A Conflict Of Ideas - What Kinds Of Farms There Be?
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Local farmers demonstrate their interest in efficiently producing quality food for the dinner table. They attend OSU Extension and meetings sponsored by farm suppliers to get the latest information to help them use the latest in farm practices. From this information, they more efficiently produce the abundance that comes from the family farms in this country.
When just two percent of the population produces enough to feed the other 98 percent, people need to take their hats off to the family farms locally and across the country. There is an abundant food supply.
Yes, there are pockets of hunger. They center on problems such as unemployment and low-income jobs that just don't provide enough money to meet the family budget. Locally and as a nation, people are concerned about those who may not have enough to eat. This is demonstrated by the number of food banks and fee meals sponsored by many churches and other organizations in the area. Nationally, the food and nutrition program that takes about 84 percent of the money in the farm bill also shows the concern through the food stamp, school lunch and other programs.
The efficiency of local and national family farms provides the abundance the public has to be able to support these programs. About 98 percent of the farms in the country are family or family partnerships. Yet, for some strange reason there are groups in this country that do not like these family farms. There is disagreement about what farms should look like and who should make decisions about how food is produced.
These groups can include environmentalists, animal rights activists and those who might think they are "opinion making" elites. They may not have much background or knowledge about farming or the need for an expanded food supply. Rather, they think anything that is large and specialized is not good. Farms should be like the ones grandfather farmed back in the 1940s and ï¿½50s. They can be against new technology such as biotechnology and the use of genetically modified seeds that have dramatically improved the productivity of farms
Research shows that since about 1980 there is increased food production by 50 percent in this country. It has been done using fewer resources, including land, time and energy. Without this improved efficiency, food would be costing much more.
More serious than that is the fact that predictions are the world will need double the food production by 2050. There is only so much land and some of that keeps getting gobbled up by urban sprawl. And, farming like grandfather did will only lead to hunger in this country and around the world. Those who do not like today's family farms where most of the food is produced have trouble seeing the "big picture."
Improving the many small, subsistence farms in countries like many of those in Africa can help increase the food supply for those who subsist on very little. Programs to teach farmers in those counties how to increase their yields and animal production are important. At the same time, going from five chickens to a flock of 30 can greatly improve food supplies. So, small farms need to get bigger to increase efficiency and the food supply.
Small farms, organic and so-called natural growing, may dominate some media and get much attention. Market studies show something else. Consumers generally are buying conventionally raised foods because they know they are safe and more economical.
Emotion, or what one wants to be true, often enters into the picture when it comes to thinking about farms today and yesterday.
Parker is an independent agricultural writer.