Globalization: The Impact on Our Small Farms.
As a child I remember riding through the Wisconsin countryside on the outskirts of Oshkosh. The sight of cows in the fields would captivate me. The never ending rows of corn topped with golden tassels would capture my imagination. The smell of fresh cut hay made me dream of living life on a farm. Even when the scent of fresh manure hit the air I took it all in and enjoyed every aspect of the farm.
Today, the countryside is dotted with dilapidated barns and vacant farm houses. The fields which once grew corn now grow unwanted weeds. And the city is now rapidly consuming the land once owned by the farmers. I now find myself speeding though the countryside to get from one city to the next. Should I encounter a farm that is still in operation, I roll up my window to avoid the new noxious odor of fertilizers and pesticides.
The world's small farms are facing an unprecedented threat to their way of life. Globalization has become a key player in recent years to the demise of the small farm in many nations. With recent free trade agreements, and government subsidies, the price a farmer receives for produce has dropped through the floor. This is leading to the consolidation and mergers at both ends of the farming cycle - inputs that the farmer has to buy (seeds, fertilizers, chemicals), and outputs; what the farmer gets at the selling end. (Rosset, 1999) .
The five biggest seed suppliers in the world control 75% of the global market. The ten biggest agrochemical manufacturers in the world control 85% of the market. (Bricker, 2003) Some seed suppliers are also the pesticide suppliers! In order to keep up, the small farm must expand to increase efficiency to produce "economies of scale" or in other words, go corporate.
At the selling end farmers face an even greater consolidation of food processing and manufacturing companies. For example, the farmers who grow grain for cereal face four huge companies that control 84% of the market.