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Why Are Farmers Punished for Success?

February 11, 2012

In any business it’s said that success is a good thing.

My friend Derrel recently gave an example of what seems a successful operation. ” I just returned from one of my clients operations. They had sales last year of just under $ 10 million dollars. Owned by two brothers and a sister and employees about ten family members plus about twenty other full time employees, all of which make more than the national average salary. Their operation was started by their father, continued by the second generation and plans have been made to transition the operation to the third generation. All three generations have not only been actively involved in the farming operation but have been model citizens in their local communities contributing significant time and money to various local causes. They are one of the most environmentally responsible operators that I have seen of any size. Their operation includes farming, ranching and a feedlot which feeds not only cattle but buffalo. They are a corporation because anyone operating a business that grosses a half million dollars, much less 10 million would be an idiot to not have some protection through a legal organization such as a corporation or an LLC. What part of this operation is not a family operation in your mind?”

A critic’s response was that because it could be promoted as small family farm “that’s misleading.”

So in a nutshell, it appears some want farmers to operate at a loss in order to somehow prove they are a family farm rather than, for legal and tax purposes, incorporate or become an LLC.

It’s ok if they make an average salary, but not ok if they succeed to sell $10 million in sales. Isn’t that small business success?

According to the Southwest Farm Press New Mexico shows “82 percent of the state’s farms earn less than $50,000 in gross annual sales, and three-fourths of those earn less than $10,000”.

Further “Meanwhile, large-scale operations are super-sizing. For example, in 1980, four firms controlled 36 percent of beef slaughter nationally. By 1998, those same four firms controlled nearly 82 percent of production.” This trend and control of the food supply has been followed, and talked about , by some of us since 1980. Most weren’t concerned, and weren’t concerned in 1998 either. So now in 2012 after thousands of farms that were begging for help are gone…now when more are hanging on and asking for support…it’s a bad thing to have adapted, survived and thrived.

That horse left the barn a long time ago…his descendents are trying to carry on…in the same way, adapting, finding niche markets, insuring food choices. Our farms may look much different from our parents, or may look very much the same. But we’re here, still moving forward.

Success shouldn’t be a bad thing. It shouldn’t be qualified by sales (that 80% may be expenses) – sometimes survival through the generations as a family farm is a success in itself.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 13, 2012 7:16 AM

    Jealousy is an ailment of our species to be sure.

    On another note, I’ve named you in our “Versatile Blogger” page – http://bit.ly/xyOEpn – yours was easily the first to come to mind. It seems like a good way to recognize and publicize blogs, but since it has some similarities to the dreaded chain emails, please be very assured that I am applying no pressure for you to participate and hold no contempt should you decide not to!

    I truly enjoy reading your blog, and appreciate what you are doing.

    Pat

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