No Farms, No Food, unless...
There are many aspects to consider when we talk about growing food in the U.S. One major component to be considered is that in this capitalist nation, there is the profitability of growing food. If we look at the current increase in food prices we may draw the conclusion that it is profitable to grow food commercially in the U.S. However, this may be deceiving if we closely examine some of the reasons for the price increase.
Food prices have been relatively low in the U.S. but have seen a slow and steady increase. This can be attributed in part to the crack down of undocumented workers. “Today’s food prices are artificially low because we use underpaid, overworked, unprotected labor.” (1) If this trend of deporting the undocumented workers continues the prices may see a significant increase in the near future. “Trump’s policies promise to create a critical labor gap, forcing farmers to switch crops, decrease production, or increase spending on legal labor. Their costs will be passed to the consumer.” (1)
Most American citizens are not willing to go through the long hours of labor under the hot summer days to pay their bills. Even though State run labor agencies are required to give the job opportunity to the American citizen before that position is even considered to be given to a foreign worker, the farm worker positions are not filled by local workers. Not all of the American citizens that eventually fill the positions are able to meet demands of working the fields and harvesting produce. “The produce industry is currently experiencing $5 billion to $9 billion in annual losses due to labor shortages.” (1)
So what does this mean for us? What will happen to food prices in my supermarket? “Researchers predict a 61 percent drop in fruit production…31 percent drop in vegetable production, 30 to 40 percent drop in average farm income, and a 5 to 6 percent increase in consumer food prices at the supermarket.” (1)
For farmers in the heartland it is a challenge to grow food and produce an income for their family. “The Ubels say they spent $34,000 last year farming wheat and other crops, but they only brought in $35,000. ‘When you got guys my age that are trying to raise a family, trying to farm and having to work in town just to produce cheap food for the country, it’s a crisis,’ Ubel said.” (2) If this trend continues, it will be more difficult for the U.S. food industry to thrive under such circumstances. We also are seeing a lot of farms closing down because they are not making enough profit to sustain their business. “The Department of Agriculture predicts farmers’ incomes will drop an additional nine percent this year, extending the worst slide in generations. As a result, more farm operations are expected to close — on top of the almost 140,000 that have closed or consolidated in the last nine years.” (2)
As we examine the rise of food prices it is almost inevitable that the trend will continue. One of the most single effective ways we can combat the increase of food prices is by growing our own food. This will prove even more important as we see more emphasis on the enforced deportation efforts of the undocumented and the closing of farms in the States.
Agyeman J. and Giacalone S. (2017, February 7) Trump Spill’s the beans on who grows Americas food. https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2017/02/07/trump-spills-beans-who-grows-americans-food/VLHzXhy32OJXnPlA47CuBL/story.html
CBS News. (2017, February 23). In America’s Heartland, The American Dream is in Crisis. http://www.wdef.com/2017/02/23/in-americas-heartland-the-american-dream-is-in-crisis/