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josie's avatar

Are greedy farmers to blame for increasing food prices?

Asked by josie (22932 points ) January 17th, 2011

When gasoline prices go up, there is usually a chorus of criticism about greedy oil companies.
When drug prices go up, it can only be because big drug companies are greedy.
When the rent goes up, it is always the greedy landlord’s fault.
Etc.
Food prices are going up.
Are greedy farmers to blame? How can we get back at them?

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21 Answers

coffeenut's avatar

lol…Yes everyone is reallllly greedy….

CyanoticWasp's avatar

In almost all cases you can blame the greedy politicians.

My parents were fond of telling me that ‘back in the day’ they could buy a loaf of bread for a nickel. I certainly recall being able to buy a loaf of bread for fifty cents. Today’s consumers will be able to tell their kids that they knew of a time when bread could be had for $2.50.

What has changed? Bread is still made from the same ingredients that have been used for hundreds of years. Oh, sure, slight tweaks are made in the recipe, and the packaging and marketing changes, but not by orders of magnitude.

What has essentially changed is the money. The money is made more and more worthless as inflation of the currency proceeds year by year – driven by greedy politicians who want to buy your votes, with your money.

omph's avatar

The magic unicorn food moves across the country without using fuel.

Scooby's avatar

Yep! Just blame the politicians who strive to help the banks while letting the rest struggle! :-/

Mat74UK's avatar

Before labelling the farmer greedy a number of factors need to be taken into consideration:
How was that years weather?
Fuel prices for the farmer?
The increasing price of labour?
Imports/Exports of the same produce?
Demand?
The list goes on….

tedd's avatar

Knowing a few farmers, and knowing the utter dirt they work for in terms of money….. I’ve never met a greedy one.

Maybe the giant “farms” that are just businesses that hire in slave, i mean immigrant labor to pick their crops.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

You don’t know much about agriculture. Your average box of cereal or loaf of bread has between 31/2 to 4 cents worth of wheat or grains. The rest goes to the guys in between you and the farmer.

Cruiser's avatar

The more I read on this subject the more I realize there is more to the story here. It seems pretty obvious much of our corn production is now being directed towards ethanol production which apparently is having a series of unintended consequences. Some intentional consequences when you consider the benefits to the Senators who championed these Federal subsidies for ethanol producers in their states. This huge new demand for corn (Read forced implementation of ethanol into our gas supplies by Bush policies) has caused the world price for corn to skyrocket and while it is a relatively minor affect to the wallets of Americans, people around the world are starving to death because they cannot get corn nor afford what they can get. Riots and starvation will be the norm of the future for millions of poor people in the world.

Meanwhile us taxpayers are footing the bill for billions of dollars in ethanol subsidies and paying more at the pump and more at the grocer all because some politicians seem to think ethanol is a good thing…..for their political campaigns most likely
This is a nice Op-ed on what I am talking about here

PhiNotPi's avatar

The farmers are not greedy. With the rise of large agricultural corporations, normal farmers are being out-competed. There is a law in economics saying that the more you are able to make, the cheaper you are able to make it. These large companies produce large amounts of products very cheaply. They can afford genetically engineered plants and can even afford to make their own GE plants. Small farmers are on the opposite end of the economic law. In order to compete, they are forced to use GE crops and pesticides, all of which cost money. The worst thing about GE crops is that the farmers often have to buy new seed each year, instead of planting the seeds generated by that year’s crops. This is due to the contracts they have to sign, which prohibit replanting the seeds. This generates large profits for the companies that sell them the grain, at the expense of the farmer. The farmer has to keep buying the product year after year if he wants to use it, even though he physically doesn’t need to. I have heard of farmers who get lawsuits from the company because they were reusing the grain, and were almost put out of business by it.

Then, after the harvest, the farmers (who own privately-owned farms, not owned by any companies) have to find companies to buy their crops. They are often paid incredibly small amounts of money. When you buy a box of cereal, it is normal to think that the vast majority of the cost is from the grain, since that is what we consider ourselves to be buying. In reality, most of the money goes into processing, packaging, pesticides/GE seeds, don’t forget the wages of people who work at the company and the profits of the company. At the very end, only a few cents end up in the pocket of the farmer. And when you think about it, the farmer ends up with even less to spend on personal things because he needs to pay for food, water, and other basic needs for himself and his family. Don’t forget income taxes. So no, greedy farmers are not to blame for rising food prices, greedy companies are.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Farm loans, weather conditions, fuel costs all affect food costs.

“Get back at them?” Plow up your front and back yard in the suburbs, and grow your own food. Have the kids tend the crops instead of playing video games or going to soccer practice, learn how to can and preserve food. Get a cow or two, and a flock of chickens.

Taciturnu's avatar

The average chicken farmer with 2 chicken houses is over $500,000 in debt and only makes about $18,000/year. Their debt keeps increasing because the four major meat companies they are contracted with require them to continue to upgrade working equipment to make them “more efficient.”

A guy named Monsanto patented a soybean that you can dump Round-up on and it will live. (As much as 70% of the food we get at the grocery store in the US and Canada is genetically modified.) Monsanto Co. has people check farms surrounding the farms with Monsanto soybean rights for “illegal crops,” which are typically just the soybeans that have blown into another farmer’s field without that farmer’s awareness. When those crops are found, Monsanto Co. will sue the other farmer, who will ultimately lose their farm to the copany.

I don’t think the farmers are to blame. The companies they are contracted with is. The best way to get back at “factory farms” are to lessen our usage of their products. Eat whole foods, not prepackaged. Buy local when you can. Buy organic as often as possible. This is not only better for us and the environment, but it also will eventually relieve the overworked debted farmer, as upgrades due to demand would no longer be neccessary.

I’d also like to add that food prices will always go up when the price of gas does because most of us don’t live near these farms.

bkcunningham's avatar

@josie the discussion of inflation has been debated by economist for many years. Without a doubt, IMHO, the most compelling argument of economic policy and inflation comes from the late-great Milton Friedman. The ideas posed on this thread prove it true as well.

When we look at the recent mid-term election in November and one of the main issues and actions taken by Congress, reducing taxes, Friedman’s logic proves true.

“Before every election our representatives would like to make us think we are getting a tax break. And they are able to do it while at the same time actually raising our taxes because of a bit of magic they have in their kit bag. That magic is inflation. They reduce the tax rates, but the taxes we have to pay go up because we are automatically shoved into higher brackets because of the affect of inflation. A neat trick,” Friedman says.

“There are many traditional scapegoats blamed for inflation. How often have you heard inflation blamed on labor unions for pushing up wages. Workers, of course, don’t agree… Higher wages are mostly a result of inflation rather than a cause of it. Indeed, the impression that unions cause inflation arises partly because unions wages are slow to react to inflation and then there’s pressure to catchup. Another scapegoat for inflation is the cost of goods coming from abroad.

“Inflation, we’re told, is important, higher prices abroad driving up prices at home. It’s another way government can blame someone else for inflation. But this argument too is wrong. The prices of imports in the countries from which they come are not in terms of dollars. They are in terms of lira or yen or other foreign currencies. What happens to their prices in dollars depends on exchange rates. Which in turn reflect inflation in the United States.

“Since 1973, some governments have had a field day blaming the Arabs for inflation. But if high oil prices were the cause of inflation how is it that inflation has been less here in Germany, a country that must import every drop of oil and gas that it uses on the roads and in industry than, for example, than it is in the United States which produces half of its own oil? Japan has no oil of its own at all. Yet at the very time that the Arabs were quadruapling oil prices, the Japanese people were bringing inflation down from 30 to less than 5 percent a year.

“The fallacy is to confuse particular prices, like the price of oil with prices in general.”

Friedman goes on to explain how wage and price controls, which happened with POTUS Richard Nixon, are a lesson that seem to never be learned. He explains how spending your way out of a depression never works either. Inflation affects different groups in different ways. Some benefit. Some are harmed.

The whole problem is made far worse by the false cures governments adopts. Look at the recent snow storm and the turmoil when New York workers who felt the sting of wage negotiations, didn’t plow the streets properly. Who did that hurt? Their neighbors and friends in the communities who had snow piled up for days. Not the people who imposed the controls. Garbage workers and hospital workers who strike are other examples.

One group is set against another group. Men and women who behaved as a group in a way they would have never acted as individuals. “The social fabric of society is torn apart inflicting scars that it will take decade to heal. And all to no avail. Because the cures for inflation only make it worse.”

marinelife's avatar

Produce prices are going up because of the unseasonal freezes that affected crop production in Florida.

Farmers do not set prices.

YoBob's avatar

A large percentage of the cost of produce is the cost of fuel.

It takes fuel to run tractors to grow the food, fuel to run trucks to harvest the fuel, fuel to run trucks to bring it to market, etc…

A the primary reason that the cost of produce is going up is much more tied to the price of gas than it is to the profit margin of the farmer.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It’s actually the greedy Federal Reserve growing too much money which causes money to be de-valued,which leads to inflation of things like oil and once the fuel you use to do every other aspect of your life increases, you have inflation across the board.That causes certain leaders to point fingers,get all wee wee’d up and say “This too must be Bush’s fault.” ;))

zenvelo's avatar

we actually have had pretty good harvests lately. But the rest of the world has had catastrophic failures – Wheat failed in Russia and Ukraine, floods in the Indian subcontinent. and there are now 7 billion people in the world, and they are hungry. So consider demand has gone up, which drives real prices up.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I wouldn’t blame it all on the farmers. When I go to local farmer’s markets, I can get really good deals on produce. So I think it has more to do with the big companies that get involved than the farmers alone.

Arbornaut's avatar

No way, primary producers are constantly getting screwed by the banks, taxes and unfair contracts and pressures from large companies. Don’t blame the farmers man!

YARNLADY's avatar

I cannot believe this is a real question. With land prices as high as they are, farmers are selling out in droves. Perhaps you are thinking of the corporate farmers who own more acreage than individual farmers.

Water is becoming increasing scarce and when you see the price of a barrel of oil go up, don’t think of gasoline, which farmers use in all phases of production. Also realize that there are over 6,000 products on the list of items that are produced from petroleum. All prices are inter-related.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

Monsanto and the U.S. gov. are part of who we have to thank for this. Add in our dependence on foreign oil and OPEC“s tendency to use that dependence to their advantage.

sinscriven's avatar

Farmers aren’t the problem; Big Agriculture is the problem. Monsanto’s putting patents on lifeforms, and getting the government to ban farmers from keeping their own seeds, intentionally putting their seeds all over the place and then suing small farmers for patent infringement. They freely give out seeds to people in other countries like India that are “resistant”, but also self-destruct and require you to buy more and more.

And that’s not even getting into the obscene subsidies that the government gives for crops like corn. that’s why pretty much everything you eat has corn in some form or another these days. It’s cheap feed.

If anything we should be helping small-scale farmers stay in business.

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