chapter  2
46 Pages

Land and food: Who controls production and marketing?

WithJoseph N. Belden, Vincent P. Wilber, Enid Kassner, Rus Sykes, Ed Cooney, Lynn Parker, Alan Sanders, Cynthia Schneider, Marsha Simon

This chapter examines both production and marketing. It addresses credit, tax and commodity price-support programs – all of which have promoted concentration because they remove a considerable amount of risk from farming. The adoption of mechanical and, later, chemical technologies meant that a single farmer could cultivate much larger areas of land. Like other businesses in the American economy, agriculture needs financing. In fact, agriculture has become capital-intensive and is becoming more so each year. But most farmers are overcapitalized, deeply in debt and out on a financial limb. Changes in marketing technology and methods of procurement have mostly moved toward larger producers selling to larger food-processing buyers. The Federal Trade Commission has backed away from close scrutiny of the food industry. The farmer gets a better price by selling directly to consumers; the consumer may get a better price and certainly gets fresher, higher quality food; and both sides benefit from face-to-face contact.