small farms

Report: Iowa’s hyper-consolidated hog industry drives income inequality

The increasing dominance of large factory farms in Iowa means hog farmers earn $2 less per pound of pork than they did 40 years ago, when the state had many more smaller farms, according to a new report by the nonprofit advocacy group Food & Water Watch.

Micro-farm crop insurance policy will debut in 2022

Small farmers who sell their products locally are eligible for a new micro-farm policy, said the Risk Management Agency, which oversees the federally subsidized crop insurance system. The policy, which simplifies recordkeeping and covers post-production costs, is available for 2022 crops.

Loan guarantees for ‘middle of the supply chain’

The USDA will create a $100 million loan-guarantee program to expand processing capacity in the meat industry and improve the infrastructure of the food chain, announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday. The program is "focused on the middle of the supply chain," he said, such as mobile processing units, new cold storage equipment and formation of cooperatives to gather, process and market farm goods.

House bill aims for more local meat production

Small livestock producers often face the problem of finding a meat processor who is located nearby or with the available capacity when their animals are ready for slaughter. Reps Chellie Pingree and Jeff Fortenberry said the bottleneck would be eased under their bill, filed on Tuesday, that …

With industrial meat hobbled, small producers are seeing a surge in sales. Can it last?

With industrial meat operations struggling to stay open, consumers are turning in droves to smaller producers to keep them in beef, pork, chicken and lamb, as Stephen R. Miller reports in FERN's latest story, published with HuffPost. Miller's story takes a close look at one operation, SkyPilot Farm in Longmont, Colorado, which is run by Chloe Johnson and her husband Craig Scariot. Since the outbreak, sales at SkyPilot have increased about 400 percent and the customer base has tripled.(No paywall)

Dairy farmers may have to get big to survive, says Perdue

In a state losing two dairy farms a day, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Tuesday that it’s hard to make a living with a small herd of cows. The “economies of scale having happened in America—big get bigger and small go out,” Perdue said at a dairy show in Wisconsin, in comments …

Family farming on a precipice, Wisconsin farmers warn

Corporate consolidation and low commodity prices are posing an existential threat to small, family farms, farmers warned at an event hosted by the Wisconsin Farmers Union in Madison last week. Several producers, from small organic growers to commodity milk farmers, shared stories about how tough farming has become.

Spanish pigs touch down in Georgia, birthing a new ham

For centuries, a coveted type of ham — jamón ibérico de bellota — has been produced from a special breed of pigs in Spain. Now a Georgia farmer is aiming to create an American version of the iconic food, writes Maryn McKenna in FERN’s latest story, produced with Eater. No paywall

Rising share of farm income comes from off-farm work

New estimates from USDA say that this year, 82 percent of farm income will come from off-farm jobs. That’s up from just 53 percent in 1960, demonstrating how falling farm incomes have turned “what was once a way of life into a part-time job,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

Big farms get bigger as U.S. farm numbers get smaller

U.S. farm numbers continue to drift lower, dropping to 2.048 million according to a USDA survey conducted last June, only a shadow of their peak during the Depression. At the same time that the total falls, the portion of land operated by the biggest farms, the powerhouses with more than $1 million a year in sales, continues to grow, now covering a quarter of all farmland.

Small farms, despite hardship, get less U.S. farm support

A new report from the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service found that as much as 75 percent of small farms in the U.S. are experiencing serious financial risks, compared to around 30 percent of large farms. The report, “America’s Diverse Family Farms,” concluded that despite their high level of risk, small farmers are also less likely to receive government farm supports, which disproportionately are allocated towards large-scale farms.

Foraging, the newest step in hyper-local craft beer

In the small town of Ava in southern Illinois, brewers Marika Josephson and Aaron Kleidon take a look outside when they need ingredients for their brewery. With a garden on their property and a "commitment to sourcing their hops and malt close to home," Scratch Brewery "is part of a new movement of breweries that want to use foraged beers—beverages brewed with wild ingredients sourced hyper-locally—to educate drinkers about agriculture," says Civil Eats.

In California, looking in the hedgerow for a cash crop

Four farmers in California's Central Valley are part of a two-year project to see if elderberry bushes, commonly grown in hedgerows along the boundaries of a field, can be a profitable crop. The blue elderberry, a native plant in California, produces clusters of small, bluish-black berries with a sweet-tart flavor, says the University of California's agriculture and natural resources division.

House bill expands access to crop insurance for small and beginning farmers

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan unveiled a bill to make crop insurance available at lower cost to beginning farmers, and to make it easier for diversified farmers to get insurance. Less than 50 percent of small farmers, including organic, livestock, fruit and vegetable, and direct-to-consumer operations, have crop insurance, says a small-farm advocacy group.

Climate and culture change threaten New Mexico’s ancient irrigation canals

For hundreds of years, a network of earthen canals that ribbon through New Mexico have been central to a thriving small-farm scene and a communal way of life. But those canals, called acequias, and the way of life they support, are being pushed to the brink by a changing climate, a development boom, and the imperatives of the modern economy, says Alexis Adams in FERN's latest story, published with The Weather Channel. (No paywall)

Big farms account for a larger share of agricultural production

Large farms, with more than $1 million a year in gross income, nearly doubled their share of U.S. agricultural production in the past quarter-century, says USDA's Economic Research Service. As production shifted to larger farms, so did crop subsidies and crop insurance indemnities, says the ERS, which made the comparison on inflation-adjusted revenue figures.

Small-farm coalition wants cap on crop-insurance subsidies to big producers

The federally subsidized crop-insurance program, which costs $8 billion a year, "is an unlimited, uncapped entitlement program," says a coalition of 119 small-farm, organic and land-stewardship groups in farm bill proposals at odds with large-scale agriculture. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition proposed an annual limit of $50,000 in premium subsidies for the major crops, such as corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton, and a limit of $80,000 for higher-value specialty crops, such as fruit and vegetables.

Long Beach may help turn vacant lots to urban farms

City officials in Long Beach, California, are laying the framework for an Urban Agriculture Enterprise Zone program “that would encourage more urban farms to crop up in vacant lots across the city,” says the Press-Telegram.

Large family farms generate 42 percent of U.S. agricultural production

By far, the family-owned-and-operated farm is the prototype of U.S. agriculture: 99 percent of U.S. farms are family farms, say USDA economists. Increasingly, large family farms are the leading source of production; only 2.9 percent of them have more than $1 million a year in gross cash farm income but they deliver 42 percent of U.S. production.

 Click for More Articles