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11 Februar, 2010 (16:38) | Economics, Food & Beverages | By: pooq

„Antitrust laws originated in Midwest states like Missouri in the late 1880s“ when smaller farms banded together to hold their grounds against larger farming operations. Today the situation is about the same. There are about 1.8 million farms which are likely to be inefficient compared to large agriculture companies. Even though they get large payments by government programs. The market does not like that. If those small farms prove to be too inefficient to survive they should not be rescued and instead the large players should in future produce the food and other agricultural products in a good and efficient way.

I don’t agree. First of all there is one basic economic problem. You may want to call me a socialist but what shall these 1.8 million farmers, their families and their workers do in future? Obviously there won’t be too many additional jobs in the large agricultural companies. The advantages of efficience unfortunally never are distributed among the society but end up in the pockets of a few.
In addition the image of farming and agriculture will experience a deep change. You may call me a romantic but all these beautiful impressions of farm live will survive no further than on the boxes and tins of the products of an agricultural industry. When talking of quality and reliability of these products I think those are much more endagered when bundled in the hands of few companies. No one will be able to prove what in the name of efficiency is happening in their factorylike agricultural facilities. Not even to talk about any possible diseases which will spread like a bushfire among these large cattle halls.
And there won’t be such thing as competition in quality. The only choice the consumer will have is between different prices. And with the prices the quality will decrease on the same speed.

So it’s not all about economy, stupids!
And if, I’d rather wait for the next step when they provide food in tubes as for astronauts or some endurance sports. If I wanted artificial food I want it to look artificially and taste artificially candidly.


Comment from Mike
Time Februar 11, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Actually, nothing says 1.8 million farmers will suddenly lose their farms. Some will exit, yes. As they exit, remaining farms (including smaller ones) will have more opportunity to grow and become more efficient because there won’t be as many others taking up space and resources.

Finally, the number of farmers has been plummeting for decades, and yet Americans have more variety and greater quality in food products than at any time in history. Consumers have choices that even 20 years ago were not fathomable. Have you walked through a modern grocery store? Even just the produce section contains products many Americans don’t even know what to do with because they are so different from „traditional“ American agricultural goods. And therein lies the fallacy of your argument. You assume US farmers are the only ones in the world providing good…and that era is not only long gone, but isn’t coming back.

Second, there are actually some Western countries where „traditional“ agriculture is becoming more a recreational sector than a productive farming industry; a form of eco-tourism if you will. So there are additional opportunities to be had among the more traditional farming sector. Of course, there may not be much demand for such things in the US. But that would pretty well suggest that society (as opposed to a small pocket of people) doesn’t highly value the nostalgia of the small family farm anymore. .

And even if 1.8 millions farms did exit (again, which is not likely at all), that would still leave the food supply system in the hands of 400,000 firms just at the producing level …not a handful by the stretch of anyone’s imagination.

Comment from pooq
Time Februar 11, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Of course I admit I carried it a bit to excess. I noticed the „(on average)“ in connection with the losses of farms. And as you say I did not mention that even if all 1.8 million farms would die there would be about 400000 left. Actually I think that was the true fallacy in my statement. Though you are right that I had not in mind the globalization of agriculture when I wrote my post I think we can neglect it in this specific discussion. If you disagree here I’d simply expand my arguments to the situation of farms worldwide.

I regret the loss of the traditional farm idyll, but well, we don’t drive with horse and cart anymore. So time goes on and I guess that is good. So all in all there are two points remaining which I think worth thinking of. One is that our modern society takes effiency as a measure to increase wealth and not life quality. This is an economic argument to some degree as in a second step money is spent in life quality. Second I fear that with the aggregation of producers and an increasing efficiency the diversity of fruits and other agricultural products will decrease to those which are cheap and easy to produce. There might be more different fruits than 20 years ago but only two or three kinds of potatoes and a dozend different apples are available. Not to mention the quality of industrially produced food and the measures of the food industry. I am not that eco-minded but I think good is important even though it is more expensive than. And maybe I am wrong here but I think that more and maybe especially small farms will provide better food.

In the end I want to point out that I took the chance to play the role of the devil’s advocate. So in fact I don’t think that your reasoning is basically wrong. But I think it is dangerous and inefficent to see efficiency as a good for itself.