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Farm Aid News & Views May 1997
FARM AID NEWS & VIEWS
Volume 5, No. 5
- FARM AID FACT SHEET: THE FARM CRISIS TURNS
- FAMILY FARM NUMBERS
- FAMILY FARM INCOME
- CORPORATE CONCENTRATION
- READER SURVEY
FARM AID FACT SHEET
THE FARM CRISIS TURNS CHRONIC
Most Americans think about the "farm crisis" as a period during
the mid-1980s when thousands of farm families lost their farms
because of low farm prices and overwhelming debt. Farm Aid
was founded in 1985 during a time of great public awareness
about the plight of the family farmer. For a time it was
impossible to open a newspaper or turn on the TV news without
facing images of farm auctions and foreclosure sales.
Although no longer on the front pages, the farm crisis has
evolved into a chronic condition that continues to force
thousands of farmers off their land every year. In past issues of
Farm Aid News and Views we have discussed some of the
economic and political forces that are hurting family farmers at
the benefit of large industrial agricultural operations. From
government policies that favor factory farms over family farms
to increasing corporate concentration that squeezes family
farmers out of the market, these forces present formidable
obstacles to family farmers struggling to hold on to land that has
been in their families for generations.
Many farmers who were able to survive the 1980s have had to
find work off the farm to supplement their meager farm
incomes. Others have entered into contracts with agribusiness
corporations only to find that they have essentially become low-
wage employees on their own land. In addition, farmers, whose
average age is 58 years old, share a common anxiety about who
will carry on their farm operations, as fewer and fewer young
people are willing to endure the economic hardships that
characterize farming in the 90s. This edition of Farm Aid News
and Views will provide our readers with a few facts and figures
that illustrate the extent to which the farm crisis is alive and
well in rural America.
FAMILY FARM NUMBERS
* Since 1985, more than 250,000 farmers have lost their farms.
Every week 500 farms go out of business.
"Farm Numbers and Land in Farms" July 1994, USDA National
Agricultural Statistics Service.
* From 1969 to 1992, the number of large farms increased six fold
while the number of small farms dropped by 40 percent.
U.S. Bureau of the Census Agricultural Brief, July 1996.
* According to USDA, the number of farmers under the age of 35
fell from 217,000 in 1974 to 115,000 in 1987. Currently, only 11
percent of farmers are under the age of 35.
"Farm Finance: Number of New Farmers Is Declining," GAO,
* For every farmer under the age 35, there are two farmers over
the age of 65.
USDA Economic Research Service, 1995.
* In 1920, the United States had over 925,000 black-operated
farms. Today, there are only 18,000. The current rate of
agricultural loss by black farmers is two and one half times that
of other Americans.
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, The Decline of Black Farming
in America 1-3 (Feb. 1982) and Bureau of the Census, 1992
Census of Agriculture.
FAMILY FARM INCOME
* In 1995 farmers earned an average of only $5,000 per year from
their farming operations.
USDA Economic Research Service, Agricultural Outlook,
January/ February 1996, p. 45.
* Two-thirds of farmers work jobs off the farm just to make ends
USDA Economic Research Service.
* Farmers are twice as likely to live in poverty as members of the
USDA Economic Research Service, as cited in Clearinghouse
Review, "Family Farmers in Poverty," Stephen Carpenter and
Randi Roth, April 1996.
* The rural poverty rate has ranged between 15-19 percent since
1970, compared to a range of 13-15 percent during the same time
period in urban areas.
U.S. Census Bureau.
* 90 percent of small farms are owned and operated by families.
Large farms are six times more likely than small farms to operate
U.S. Bureau of the Census Agricultural Brief, July 1996.
* Four meatpacking companies control an estimated 87 percent
of cattle slaughter.
Cattle Buyer's Weekly, 4/95 cited in "Concentration of
Agricultural Markets," William Heffernan et al, 1996.
* Four companies control 85 percent of the cereal market.
Prudential Securities as cited by A.V. Krebs, "U.S. Corporate
Agriculture Facts," February 1995.
* Four companies control 45 percent of the poultry industry.
Feedstuffs, Annual Reference Issues (1996).
* The farmer's share of the food dollar has slipped from 37 cents
in 1980 to only 21 cents in 1994.
USDA Agriculture Fact Book 1994, Office of Communications,
* Since 1980, the U.S. has lost more than two-thirds of its hog
farms-virtually all of them family-sized farms with 500 or fewer
"Pork Production 2000: Fewer farms doing more," Feedstuffs,
* The number of hog producers has declined 24 percent since
1994. Two percent of producers now account for 37 percent of all
USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, "Hogs and Pigs,"
December 1996 and USDA Economic Research Service
Agricultural Outlook, March 1995.
SURVEY OF READER SUGGESTIONS
Dear Farm Aid News and Views Reader:
During the past year, Farm Aid News and Views has focused on
important issues such as the 1996 Farm Bill, corporate
concentration, rural development, direct marketing, and
sustainable agriculture. Farm Aid would like to know what
topics remain critical to your constituents and which issues you
would like to learn more about. To facilitate this process, please
fill out and return the following survey to: Farm Aid News
Survey, 334 Broadway #1, Cambridge, MA 02139. Fax 617-354-
6992. E-mail Farmaid1@aol.com.
1. What do you like most about Farm Aid News and Views?
2. What features would you like to see added or changed in the
3. Do you find the resources and events listed in Farm Aid
News and Views useful?
4. What issues are most important to your current and
a. Farm policy
b. Direct marketing/cooperatives
d. Sustainable agriculture
e. Food safety
f. Corporate concentration/factory farming
g. Rural economic development
h. Minority farmers
i. Women farmers
j. Young/beginning farmers
k. International agriculture
l. Organic farming
5. Can Farm Aid contact you in the future when conducting
informational interviews related to the above topics? If yes, who
should we contact?
Thank you for your help -- we look forward to bringing you
informative and interesting updates in 1997. As always,
continue sending your comments throughout the year -- we rely
on your input to deliver the most useful and timely news.
Farm Aid News and Views editor
Farm Aid News & Views is produced by Farm Aid. Editor
Harry Smith. We encourage the
reproduction of Farm Aid News & Views. Comments and
suggestions welcome. Farm Aid (617) 354-2922. Fax:
(617) 354-6992. Email: Farmaid1@aol.com.