When the price paid to farmers for hogs crashed to Depression-era lows a year ago, it was nothing less than cataclysmic for independent hog growers. Already pressured by the rapid expansion of large-scale corporate hog farms, many independents were unable to absorb the losses and left farming for good.
Even if you have sworn off bacon and have never been within smelling distance of a hog farm, these events are worthy of your interest and concern. This year has brought stress, upheaval, and economic disaster to many rural communities at a pitch to match the farm crisis of the ‘80s. Weather extremes have forced more farmers out of business. But the combined effects of low prices, corporate aggression in the marketplace, and public policy that often undercuts the smaller-scale farmer has taken the more serious toll.
Droughts and floods have always been part of the farmers’ burden. However, despite rumors to the contrary, neither the market nor public policy are forces of nature. Through legislative agendas and what we put in our shopping carts, we help create the shape of farming in the United States.
A majority of Americans are suburbanites and city-dwellers, and the majority of them have uninterrupted access to abundant and affordable food despite market and natural disasters. So why should we have a problem with the current direction of farm production?