Farmers across the country are fighting for survival in the face of increasingly centralized production, the rise of large-scale agribusinesses, and the declining political power of rural representatives.
For the past several decades, the American farm population has been on the decline. While agricultural production may be on the rise and farm exports and profits may be hitting record highs, the farm population is increasingly shrinking and increasingly aging. Currently, farmers represent only about 1 percent of the US population. In addition, the average age of American farmers is increasingly aging, rising to nearly 60 in some areas.
In addition to these demographic problems, farmers are facing a gradual decline in their political power. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently addressed this decline, telling farmers that they need to end internal squabbling in order to better focus the influence they have left. Many politicians are increasingly reflecting this lack of power and, especially in the cases of states with growing urban populations, no longer focus on major agricultural issues.
Many farmers are becoming despondent by this gradual collapse. The failure of the farm bill and the refusal of Congress to take action on major farm interests has convinced many farmers that they are the last of a dying breed. In the words of one Sutter County, California farmer, “Pretty soon we’ll be such a small minority nobody will listen to us.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer