Farm exodus a cultural tragedy

George Lauby

" People are steadily leaving our nation's farms. It's been going on for years. Those who leave don't want to become mega-farmers. The exodus is nothing new, but it just keeps going and going. ... Meanwhile, in 1997 there were about 2,000 fewer farmers ages 60-64 than there were 10 years earlier, suggesting that many of them settled the quandary of whether to expand the farm or to sell out by leaving even before they were old enough to retire.
Left empty are vast stretches of prime land, void of residents. The loss is cultural. It's loss of the connection between people and nature; the farmer working beneath the sun and the heavens, of food raised on relatively small scales by attentive owners. It's loss of a crime-free, natural open place for kids to grow and parents to enjoy.

It's a loss of one of the best lifestyles humans ever evolved.

Under the farm bill, (i.e. in the US) a strict limit should be set on the amount of money the government will give any one farmer. Large amounts of government money help a mega-operator buy bigger machines and bid more for land, driving up prices. Payment limits have been part of farm programs for years, but they have moved sharply upward for the last three.

Some payments should be made directly to young farmers. Nothing would send a message to talented beginning farmers as clearly as enough money to give them a fair start. They are going to work long hours, cope with unpredictable weather, live in an isolated place and spend money like it's going out of style, often just to break even at the end of the season. They deserve a little money up front.

The life of the farmer has always been a quiet one. Most people have heard farmers complain about weather and prices, but fewer hear about the joys and benefits of farm life.

Quietly, the exodus continues. Farming is becoming an even more lonely business for those who remain."