THE PROS AND CONS OF “BIG AG”

When running a simple Google search on the term, “Big Ag,” the results are downright frightening, to say the least.

Everything from news articles in the Huffington Post to angry bloggers to cleverly PhotoShopped images—like the one below—can paint a very negative picture in the eyes of the consumer.
money-corn

But is “Big Ag” okay?  What’s so bad about it?  What even is “Big Ag.”

“Big Ag” is a term used by consumers to describe large-scale farming.  The image typically associated with “Big Ag” is a corporate-owned farm.  This image is what gets used to describe the majority of farms in the United States, but it simply isn’t true.  According to the USDA, ninety-seven percent of farms are family-owned operations, and

Now that we know what “Big Ag” is, we can work to define its role in our food system.  Defining the roles of “Big Ag” in the food production system is not small feat.  Whenever I’m faced with a complex issue, I like to break things down into a pros and cons list.

Pros

It’s more economical.

The biggest pro of large-scale farming is its ability to be economical.  Farming requires a large investment of passion and time, but also of money.  Equipment, land, chemical, and seed costs can run a farmer hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, when the farmer can operate on a larger scale, those costs are minimized.  This allows the farmer to have a bigger profit, which can be invested into new technologies in agriculture on their own operation.  These new technologies increase the farmer’s ability to be efficient.  The more efficient they can be, the more money can be made.

It’s more efficient.

I mentioned already that it’s more efficient when it comes to the resource of money, but it’s especially less taxing on the environment.  As I said earlier, the new investments in technology gives the farmer an ability to produce more with less; less money, less space, and less resources.  Because of urban sprawl, farmers have less land then they’ve ever had, but they continually produce more.  In fact, this year’s harvest is another abundant year.  This ability produce more with less helps farmers give back to the earth all while feeding the world.

Cons

It’s not perceived well by the public

The biggest fact to remember—and often the hardest to accept—is that agriculture is a consumer-driven industry.

With advancements in science and technology, the Ag industry can produce all sorts of crazy things, like green ketchup, but if a consumer doesn’t like it, it won’t be produced.

As I touched on earlier, the term “Big Ag” doesn’t have a lot of positive connotations.  When it comes to farming, consumers often assume big is bad and corrupt and small is pure and good.

The truth?  It depends.

At the end of the day, the size of the farm does not determine its morality; the morality of the farmer determines that. combine image

Farmers aren’t motivated solely by a bottom line. They’re motivated by their passion for feeding their families and families across the globe, no matter the size of their operation.

 

Molly NovotneyMolly Novothney
Joilet Junior College

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