In a Farm Journal reported on February 8, 2018 they reported an address given that week to the House Agriculture Committee which predicted a farm income drop this year of 6.7 percent. Doesn’t sound like a big deal except that the last four years have seen an income drop already of 50%. A bleak picture for farmers already on an economic precipice.
Think about how well you’d fair if your income dropped dearly 57%? Keep in mind that your mortgage price isn’t decreasing and that pickup truck which increased in cost of 33% from 2006 to 2013 won’t be any cheaper either. 33% that is for a 4-wheel drive. In Wyoming if you are sitting in a 2-wheel drive truck you are an obvious out of stater. Good luck selling it here. It’s 4-wheel drive or go home time as this is cowboy country with rugged terrain and rough weather making a 4-wheel drive a must if you don’t walk to work. In comparison that pickup truck looks cheap when in your yard sits tractors, balers, and other super expensive farm equipment.
I couldn’t help but take a look into the past to see a comparison. History is said to repeat itself. The Great Depression from 1929-1932 left farmers with a 51.6% drop in income. The average family income dropped 40%. The stock market dropped 90%.
Pretty sobering thoughts when you are just a few years away from retirement. What if my income dropped like that of a farmers or worse? How long would I have a home, food on the table, and something to drive? The industry my husband works in has seen a decided drop in income but nothing like the farmers. I see good news and bad news in our economy but what I see most is a shaky foundation and I wonder, ‘Is this the calm before the storm?’
I say that because in part farms are selling off at a record rate. Some of the land is sold to mega farms. Others are completely lost to development. Prime farm land is now under housing with nothing but a lawn being grown where fields once feds thousands. We seem to forget how important prime farm land is but you don’t live long without food if that helps put it in perspective.
Instead of a few hundred head of milk cows on small farms scattered all over, more and more industry tycoons have emerged with 36,000 cows a piece having swallowed the small farms. You can’t tell me that passion for the land, the animals, and a pride in their product drives those colossal farms. Simply put, “It’s money!”. They have no desire to hang on to the family farm and make it something their ancestors would be proud of, nope, Daisy is now cow number 5452. And since money makes their world go around sustainability isn’t in the equation. They take your money and run on into the next thing that goes caching at the bank leaving the industry at a loss. The land once fertile is waste. The crops, and animals are bred to produce volume. To bluntly put it, the nutrition and sustainable value — be dammed.
What does this have to do with you? Food safety for one. Mega farms means large amounts of food are contaminated if something goes wrong and something does go wrong far more often when large numbers are involved. I don’t have to do the shots or safety precautions the area ranchers do because I have two beef and not the problems or the exposure to their herds. We recently saw that with lettuce. The store shelves emptied on the last disease outbreak – mega farm, mega loss. I’m noticing our store’s fresh food isles in general can be quite empty at times – I’ve never seen that before in my life-time – unnerving.
If there is not money in something, then Mega’s drop it like a hot potato. The small rancher or farmer hangs on as long as possible because a farmer or rancher is who they are. They love the land and its inhabitants. I remember once when my father and the neighbor ranchers stood up to the Game and Fish Department. They told them they would not let anyone hunt on their land if they did not lower the number of Pronghorn antelope licenses being given for that particular area that year. The same antelope that munched on their grain crops, ate their grass, and tore up their hay yards meant for their cattle and sheep. Walking and riding those fields day after day, they had observed a disturbing drop in numbers. They consider the wildlife a part of their stewardship. You nurture and hang on to that which you truly love.
History repeats itself and that is what has me nervous. The change to mega this and mega that is even more scary. We may not presently have a Great Depression globally like the last one but we have parts of it now in our economy. The dairy industry is a model of what happened to the AG industry during The Great Depression. What I have not found in history’s past is so many HUGE industries. The fewer there are, the faster the whole industry falls when something goes wrong.
When I looked up how could farmers hang on longer. The advice – 1.Those out of debt could ride the bumpiest roads. 2. Add in a bit of a financial reserve and you hang on longer yet. 3.Those with the most diversity would likely weather the toughest storms.
No matter what financial industry butters our bread, I’d say we’d be wise to follow the advice given to farmers. Especially in today’s world which is so interconnected in our dependency upon each other and as a Domino falls, it taps its neighbor, which taps his, and so on and so forth. It is how The Great Depression became world wide. Just imagine how fast the pace would be today. Take the case of today’s farmer which falls and so to do those building tractors, supplying fertilizer, stores feeding those families, and so and so forth.
Be ye therefore as self-sufficient as possible is good advice as an individual and as a nation. If you lean heavily on your neighbors, then they fall, you fall as an individual, a nation, or the world. You can not lift another unless you are on a higher plain.