Farmers in our area and across the country are all in the same boat - and they all need to row together to keep the boat afloat to provide the abundance that we enjoy.
Right here in this county we have family farms of all sizes, kinds and types of agriculture. The variety of farms and people who operate them is interesting and they all have reasons for farming the way they do.
Family farms vary in size from 75 acres to more than 3,000 in this county. And they are all important regardless of size.
We have this huge difference in farm size for several reasons. Many smaller farms are hobby or part-time, and income is subsidized by off-farm work that also provides fringe benefits.
Smaller farms where no one works off the farm can stay in business by managing an efficient operation. They may not have much debt load and keep their production at high levels. Yields of corn, soybeans and other crops are at top levels with efficient use made of fertilizers and good seed.
Most, if not all, the labor on small, full-time farms with no off-farm work is family labor. And that family income needs to be enough to provide a decent level of living.
A concern often voiced by folks on these farms is the cost of maintaining their own health insurance. It can cost a bundle, depending on the kind of coverage.
Small farms also tend to keep costs down by avoiding expensive new equipment. They don't get the "new-paint disease" that affects some farmers. Or they make equipment last longer through good maintenance.
Farmers on smaller farms, important as they are, are in the same boat as the larger ones and they need to work together.
Looking at the bigger picture, we find that about three-fourths of our food in this country is produced on the larger family farms. These are farms of 400 or 500 acres and on up to several thousands of acres. This is where the most efficient food production comes from.
No, these are not huge corporate farms. We don't have a corporate farm in the county. Across the U.S., about 3 percent of farms are corporate farms, and many of those have family ties. Food production from these farms is about 17 percent of our supply, which is important.
A recent study done by Kansas State University found that farm size has the largest impact on making a profit. This says economy of size is still important and that larger farms are generally more efficient and profitable than smaller ones.
Yields per acre or per cow are also important to making a profit. Pushing the pencil very hard to keep production costs down was also a major factor in making a profit.
In short, the study pointed out the efficiencies that go with size and crunching the numbers to make sure wise decisions are being made are essential.
Unfortunately, we have smaller farmers critical of the larger ones. Or organic farmers trying to say that their food is safer than that from conventional farms, which is not backed up by any proof. With the negative information about our agriculture coming from several sources today, we need all farmers working together regardless of size or type to tell the true story of today's abundance.
We don't promote our own product by negative about a product from someone else. So let's row the boat together and keep agriculture's true story told!
Parker is an independent agricultural writer and works with the local Farm Bureau Board.