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Farmers discuss consolidation in ag

Written by Mitch Galloway, Farm News Media


Consolidation, consolidation, consolidation. The marbles in my mouth move from cheek to cheek as I try to say that word 10 times fast.


According to a new study, the number of farms globally will be cut in half by 2100.


Most notably, in farms across the world — think rural communities in Africa and Asia — people are projected to migrate to urban centers.


How will this affect the world’s smallest farms, the ones being swallowed up by larger ones?


“We observe a pivotal moment where there is a shift from extensive farm establishment to extensive consolidation on a global scale, which is the path humanity is presently heading towards,” wrote Zia Mehrabi, an assistant professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, in the study.


“The dimensions of farms and the quantity of farms in existence are interconnected with crucial environmental and social consequences.”


Another threat posed to farmers worldwide — and what Michigan farmers encounter now — is land-use issues. Covering this topic, I’ve learned one thing: There isn’t a consensus on what’s right. It’s as gray as a wolf.


On one hand, we have limited tillable farmland — I believe 10 million acres in Michigan — so it should stay farmland, right?


Then again, what if you are a farmer, and your land is worth thousands of dollars more than it would have been a few years ago. You could sell the land and make a mint. And you would be the ideal capitalist, no?


Not convinced? What if you are a farmer and there’s no line of succession in place.


I know one who is facing this issue. He wants to succeed his cow-calf operation to the next generation, yet no one wants to take it over. He’s in his 60s. His children are in other careers. Selling might be his only option.


If, say, a man with deep pockets (like touching-the-ground deep, a Fortune 500 exec) wants to overspend on his land, should he say no? Would you?


“How many of the farm landowners are wanting to continue their investment in the farm versus how many are going to cash out and retire?” said Todd Kuethe, associate professor and Schrader Endowed Chair in Farmland Economics for the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University.


“We talked about an aging farm population. I think there's a fair amount that just sort of says, ‘I got paid. I’m out.’”


Where do solar and wind and mega sites play in the future of farmland, farms? Will our farm world look similar in 2100 to now? “This evolution — I'm not sure what's going to happen,” a farmer told me this year.


You be the judge and tell me.


Questions:


  • If you are for farmland staying operational, why? What would you tell your farmer friends who are considering selling?

  • Should there be a more detailed, concise policy on land-use issues in Farm Bureau’s policy book?

  • What do you think farming will look like in 2100? Better off for the next generation?

  • Is consolidation good or bad? Why?


Submit your responses (include your name and CAG affiliation)


EMAIL: WU-CAGLOOP@FBINSMI.COM


MAIL TO: MFB CAG Responses; ATTN: Ashley Frazee; 7373 W. Saginaw Hwy.; Lansing, MI 48917

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