The industrial mega-farms grow larger every year, gobbling up those around them.
There are 2.17 million farms in the U.S., a country with a population of over 315 million. Only about 1.6% of Americans live on farms these days.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story. According to the data from the 2007 Census of Agriculture, a mere 59,000 farms (with gross revenue of over $1 million each) account for 59% of all U.S. farm production. That number is expected to rise when the 2012 data becomes available.
That is an unprecedented and dangerous concentration of agricultural production into very few hands. Of course most of what these farms produce is destined to become CAFO animal feed, processed foods and ethanol. Once the commodities leave those 59,000 farms, the stranglehold tightens even more.
In Bill McKibben’s book Deep Economy he writes:
“Four companies slaughter 81% of American beef. Two control 75% of the global grain trade. 89% of American chickens are produced under contract to big companies, usually in broiler houses up to 500 feet long holding 30,000 or more chickens. Four multinational companies control 70% of milk sales in the US. Five companies control 75% of the global seed market. The largest seller of food in this country (and the world) is Walmart.”
He wrote that in 2008. Consolidation has continued steadily since then, so this too has probably worsened significantly. Control of the food supply is being ceded to fewer and fewer corporations.
Community-based agriculture offers an alternative to this system. Just another reason to find and support local family farms.