10 largest farms in the U.S. received  more than 70 percent of federal subsidy payments. Some payments have even gone  to landowners who do not farm. Edwards further contends that farm subsidies are  wasteful and anti-free trade.
Read more:  Why Are Farmers Subsidized by the Government? | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/about_6330049_farmers-subsidized-government_.html#ixzz2KVcGsy5f

If the 9% of the farms producing 63% of the farm revenue are not corporate farms, they are disguised versions of corporate ownership. Since they get such a high percentage of government hand-outs to farmers, there is good reason to make them look like something other than a corporation.

Yes, there are still a lot of small farmers in this country. But, many are retired or just part-time farmers.

The old 80/20 rule applies. Just as 20% of salesmen produce 80% of sales in so many organizations, 20% of the farms produce 80% of the revenue. Technology has made that happen. Plus, government money.

Sorry, Dodge Ram, your ad goes all the way back to my grandfather. Doesn’t apply today. God did make a farmer, but Cargill bought him out.

 

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Comments (2)

  1. Doug Schutt says:

    Your article regarding the Paul Harvey ad left me with several questions.Where do you live? I don’t want your address but would assume that you live in a setting very removed from the farming community. The question I would pose to you is the same as I have asked others who have no farming connection but share your opinion. If farming is as magically easy and financially lucrative as you make it sound, why aren’t you farming? Feel free to respond. I am 62 years old and I will gladly share with you what it took for us to reach a point of being a viable business. I hope you understand that Americans spend a smaller percentage of there disposable income for food than any other developed nation on earth. We also enjoy the safest food supply in the world.
    Farming has changed greatly over the last 50-60 years. Due to technology, every business in this country has had similar advancements. Should I think less of them for utilizing that technology in their business?

  2. bill says:

    The perception of farming still remains with the public believing it is small businessmen like you. This article is an attempt to present facts that show that has changed to large corporations producing the lion’s share of the farm volume. I’m guessing you were against any type of Wall Street bailouts with tax dollars. I feel the same way about subsidizing corporate farms.

Leave a Reply to Doug Schutt