My post earlier this morning, wherein I included family farmers in the list of those whose subsidies should be ended, has generated an interesting response which has prompted me to extend my remarks as follows:
My expertise in farming is extremely limited. My sense is that, with the exception of niche crops, that family farms are essentially outmoded. Indeed, the response pretty much acknowledges this:
Corn prices are the same (WITH subsidies) today as they were the year I was married (30 years ago). Tractor prices, fertilizer, etc. are not, by a huge margin. Our first 120 horse tractor: $27,000. The one we bought last year: $112,000 (same HP) Yields have increased but only about 70%.
When my husband’s father dies we will not be able to pay the estate taxes and keep farming.
My husband is working a 40+ hour a week job and farming on top of it. ALL the farmers we know under 60 are also working two or more jobs per family *besides* farming.
We pay, in cash, $10,000 per year for self-employed health insurance. That is the deal employers around here cut to employ farmers – we get extra time off in the spring and fall (usually 4 weeks, total) and they don’t provide insurance.
To the extent this case is representative, family farming is much like blogging–it’s a hobby rather than a way to make a living. Except that farming is much harder than blogging.
Another good point:
I maintain that when the only entity raising beef is Swift-Premium, who will have a stall-to-slaughter-house-to-store operation, prices will climb dramatically.
I oppose monopolies in most instances and think trust-busting is a legitimate regulatory function of government. My sense is that family farmers are no real competition for Swift-Premium anyway but that there will be other corporations to fight them off.
Mom and pop shops, romantic as they are, aren’t going to fare well competing head-to-head with Wal-Mart. But that doesn’t mean Wal-Mart is going to be able to set prices at will–not so long as Target, KMart, Costco, and others are in business.
Our economy is brutal, but it leads to creative destruction. Many of the people now struggling in the futile effort to maintain family farms will eventually go on to do something much more efficient and productive. While it is always sad when people have to give up work that they love, especially when it is one the family has done for generations, there are all sorts of industries that no longer exist as the economy evolves. My expectation is that, absent government subsidies, many family farms will go under and the people so employed will find something else to do. Much like the blacksmiths, cobblers, and people who used to make buggy whips did.