China and the rural stupor

Written by stevefairchild on .

Over at Sp!ked, Patrick Hayes reinforces what ag economists have been telling us for a few years now: China’s urbanizing population needs our agricultural exports. 

Hayes says, “According to the Chinese statistics bureau, 691 million people now live in cities, amounting to just over 51 per cent of the [Chinese] population.”alt

That’s mind boggling in the way that so much of China is—sheer and massive statistics of humanity. Hayes goes on to say that the number of people living in cities could reach 70 per cent – approximately one billion people – by just 2030.

There are great implications of such movement. Obviously, commodity farmers in the United States see that demand as a light on the horizon, hopefully an underpinning demand that smooths the traditional boom and bust commodity price cycles. And yet, such huge demographic and economic shifts can also bring the kind of disruption that affects political and trade relationships. 

Of that great shift, Hayes says:

The human implications of this are very real: over a short period of time, hundreds of millions of people have been freed from millennia of toiling on the land, farming wheat, rice and millet. They have been liberated from what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels rightly described as ‘the idiocy of rural life’, and which Engels termed the state of ‘isolation and stupor in which [humankind] has vegetated almost unchanged for thousands of years’.

Hayes is writing from an overall human welfare bent. We understand the notion that some rural places haven’t evolved much over time, and we read Messrs. Marx and Engels with all the caution required given history’s refining lens. But, did they really “rightly describe,” as Hayes has it, “the idiocy of rural life”? Maybe, had it gone their way, the revolution would have rendered the description as apt, but those of us out here shudder when called idiots. 

Oh…and how did Marx/Engels really write it? Just like this: 

Only as uniform a distribution as possible of the population over the whole country, only an integral connection between industrial and agricultural production together with the thereby necessary extension of the means of communication — presupposing the abolition of the capitalist mode of production — would be able to save the rural population from the isolation and stupor in which it has vegetated almost unchanged for thousands of years. It is not utopian to declare that the emancipation of humanity from the chains which its historic past has forged will only be complete when the antithesis between town and country has been abolished; the utopia begins when one undertakes "from existing conditions" to prescribe the form in which this or any other of the antitheses of present-day society is to be solved.

We put the emphasis on “presupposing,” which we suppose is the key part of liberating that rural population from their isolation and stupor. Yet absent the realization of that presupposition, there has been a liberation by modern markets, technology and, yes, governmental guidance. 

Something to ponder as you decide how to leverage your capital into the spring growing season, grease up that million-dollar line of equipment and decide what, how and where to plant your crop. 

Power to the people. 

MFA Saddle Award

Written by stevefairchild on .

MFA saddle winner

Warren County equine enthusiast Lorna Dreyer (left)  was recently awarded the 2012 MFA Western Saddle. As a complement to young adults in equine events, MFA awards western saddle to a selected Missouri 4-H youth each year. The saddle competition is open to 4-H youth 14 and older. 

Dreyer noted in her application, “I can honestly say that 4-H Horsemanship has been a sole factor in my goals for my future education and career path! Without 4-H Horsemanship I would have never gotten back into horses, and even if I had gotten back into them, I would not have had the knowledge that I now have about horses.”  

She will graduate from high school this year and plans to major in veterinarian science or embryology at the University of Missouri.  

 The saddle was awarded by Janice Spears (right), MFA feed products marketing manager at the Missouri Equine Council’s annual celebration. 

This saddle is a part of a complete line of equine products available through MFA.

Entice them to the city and let them eat meat

Written by stevefairchild on .

The National Geographic Society, which we've previously called into question, is publishing this book. There is room to debate Mr. Lynas in this essay, and probably more in the book. However, our skepticism was relieved when we got to this part.


People’s desire to eat more meat as they get more wealthy is so deeply embedded in most cultures (and getting lots of protein may even be a biological impulse inherent in all of us) that it is not something that is amenable to outside influence. As with climate change, the only pragmatic option is to concentrate efforts to fulfil people’s desires and demands in a way that protects natural ecosystems as far as possible – not to try to challenge patterns of consumption per se by insisting that they are unsustainable, even if this appears to be the case in the short term. Such an approach has failed in the past and will continue to fail in the future.

Biofuel proponents will have some difficulty with what followed, however.

Perception, reality, farming and food

Written by stevefairchild on .

Today the headline hosepipe delivered a couple stories that remind farmers that however far away from town that they live, there’s still consumer interest right down on the farm. 

Over at the Center for Food Integrity, there was a story about the CFI’s work in understanding consumer perception. It reminded us that indeed, perception is reality when it comes to opinions about food and food production.

 From the CFI piece: 

CFI's 2011 study sought to measure the difference in how consumers perceive different types of farms. The following definitions were provided to survey respondents.  

Family Farmer - A farming operation owned and operated by a family. All decisions on how to operate the farm are made by the family members and carried out by family members or employees.

Commercial Farmer - A farming operation owned by a company and operated by employee farmers. All decisions on how to operate this farm are made by managers of the company and carried out by employees.  

Respondents were asked to rank what they believe the priorities are and what they should be for both family farms and commercial farms. The data shows consumers' priority goals are fairly well-aligned with family farms. Not so much for commercial farms. Consumers believe farm profitability is the second-highest priority for commercial farmers when they believe it should be second to last. There is a lack of alignment on other issues, including farm productivity, environmental sustainability, and the humane treatment of farm animals.   


But bigger family-owned farms increasingly are seen as commercial farms, aren’t they?


Still, that need not mean such farm need to be perceived as commercial or non-family farms.  According to the CFI:


CFI has learned that transparency and effective communication of values can overcome the bias that exists surrounding the size and structure of many of today's farms. The Farmers Feed US website features video interviews of real farmers using modern technology. Surveys of more than 3,000 consumers who have been to the site show 95 percent of them say they consider the farmers to be "knowledgeable, approachable and the kind of person I want producing my food."

 The images on the website show contemporary operations - those that consumers probably consider commercial farms. But transparency coupled with effective communication of shared values can overcome the bias.


Get the whole CFI consumer trust survey here.

Meanwhile, AdAge is reporting that  McDonald’s is stepping up its efforts to identify with the growers who produce food for the chain. The story’s deck: Goal Is to 'Put Face on Quality of the Food’

Sounds like CFI and McDonald’s see the same trend. The writer of the AdAge story quotes Neil Golden, McDonald’s U.S. Chief Marketing Officer:

"We thought putting a face on the quality of the food story would be a unique way to approach this. We acknowledge that there are questions about where our food comes from. I believe we've got an opportunity to accentuate that part of our story." 

McDonald’s will push the campaign through TV, print and digital media and “additional paid and earned media,” according to AdAge.  Featured farmers will be producers of potatoes, lettuce and beef. 

Recall that just a month ago, McDonald’s egg provider, Sparboe Farms was spotlighted by Mercy for Animals. The animal rights pressure group's broadcast of alleged health and animal welfare failures at Sparboe induced McDonald's to drop the egg producer as a supplier. 

McDonald’s is among the largest buyers of meat, milk and eggs in the country. Checkout @McDListenTour on Twitter to see one way the company approaches social media. 






Resources for further reading:

$20,000 per acre

Written by stevefairchild on .

Here is one of those how-high-can-it-go? stories from Iowa. Apparently, one answer is $20,000 per acre. 



Iowa set a new farmland price Wednesday when a 74-acre tract near Hull in Sioux County went for $20,000 per acre.

The buyer was a neighboring farmer, Leland Kaster, who bought the land from Clinton Shinkle of Washington State.

“Farmland is very valuable up here, with good commodity prices and a strong livestock industry,” said auctioneer Pete Pollema of Hull, who called the sale.


There is the appropriate gnashing of teeth about the paralells between now and the 1980s, which are ultimately dismissed—read the rest.


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