@egrogran excellent blog article. I will say this - here in the upper Midwest we are starting see the first signs of what the new tariffs have done. In the past 6 months we have had more farm land go up for sale and sit unsold than we have seen in many years. Prime farm ground was bringing up to $10K/acre in my area. Recently a section of B ground could not sell at auction because the highest bid was about $5k/acre - and lower than what that farmer owed on the land he had purchased 10 years ago. There is a lot of talk of what happened in the 80's happening again. The 80's were devastating in my area.
I am not against corporate farms - I am against the governments constant meddling in agriculture. We as a country are too driven by big business - our politicians care more about voting on party lines and for their major donors than they do for the average American. I fear the worst is yet to come for the American farmer.
We're seeing it here, too. Five years ago, farmland in our area was selling for $28,000 an acre, and farmers were buying up any land they could get because corn and bean prices were high and life was good. Farmland for sale now sells for much less, and then it sells to large corporate farms and not the neighbor who wants it to expand his own small operation-- the small family farmers are priced out entirely. My husband's family owns a large farm, and thank goodness it's all paid for because it went from profitable to barely breaking even over the last two years, and that's without any loans on the land or equipment. My husband was considering going into farming with his dad since our state legislators are undercutting schools and teachers to the point where teaching isn't a valid occupation anymore, but his dad said no way would he let him take over the farm right now-- by the time he bought out his sister's share or if he had to pay rent to her for her half, there would be no profit in it. And we'd have to sell half the land to pay the taxes, which means there's not enough acreage to sustain a profit right now. The general rule of thumb is you need 1000 - 1200 acres to break even these days in row crops, and that was a few years ago. It's worse now.
The money in farming right now is in factory-farmed hogs and cattle. Industrial wind turbines are swarming in on struggling farmers and promising $10,000/year for each windmill put up on the property-- but when you do that, you lose the farmland forever and you lose the right to decide where that windmill goes, and if your family is bothered by the constant noise, shadow flicker, or if it starts on fire and burns your crops or blows over in a thunderstorm or breaks down, too bad. When you sign the agreement, you sign away any right to complain. Plus all of that energy goes out-of-state, not locally.
Due to the catastrophic tariffs, a lot of farmers in our area kept back most of their corn and nearly all of their soybeans back in bins hoping that prices would go up--- even a .10 per bushel increase means thousands or tens of thousands more dollars for the producer. But then we had record winter snowfall and hard rains two weeks ago and massive flooding--- most of those bins flooded and the grain inside is now worthless and unfit for sale or use as animal feed. I'm sure we'll see a rash of aflatoxin issues in grain and pet food like we did 8 or 10 years ago when desperate farmers sold moldy corn to the manufacturers without disclosing it had been flooded or stored in bins that couldn't keep up with the rain and humidity that summer, and a lot of animals died...
Corporate, large-scale farming has put the squeeze on smaller producers-- those that still exist usually have every family member working another full-time job, or the farmer is well into his 70's or older and just keeps going because he doesn't want to lose the farm but his kids can't afford to take it over. Farmer suicide is a huge problem and growing. One local man shot himself last summer. The reason? His life insurance would mean his wife could afford to pay off the rest of the farm and keep it, and pay for health insurance so she could get her cancer treated, and so his granddaughter could go to college. "All I wanted was to provide a good life for my family. Nothing extravagant... just land we owned outright, a safe home, food and healthcare and a good education. My death means I can finally do that" was on the note he put in the mail to his family the morning he drove out to the end of his field by the river and shot himself.
With farmers scraping by on row crops and large scale animal production, prices for hay will continue to rise. Land doesn't pay for itself when it's in hay; it can in corn. Horse pastures are fallow land that isn't making money. Every farm used to have a big pasture. Now very few do. Every pasture, bit of yard, and the old groves and windbreaks and farmyards are plowed under and planted in corn. Cattle and hogs are raised on lots or in buildings and fed concentrated feed. Every half mile or so, there's a cluster of 3 or 4 hog buildings holding thousands of hogs. Regulations limit the amount of animals on each section of land, hence spacing them out. My parent's pretty little acreage/farm is now surrounded by dozens of hog buildings, and there's nothing they can do about it. Their neighbors would rather not deal with the danger and stench of confinement hog farming, but it pays the bills so they keep on doing it. Sadly, more and more of the processing of pork and chicken is now done in China. It's cheaper to ship the meat there, have it cut and processed, then ship it back than it is to pay American workers to do it. Unfortunately, that also means the regulations that keep the meat safe aren't always followed. Those 10-for $1.00 chicken nuggets at the fast food place? Processed chicken from China. A lot of the meat labelled 'product of the USA' is also packaged in China-- but that doesn't have to be disclosed. If you want to know your meat was raised and processed in the US, buy from small producers and have your meat processed locally. It isn't cheap, but you know your meat was humanely raised, humanely slaughtered, and processed by people living in your community.
Already loans are coming due on farms with the producers having no way to pay them. The banks will hold off on collecting for awhile, because they know that when the farmers don't make money, they also aren't spending money on seed, fertilizer, fuel, supplies, food, building improvements, seed, etc. One local farmer said that after expenses, he made $9800 last year on a 900-acre farm. Thank goodness his wife has a good job in town or they would have lost their farm. The death of the American family farm walks hand in hand with the death of small-town America.