The Case for Farmers

The Case for Farmers

The Case for Farmers

The Case for Farmers

Excerpt

I am glad James G. Patton has written this book. It is time someone with a knowledge of the facts made a reasoned statement in defense of the farmer, who has seldom had a square deal from the rest of the community.

The return for capital and labor in agriculture has nearly always been less than in other industries. This is well illustrated by a comparison of the price the farmer gets for producing food with what the food companies get for processing and selling it. For example, according to Food Cost Trends issued by the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, of 26 cents, the selling price of a package of corn flakes, the farmer who grows the corn gets 3.1 cents while the processer and salesman gets 22.9 cents. And with a change in money values, it is the farmer who suffers. For example, in the last decade, farm prices for dairy products have fallen by 8 per cent but retail prices have risen by 14 per cent, and while the farm price of wheat fell 16 per cent, the retail price of cereals and bakery products rose 33 per cent.

Individual farmers with small units are an easy prey for food companies which are better able to control the prices at which they buy and sell. To protect their interests, farmers may combine in cooperative or other groups, which gives them greater bargaining power. They may go further and organize a vertical system enabling them to compete with the companies in processing and selling to the retail trade. The other method is to get together in a Farmers Union to promote government measures for profitable and stable prices.

The author rightly deals with measures tried in America. It may be of interest to refer to what has been done in Britain. There both measures have been tried with considerable success. In the 1930s the Government gave farmers powers to set up Marketing Boards for various products. The members of the Boards are elected by the producers of the product dealt with by the Boards. The Boards determine the price offered to the farmer and the selling price to the wholesale or retail trade. When a Board has been set up at the request of the overwhelming majority of producers, all are compelled to join or go out of business. The Government, of course, has a watching brief to ensure that what are virtually monopolistic powers are not used to the detriment of the consumer. These Boards have, on the whole, been highly successful. They have re-organized markets to the benefit of everybody except the "middleman."

When the Boards were being formed there was talk about interfering with the freedom of farmers, but when they got going, very few were willing to exchange a guaranteed profitable price for free-

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