The data is building. Since 2013, American farmers have seen a 50 percent drop in net income. In 2018, farm net income will be the lowest it's been in 12 years.
How would you like to go back to what you were earning 12 years ago? Or how would you like to see your earnings drop in half since 2013? Can you imagine if paychecks for attorneys dropped that much? Or electricians, or janitors, or school teachers? Can you imagine any profession besides farming that would see such a drop and not make front pages of newspapers?
What's tragically funny is listening to the pundits trying to figure out why. Many reasons exist:
1. Increasing cheap imports (up from 11 percent to 22 percent of total food consumed in the U.S. in the past 30 years).
2. Increased input costs--energy, seed (patented life), machinery, fertilizer, chemicals, labor, insurance.
3. Increased repair costs--computerized tractors are too sophisticated to be fixed in average farm shops.
4. Increased inputs--pharmaceuticals, paperwork for regulatory compliance.
5. Increased percentage of the retail dollar going to processing, marketing, and distribution.
Back in 1950 an agricultural economist guru named D. Howard Doane wrote a book titled Vertical Diversification. He pointed out that in the food supply chain, the farmer is not only at the end of a long whip, but is the only one in the chain who can defer significant expenses. He can not pay himself and family help. He can leave the barn unpainted another year. He can limp along with the old truck one more season. The other businesses in the chain have to maintain their equipment, pay their workers and paint their buildings in real time.
Farmers have been deferring for a long time and are running out of deferred expenses.
Those are all reasons. What's to be done? The single quickest and most efficient pathway out of the problem is direct marketing and on-farm, or at least farmer-owned, value adding. Both of those, however, are anathema to the agri-industrial complex and their minions in government agencies, from the school lunch program to the USDA to the FDA. So until one of the pundits dares to suggest that farmers be allowed easier and efficient access to their neighbors with food, we will continue to see the erosion of the historic family farm. We will see farmer suicides, already 5 times higher than the per capita rate of ANY OTHER U.S. OCCUPATION, continue to escalate. In short, the answer is freedom, not agencies. The answer is the much-maligned right of private contract, not grants, subsidies, and the farm bill.
How would you feel if your paycheck dropped 50 percent in the last 5 years?