Farming Operations Are Growing Bigger
Yes, farming operations are getting bigger and bigger.
First, the world’s population continues to increase and people need to be fed. Also livestock needs to be fed.
Additionally, there is need for non-food produce such as ethanol for fuel, canola for oil, grains for beverages, Christmas trees, sod, bioplastics, a renewed call for hemp, and cannabis for medicinal/soon to be recreational use; plus any new discoveries in the future.
Economies of Scale
Second, in our economy with urban sprawl, expensive land and equipment, farming’s high entry level costs, aging farmer population, and low margins, the economics of scale necessitate intensifying the size of operation.
See Statistics Canada’s Cropland in Ontario grows despite fewer farms
Fossil Fuel Reliance
Unfortunately, our current food system revolves around inflated crop yields by using large amounts of fossil fuel energy in the form of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, petroleum based agrochemicals, diesel powered machinery, refrigeration, irrigation and an oil dependent distribution system. This fossil fuel reliant food system comes at an expensive environmental cost. Activists call for programs geared at reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from the Canadian agricultural sector.
The Good and the Bad
The good news is that today in Canada most farming operations are still family-owned and the cost of food is kept low. However, more and more family farms are selling to developers or larger operators, which ultimately will help pave the way for corporate buyouts, foreign ownership and price control.
See Globe & Mail’s Family farms are fewer and larger, StatsCan says (2012).
The bad news is:
- “Industrial agriculture is a lethal combination of methods that is causing the extinction of thousands of species worldwide. It is affecting birds, amphibians, bats and other pollinators besides butterflies. Many ecosystems are staring down the barrel.” (article)
- 10% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are from crop and livestock production, excluding emissions from the use of fossil fuels or from fertilizer production (source).
- High use of pesticides and herbicides including impact on water through run-off.
- Larger consolidated fields – farmers remove hedgerows and fieldrows to enable use of large equipment and impact on wildlife.
- Untried technology such as GMOs.
- See EcoWatch’s Report: Global Food Chain Increasingly Threatened by Corporate Consolidation.
To make a long story short, the way our economic, social and political system is progressing necessitates larger farming operations. An aging farmer population with fewer family successors means that food production will become corporatized and therefore more industrialized.
It seems the best we can do is to stay vigilant ensuring that trustworthy management continues to control food production, and that companies accept social and environmental responsibility, uphold fair and cost-effective distribution, offer healthy choices, and have long-term beneficial vision.
Now is not the time to stay silent.