While your Nov. 11 editorial "Folly on the Farm" seeks to deny it, family farmers in the United States today are gripped by an economic crisis that threatens their survival.
U.S. Labor Department statistics show that when looking at all occupations in America, farming is among those facing the greatest decline. In the decade from 1988 to 1997, we lost 20 percent of our full-time farmers. The U.S. Agriculture Department reports that, in 1996, average annual income from on-farm sources was a paltry $8,000 and that 84 percent of the average farm operator's household income comes from off-farm sources.
Your paper would have us believe this is the product of technological change and offers the notion that job relocation and training grants for displaced farmers are an answer. This is a myopic view. It's not just about jobs. It's about who should grow our food.
Family farmers are the best stewards of our land. They have a vested interest in preserving its productivity. They live on the land, and they intend to pass it on to future generations.
The industrial or "factory farm" style of production favored by your paper already has pushed too many families off the land and caused too much damage. The degradation and the cost of cleaning up factory farm pollution, as seen in the wake of North Carolina's floods, is unacceptable. Industrial farming operations worried about delivering maximum profits to shareholders do not exercise the same care as family farmers in preserving our soil and water.
Congress should be looking for ways to provide our family farmers with a guaranteed fair price for their production. It's the best way to ensure the survival of the family farm and guarantee America's food supply.
The writer is program director for Farm Aid.