What Ever happened to Small Family Farms / by kevin murray

Farming today is almost a pejorative term, as if farmers are considered to be so backward, so rural, and so country, that they are by definition completely out of touch with time and modernity.   If that is so, so much the shame for Americans, because this great country was once a nation of farmers and it still is a great nation of farmers.  At the time of our revolution, nearly 90% of Americans were employed in the farming industry.  Most farming back then was subsistence farming, simply providing enough for one's own family to live and survive on, with any extra harvest being stored, bartered with, or perhaps sold.


There are a lot of advantages to small family farms, because it gives those that work the land a sense of purpose, of responsibility, of worthiness, and of self-sufficiency.  That in of itself provides most of the object lessons that you need in order to negotiate life.  While small farms will not have the economies of scale that large farms bring to the forefront, the small farms of today bring tradition, history, sustainability, and are the bedrock and foundation of local economies.  The United States owes a lot to its farmers, and placing an undue burden on them, is not one of the legacies that should ever be permitted.


Laws are ostensibly setup to make things fair, but the FDA consistently makes laws that benefit the big conglomerate farmers as opposed to the small farms.  The fact of the matter is, it is only the big conglomerates that have the money, the legal staff, and the lobbyists that can stay in step with the FDA, so that when laws are passed, they are structured in such a way that the conglomerates will benefit at the expense of the little guy. 


The FDA claims that its rules are put in place to protect the public at large, but these rules are often an unfair regulatory burden on the small farms and a specific unfair burden upon them.  Certainly, health and food safety should be a concern for all Americans, but that concern needs to be addressed almost solely with the big conglomerates and not with the smaller farms. 


The FDAs' belief that one size fits all is something that is not realistic and it's not right.  Large conglomerate farms differ significantly than smaller farms in the following ways:


1.       Chemical fertilizer usage

2.       Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)

3.       Groundwater contamination

4.        Antibiotics

5.       Mandated contract agreements


While there is a lot of be said for the benefits of large farms in the sense that their products provided are often quite cost competitive, there are plenty of negatives that go along with that territory, and that is why it is to our credit that we still have locally owned small farms that provide choice, local employment, variety, and sustainability to society at large. 


Small farmers care about the land, the food that they grow, the livestock that they feed, because they have a direct vested interest in doing so.  Their self-interest benefits us in many ways and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, especially if the government gives them a fair deal and doesn't over- regulate them.