This Ag Economist Preached Bigger is Better. Now He Says the Evidence Favors Small Farms.

by Nick Stumo-Langer | November 2, 2017

Since the 1960s, there’s been a concerted effort by economists and policymakers to consolidate family farms into large-scale industrial agriculture operations. The thinking was that these giant farms could better feed the world.

Today’s guest, John Ikerd, was one of those economists — that is, until the farm crisis hit in the 1980s. Ikerd took a hard look at what was happening in rural America, and at the mounting empirical evidence that something had gone wrong in our food system, and he had a dramatic shift in his thinking.

In the episode of the Building local Power podcast, Dr. Ikerd, professor emeritus at the University of Missouri, sits down with ILSR co-director Stacy Mitchell to explain that shift and discuss the reality of consolidated agriculture and what it’s doing to rural communities, the environment, and our health. Despite the rhetoric of Big Ag, over 70 percent of the world’s food today is produced on family farms, according to Ikerd. And the evidence, he says, indicates that it’s a superior way to feed people.

“Today we don’t have a large number of small farms. We have very few large [agribusiness] firms. What sociologists and others have concluded is where you’ve got four or five large firms that control over half the overall market, you don’t have out and out collusion because they all know what each other is doing,” says John Ikerd, of our current concentrated agriculture sector.

He continues: “That’s the natural tendency of a capitalist economy. Therefore, it’s the responsibility of the government…to not allow that to happen, rather than to sanction it or even encourage it.”

You can listen to the episode on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website here:

Or directly via iTunes here:

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