Who are you calling 'rich'? A small farmer shares some hard data
July 27th, 2012
03:00 PM ET
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Chefs with Issues is a platform for chefs and farmers we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate. Craig Rogers is the shepherd and owner of Border Spring Farm Lamb in Patrick Springs, Virginia, where he raises and sells pastured raised "Animal Welfare Approved" lamb to acclaimed chefs across the country. He is a vocal advocate for rural small farms.

Over the past couple of years I have been able to share some of my thoughts with readers of Eatocracy with articles in 5@5 and Chefs with Issues. The comments posted after those articles are often upsetting for a farmer to read.

I've read claims like “American farmers, among the wealthiest Americans...” I have also come across people who believe that “Americans are taxed 20B USD (!!) a year in farm subsidies, so I feel I have already purchased your produce.”

So I thought I would share some data - not an opinion, but hard facts from the U.S. Census Bureau and the United States Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service to paint a more accurate portrait of America's farmers.

In our society as a whole, the wealthiest control the largest amount of our wealth. In farming, indeed the large corporate farms far outweigh the income, the land, the revenue and the profits of American agriculture.

How much are farms raking in?

– In 2009 (the latest data available), the net earnings from farming activities on 90.5 percent of all farms in America (with sales less than $249,000) was on average $2,615.

– 73.5 percent of all farm income comes from the top 5.3 percent of all farms (those bringing in $500,000 or above annually) in terms of gross revenue.

How much livestock does it take?

In 2005, Ohio State published a study entitled “How many sheep would it take to make a living?”.

The author, Donald J. Breece, assumed that the goal was a net income of $50,000 (the average farm family living expenses plus taxes in 2003 was $46,752 per family and in 2011 it increased to $51,413 according to U.S. Labor Department data).

The study determined that it would take a farm to generate $300,000 in gross revenue or 1778 ewes (plus their lambs) to generate this “average income” in 2003. There is nothing “average” about a sheep farm with 1778 ewes and approximately 2600 lambs.

Only 10.8 percent of American farms have gross sales of $250,000. This upper ten percent own 49.4 percent of American farmland and each of their farms averages more than 2000 acres. These are not the farms you are likely to see as you drive down a country road.

98.9 percent of all breeding sheep operations have fewer than 500 ewes. The other 1.1 percent have 43 percent of the country’s breeding sheep inventory.

The situation is even more unbalanced in hog and pig operations. 58.1 percent of the hog and pig inventory in America is on 0.2 percent of the hog farms in America (farms with 50,000 hogs on them). Also, 91 percent of the hog and pig inventory is on farms with 2000 or more hogs and pigs on them, which represent the top 0.5 percent of farms.

That's a lot of pigs and again - not the farm you are likely to see on your country drive.

Why not just sell direct?

Many farmers are adding to their gross sales by attempting to sell directly to stores, chefs and consumers, but this is hardly a panacea. Most American farms are not in reasonable driving distance to urban centers where consumer, wholesale and restaurant sales can be significant.

In 2005 only 6.5 percent of all farmers markets (not individual farmers or vendors, but the entire market) have annual total sales greater than $25,000. 71.4 percent of farmers markets produce less than $5000 in annual sales.

There are indeed very successful farmers markets. Again, in 2005, 0.6 percent of farmers markets had gross annual sales of $100,000. None were in the Northeast or Rocky Mountain region, the most were in the Southeast (2.4 percent of their markets), and very small percentages, 0.2-0.7, were located in the other regions of the country.

Please don’t yell at the 90 percent of farmers!

When farmers hear and read about farmers receiving billions of dollars of government subsidies, they are as dismayed as anyone else. A sheep farmer, organic produce farmer, chicken farmer and pig farmer won’t see that money. The subsidies are for very specific crops which most farmers don’t grow and which are controlled by the largest of the large farms.

The data above includes government subsidies and payments as a part of gross annual sales. So much like the rest of society, 73.5 percent of all farm income comes from the top 5.3 percent of farms.

Most farmers are struggling and over these past few weeks, you could watch the news and see farmers with grandchildren in tears as the drought brought an end to their generational farm.

Those farms you see dotting the countryside are not likely to have over 2000 hogs and pigs or to have 1700 ewes. The farms you are most likely to stumble across are part of the bottom 90.5 percent, bringing in an average net income of $2,615.

As a farmer and a shepherd, when I hear you state with disdain how rich we are, how much in government subsidies we get, how lucrative our profession is, I look around in puzzlement. That is not me or my farm, nor does it reflect the farms of my neighbors, or any I know of in Patrick County, Virginia.

Farmers are a hard working lot. When you yell at the top ten percent without being specific about which farmer you are referring to, we all hear you.

Sound off - did the stats convince you? Let us know in the comments below.

soundoff (76 Responses)
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    October 12, 2014 at 10:31 pm |
  2. Tiff

    Hi all!

    Looking for advise.

    I'm in the Army and I have been knocking around the idea of buying a small farm/ranch when I get out.

    It's not at all about the money. I want to have a career that gives me a sense of freedom. I want to be out doors. I want to work with my hands. I want to have horses. I hate the city and always being trapped by walls while I am at work. I have zero farming experience except for my 5'X9' garden plot in the city. I was thinking of getting experience by volunteering at a farm and going to as many as I can before I get out. I am environmentally conscious and I want to use organic and sustainable methods.

    When someone says stay out of debt, what does that mean? No mortgage? Buying the farm out right? How is that possible? I mean i'm saving but it will not be enough, I don't think. I'm 24 so I guess I have time.

    Is my vision completely stupid and unrealistic in this society that we live in? Any advise you can give me would be greatly appreciated! Obviously, I am just in the thinking....no not even that....the day dreaming phase.

    Thank you so much in advance!

    July 27, 2014 at 11:27 pm |
    • Ethan

      Well farming, ranching etc. Is not typically a lifestyle one can just start up...but the recent trend of interest rates will help and yet the price of land will only hinder... Depending upon where your looking to settle. Just do your research that will help you to decide whether or not it is worth it.

      August 7, 2014 at 7:44 pm |
  3. af


    June 6, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
  4. JustMe

    The government needs to stop calling the money "Farm subsidy" and start calling it what it truly is: "Industrial subsidy".

    A diversified farmer selling fresh eggs, peppers and apples at the local market are not the people receiving government subsidies; they're just families struggling to stay ahead just like the rest of us. The so-called "farm" subsidies all go to commodity crop producers–huge industrial growers who specialize in monoculture crops of corn, soybeans, and grains. Those commodities never make it to the grocery store in their natural state–they are used as raw material to create animal feed, processed foods, ethanol, etc.

    The lobbyists who push for the subsidies keep exploiting our collective emotional attachment the image of a bucolic farm with happy cows, a few pecking chickens, and a guy in a straw hat atop a puffing tractor. Nothing cold be further from the truth.

    February 25, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
    • JustMe

      EDIT: I meant to say, "A diversified farmer is not receiving subsidies. . . "

      Need more coffee.

      February 25, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
  5. elevine89

    Question: so why hasn't the question of land reform come into play where the corporate farms are broken up through a combination of legislation and market forces? How is it that we're not taking a leaf from Adam Smith's book "The Wealth of Nations" and implement agrarian reform in the United States where the resources are spread out amongst the population, such that there's more competition, more direct benefits to farmers with regards to the profits that they're able to realize from farming and (potentially) cheaper and better quality food for us to eat? I'm curious more than anything else. Hope someone who's more informed about the economy and business practices of farming can help.

    February 20, 2014 at 11:30 pm |
  6. DK

    I help run our family farm, in which we farm a little over 4000 acres, we rent about a thousand of that, outright own 1500 acres, and are paying the bank for the rest. Farming now is much better than when my dad was coming up in the 1980's which he says they always felt poor... Not these days.....our average net from 2009 to 2012 was over 800,000.... Granted this is split between 4 families, but still 200,000 a year ain't bad for doing what you love.

    February 20, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
  7. Private personal training

    The gov't is taxing the hell out of all of us. Enjoy what you have, it could be worse.

    January 28, 2014 at 9:51 pm |
  8. Wyatt

    I farm because I love it. There is no money in it. I feel really lucky to just pay the property taxes. I have to work off the farm for cash to live on. There are too many ways to loose money farming. You have to be very long sighted and avoid debt at all costs. Any failure on the farm would mean loosing the farm if you are in debt. The big farms make sure the small guys can never compete.

    January 18, 2014 at 8:59 am |
  9. Stud

    The large corporations justify their presence by making small farmers become a corporation for better tax breaks, however essentially if you're home steading you shouldn't have to pay taxes at all. Regulations are a method for the big corporations to control the small corporations. The only way the small farmers will survive is to stop voting in the two party cronies and vote Libertarian.

    November 12, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
  10. pamB

    it's the middle men - that's who gets the $ - and some the big food processors of course. dont blame the farmers please.
    they work dang hard to break even and are trying as best they can. thanks to them!

    November 7, 2013 at 12:26 am |
  11. Stud

    The problem is the Federal Government, period:
    1st, individual rights
    2nd, community rights
    3rd, county rights (Alaska needs counties)
    4th, State Rights, if you're a Statist!
    5th, the Fed Gov should not have any rights!

    July 28, 2013 at 12:11 am |
  12. briaso

    Things in the UK for farmers are the same. Imagine manufacturing something and watching it being resold retail at ten times what you received for it. Or if you are tied in with a supermarket chain the mark up can be nearly as much as 15 times what you get.
    e.g. potatoes £200 /Ton for the farmer then 1 ton/ 1000 kilos resold in the supermarket at £2.50 per kilo is this fair

    July 27, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
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  14. doogy

    We are crop farmer in Minnesota , sold all the dairy and farm 2500 acres , over the last ten years we have become millionires and we only have two work 3 month out of the year we have vacation homes now all new equipment and any toy we dasire ,TY OBAMA!!!!

    May 14, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
    • Ed Huber

      Doogy's post smells like doggy doo.

      What dairy farmer has 2500Ac? What erstwhile dairy farmer has expertise and equipment for crop? What real crop farmer works only 3 months a year (prep, fert, plant, fert, spray, harvest.....machine work, brush)? Sounds like Doogy is either unusual or is fibbing.

      June 21, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
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  17. ILFarmer

    Some of these people obviously do NOT understand farming. Farmers work 14 hours or more a day year round. This is hard, dirty work that most people on unemployment and welfare consider beneath them. This is why it is so difficult to find decent help if you can even begin to pay for it. Some market prices for us are much higher than they were a few years back, but our input costs (what we need to produce the food you eat) have increased just as dramatically. This leaves farmers with similar margins and much more risk. We must borrow much more money to operate and have no more guarantee of producing anything ( so we can pay that money back to the bank and continue operating another year). This really comes to light in a drought year. We spent the money, put in all the hours of hard work, and received very little production in exchange. Don't tell me to quit and get another job unless you are willing to quit eating! As for subsidies given to some farmers, the government started that in an effort to control the farmer and the prices the consumer pays for the end products. Europe may have done away with subsidies, but their food bills consume a much much larger percentage of their incomes than in the united states. If your food costs too much here, where we have the most abundant and safest food supply in the world, then you need to either 1) quit eating prepackaged food and start cooking at home(it is better tasting and healthier anyway) or 2) try living in another country where it will cost you even more to have a less secure food source.

    February 4, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • iknowthefacts

      I was born and raised on a farm in Iowa and know agriculture inside and out. Farmers areindeed some of the weathliest folks in the State. I'm one of them ;-) Ever since corn ethanol came into the picture, fortunes have been made raising corn. FORTUNES. Anybody with a measly 160 acres of cropland has net worth well in excess of $1,000,000. Corn ethanol is taking up over 40% of the corn crop nationwide and well over 50% of the corn crop in Iowa. Many unintended consequences of corn ethanol include much higher food prices across the board...much higher meat and poulty...you ain't seen nothing yet, wait until this summer and fall if you want to see high meat prices. The government has subsidized ethanol from it's infancy and it's all a big scam, but has made Iowa farmers all mulit millionaires...we're the new "Arabs". Thank you taxpayers and uncle sam. You've secured my retirement. BTW, there is no shortgage of crude oil...never was, never will be. It's all a hoax just like corn ethanol is.

      February 21, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
      • Homestead

        I'm a day late here, but you are correct my friend. 2014 farm bill doesn't look pretty to ethanol farmers does it. I'm just a young but old soul hayseed gonna make an honest living off a little piece of ground, so Don't Tread On Me.

        February 18, 2014 at 11:37 pm |
  18. small farmer

    for all of youl ho thank evey farmer get lotes of money from the govermemtent youl need to wack up the truth is that all the substy money or the bigest part goes to folk thate shouldent get it the programes wer meat for small family farmers to try to help them survive now it all goes to the big ass farmers hew are rich and and yousely a docrore or lawer thers all cind of loop hoes thay find the dream of a man being abail to mack a living on a small farm is most lickily a dream that he or she will never see becouse of greed from the big guys i know some very good family farmers hoe are bearly geting buy and then you loock around a big rich ass farmer is reanting and buying all the land around them so thay can keep the small poor man from susseding o well i guss thats the way it goes some time to bad the programes cant work lick thay was orgenly meant to have a good day

    January 5, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • Tyler

      I live on a farm and it isn't easy at all and most don't make much it comes down to wether you really love what u are doing or what. Personally I would love to farm but the family farm can't support me so I will have to start out on my own

      January 28, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
  19. Shaun Schipper

    In 2009 the net earnings from farming activities on 90.5 percent of all farms in America (with sales less than $249,000) was on average $2,615. This sounds like BS, and I would think that farmer's write offs need to be looked at. Also why doesn't this study show what the average farmers net worth goes up each year. There are many places where farm land for example was going for $2000/acre less than 10 years ago and now is at $5,000/acre. So if you owned 2,000 acres your net worth on the land has increased by 6 million dollars during that time. Why don't we hear this? Now having said that I guess if you only had 100 acres your net worth would have only gone up $300,000 during that time.

    December 29, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Josh

      Yes, since we all know that having farm ground that you have to put money into to get anything out of it is the same as having cash in your pocket.

      February 4, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • shawn l

      The reason that the net gain is so low is due to the fact that farmers can write off EVERYTHING as an expense. If farmers were indeed so poor, people wouldn't still be doing it.

      Most farmers, on small farms aren't going to make fortunes, however the farmers I know (I live in an agricultural area) do live rather comfortably.

      May 7, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
  20. revivalnatural

    Reblogged this on Revival .

    December 21, 2012 at 6:57 am |
  21. Malkin

    Surprise, Surprise.

    10% of farmers own 50% of the land and the top 5% gain almost 75% of the profits.

    Sounds like the American economy as a whole.... I'm sure this is the case for any industry, as the rich get richer and bigger. Farmers Markets for life!!!

    August 9, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  22. Semper Cogitatus

    Just curious if these farmer's homes are part of their business or if they have to pay for their homes separately out of that net farming income. My understanding is that generally their home and the vehicle are part of their farm and not paid for separately. Farm incomes should be compared to what other people make after paying for their homes and cars.

    Farmers are not generally rich, most are in fact struggling like everyone else, but the numbers this author gives are very misleading. A farmer with a net income of $50,000 would be doing very well. He would have $4000 a month over and above his living expenses. My family's income is double that, but we don't have $4000 a month left after living expenses.

    August 6, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • Malkin

      did you even read the article?

      The author doesn't say anywhere in the article that farmers are making $50,000/year. He says that the LIVING EXPENSES are more than $50,000/yr, in order to have a net profit of this amount, the farmers need to make a gross of $300,000, and in the case of sheep farmers, about 99% don't have farms large enough to reach this amount of gross income or net profit.

      Read closely before you comment. Lack of attention can be misleading...

      August 9, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Kendra

      As a matter of fact, only PART of farmers housing costs are deductible. For instance, the office in the farm family home. The square footage of that office is taken as a percentage of the whole – that percentage is used to allocate utilities, etc. So no, farmers do not get to deduct their homes. As for vehicles – only if it is for farm use. You can't deducte an electric car, but you can deduct a farm truck. I happen to know all this as I am a farmer's wife and it's my job to do the books. We just remodeled our family farm home and I can guarantee you – it wasn't deductible! Sure wish it was!

      February 12, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  23. PDad

    This guy probably does struggle, small rural farms and large midwesyern grain farmers have little in common..

    August 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  24. The Logical DayDreamer

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    August 3, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  25. Ellen

    As someone who is on the periphery of farmers and their issues ( I have many friends who are farmers and sell my baked goods at a farmers market) I hear their stories, listen to their issues. buy their produce and observe the quiet pleasure and satisfaction my farmer friends get from growing their own food and seeing others enjoy it. These are not the folks of subsidies and big business. You don't become a small farmer to make millions of dollars, though a profit at the end of the year is always a good thing. Farmers are some of the hardest working people I know.
    You can help improve the lot of farmers by supporting local farmers markets, asking for locally grown items in grocery stores, eating seasonally and making an effort to stop buying what's not grown in the U.S.
    Mr. Rogers is right. Small farmers do hear what people are shouting. Stop yelling, look at the data and start looking at what is right in front of you.

    August 3, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  26. don

    Thank you, ma&pa!Im an Indiana farmer.Most of these talking heads have a full. a full belly.Walk in a farmers shoes for a day.Oh, Im sorry,the talking heads dont have time to walk__ they have to get to the grocery store before it closes!

    August 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  27. WriterAg

    After reviewing the census data that the author links to, it is clear that the majority of farms as registered for the census are hobby farms (admittedly, a very cool thing to do). Considering the percentage of the population that draw the majority of their income from their farms; it equates to nearly the same amount that make up the majority of census reported farm income, 2.5%.

    According to the same statistic set, 97% of all farms are family owned, including family corporations. Farmers just like every business owner, draw their livelihood from their business. Farmers are not just some small part of the population who subscribe to a hip, vintage, throwback lifestyle because its cool. They are business owners who need to run efficient, profitable, and long term sustainable operations. So in order to run the best business possible, there are different structures to that end, including incorporation.

    That is not to say they don’t do it because they love the life style and culture, they do (and who wouldn’t).

    My family is part of a three family partnership in a Limited Liability Corporation or LLC that own and run an apple, pear and cherry orchard that supports the three families. Our farm is a family owned and run business that is incorporated and we run it as efficiently, sustainably, safely and as profitably as possible. We have to operate in such a way if we expect to continue to draw our livelihood from it and stay in business. We are hardly some super sized, evil, corporation. And no, we aren’t “rich.” Our gross profits may seem huge to some, but our margins after you factor in the cost of farming bring our net profit way down. Incorporation is a tax structure designed for efficiency and to limit liability. Even a single family owned farm, with one sole operator, can be a corporation.

    The belief that our farms that produce the majority of our food are dominated by non-family, mega corporations just simply isn’t true. Are commercial family run and owned farms larger than in the past? Yes, indeed they are; but they are that way in order to provide the most plentiful, safest, most nutritious, most efficient and sustainable food supply possible. They have grown in size due to a whole host of reasons. Because of technology, farming is much less labor intensive and requires much fewer people, and thus fewer farms (in number) to produce our food. If our farmers grew crops in the same manner today that they did 100 years ago, we would not be able to feed our population.

    Our farmers today seek to produce the most plentiful, safest, most nutritious, and most sustainable food possible. They also seek to make profit from their crops in order to provide for their own families. No one is out there making huge profits overnight and certainly not without a lot of hard work. The author of the article is right; we are not “rich” in the sense of possessing large amounts of money. We are rich in that we are blessed to be able to live such an awesome lifestyle and make our livelihood from it. Thank the Lord and give thanks to Him.

    August 1, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • George

      Don't you think consolidating food production onto a few large farms is a bad idea? Monocropping, GMO corn, wheat etc runs a huge risk of disease and drought (like we're facing now). Small farms, with access to pool their products into co-ops (e.g. Tuscarora Organic Growers Assoc, TOG) gain access to larger markets, and earn a livable wage.

      August 9, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Ed Huber

      Thank you for articulating a concern with a growing(?) public misperception.

      I've interest on the crop & hay/pasture side in MO & KS and also am puzzled by
      the impression of folks outside of that area (or in urban areas) that Ag is now 'mega-farms'
      sucking up crop subsidies. When pressed to name these huge corporate farms, they generally
      go blank. Some cough up Monsanto, Cargill, Syngenta, ADM....none farmers nor recipients of
      USDA allotments. Unfortunately, the demonization of farmers and farming comes in part from this
      misperception. Look at George (above), valiantly struggling with media buzz on monocropping,
      GMOs, Co-Ops....and with a media sound-bite attention span.

      June 21, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  28. Peggy Conroy

    After growing up on our family dairy farm milking less than 50 cows, hearing my father bemoan the direction farming was heading (into corporate hands) w/ his prediction that the country would really pay for its food when they took over, it's now distressing to see it all come true. We certainly pay thru subsidies to them as well as tax breaks and other govt. programs. Our family farm is now organic and surviving due to many spin off businesses by family members allowing us to remain on the farm thus, pay the taxes. A very few neighbors have sucked up the other small area farms thereby milking hundred/thousands of cows (they are nothing but udders w/legs full of hormones) and millions of chickens in cages, but they consider themselves survivors. They are. It's the corporate culture headed by the big banks (remember dairy buyouts of Reagan era?) and global economics, trade policies, etc. I'm not sure how much is really orchestrated by careful prior planning (I don't think they are that smart) or that there is something about human institutions growing to a specific size or becoming aged, that has gotten us to this state. I'm sure that planetary overpopulation pressures are a major part. Too many rats in a cage raises havoc!

    August 1, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Sue H.

      Unfortunately, that is what happens when growth, size and profit are the only measures of success for a business, and when consumers refuse to back up their values by paying a little extra for their products. Small farm eggs are a little more expensive, but they represent eggs not produced through animal torture. And should we really expect to get a dozen eggs for just $2? Ditto for small-farm pork or chicken. We want our food super cheap, super plentiful, already prepared, or an safe too - but wont' pay subsidies or taxes for that privilege. Nor does anyone want to hear the awful truth about what it's like for the animals on a factory farm and slaughterhouse. So we wind up eating pink slime instead and letting mega corporate farms take over the food supply. You get what you're willing to pay for.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  29. Serious Person

    That's interesting. I live in Wisconsin. I know several farmers. I don't know any poor ones and none of the ones I know are large corporate farmers. They've told me about the crop subsidies they get...so they're lying to me? Good to know.

    July 30, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • BorderSprings

      Perhaps you would find reading the data for yourself educational and enlightening. The links to the references at provided in the article; US Census data and USDA Agricultural Survey. The income distribution for farming closely mirrors that of the general population where the wealth is concentrated at the very top – but you can see that for yourself if you look at the data.

      July 30, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  30. Student

    So you're saying that 90.5% of the U. S. farmers are actually hobbyists who do not depend on their farm for an income. Or, you're saying that 90.5% of farmers are living on welfare. Which one is it? I sure don't mind if you farm as a hobby, but I'll be terribly annoyed if you tell me that all those farmers are on welfare because they don't want to learn a more productive trade.

    July 30, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • New England Country Girl

      This article is not about 'hoby' farms. That 90% are generational farmers who's main income is what they can get from their land... as opposed to farms owned and run by corporations.

      as for your comment about a 'more productive trade'... once again, if you don't have farms, you don't eat. How much are we really going to depend on import?! I hate to sound as if I'm repeating myself (from the comment further down) but we need to keep our food sources here... on our own land. Start producing our own industry again, instead of corporate America outsourcing to other countries. Pay Americans to produce American made!!

      July 30, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  31. Billybob

    Thank you Obama for ruining farmers lives, also Global Warming is ruining our crops along with terrorists. More worried about if a man should marry another man than the food we farm.

    July 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • jojo

      welcome to the twilight zone

      July 30, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • Sue H.

      Billy, you're silly if you think this just started four years ago, or if you think the liberals represent the likes of Monsanto that are polluting the food supply. Ever heard of the "muck rakers" or Silent Spring? Go get yourself a nice pink slime hot dog.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  32. X Farmer

    Sign of the times – any group without a cash flush lobbyist, like small farmers, is any easy target. Americans should be careful what they wish for – when big agribusiness has absorbed the last of the family farms, food prices will soar a staggering amount. The price increases we're going to see in the winter/spring (drought induced) will be tiny in comparison.

    Crazy, isn't it? We have military installations in 130 different countries. But when it comes to the welfare and national security of our food supply, petulant, feckless old men in Washington are content to hack away, in order to score cheap, meaningless political points.

    If the government needs income, shouldn't they be doubling down on Medicare/Medicaid and defense spending fraud? Or closing loopholes and forcing giant corporations like GE to actually pay tax? Going after small farmers is nothing but a sideshow, a diversion, an attack on a group that doesn't provide lobbyist bribes.

    July 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Steve Lyons

      Much like the state run farms of the USSR, where they can induce crop failures to skyrocket prices. Just like the mega banks, unless the farm is private, it needs to be broken up into smaller competitive operations so the little guy can make a living too.

      July 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
      • springbrook

        I don't know of any "public" owned farms, most of the "corporate farms" are owned by families that had multiple members so incorporating the farm makes taxes and salaries easier. You could farm 100 acres and still have a corporate farm.

        November 7, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • Steve Lyons

      Much like the state run farms of communist countries, where they can induce crop failures to skyrocket prices. Just like the mega banks, unless the farm is private, it needs to be broken up into smaller competitive operations so the little guy can make a living too.

      July 28, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Steve Lyons


      July 28, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
      • Steve Lyons

        Break up the corporate owned farms.

        July 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
        • Thermionic

          so you want govt to regulAte who can and cannot farm?

          July 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
        • NYFarmer

          Just give a level playing field. The biggest farms get tax breaks, massive grants, volume premiums I'm contracts

          July 29, 2012 at 4:14 am |
        • Texas Turkey

          Don't break up the huge farms just take away subsidies for farms GROSSING $1 million or more–at that level they shouyld be able to sink or swim–the problem is the politicians who have their hands in the pockets of the corporate farms

          August 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  33. CatsMeow

    The stats presented haven't changed my mind -just reinforced what I already knew. I'll likely never say that family-owned farms are a problem. If anything, I think they're gems. I value them for their commitment, passion and knowledge.

    "Bad business model" on the part of family-owned farms, MY FOOT!!! The problem is large-scale, aggressive, predatory agribusiness: Patenting naturally occurring and heirloom seed -something agribusinesses have done and do- is greedy and arrogant. Suing families out of their farms because the GM crop next door pollinated (and contaminated) theirs and they aren't licensed by the company to grow that product is EVIL. Not allowing farmers to collect seeds from their GM crops is WASTEFUL and GREEDY.

    July 28, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  34. Fred Evil

    Sorry to hear it is so hard to profit at farming. Perhaps you ought to consider a more consistent business?
    Or perhaps food prices should be higher?

    July 28, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • New England Country Girl

      He probably could go find a more consistant income... the problem is, enough farmers do that, and we'll be importing more and more of our food. Prices will go up to cover shipping and import taxes. We will be at the mercy of whoever is feeding us... If they have a famine or drought, our costs go up even further. Without farmers in our own country farming our land, raising our meat, we will eventually starve. We already import too much to our country. Personally, we need more farms... more industry. The more we make here, be it food or otherwise, the less we have to pay to other countries to import it here.

      July 30, 2012 at 6:42 am |
  35. NYFarmer

    Urban media marginalizes the small to average sized farm by consistently talking only about the massive farms. Mark Bittman most recent example where he throws out statistic telling consumers that the fluid milk people drink cones only from massive farms. This varies tremendously by foodshed. Yet he has used his media power to blast the farms that supply NYC with their milk. We average 100 cow farms on 6000 NY farms.

    July 28, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Ed Huber

      Mark Bittman is a food columnist, not an ag specialist. Why do they have him on as an ag specialist? I'm puzzled.

      June 21, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  36. Guest

    re-read. good points. The problem here and what causes this issues fo 'farmers' being rich is the large/super farms that rake in huge tax breaks Plus subsidies.

    As most farmers I know our small. Most are conservative. But not one does a dam thing about this situation.

    Tax breaks and subdsidies shoud only go to farmers who need it.

    But- I Do Not Want The Money I bust my ass for Going To FOR – PROFIT Companies. Being conservative voice here- IF Yuo cannot make a go of the business then you need to go out of business. Period. Large or small. I do not do volutnerr work at for profits companies and I will be dammed if I will give them money.

    The aveage Joe farmer needs to change the way business is done and start making a profit. OBviously ther current biz model all farmers use they cannot make a profit or survive. Bad Biz strategy that again- I shoudl not have to pay for.

    But this is america so my I must work to support peopel who make a profit and those who can't run a business.


    July 28, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • Steve Lyons

      All tax breaks for "farms" need to only be available to those with gross revenue less than $1,000,000. Any farm that exceeds $50,000,000. needs to "pay their fair share", to quote communist Obama.

      July 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
      • BorderSprings

        Just for clarity, there are no "farm" specific income tax breaks, although some communities have a different property tax rate for agricultural land than for personal residential. Like all businesses, a farm is taxed on their net income – Gross Revenue (which does include any government payments) minus expenses. What many call "tax breaks" are just the expenses, i.e. feed, diesel fuel, labor, etc., just like any other business. Farms are taxed just like all other businesses. Any farm business created under a S-corp or LLC has the net income taxed as personal income of the owners.

        July 28, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
      • jc

        Why not do away with farm subsidies altogether? Europe did it years ago. There would be some turbulence but things would settle out. Do we really need to subsidize farming when ground and crops are bringing record prices?

        August 5, 2012 at 10:55 am |
        • Ed Huber

          Europe did not get rid of subsidies. See Reuters 2/8/13 'Farm Subsidies Still Get Top Share of EU...':

          "As a result, farm subsidies will consume some 38 percent of the EU budget for 2014-2020, equivalent to 363 billion euros ($485.7 billion) of the 960 billion total, or around 50 billion euros a year."

          Ummm...I think EU subsidies Ag at a much higher level (>3X) than the US.

          June 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  37. Guest

    Tax breaks and subsidies not taken into account.

    July 28, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • BorderSprings

      The data presented in this article includes all Government Payments, e.g. subsidies, as part of "Gross Revenue" and "Gross Sales". The data is available for all to see by following the links to the USDA Agricultural Survey and the U.S. Census Report.

      July 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  38. ma & pa

    Thankyou for telling it like it is. Most people have little or no idea of how to survive on the land, or how to coax enough food from it to feed others, or even what a farmer really is, and by their missinformed criticisms make the farmers life more difficult. Public, please think before you speak and make those words be questions related to learning, not condemnation of the farmer.

    July 28, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  39. Thermionic

    Amazing amount of investment and care in a business where you can't control all of the variables. thank you for assuming those risks to ensure America's food security and your share of a $140 billion export market for farm goods. Better years ahead!

    July 27, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  40. NYFarmer

    Wow! Fantastic article.

    July 27, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
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