Farmer Focus: Should farmers stop trying to keep food prices low?

“One Kansas farmer feeds 155 people plus you”. If you have been to Kansas you have probably seen these signs on road sides. 

The 155 is the only temporary part of the sign, and as demographics and technology alter the number has steadily climbed over the years. 

Many farmers and ranchers take pride in these signs and take it as a serious mandate to feed the world. 

Too good at producing food

More and more, I look at them and think we are stupid. We have become so good at producing food we are pricing ourselves out of existence. 

See also: More from our Livestock Farmer Focus writers

US dairy farmers have used the latest in genotyping IVF embryos coupled with massive carousel parlours to produce cows like “Gigi” who yielded about 34,000kg of milk in a year. 

I can also buy 4.54l of milk in the grocery store for £1.44 on sale and farmers’ cheques right now literally have suicide hotline numbers printed on them. 

Crops aren’t much better. Every year it seems there are new yield records, yet everyone is struggling as high levels of supply make for low prices. 

Time to think more like the oil world

I stated early in the year that I am not a very good “Agvocate”. I wish we would stop acting like Mother Teresa and start acting like the oil exporting group Opec. 

The only difference is people think they need what Opec offers but they must have food. USDA (US Department of Agriculture) data says that in 1960 Americans spent 17.6% of their income on food.

Now a population of a couple of hundred million additional people spends 9.6%. Many in agriculture see this as a huge win – I think it’s a lost opportunity.

I recently saw a Facebook post that encouraged me to explain to the person sat next to me on an airplane what we do on farms. You know who doesn’t do that?  Saudi princes – they fly private.  

I absolutely don’t want people to go hungry but I do think people can go without a new iPhone, car, Netflix or season ticket, so dairy farmers stop killing themselves.

Should we just stop trying to make as much as we can to keep prices low? It seems like the only first step.

Daniel Mushrush is a Farmer Focus writer from Kansas. Read his biography.