Farming against the odds: take the hint

I found John Fleck’s story on a San Acacia, NM, farmer in today’s Albuquerque Journal to be interesting and frustrating at the same time. The farmer does his job “against the odds” which is portrayed at least sympathetically. Of course, one need to look no further than last year’s Super Bowl to find evidence of the hero-farmer (a compelling commercial nonetheless).

But life is not supposed to be that tough. It is the market telling farmers (as it has for generations) on marginal land using less-than-optimal practices to do something else because the activity can be done better elsewhere. This is better for the environment, thus undercutting the whole “buy local” concept as well which actually hurts the environment.

A buggy whip salesman would be laughed at for stubbornly refusing to take up another career, but a farmer is encouraged to continue to struggle against the elements and economic reality. Oh, and then we throw massive subsidies at them (including $36 million sent to dead people) and other government policies make it exceedingly difficult for poor farmers in Africa and Central America to raise their living standards by exporting agricultural products to the USA.