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Future of Farming?

Touch the Soil News #403

Farm numbers tell a story. The USDA provides revealing numbers:

  1. 80 percent of the farms (1,654,000 farms) have sales of less than $100,000. Considering expenses, their production and income are nominal.
  2. 12 percent of the farms (248,000) have sales between $100,000 and $500,000.
  3. 8 percent of farms have sales over $500,000. Most of the nation’s agricultural production comes from farms with sales over $500,000. This means the largest portion of the food produced in America is done by only 165,000 farmers and their employees. Back in 1935, the peak year for farms, America had 7 million farms. (See Info Graphic #1 below)

The public at large – and an army of food and sustainability non-profits – have made the correlation between large farms and the following issues:

  1. Topsoil loss
  2. Topsoil compaction
  3. Farmland degradation
  4. Soil organic matter loss
  5. Toxins in soils and water resources
  6. GMO altered foods
  7. Loss of bees
  8. Excessive transportation distances
  9. Significant use of preservatives to extend shelf-life
  10. Pesticide, herbicide and fungicide residues in food
  11. Corporate ownership of life (patenting of seeds)
  12. Excessive use of antibiotics in meat
  13. Treatment of animal issues
  14. Unsustainable use of resources

Harvesting Corn. Approximately 27 percent of America's primary farmground is planted into corn. This creates an imbalance towards diets favoring corn. In the aftermath of corn taking over, thousands of food crops (including differing varieties of the same food crop) have materially disappeared from the primary food chain.

What is the likelihood of the trend to larger and larger farms reversing? Will there be a revolution towards smaller farms in the future? While it may be difficult to conceive farming changes, other large industrial arenas in the nation are changing. Recently Bloomberg cited a study by the International Renewable Energy Agency that revealed for 2015, solar-energy jobs in the U.S. (approximately 210,000) outnumbered all oil and natural gas extraction employment in the U.S. for the first time ever.

While focus on sustainable farms is growing, the fact that it is becoming nationally and internationally politicized means change could accelerate.

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