Agriculture Markets- Not Exactly Free

Over at Grist, Tom Philpott writes today about competition and concentration in the agriculture industry- and what it means for the small, local producers.

By 2005, just four companies (Tyson, Cargill, Swift & Co., and National Beef Packing) were slaughtering 83.5 percent of cows. That number has inched up from 81 percent in 2000. In hogs and chicken, the big are getting bigger even faster. In 2001, the top four companies (Smithfield, Tyson, Swift & Co., and Cargill) killed 59 percent of hogs. ..

Iowa, the nation's leading hog-producing state, tells the story. The state's pork producer's association informs us that the total number of hog farms plunged from more than 59,000 in 1978 to around 10,000 in 2002, an 83 percent drop. Over the same time span, the total number of hogs raised per year jumped from 19.9 million to 26.7 million. That means the average number of pigs per farm soared from 250 to more than 1,500. And production, which had been broadly distributed across the state, shifted to just a few counties. North Carolina, the nation's No. 2 hog state, shows similar trends.

I highly recommend reading the full article.

This is an issue the Center for Rural Affairs has long worked on and cared deeply about. In fact, John Crabtree just testified in Washington on these issues a week ago. Additionally, it is the topic of the letter Jim Knopik wrote to Senator Nelson a few days ago, which we posted on the Blog for Rural America here.

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