To Farm or Not To Farm

Dilemma:

Remove farmland from Conservation Program in order to produce more food?

Food prices are high: farmers will make more money farming this land and selling the crops than they can make through the government program paying them to preserve the land for environmental reasons.

But the Program has been successful: duck populations are high. Hunters like ducks, and duck-lovers like ducks. And a sudden influx of crops into the market will likely drive prices down and the farmers will be worse off than before.

Who will win? Immediate increase in income for farmers but potential for future decrease? Erosion-prone prairie lands currently being protected as wilderness and wildlife refuges?

Maybe the answer is for people to eat less, so the demand goes down and the environment gets preserved. However this still leaves farmers in the pale. And then what about the next industries in the chain, the bakers and others who turn raw crop into consumable good? They need money, too.

I completely understand the farmer’s position. Assuming costs would not subsequently drop, it is more financially sound for them to remove their land from the program and turn it into production land. But are these really the farmers we want to support; are they the small-time guys, or the huge corporate farms? Further, if everyone removes their land from the program, that would be a huge loss of conserved and protected lands.

I don’t think there is a good answer. Perhaps certain farmers – those small guys – should be given priority in de-conserving their land. That would control future price fluctuations to some extent and would also promote family or small-time farms. Because let’s be honest here – I doubt big-time cattle ranchers and huge corporate wheat-growers really NEED that extra money. They could probably also use the morality lesson associated with dedicating their unused land to environmental preservation.

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