Thursday, January 31, 2013

Problems on the Farm?

The problem is not on the farm, it's in rural employment.
We have noted in the past that rural areas are showing many of the same problems that the inner cities showed decades ago when the jobs left.  Some of it seems to be a factor of corporate consolidation.  Another factor is technology.

Record Profits No Job Creator on Farms as Owners Automate
Alan Bjerga, Bloomburg, 30 January 2013 (hat tip: NC)
The property Kevin Liefer and his son, Kirk, cultivate in southern Illinois has been expanding for decades without adding a single manager. These are boom times for farming and a bust for farm jobs.
The 3,600 acres of mostly corn, wheat and soybeans the Liefers hold were about 30 separate, individually operated farms more than 40 years ago, said Kevin. As families left, the homesteads near Red Bud, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of St. Louis, melded into one operation.
Older tractors were replaced with models that cultivate more ground and serve as miniature offices, complete with global positioning systems that allow them to steer themselves. Mobile phones enable communication while in the fields.
“There’s so much more you can do now without as much labor,” said Kevin, 58. “The consolidation has been rapid.”


PioneerPreppy said...

It will be interesting to see how that technology works out as fuel costs rise. If these guys can manage to hold on to all that acreage they may just be the new aristocracy but they will need a buttload of peasants to work that land.

russell1200 said...

Pioneer: I was thinking along the same lines. But there are way to many interactions and permutations to piece all the possibilties together. Exon/Big Ag versus American-Spring/Occuppied Tea Party?

The Angry Lurker said...

Technology intensive rather than labour intensive and a drop in the quality of food due to demand and how long it can last on a supermarket shelf.

John D. Wheeler said...

Speaking of holding on to the land, one of the consequences is that many of the wind breaks have been taken down as farms have been merged. I would not be surprised to see Dust Bowl II in the next decade.

russell1200 said...

Francis: Yes, although you could also say energy intensive as well. Even if you ignore the energy input into fertilizers, and prime movers, the information systems are pretty high energy as well.

John: You would think that the corporations would have an interest in the long term value of their investment, but with bonuses generally going quarter to quarter, nothing would surprise me.