Sunday, December 24, 2006

Harvesting Cash: Myth of the Small Farmer

The cornerstone of the multibillion-dollar system of federal farm subsidies is an iconic image of the struggling family farmer: small, powerless against Mother Nature, tied to the land by blood.
Without generous government help, farm-state politicians say, thousands of these hardworking families would fail, threatening the nation's abundant food supply.

This imagery secures billions annually in what one grower called "empathy payments" for farmers. But it is misleading.

Today, most of the nation's food is produced by modern family farms that are large operations using state-of-the-art computers, marketing consultants and technologies that cut labor, time and costs. The owners are frequently college graduates who are as comfortable with a spreadsheet as with a tractor.

In 2003, the owners of the biggest family farms reported an average household income of $214,200, more than three times that of U.S. households on average, and in the top 3% of American households by income.

From a
recent article in the Washington Post's series on "Harvesting Cash: Working a Farm Subsidy."

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