There is a sentence in my thesis that reads: “The modern food system seemed to be personified in scientists, chemists and biological engineers, rather than in a farmer and his mule.”  One of my advisors commented, “Farmers today have to be commodities traders.”  He was correct of course.

Consider this from this month’s issue of Progressive Farmer magazine: “An Iowa farmer with a 195-bushel APH and an 85% RP policy spent 10 cents per APH bushel to guarantee $4 corn on Sept. 5. That’s equivalent to a strike price of $3.60 on a put, he says.”

Much of the magazine reads like that.

My grandfather subscribed to Progressive Farmer from as far back as I can remember. He would have no idea what to make of sentences like those.

Today industrial scale farmers not only have to deftly trade futures contracts on the commodity exchange, they also have to navigate the complexities of federally subsidized crop insurance and the myriad of federal programs upon which a significant portion of their revenue is dependent.  Those kind of farmers probably spend more time filling out paperwork and meeting with accountants than they do on the tractor.

That’s what farming in America has become.