These days, speculation about the future of agriculture abounds. Don’t believe every hot take that shows up in your news feed, though. Among the facts, you’ll find no shortage of fiction.
Need to filter out this fake news so you can focus on the real trends? Then join AgAmerica as we debunk four popular myths about farming and ranching. You might be surprised at which predictions won’t pan out.
- There’s no money in agriculture any more.
A moment’s reflection falsifies the intuition that farming is a declining profession. A Syngenta report pointed out that agricultural demand should rise 60% by 2050. Any industry with that kind of growth projection counts as a thriving industry. With tools and techniques evolving to meet this demand, the outlook looks bullish (no pun intended!) for farmers and ranchers.
- Small farms are dying.
It’s no secret that large-scale corporate farming and ranching have grown significantly over the past century. But that trend doesn’t necessarily make small farms an endangered species. In fact, one can even speak of a small-farming renaissance sweeping the country.
The keys to small farmers surviving and thriving are diversification and cooperation. The days of a family growing a single cash crop or raising a single breed are gone; it’s hard to compete with corporate-raised monocultures. Raising a few different crops and having a side hustle or two will help small farms succeed. Look for the growth of the sharing economy, too, as farmers look to spread out costs.
- Large farms are more efficient.
In most industries, bigger is better when it comes to creating efficiencies. By leveraging scale, large businesses can lower overhead and standardize production to minimize waste.
Not so with farming. Smaller scale allows for more local knowledge and greater control of resources. To those in the field every day, reports of small, diversified farms outproducing larger peers by a factor of 2:1 per acre isn’t surprising. Nor would they be shocked to discover small farms use less pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics per unit than their behemoth competitors.
Even allowing for the efficiencies mechanization and data offer to larger farms, smaller farms are managing their resources quite well, thank you very much.
- Farming is bad for the environment.
A belief that farming contributes to ecological concerns about pollution, erosion, and habitat destruction has become widespread. But is this assumption correct?
It depends. As we’ve already discovered, smaller farms tend to have less fertilizer and pesticide runoff than bigger farms—all the more so if they’re organic and no-till. And don’t even get us started on the erroneous linkage between eating meat and climate change. While intensive agriculture does affect the environment, its footprint is considerably smaller than that of the energy and transportation industries.
Not all predictions about agricultural futures are created equal. Beware excessively optimistic forecasts, and keep in mind that every generation has had its doomsayers. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle. Above all, be sure to base your farm planning on the best evidence available. Like farming, predictions are only as good as the foundations you build them on.
Looking for a reliable source for farming news and finance? Follow us at the AgAmerica blog.