American Farmers: An Endangered Species


The decreasing population of American farmers means less diversity of crops, vacated rural communities, and reduced food security.

Food-Fight-Cover

Every five to seven years, Congress passes a little understood legislation called the Farm Bill. To a large extent, the Farm Bill writes the rules and sets the playing field for America’s contemporary food system, determining what we eat, how much it costs, and where it is grown. You may not be happy with what you learn. In this excerpt from Daniel Imhoff’s Food Fight (Watershed Media, 2012), read about the current state of American farmers and how the Farm Bill affects this vital community. The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 12, “Who Will Grow Our Food?” Stop by our online store’s promotional page to purchase Food Fight at a 25-percent discount until the end of 2012. 

RELATED CONTENT

Bits and Pieces: Soy Bean Oil Fuel, Migratory Farm Workers, and Runaways

This short series of reports includes news on soybean oil as fuel, lack of laws protecting migrator…

Agricultural Biodiversity Project to Improve Nutrition and Food Security Worldwide

Undervalued yet nutritious traditional foods can make a difference in food nutrition in developing …

Questions About Farm Bill Programs?

New farmers and veterans alike sometimes struggle to fully understand the ins and outs of the farm …

USDA Funding Guide for Local Food Programs

Want
to start a sustainable food system for your community, but need a little
financial help to m…

Tales From the National Association For the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling

These humorous stories from the National Association For the Preservation and Perpetuation of Story…

“If we are not careful, we could lose the farm and the food system on our watch.” That drastic warning came from A.G. Kawamura in 2005, when he was secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Kawamura was not only alluding to how important forward-thinking policy is to the food system, but also to the fact that people who grow food for a living are becoming a dying breed. Already, agriculture is greatly diminished in terms of economic measures: it represents just 1.2 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product; services make up 77 percent and manufacturing 22 percent of GDP. It’s becoming a forgotten career path as well.

Principal farm operators over age 65 now outnumber those under 35 by a ratio of more than seven to one. Over the next 20 years, 400 million acres of agricultural lands—an area roughly five times the size of all our national parks combined—will be transferred to new owners. But who will be those new owners? Youth continue to migrate out from the corn-rich “heartland” and leave agriculture altogether. Many interested younger Americans simply can’t afford the costs of entry into farming. Others won’t accept the economic instability of the job. Meanwhile, each year the United States edges toward becoming a net importer of foods; already we import more than $80 billion in agricultural products each year. (See “U.S. Food Trade on the Rise” in the Image Gallery.)

In short, we don’t have enough people becoming farmers, and we’re starting to import food to fill the gap. And yet few people are debating our flagging national food security with the fervor expressed about oil imports or manufacturing jobs shipped overseas.