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Family farmers, like farms, succumbing to economics



Published: Sun, November 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



If Congress and the U. S. Department of Agriculture continue their policies of support for giant agricultural corporations, the nation may well suffer the consequences of having all its eggs -- and every other farm commodity -- in just a few baskets.

As it is, in the last 20 years, more than 300,000 family farms have disappeared from the amber fields of grain and the fruited plains. But as hard as it is for established farms to keep going, it is even harder for young farmers to begin their own farms or take over the farms started by their grandparents or parents.

Today, it is estimated that 70 percent of world trade in wheat is controlled by six corporations. Four corporations control 45 percent of U.S. poultry production, and as much as 65 percent of all hogs are raised on farms with more than 1,000 livestock.

What adds to the dismal picture for the family farm are the billions of dollars in federal aid that flow to the corporations best able to contribute to America's political machinery.

The danger, however, isn't only that a fixture of the American way of life -- the family farmer -- may be relegated to the history books, along with the stories of mom and pop grocery stores, or the general store of even the "five and dime."

Dangers: What should be of far greater concern is the dangerous position the country could find itself in when most of its food supply is controlled by a few corporations whose responsibility is to the bottom line and not to ensuring safe and healthful foods on the family dinner table.

Just as the United States risks being at the mercy of foreign steel producers, a foreign oil supply, as well as a monopolistic domestic high-tech industry, putting the food supply in just a few hands -- especially when those hands are filling political pockets -- is also a risky proposition. When the same companies make the chemicals and the pesticides applied to the crops they produce for the food products they manufacture and market, the consumer has few options -- even when they want to spare the livelihoods of their friends and neighbors whose farms can be found throughout this region.




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