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U.S. Farms Shutting Down, Dairy Farm Income Down 80% Year-on-Year

Thousands of farmers are in the streets across Europe this month, for one overriding reason: They cannot continue to operate at a loss. Family farm operations are shutting down, or nearing that, at a rate with terrible consequences.

In the United States, 39,700 farms closed down in the five-year period between 2017 and 2023, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures given by Biden’s own Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, at a Sept. 6, 2023 seminar on the crisis, at Cornell University (“Cornell Ag”) in Ithaca, New York. He reported that 6.9 million acres during that time were lost to production in the U.S.

Farm shutdown is occurring in all states, and across all types of farming.

Dairy farming is hit the worst; it has a perishable product and demands skilled, constant attention, high capital investment. Dairy farms are shutting down at rates of 5-10% a year in the traditional dairy states of New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Now, with milk prices to the farmer falling at a rate of 80% from a year ago, the situation is untenable. In some places, cow numbers remain level, as big operations take over. But the stage is set for mass cuts in food production.

So far, U.S. dairy consumption (cheese, etc.) is maintained by imports of milk constituents from New Zealand and elsewhere, that are reconstituted as cheese and other ersatz dairy products. Plus, there is milk from the huge industrial milk herds. Walmart, for example, set up its own gigantic milk center in Indiana a few years ago, and canceled all its purchase contracts with independent family-run farms.

The family farm shutdown comes atop a farming profile already debased by the agro-financial-complex, in which big money goes into neo-plantation, big operations. Even Vilsack noted that the top 7.5% of farms (defined in the broadest way, to cover up the crisis) earned 89% of total farm income in 2022. The remaining 92.5% of farms, numbering about 2 million, have 11% of total farm income.

The Biden Administration answer? A “carbon-neutral economy” by 2050. And lip service to help “local” farming. Vilsack reported that of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, 10% are from agriculture. Vilsack said there must be a more “regional” approach, and innovation, to help farmers survive in the “regional food supply” so the Biden Administration set up the Regional Food Business Centers Program in 2023. The Land Grant universities, such as Cornell, can help this with “innovation.”

The other showpiece U.S. Biden agriculture initiative is the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, which is a $3 billion government funding program for miscellaneous so-called green projects.

Internationally, the USDA boasts about the “AIM” joint U.S.-U.A.E. project—AIM for Climate, which has 600 partners, claiming $17 billion in commitments to reduce agriculture emissions, and still address world hunger. Lots of hot air. While in the United Arab Emirates for COP28 in December 2023, Vilsack boasted of tackling livestock methane emissions in different ways.