Widespread publicity from information published by the national census of agriculture showed that, from 2007 through 2012, there are fewer but larger farms in this country. We had also lost some farm land during those years and farmers are getting older.
We all like to eat. So we need to give some serious thought to these trends because the plentiful supply of food on our dinner tables is involved. From farms locally and nationally come the raw materials that get processed into our food supply.
Fewer farms mean fewer sources for that food and possibly higher prices. On the other hand, larger farms have brought about greater efficiencies, higher yields and have helped keep prices at reasonable levels.
To maintain the farms we have and continue our wonderful productivity, we need to make it easier for farmers to farm and for more young people to want to go into the business. But it seems like we are doing just the opposite.
More and more government regulations, harassment by animal rights activists, law suits by environmental groups and media publicity that tends to be anti-farming all are part of the problem.
Taking a look at government regulations, here in Ohio we can expect more regulations on fertilizer application. A bill has already passed the Senate and is being considered by the House. It would require any farm operator applying fertilizer on 50 acres or more of land to take training and be certified. Records would be required and kept for at least two years documenting how much was applied, what kind and where.
Farmers are already required to take training and get an applicator's license to apply restricted pesticides.
EPA is proposing more Agricultural Protection Standards regulations. They would require workers to be trained every year instead of every five and records kept about the training. They propose about a dozen changes under the pesticide application section of the regulations.
Out in Washington State, there is a court case that has big implications for dairy farmers across the country. An issue involving the Safe Drinking Water Act against four dairy farmers was filed by EPA. The situation was resolved about a year ago, but then a group of environmental attorneys filed suit under the Federal Resource Conservation Act (RCRA).
These laws typically regulate dumps, landfills and materials that would be discarded, according to Jay Gordon, executive director of the Washington Dairy Federation. Environmentalists are asking courts to rule that farmers are dumping when nitrates are used to grow crops, using fertilizer or have any drugs in manure that show up in groundwater.
According to Gordon, this ruling would set a precedent across the county. If you apply fertilizer to your corn field or manure on your land, and get a rainstorm that washes nutrients below the root zone, these environmentalists say you are dumping.
This is just one example of actions tried by environmental groups without regard to the implications to our food supply.
Animal rights activist groups also use several tactics that restrict farming and can endanger our food supply. They promote farm practices, in the guise of more humane treatment of animals, that are contrary to commonly accepted and approved practices. And they propose and support legislation that discourages animal agriculture and would cause food prices to go up.
We have media food experts that promote farm practices that they know nothing about. Most of them have never set foot on a farm.
So if we want to make it easier for farmers to farm and younger ones to get into the business, we need to wake up and start using more common sense when it comes to governmental regulations and actions by these anti-agriculture (or anti-food) groups.
Parker is an independent agricultural writer.