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Highlighted
Honored Advisor

Re: Decline of farmers

I wonder, and have never really researched this question: How many actually commercail faremrs were at work in past generations, comapred to today? 

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In our county the number of farm workers is about the same but the number of farms according to fsa is about half what it was 50 yrs back.

 

 

A lot of people farmed at - or very near - subsistence levels.  Is this really "farming" in the modern sense of producing commodities for sale? 

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This is the important, yet ignored and denied fact in regard to the decline in "the historic family farm".  We want to honor those who have gone before, but we don't want to live a life of sacrafice and "subsistence".
In our county now the average employee of farms lives a better lifestyle and comparative salary level than most of the independant farmers did 50 yrs back.
This generation of changes is technological.----------the previous generation change was from subsistance to business-----
We cannot accept one and deny the other.
Hogs-----------We got out in '92----------industrially massive change from the 50 yrs back-----and amazingly  relocated by intrusive regulation.  
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Highlighted
Senior Advisor

Re: Decline of farmers

Do you really think regulation is what put hog farmers out of business?

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Highlighted
Honored Advisor

Re: Decline of farmers

No I didn't say that.  I do think it relocated a large % of production to new areas------ie, there are 4 hog feed mills in our area feeding over a million bushels of corn per week-------this is an area that had very few hogs 20 years ago.---cattle country.

 

Locally in NC, regulation probably has reduced the number of hogs by regulation-------that is where some of our development came from.   

 

Intrusive was probably a bad word for me to use.---------but the regulation that came urbanization, even in Iowa, has pushed some of the new development into more arid less populated areas.

Not necessarily bad changes.----------But can be stressfull on locations caught in the change.

 

But without a doubt, local, state, and federal regulation has been the driver in forcing changes in hog production---including location.

If the hog farmer(in certain locations) was unwilling to rebuild or move with the change, then individually the answer in some cases would have to be yes, regulation had that effect.  Few towns have moved to accomodate hog farms.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Decline of farmers

Interestingly enough, hog numbers actually increased after the moratorium on new lagoons, i think.  Some of that was operations already in the pipeline, some of which were doubtless proposed in a hurry, before the moratorium could be enacted.  The law of unintended consequences works that way. 

 

A later subset of expansions,  which generated a good increase in hog numbers, were due to a provision in the general permit, which a regulator mentioned to me one day in a telephone conversation.  My brain latched onto the phrase, and I asked him for a definition. 

After grasping the concept, I borrowed a couple of our integrator's stick men, to measure my lagoons, all fo which had been built larger than specified. 

 

The company's PE-WA plugged my new numbers into the lagoon design criteria, and I applied for an "expansion' without any new construction.  The moratorium prohibited new lagoon construction only. 

 

With a slight tweak, which actually more accurately reflected the intention of the rule, I formally proposed permitting our excess lagoon capacity, not accounted for in the orignal calculations in the permit for our farm.    As much as they hated to permit it, I am sure, the agency admitted my point was entirely valid, and increased our farm's average stocking density by almost 80%. 

 

It cost me $16 for sending the packet to the agency by UPS, since I wanted it  there with delivery confirmation. I know that our farrowing source at the time asked for my secret, and I eventually shared it with a compny VP, who somehow had never heard of such a thing.  I have since been told that "many" farms have taken advantge of this type of amendment.  My little listening session, converted to an innovative interpretation, has made a huge difference in permitted revenue. 

 

Besides that, there are ways to define internal paperwork, to show pigs on a farm where they aren't counted (at teh farrower) as individual head, until the serviceman arrives at the receiving farm the next morning, and fomally "places" them in the census.  This one "day in transit" - a term I defined and devised, in a discussion with our production VP - buys roughy 2% more nursery spaces, in the same buildings, permit-wise. 

 

We convinced the intergrator that holding pigs on feed in nurseries for four to six  extra days had a similar effect on finishing spaces needed for the same herd, and we earned more money for the added weight gain (roughly 8%)...but they got the spaces they needed to finish out more hogs in the same buildings, too.  This can translate to huge savings for transportation of feed and animals as well. 

 

Small increments of permitted capacity, gained by using such definitions to the producer's advantage, are perfectly legitimate, and are made in the light of full permit compliance.  I always say I can find a way to work the best side of any rule written, if you give me the definitions of the terms within it.  Any that you havent' defined, you have left open to my interpretation. 

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Honored Advisor

Re: Decline of farmers

Interesting side note---------thanks.

 

Do  you think I was wrong on the expansion out here coming from NC?   We had such enormous growth in just a few years by Seaboard, Texas Farms, Hitch Pork(Local Company), Dekalb, and another european owned company,------it was hard to believe it was all new growth.  I do know that much of the breeding stock came from the east.

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At the same time we got huge dairys moving in from California (also a move brought about by regulation).  New dairy development also came to the area with it.

From Lubbock texas area to Goodland, Ks the growth the last 25 years has been huge in number of animals on feed, concidering cattle, hogs, and dairy animals.  

That is a lot of freight to be added to milk and meat to the high population areas of the US.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Decline of farmers

To be totally honest, I don't follow industry trends and politics the way  I once did.  We built enough of a farm to wear us all out to start with, so have no expansion goals.  There has to be a wad of local hogs for the plants here, so they don't go idle when the weaehr prevents Midwest hogs from arriving, if nothing else. 

 

Here in NC, the hog business has been vertically integrated for a pretyt long time now.  There are certain driving forces for the industry to settle in any given place. 

 

Our integrator has done a lot of deconstruction./reconstruction over the past few years, to improve biosecurity,  and also move the main bulk of feed for finishers and the finished hogs themselves closer to the feed mills and plants.  Sows and nurseries can lie further out, and even those pyramids are being more efficiently organized, transportation-wise. 

 

Should have been done long ago...but the Big Oink of the '90s was not necessarily an organized explosion. 

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Advisor

Re: Decline of farmers toughguy

I am late in this conversation, toughguy, however, what now seems as a steal back then at $1,000/acre was pretty steep when looking at it from the bottom.  I couldn't even afford 500 dollar land back then, even if it were completely financed.  You build equity over time and over economic cycles.  Do your best to rent land as others have said here.  In time, your equity will improve if you manage it right and economic cycles will present good opportunities, even with land prices where they are now.  They won't always be high as they will fluctuate over time.  Just try to be ready the next time they dip.

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Highlighted

Re: Decline of farmers

Don't give the BTOs an edge with a continuation of the crop insurance subsidy. If the politics are too strong to do away with it entirely, cap it in some form.

 

Farm Bureau's policy is to push for a continuation of that subsidy. Don't belong to FB or buy their insurance.

 

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Senior Advisor

Re: Decline of farmers toughguy

What I would add is to stay focused on buying land if that is their objective. Stashng cash when you have windfall profits such as now. One must prepare for that opportunity before the opportunity presents itself.

 

Investing in IRAs actually removes working capital from your down payment stash. The same as buying equipment that you may not need. Or is less important than you might think.

 

That first land purchase may be two decades after you start farming. The situation where you are prepared and the opportunity comes along. Buying land in your economic infancy will probably require a powerball win.

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Senior Contributor

Re: Decline of farmers

It will be interesting to say the least where we're at in 15 years.  15 years ago, the majority of people ran 8 row equipment.  Back then, the BTO's were operating 12 row equipment.  Today, the majority of people are running 16 row equipment.  The BTO's are running 24-36 row equipment.  It doesn't take a rocket scientiest to see where we're going.  I'd venture to guess in my local area we'll lose closer to 30-50 percent of the number of farmers in the next 15 years.  Part of it is due to age.  Around here, 45-50 is almost considered a young farmer.  The other part is technology.  We're probably not too far from having computerized tractors do all the work without any human interaction other than filling the planter with seed and fertilizer. 

 

Over the years, I've found that most BTO's don't have much staying power.  When times get lean, they get eaten alive.  The only BTO around here that's stood the test of time has done it by being a land developer more so than a farmer.  He's broken out grassland and turned it into irrigated crop land.  The day and age of doing this here is over with all the moratoriums and such placed on groundwater use.  He would break ground in an area and farm it for a decade or so before selling it and then purchasing more ground to develop.  Basically, he made all of his money on the development side. 

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