Monday, January 18, 2016

Is Small Business Farming for You? has reproduced its 7th most popular essay from 2015, this one on small family farming.  This is the money quote:
Does it somehow make it OK that in 2014 it’s forecast to be $–1,682? I had to wonder if this notion works only to assuage a collective discomfort provoked by an unsettling fact, a fact that should enrage us, that should disgrace us as a society: the fact that the much celebrated American small farmer can’t even make a living.
Well, depends on what you call a living.  The Amish continue to do it, but with a definition contrary to hers.  She wants "healthcare and education and pension" when the Amish are expressly eschew and are exempt from the hegemon-defined versions of those.  Lifestyle, not income.

She wants to farm in Northern California, the most expensive farmland on earth, and lease, where the Amish choose to own the least expensive land.    Young, middle-class, college-degreed may give one a sense of entitlement, but certainly does not prepare one for farming.

She deplores farm labor compensation. I am working farm-level acquainted with this.  As seasonal work, the welfare programs are massively abused to make up the difference between what a farmer pays and what a worker needs.  I was paid more than the Mexicans even though I was no where near as skilled because I was (and still am) white and would not be dipping into the welfare plans.  They drove trucks, I took a bus. What is formal at Walmart is informal in the fields.  (And by the way, I am not judging.. in fact, this is work no American will do.  Those who complain about immigrants stealing jobs, please present yourself at that place of employment.  If you can do the job, you'll get it.)

She leaves out the fact that the stated agricultural policy of the USA is "get big or get out."  Now that means not only "we help the big" but also "we ruin the small." That has been the stated policy, the programs reflect this, and the results are, as she notes, small farms are not viable.  The efforts are relentless with constant rules relating to "food security" and undermining customer confidence by rendering quality definitions meaningless.

When not special pleading, she gets to the real problem:
Then I looked into national statistics. According to USDA data from 2012, intermediate-size farms like mine, which gross more than $10,000 but less than $250,000, obtain only 10 percent of their household income from the farm, and 90 percent from an off-farm source. Smaller farms actually lost money farming and earned 109 percent of their household income from off-farm sources. Only the largest farms, which represent just 10 percent of farming households in the country and most of which received large government subsidies, earned the majority of their income from farm sources. So, 90 percent of farmers in this country rely on an outside job, or a spouse’s outside job, or some independent form of wealth, for their primary income.
Yes, get big or get out. To keep those subsidies flowing, not only farmers necessarily take in laundry to make ends meet, but so does every other middle class family in USA.  We have to pay the man for the bullet he uses to shoot us.  Under communism, they billed the victims after the execution, capitalists want to be paid first.

So we have massive malinvestment and misallocation in farming.    The solution is to end all of the subsidies, but that is not going to happen.  Big Ag not only feeds so many, it does with addictive processed foods that if not continued, we will have people who experience hunger even though they might eat healthy, nutritious foods.  Obese America would be engaging in food riots.  But recall small farmers get indirect subsidies as well, through welfare fraud.  In any event, the mantra ought be not a dime of personal welfare is cut until every dime of corporate welfare is cut.
Meanwhile, millions of dollars in federal subsidies are doled out to mono-crop farms growing high-input GMO corn and soybeans. Meanwhile, the EPA continues to approve the use of pesticides such as Atrazine, which have been linked to birth defects, infertility and cancer. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court rules in favor of Monsanto, allowing the corporation to sue farmers whose fields are inadvertently contaminated with GMO seeds. 
Not to mention GMO salmon, a clear and present danger, and prohibition of truth in labelling.  This is the ag policy of USA. It extends into subsidized advertising and marketing.  The above is not the half of it.  Captured regulators smash any threat to big ag. The Supreme Court is bought and paid for, and has the decency to stay bought.

And be careful what you pray for. If no subsidies, the Big Ag would fail, faster than Saigon in April of '75.  Who is to feed the millions whose bodies depend on frankenfoods everyday to maintain the fiction they are gaining nourishment, but are really developing diabetes in eugenics run amok?  Who will pay to repeat the fact "you are not dying, you are not dying..." as people switch from "happy meals" to soul food?

Trust lands may be the least expensive to lease, but they are still wildly overpriced in a regime that rewards doctors and lawyers to lose money on wineries and lavender farms as a tax write-off.  I listened to a sixth generation vintner complain that his winery which was his family's sole business could not compete with lawyers and doctors who benefitted from taking a loss.  

And as an aside, what sense is it to allow "trust lands" or anyone else who does not work the land own it?  Trust lands are just rentier-ism with a halo.  In a free market, we see owning real estate is not even necessary to peace and prosperity, but the idea that anyone who does not work a land can own it is absurd and oppressive.  I realize it is a centerpiece of capitalism, but that makes my point.  If people were obliged to sell land they did not use, or lose it to fast-track adverse possession, then the price of land would drop quickly as farmland was not required or able to also support lay-about rentiers.  If we had a labor movement in USA they would have demanded fast-track adverse possession in trade for fast-track TPP.
Isaiah 5:8Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field, Until there is no more room, So that you have to live alone in the midst of the land!
The core of the misallocation and malinvestment is down to bank lending of asset-less credit at interest. This is what was new 40 years ago, and made possible the policy of "get big or get out" not only in farming, but of every other aspect of the USA economy.  Whoever had the cajones to borrow the most earliest could "roll up" entire segments, whether farming, pet stores, gas stations, housing, clothing, and lay waste to any who tried to compete on price.  At the same time the lawyers who form our political class wrote rules that allowed them to become play landed gentry.
Habakkuk 2:6... 'Woe to him who increases what is not his-- For how long-- And makes himself rich with loans...
There is no rational limit to how much credit may be extended without countervailing assets.  Therefore there is no rational reason it will end.  Those who understand such things have minds boggled this scam has lasted as long as it has.  But it is clear it is over, negative interest rates are like a fire in a stairwell, no fighting it.  And right now the economy is like a ball at its apogee that seems to be suspended... it is about to come down.

It will be in this chaos, as people escape to anarchy, that those things more rare are worth even more... good food, competent labor, advantage small business eschewing everything the hegemon has to offer, especially its credit.  

Frankenfoods is supported in a model that is unsustainable.  It will end because that food costs too much, in every way, especially when it is priced so much lower than it costs.

The task is to expand production of good food in face of the destruction of the last 40 years.  The work is not for everyone.  I've worked farms and I know I couldn't do it.  But I can find customers for good food.  And customers overseas means USA production can expand in the face of temporary flat markets for better food in USA.  So I am doing my part, finding customers for small producers, against the stated policies and actions of the hegemon.  Production'll grow, at viable prices. We all gotta do what we can do.

Here is an online seminar coming up:

Feel free to forward this by email to three of your friends.


Anonymous said...

Russia Leads Organic Revolution as US Embraces GMOs, Drops Meat Regulations
Russia aims to be the world's top exporter of non-GMO food. Meanwhile, in America...:

I'm interested in starting a business for healthy organic food, but being American maybe I should start thinking of importing food from Russia in the future?