The Mandatory Morphing of America's Family Farms


The United Nations (UN) has declared the years 2019-2028 to be the Decade of Family Farming. With this declaration the UN intends to create opportunities for people to transform existing food systems around the world so they are clean, sustainable, and just both economically and socially.

In this manner the UN hopes our farms can be key actors in helping the world achieve the urgent markers of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Necessary goals, no debate about that. But at the end of the very first year of the special UN Decade (2019), here in America our family farms are swiftly swirling down the drain. It's an economic, climate, environmental, and social catastrophe fast surpassing the tribulations of the 1980s farm crisis. This time, for America and for the world, the stakes are heaps higher.

Time magazine just published a long story on the subject, including the sobering message of Al Davis, a Nebraska cattle producer and former state senator. “Farm and ranch families are facing a great extinction,” he's quoted as saying. “If we lose that rural lifestyle, we have really lost a big part of what made this country great.”

Mr. Davis makes a critical point about America's foundation. It's mutating at a reckless pace. As our agricultural foundation mutates, many other elements of the nation's culture oscillate unsteadily.

Small farms are being thrashed on multiple fronts: a trade war, low crop prices, tottering commodity markets, severe weather associated with climate change, and vertically integrated agribusiness farming corporations dedicated to uniformity, efficiency, and monetary profit. For thousands of farmers this formula is relentlessly leading to debt, bankruptcy, and, inevitably and tragically for some, suicides.

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