Industrial Agriculture

According to Bill McKibben, five companies currently control 75% of the global vegetable seed market. Massive consolidation of the food industry has meant that most American’s food budgets are flowing into the hands of a few big players. For example, the merger of Nabisco and Philip Morris in 2000 created a food conglomerate that collects about 10 cents of every dollar Americans spend on food, and Wal-Mart is now the largest seller of food in the country.  Furthermore, today Americans only spend about 11% of their paycheck on food – less than half of what their grandparents spent before World War II.  The consolidation of the industry and the depression of food prices has driven many small farmers out of business. Since the end of World War II, the US has lost a farm about every half hour.  On a typical Iowa farm, the farmer’s profit margin has dropped from 35% in 1950 to 9% today.  Ezra Taft Benson, Dwight D Eisenhower’s secretary of agriculture told farmers to, “get big or get out.”  Farming is no longer about farming techniques that build good soil and produce a delicious variety of vegetables and grains.  Instead, it is about marketing and commerce.  Getting away from this system requires supporting local organic farms and perhaps growing some of your food in your own back yard.  Buying organic seeds of rare varieties of vegetables and fruits is a great way to support efforts to preserve our natural heritage of biodiversity.