Where are we headed in the rural community? I am very concerned and bordering on angry. I am a fifth-generation farmer, farming 750 acres in Shelby and Logan Counties in Ohio. During the past 15 years, I have witnessd social upheaval in the rural agricultural community rising at an astonishing rate.
There seems to be no morality or family values. Greed, the almighty dollar, and lust for “all” the neighbor has can be seen everywhere. When I was a boy, neighboring farmers helped one another get things done. I witnessed more than 25 combines harvest in one field when a neighbor was injured and unable to complete his harvest. Now all I hear is farmers chattering about one another at the local coffee shops. I see neighbors pass each other on the road, where once existed a friendly smile and wave – now is disgust and a nose in the air.
I’m not sure where the policy to go out door-to-door every year and try to get your neighbors farmland started? I hear of local operators offering cash rents of $300 to $500, yet the number is really irrelevant. The number will always end up being whatever it needs to be to secure the land. Landowners beware. Cash rent values have escalated in the last five years, but how fast will they come back down? The farmers paying these high rents will be the first to come crying when the bottom line doesn’t support the rent money they promised.
Many smaller family farmers have hung it up because realistically they know they can’t pay these exorbitant rents and make a living.
I have heard of families having “votes” after the head of the household died to decide who will farm the family land. Problem is a grandson was farming the land for several years and was ousted by family members “voting” to accept the high bid of an “obituary-watching vulture.”
Some will read this letter and cry that competition is healthy and the American Way ... yeah, right. That is why the moral decay of this country has become epidemic. Competition, no. Greed, yes. How much is enough? How many acres does one need? When will you be satisfied?
The livestock industry is a foretaste of what production as is to become. Large factory-type operations with little concern about the land they are in care of. Less and less farmers doing more and more might be efficient, but what of all those left in ruin without the only job they’ve know?
I have talked to landowners that currently rent to these high-paying operators. They state that these operators say they aren’t trying to drive their neighbors out of business; they are just trying to justify their equipment costs (less cost per acre over more acres). How about this? Don’t buy or lease brand-new equipment every other year, and then you don’t need more land to justify your equipment costs.
I farm my 750 acres with equipment that is paid in full. The newest piece of equipment I have is 10 years old, yet I am always done in a timely manner. These large operators could be also. There is plenty of good, used, “big” equipment available that could get the job done, and keep their bottom line down.
Their cry for a new farm bill is also a joke. Once again who is being catered to here? The large operators.
Farming is a very risky business, but no one forces us to make this our occupation. There is risk in every job field available. Last time I checked, there was not “safety net” for the auto laborer when his job is shipped to Mexico. Direct payments and crop insurance subsidies have done nothing but skew the playing field to the side of large operators.
Where do you think these skyrocketing cash rents come from? This is the profit many large operators have to leverage over small operators. Farm income has been at record levels for almost six years, yet we farmers are given a direct payment – essentially welfare – on top of the record incomes, and we feel that the government should subsidize our crop insurance payments, of which they already pay approximately 75 percent, as well at greater levels. Who subsidizes the common laborers insurance costs?
If you can’t take the risk of farming, get out. Get ride of the safety net, and we’ll see who is who. It might get back to the small family farms who cared about their neighbor and valued what country living is all about.
In closing, I am very blessed to have the best landlords to farm for. Some are family, some are not, yet the commonality they share is a respect for their fellow man. I am 100 percent positive they could rent their ground for more money – I should know, they are offered it every year. Yet they put their trust in me.
I treat them fairly, and that is all that is expected. I care for every single acre as if it is the ground I own. I am satisfied with the acreage I currently have; it’s plenty to care for my family. I have never – nor will I ever – contact a single landowner about bidding a farm away from a fellow farmer. How many of you high-rollers can honestly say that? Honestly?
Sincerely and respectfully submitted by a concerned family farmer,
Jackson Center, Ohio