Special report on aging farmers and declining family farms


Basic changes are occurring in farm economies throughout the world. The changes have implications far beyond agricultural economics. Foe example, the average age of farmers is creeping to alarming heights. In the USA, the world's most efficient farm economy, the average age of farmers is now 56 years old. Young people are not staying on the farms, seeking instead careers in cities. When their farmer parents die, instead of the heirs taking over the farms, 90% of the farms are sold. There is a gradual trend of consolidation, larger and fewer farms, and fewer owners. Farming is changing to "wholesale" crops that can be grown in mass, rather than smaller more profitable crops that require much attention and labor.

FarmersThis is true in other nations as well. India has some 900,000,000 farmers. They represent one of the largest segments of poor people in the world, (except for China) many of them earn less than $2 per day. While they have food and lodging on the farms, they have no money. Thus more and more farmers in India move to the cities in hope of ending their cycle of poverty. We had a guest from the Tibetan region of China. One day, he ate dinner at a restaurant with us. "The price of this meal, one meal, is more than our average farmer earns in a month" he said.

Perhaps the greatest loss, is the loss of cultural contributions made by farmers. The integrity, character, color, and independence of people in farm communities is legendary. Their love for family and loyalty to friends is unequalled. The farm culture tempers and flavors national perspectives of how nations think of themselves. Entire communities centered around farm culture and farm economies are gradually melting away. Farmers are losing political influence throughout the world, as corporations replace them in influence and economic power. Interest rate trends impact farmers because of their dependence on equipment, much of which is purchased with borrowed money. Often crops are planted with borrowed money.

Due to recent rises in interest rates farmers and small businesses are likely to be impacted very hard. Rate trends are expected to continue upward. Thus some farmers are choosing to sell their land and invest in bank CDs. Often they make more with far less work by doing so, if they can find high enough rates.

In the US average bank CD's are paying 1.5% interest. But the Federal Reserve just increased the fed funds rate .0025% and is expected to raise rates even more. As rates go up investors will seek good places to park their money. One prime place is MONGOLIA, where we have identified financial institutions paying 14% to 18% on CD's. We will be glad to share details if you e-mail bba_a@hotmail.com.

In the meantime, it appears that salvation of millions of farmers will have to begin with new political initiatives that provide support, incentives, and reasons to give a new generation of farmers hope that farming can be a good and prosperous life. This calls for a new paradigm thinking that is rare in the political leaders of today's world.