Corporate Farming

February 2, 1972

Report Outline
Controversy Over Agricultural Giantism
American Agriculture and Farm Policy
Rising Discontent in U.S. Rural Areas
Special Focus

Controversy Over Agricultural Giantism

Election-Year Response of the Family Farmer

Corporate agriculture has generated an emotional response that reaches far beyond America's farmlands. Those who defend the entry of big companies into farming say that their ability to grow, harvest, package and market their own crops offers the most efficient and econo-ical way of putting food on the grocery shelf. Opposition ranges from those who deny that corporation management can best serve the American consumer to those who believe the price of such “progress” is far too high. They note that farm families squeezed off the land add to urban congestion and, quite often, the nation's unemployment rolls.

Today's remaining farmers, corporate and individual, still produce more food than the nation consumes. Surfeit rather than scarcity is the continuing problem of American agriculture. Surpluses mean depressed farm prices and income, or else higher federal subsidies. Thus the farm family's survival is bound up in production, prices, politics and, as of recent years, competition from corporation-owned enterprises. In this presidential election year, farmer complaints are coming to the fore, injecting farm issues into national debate which for years has been virtually monopolized by urban and foreign problems. Farm prices are at issue in the Midwest after the biggest corn crop in history, but much more underlies discontent on the farm.

More than two million farmers have left the land in the past 20 years and the Department of Agriculture estimates that by 1980 another million will leave. Few young people remain in farming—either from lack of interest or lack of money. American farms, though fewer in number, have gotten bigger, more mechanized—and thus costlier to own and operate. In 1950 the average farm size was 215 acres; by 1970 it was 392 acres.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Agriculture and the Environment
Farm Produce and Commodities
Outsourcing and Immigration