Monday, September 26, 2011

Corporate greed stretches beyond factory to family farmland

Nebraska family farm.
Here's another guest post from Rally Girl, a Nebraska native:

The war on workers isn’t just about city slickers whose manufacturing jobs disappear or public sector workers who can’t form unions. It’s a war on country folk, too.

Young, rural Americans are finding it harder and harder to do what members of their families have done for generations: farm. Young family farmers today are competing against polluting, power-hungry corporate farms and ultra-rich investors who are buying up farmland at never-before-seen prices. Prices are so high that farmers starting out can’t afford to buy the land they’ve lived and worked on for most of their young lives.

Clayton Masters at NPR reports:

Utica, Neb., banker Larry Rogers says that unless young people are left farmland by their family, they're pretty much out of luck.

"It has gotten more difficult with prices as they are today — even with the good prices for grain, I think it's more difficult for a young person to get started," Rogers says.

Ernie Goss, an economist at Omaha's Creighton University, says agriculture's appeal as an investment is one of the reasons for the drop.

"[Some people are] sitting in New York [and] saying, 'Well, I don't know, I've never even been to Nebraska, but by golly, I'm going to buy some Nebraska land,' " Goss says. "And you have these groups coming together ... that are buying farmland [and] driving up farmland prices to prices we've not seen before."
This is just another way the rich are getting richer by squeezing the middle class into poverty. But don’t think it affects rural Americans only. When farmers can’t farm, a plethora of problems develop:

• Pollution: Farmers are stewards of the land and understand the importance of preserving and conserving land for future generations. Family farmers are more likely to use techniques that preserve natural resources, unlike factory farms, which pollute the environment.

• High Unemployment: Without family farms, rural areas are left with high rates of unemployment and little opportunity for economic growth. Where family farms dominate, there are more schools, more businesses, more economic growth and more civic participation.

• Low Economic Development: Equitable land distribution fuels economic development. Researchers point to post-war countries as proof. When farm families achieve buying power, markets in fledging industries rise, making economic development possible.