Letter from Langdon: Dear Diary

Farm programs and markets (or the lack of them) are reducing the number of farms year by year. Eventually, there will only be one, The Farm Inc.

Share This:

May 1, 2040

Dear Diary:

Today there is only one farm left in America.

An old farmer once said: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come”

Mark made it sound simple. You reap what you sow.

In spite of Biblical warnings to the contrary, all the farmers in America have finally been replaced by a wholly owned subsidiary of The Seed Company, Inc., which in turn is owned by The Chemical Company, Inc. The single giant limited liability farm corporation will be called simply The Farm, Inc.

Thanks in part to unlimited government support for any farm, no matter how large, we have reached this ultimate pinnacle of success. If critics of small farm agriculture are correct in saying that large farms are more efficient, it can’t get any better than this.

That doesn’t leave us much to look forward to, does it?

Diary, many may have forgotten how The Farm, Inc. came to pass. I remember that it was planted in our farm and food policies eons ago. 

Back in 2010, a different old farmer told me, “What we need isn’t more cows, we need more cowboys. And we don’t need ten 10,000-acre farmers as much as we need one hundred 1,000-acre farmers.”

In those days everyone was free to soak up as much Federal money as they could. The only chance little guys had was by getting bigger. And when farmers got bigger, rural towns just got smaller and smaller as 1,000 farmers became 100, then 10, and now only one.

It was all done in the name of efficiency and profit.

Eventually we turned livestock operations over to the The Packer, Inc., who worked with The Retailer, Inc. so that today, only the biggest can pay to play the game.

Jack Delano
One hundred years ago, in 1940, this is the way an American farm looked — small and near a thriving town. This was John P. Collins’s farm in Taunton, Mass.

All they really had to do to make it work so well was keep profits at the upper end of the food chain. When they took profit away from growers, the growers gave them what they wanted all along —total control. But even after all that consolidation, there are still people in the world who are hungry. That’s because the hungriest people are also the poorest people.

Efficiency and profit have nothing to do with feeding the underprivileged.

It’s like those games of keep-away we used to play in grade school. The little kids never had a chance against the big kids unless somebody dropped the ball. That didn’t happen much on school playgrounds, or on the farm either. First I’m it. Now I’m out.

My farmer neighbors have all moved away here in 2040. There’s no reason to stay. “Rural” is just another name for “ghost” when it comes to our towns.

Whatever farm labor isn’t done with robots is accomplished by nomad immigrants who come and go with the seasons from China or Korea. Next year they may come from India or South America. It all depends on where labor is the cheapest for The Farm, Inc. 

Of course without cheap labor, corporations can’t make the dough they want, and so we have to buy our bread from countries where work pays less. No matter where the food comes from, however, the same corporations control it. Back when we had family farms, income may have left something to be desired, but the people who did the work took pride in what they did. We didn’t have to go far to buy their products, either.

We’ve gone from having the brotherhood of man to the smaller brotherhood of global businessmen.

This is what I call progress.

BBC
Farming, collective style, in the Soviet Union in 1933.

In the early 20th century a Russian dictator named Stalin decided that in the name of efficiency, all of Soviet agriculture should be collectivized. Stalin envisioned huge fields worked by fleets of state owned farm tractors.

In an almost biblical purge, Stalin kicked farmers off their land. Some of them he killed, others he relocated far from home. Loading huddled masses onto cattle cars doesn’t look good on the six o’clock news, so in more modern times we’ve seen economics and farm programs used as means to the same end.

I suppose I should be grateful for small favors.

But Stalin failed, because output fell on his big farm collectives while production on small plots of land by individual peasant farmers increased. Stalin didn’t realize that the best way to enslave people is by convincing them they want to work for almost nothing, not by telling them they have to.

About a century later there was a study done at Stanford University showing that when land is readily available, more small farmers go to work. But if land becomes expensive and hard to get, small farms tend to disappear.

Stalin used his political power to do the same thing that focused government subsidies did for large farms. They both deprived farmers of the opportunity to farm by limiting the availability of both land and income.

Nothing remains the same, of course. The latest news out of Washington is that America’s one big farm isn’t efficient enough to compete with the one farm in Asia, where labor is dirt cheap. Too much competition limits profit and threatens production which in turn, they say, means more of the world’s people will go hungry. There’s talk of a merger.

Combined, Farm, Inc./USA and Farm, Inc./Asia should be very efficient.

 

x

News Briefs