Thank you for repeating the mantra of "modern" economics- the efficient
will survive and thrive, the inefficient will fail.
This is oft repeated to explain the demise of the family farm and that
we should turn corporate america loose on food and processing because
they do it so much better (are more efficient).
The big problem with this is it's just not true. Corporate farms enjoy
tax breaks, government subsidies for everything and pay lawyers instead
of fines for their misbehavior. They can also afford lobbyists who now
write laws and feed them to congressmen. It is a government subsidized
Family farms have been proven to be far more efficient than corporate
megafarms, no matter how you look at it- units of food produced per hour
input, caloric output versus caloric input, environmental impact, number
of jobs produced... (See Family Farming by Marty Strange and others)
So, something else must be at work to have caused the failure of so many
family farms over the past 30 years. The thing that sticks out is the
economists, bankers and ag. service providers all telling small farmers
to "get big or get out" and "you have to expand to be efficient." So,
most farmers listened (because after all, these people know what they're
talking about, they're experts) and went into debt to buy and/or lease
more land, irrigation equipment (remember the pivot grains in arid
areas?), tractors, seed fertilizer and a devil's pantry of chemicals.
And it wasn't just explanations. We were cajoled and ridiculed if we
hesitated- we were told that this was "the modern way."
Those who listened are now out of business. If all this we were told was
true, why didn't these farmers prosper? Because it was all a big lie-
started and funded by chemical companies, equipment manufacturers and
bankers to sell product and make money form loans. And USDA & Extensions
were their lackeys- did the pushing and ridiculing and continue to do so
in my county.
So what is the result of all this? Corporations are strangling out the
independent farmers and are gaining a tighter hold on the food industry.
It is being consolidated so that a few corporations will control food
from the seed to the supermarket shelf. Because they're more efficient?
No. Because they control more money and money runs this society these
days- we have the best congress that money can buy, and if you need
scientific study results to come out the way you want, there are
scientists and statisticians out there who will see that you get what
you want (for the right price, of course).
And just how efficient has corporate america been at producing food?
They put the product on the shelf all right, but do you really want to
eat it? I've had Md.'s and pharmacologists tell me that 75% of the
chronic illnesses in this country are due to malnutrition caused by the
lack of nutrient content in our diet. And recent work by a medical
researcher in osteoporosis finding that it's not due to a lack of
calcium, but an imbalance of minerals in the diet. (His findings are
that we need the same balance of minerals in our bones to maintain
density as Albrecht's recommendation for soil to provide proper plant
I read an article in a food processors' magazine around 1980 that talked
about how the growth in the food industry had leveled out because of the
decrease in population expansion. The article was telling processors
that they could increase sales by reducing the nutrient content of the
food during processing. This would make people eat more to satisfy their
hunger (nutrient needs). Amazing that they would put such a thing into
And a recent report of a study showing 75% hyper allergenic reaction in
workers who harvested genetically altered Bt cole crops, versus 15% in
a group harvesting non genetically altered.
I could go on, but the point is that big is not necessarily more
efficient- especially in food production. Corporations that control
enough money can buy markets by underpricing products to drive the small
people out and change brand loyalty. This is done by Kroger, Safeway,
Proctor & Gamble, General Foods, Tyson, Walmart, Barnes & Noble... They
can then manipulate the price by being the only source or cartels, once
you get all those pesky "independents" out of the market.
Look around. The small farms who didn't take the bait to go in debt and
expand are mostly still around, or closed because the farmer retired and
the land was more valuable (brought more money for retirement) as
development property than a farm. Given- there is an "economy of scale"
but it is definitely not at mega-farm scale.
So please don't give us any more of that "if you'll just be a good boy
and do what we experts tell you and you'll get rich" bull puckey. And
please stop the economic mantra about efficiency. Wake up and smell the
coffee- You're just a lackey and will do all right because the
corporations take care of their own- but can you look yourself in the
mirror and say to yourself, "I have been an accomplice to ruining family
farms and putting families on the street" and go on with your day
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