The Time to End Farm Subsidies is Now

I try to avoid discussing and mixing politics with my posts but frankly it’s impossible when government is so heavily involved in agriculture. The very existence of government subsidies (read tax payer $) is what keeps destructive, corporate agriculture alive and thriving. I see it all the time, other small farmers and consumers calling for equal or greater subsidies to small farmers. The thought seems to be that it’s only fair that if the government is going to help the big guys, the little guys should get “help” too. It doesn’t make the farmers more prosperous, it brings in corporate interests who, like hyenas following the scent of blood from a dying animal, see an opportunity to line their pockets and grow their portfolios. This is how we got the Archer Daniel-Midland, Cargill, Tyson, Smithfields and others.

There are several government programs (tax $) that give small, beginning, and minority farmers money to “help” them get started or to implement practices that are conservation minded. Now when we first got started, I did look into some of these government grants and programs. What I found was just more ridiculous bureaucratic foolishness that wastes money, time and resources. For example, I had a well on the property we were leasing. I wanted to explore the possibility of using that well for irrigation and for watering livestock. Our government would not allow for that, they required that  we drill a new well. Not only did they require a new well be drilled, but that we install a pump that is twice as big as we needed!

I don’t advocate for applying for such programs simply because of how infuriatingly wasteful and inefficient I found them to be, but I came to the conclusion that they are unethical. Several years ago, I met a family who farms as their sole source of income after losing their construction business.  They shared with me that they refused to seek any government funds because it was not right for them to take money that had been taken from fellow tax payers for the sake of helping their farm pay for fencing, seeds, equipment and such. I couldn’t agree with them more. If I want to be a farmer, let it be by my own merit, not by looking for a hand out.

 

But back to the whole ending subsidy idea. There are many who will say that I’m an uneducated idiot for suggesting such a thing and that doing so would force farmers out of business and that the corporations would just get stronger.  Well, they’re wrong and I can prove it. Back in the 1980’s, New Zealand was in a financial crisis. Government spending was 44% of the GDP and the national debt was 65% of the GDP. A newly elected government recognized that some drastic had to be done and one of those drastic measures was to eliminate agricultural subsidies immediately. They didn’t slowly phase them out or put them on some 10 year reduction plan. Overnight the money stopped, cold turkey.

New Zealand’s economy is even more dependent on agriculture than the United States and many predicted a disaster. Well a disaster never happened. The corporations didn’t take over, corporations love welfare and since the government wasn’t handing out any more, small family farms stepped up and the corporate conglomerates lost power. Read the following excerpts with links to articles.

“The removal of farm subsidies in New Zealand gave birth to a vibrant, diversified, and growing rural economy, and it debunked the myth that farming cannot prosper without subsidies. Thus rather than passing another big government farm bill that taxpayers can’t afford, the U.S. Congress should step back and explore the proven alternative of free market farming.”

<a href=”https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/1680259″>https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/1680259</a>

Today, New Zealand’s farmers are some of the world’s most productive and innovative.

Removing government assistance completely, New Zealand officials say, freed farmers to produce what people really want, and to do so in an efficient way that could turn a profit.

Since the reforms, New Zealand farmers have cut costs, diversified their land use, and developed new products, Clark says.

Additionally, productivity in agriculture has grown faster than the New Zealand economy as a whole.

http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/22/what-happened-when-new-zealand-got-rid-of-government-subsidies-for-farmers/

By 1984, New Zealand sheep farming was receiving about 44 percent of its income from government subsidies. Its major product was lamb, and lamb in the international marketplace was selling for about $12.50 (with the government providing another $12.50)per carcass. Well, we did away with all sheep farming subsidies within one year. And of course the sheep farmers were unhappy. But once they accepted the fact that the subsidies weren’t coming back, they put together a team of people charged with figuring out how they could get $30 per lamb carcass. The team reported back that this would be difficult, but not impossible. It required producing an entirely different product, processing it in a different way and selling it in different markets. And within two years, by 1989, they had succeeded in converting their $12.50 product into something worth $30. By 1991, it was worth $42; by 1994 it was worth $74; and by 1999 it was worth $115. In other words, the New Zealand sheep industry went out into the marketplace and found people who would pay higher prices for its product. You can now go into the best restaurants in the U.S. and buy New Zealand lamb, and you’ll be paying somewhere between $35 and $60 per pound.

https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Rolling-Back-the-Government-Lessons-from-New-Zealand-April-2004.pdf

If you ask me, this is what the American Farmer needs.

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Why Do Small Farmers Fail?

As a small farmer, I have been alarmed at just how many small farms close down. I mean with all the hype and excitement over eating real food, connecting with food, and becoming more aware about what we are eating, you’d think all these new startup farms would be wild successes, but they’re not and I predict this will be a continuing trend.

I was listening to a farm entrepreneur podcast recently and this statistic blew me away, 80% of small farms will fail in 2 years and in five years it becomes 98%! When I heard that I had to rewind it to make sure I heard it right. The reason? Cashflow, plain and simple. The reasons for the cashflow problems vary; a catastrophe strikes that they can’t recover from, their chosen specialty is too narrow of a niche market, they have no marketing/business plan, or family (usually spouse). I think most often it is a combination of these but the one that seems to be a most common denominator is the family/spouse factor. I’ve heard of cases w

here one spouse was willing to give it a go but after moving out to the country, watching the bank account dwindle, and not too distant memories of how life was before keep surfacing.

Several years ago, a fellow named Kevin came out to volunteer and help out on the farm. One day while we were cleaning out the chick brooder, Kevin posed a question that went something like this, “What would you tell someone who wants to farm but his/her spouse isn’t into it?” My reply was, “If you love your wife, don’t start a farm. Nothing will test a relationship like farm life.” I think Kevin only came back one or two times after that. I don’t mean to be a gloomy gus about it, but I have seen marriages and family ties broken because of a failed farm venture.

Here’s a list of farms who in our short existence have either completely ceased operation or downsized to the point that they are no longer operating as a business.

One farm made award winning sheep’s milk cheese closed their creamery and sold all their sheep at the beginning of 2017. Apparently award winning cheese doesn’t mean you’re destined for success, even if you’re in Chattahoochee Hills.

A vegetable farm with a growing CSA lasted about 4 years until severe flooding destroyed their vegetable farm. They had just expanded and built a greenhouse near Rockmart, GA.

Another vegetable farm in Douglasville, GA closed up not long after I had met with them about partnering with us to sell their organic vegetables.

A farm in Ball Ground, GA was a small family farm focused on pastured poultry and pastured pork. They closed down about a year ago and I got the impression that they as a family were just worn out.

Most recently a small farm founded by friends of mine also in Ball Ground, just closed up after three years. They blessed us with an eggmobile complete with chickens.

Finally, one of the most horrendous instances was the family who took over our lease at our previous location. I gave them a good deal of advice that they did not follow and a year later, they had vacated the property, abandoning not only their lease but also goats, pigs, and chickens. Sadly several of these animals starved before they could be rescued.

So how are new farmers supposed to succeed? What does the successful beginning farmer look like. Well, that’s going to be for another post because I need to get busy doing the things necessary to keep East West Farm afloat.

Blizzard 2017

For us in the South, this is a blizzard. Because this is such a rare occurrence, I took a walk around the pastures and climbed up to Cannon Ball Gap where I explored some ruins.

We get some enjoyment from the snow for the first few hours and it stops being fun after the heifer escapes because the electric fence has been grounded out, or the chickens fill their feeder with shavings. Any way, I hope you enjoy the following photos.

Are you a new, beginning or soon to be farmer? Do you have the necessary tools to market and operate your farm business? Is your farm flourishing or floundering? Most new farm operations fail in 2-5 years. This is where we get our helping hand.

Farm Marketing Business Academy – Small Farm Nation – Farm Marketing & Business Courses

https://smallfarmnation.com/academy/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03sJO3kXwb0&feature=share

A friend of mine from way back drove across the country to deliver a very precious package.

Children are our most important product.

Yeah I know, children aren’t a “product”, but of everything that comes out of our farming endeavors, our kids (or the adults the will become) have the highest value. I don’t say that just because they are my kids and I’m biased. It’s a sentiment that is common throughout agriculture. Farm kids as a whole become some incredible people. This didn’t become evident to me until I heard it from a dairyman I was buying a cow from several years ago. He’s the one who told me the most important thing we produce is children.

Even if none of them choose the farm life, I’m confident that we’ll have raised some of the most honest, ethical, and compassionate people.

Here’s a few photos of our kids at work.

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No More “NON-GMO” Feed

As of 2018, we will no longer be feeding feeds that are NON-GMO. Oh, we’re not switching to GMOs if that’s what you’re thinking, we’re switching to Organic.

Some folks make the mistaken assumption that because Genetically Modified Organisms aren’t permitted in certified Organic products, on equates (or comes close to) the other. That’s far from the truth. I’ve recently learned the truth and it makes me sick. I have long believed that organic feedstuff contains far superior nutrition and would be the best choice for our animals, namely the ones we would be eating. We actually fed organic feed several years ago and suffered a financial loss when one of our freezers that was packed full of organic fed, pasture raised chicken quit working. We estimated that we lost about $3000 and for a very small operation, that was a huge loss. It was a loss big enough that we became hyper-cautious with our budget and sought out an alternative.

When I found Non-GMO feed from Tucker Milling, I thought I had found the holy grail. Well not holy but I believed this was the answer to all of our feed problems, but not just ours, this could be the answer for all small livestock producers. There’s no gmo corn, gmo soy, gmo cottonseed, gmo rape (canola) and it was so much more affordable! I thought that I would never look back, but here I am. After feeding it for several years, I can definitely say that it does not deliver anywhere close to the nutrition that an organic feed does. First of all, the birds we raised did not perform as well as the organic fed birds we raised in the past. They seem to be much more susceptible to environmental extremes and were not as robust. Plus, I have been able to do a near side by side comparison between the birds we raised this year and the ones raised by a friend who feeds organic.

Now when I first made the decision that we were not going to use feed from Tucker, I initially considered other Non-GMO feeds. Both Hiland Naturals and Resaca Sun Feeds are certified by the Non GMO Project. I was speaking with a friend about this and she shared with me an experience she had while picking up feed from Resaca’s feed mill. While sitting in their parking lot, she observes a tanker truck pull in, on that truck is the name  Monsanto. This tanker is delivering Glysophate (Roundup) and she watches as they fill the tank of a spay rig on a tractor, which then goes out into Resaca Sun’s fields and starts spraying. After hearing this, I called the Non GMO Project to ask if they certify products regardless of pesticide/herbicide use. Their answer, “Yes we do.” So even though they certify a product as being GMO free, it very well could (and probably does) contain grains that were sprayed with Roundup prior to harvest. Here’s a video I did on our YouTube channel about this.

So what are we supposed to do? How can I feed something I now know to be poisonous? I can’t. There is no other choice but to go Organic.