50) The Family Farmer from America's 50 Most Powerful People in Food for 2013 Slideshow

America's 50 Most Powerful People in Food for 2013 Slideshow

Slide 1 of 50
50) The Family Farmer

The family farmers of America — by which we mean the multi-farm entrepreneurs and small-scale independent operators who actually get their hands dirty in American soil — ought to be number one on our list. No one — no distributor or retailer of food, no pesticide manufacturer, no writer or chef or food-themed crusader — ought to have more influence ultimately than the men and women who actually grow our fruits and vegetables and raise our livestock. Indeed, an astonishing 87 percent of the farms in the country are owned by individuals or couples who operate them. Only 3 percent of our farms, in contrast, are what would qualify as agribusiness — but they produce more than a third of what we eat and lobby for their interests far more strenuously than small farmers can do. Agribusiness dominates agriculture. According to Farm Aid, more than 300 family farmers leave their land every week — little wonder when you realize that only a quarter of American farms bring in annual gross revenues of more than $50,000. Farmers also complain about government harassment and nitpicking enforcement of regulations. The recent nine-month extension of the Farm Bill hasn't helped matters. Though subsidies remain in force, rural redevelopment programs, disaster relief, and soil and water conservation measures have been cut or blocked. The family farmer seems increasingly powerless. We'd love to see that situation change. We'd love to see family farmers back where they belong.