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An editorial column from the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation,
Commentary may be used as an op-ed piece or letter to the editor.


Big Ag is a Mystery to Many

BY DAN CASSIDY

Photo credit: Alyson Akrom
Big Ag is a Mystery to Many

“Big Ag” is a term used often in the media. While its meaning is shrouded in mystery, the term is usually not said in a positive context.  Users of the term are generally outspoken critics of U.S. food policy, national agriculture leaders or large farm organizations.  Keen readers will notice a pattern, as writers who use the term also seem to make references to “Factory Farms,” CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and “Puppy Mills.”  The common denominator appears to be that Big Ag is somehow both anti-consumer and anti-environment.

So is Big Ag a reference to the size of a farm?  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2017, the average farm in Missouri was 293 acres.  Production expenses averaged $83,598 and net cash income was $20,053.  So if you own a farm with more than 293 acres, are you simply considered larger than average, or are you now Big Ag?  Or if a farm produces 50 acres of pumpkins and its net income is greater than average, should it be considered Big Ag?

Perhaps Big Ag is a reference to business structure and synonymous with farms owned by corporations.  But according to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture, almost 98 percent of Missouri farms are owned by families, individuals, partnerships or family-held corporations. 

Could it be a reference to agribusiness?  Maybe this is a dig not at farmers, but at the companies who develop new seed, herbicides, tractors or irrigation equipment.  Maybe it’s a way of calling out the companies who finish our cattle, purchase our grain or transport our commodities.  Yes, agribusinesses usually belong to trade associations who represent their interests, but it doesn’t serve them well to pursue policies detrimental to family farms.    

Big Ag is sometimes used to describe farm organizations that don’t align with an individual’s view on a particular issue.  It seems some writers use the term in conjunction with issues such as commodity checkoffs, international trade agreements and commodity programs in the farm bill.  Yet this ignores the fact family farmers are the ones who develop the policies advocated by the organizations.

Ultimately, it would seem the term Big Ag is used as an amalgam of all the above; a triumvirate of large farms, multinational corporations and national farm groups working against the needs of family farmers.  This is far from the truth. Those who try to disparage farmers by promoting the term Big Ag would be better served by participating in the process than calling names.


Dan Cassidy, of Fulton, Mo., is the chief administrative officer for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization.

An editorial column from the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation, Commentary may be used as an op-ed piece or letter to the editor.

 
COMMENTARY ARCHIVES


07-20-2017 - Dad's Farm Jacket

06-29-2017 - Come and Get It!

06-14-2017 - Meet Someone

04-13-2017 - A Story to Remember

03-15-2017 - Paying it Forward

03-01-2017 - The Rural-Urban Divide

12-29-2016 - Ringing in Reform

12-08-2016 - A System That Works

11-03-2016 - Farmers' Almanac Finds

10-27-2016 - I Will Vote

09-29-2016 - How Bout Them Apples

09-22-2016 - Asterisks

09-08-2016 - Practicing Patience

07-21-2016 - Meet me at the Fair

07-07-2016 - GROW

05-26-2016 - Taps

05-20-2016 - A Seat at the Table

05-12-2016 - Nothing Beats a Burger

03-17-2016 - Busy People

02-25-2016 - A Dog in the Manger

02-18-2016 - Me and My Kayak

01-28-2016 - More or Less Winter

01-21-2016 - The Time for Thanks

12-30-2015 - Resolutions of Reform

12-23-2015 - Beyond Blessed

12-17-2015 - The Farmer's Tale

12-03-2015 - 'Tis the Season

12-01-2015 - What matters most

11-05-2015 - Food is simple

10-15-2015 - What's with the Weeds?

10-01-2015 - Fall Flavor Favorite

09-24-2015 - Why Tour Farms?

09-10-2015 - Bring the Kids

08-13-2015 - Farm Kids and the Fair

08-06-2015 - Rock Stars

07-30-2015 - Gone, but not for good

07-16-2015 - Time Well Spent

07-09-2015 - Behind the Wheel

06-25-2015 - A State of Discovery

06-10-2015 - Pickup Trucks

05-29-2015 - Real Deal Dairy

05-14-2015 - Decoration Day

04-30-2015 - Who's Driving

04-29-2015 - Proper Road Etiquette

04-10-2015 - Differing Definitions

04-02-2015 - Boots on the Ground

03-19-2015 - Who Will Speak Up?

02-12-2015 - The HITs Keep Coming

02-05-2015 - No Skin in the Game

01-07-2015 - Food Fandom

12-18-2014 - The Farmer's Tale

11-13-2014 - If It Ain't Broke

11-06-2014 - Scars on their Souls

10-30-2014 - A Wish for Winter

10-16-2014 - Timing is Everything

10-02-2014 - Food Prices Fluctuate

07-24-2014 - Lessons from the Past

07-03-2014 - Fire up the Grill!

06-26-2014 - Watching Tomatoes Grow

06-12-2014 - Say Yes

05-29-2014 - Join the Chorus

03-20-2014 - Small Steps on Ag Day

03-06-2014 - The First Green Pop

02-20-2014 - Good Storytellers

01-23-2014 - Costly Miscalculations

01-16-2014 - Resilience and Resolve

01-09-2014 - Cheerios and GMOs

12-26-2013 - New Year Focus

11-26-2013 - Right Words

11-14-2013 - Mama's Sofa

11-08-2013 - Paying Our Own Way

10-25-2013 - No Easy Fix

10-10-2013 - A Farmer's Sacrifice

10-03-2013 - Must-See TV

09-26-2013 - Chipotle, at It Again

09-13-2013 - Naked is Still Naked

07-25-2013 - Let's Play Ball

06-13-2013 - Rural is Relative

06-06-2013 - Playing by the Rules

05-30-2013 - Uncertainty is Certain

05-02-2013 - Watch and Wait

04-18-2013 - City Cousins

04-11-2013 - What You Don't Know

02-28-2013 - Barefoot in the Dirt

02-14-2013 - Rural Relevance

02-07-2013 - How It's Made

01-17-2013 - A Green Mindset

01-03-2013 - Knowing Your Neighbors

12-20-2012 - The Spare Parachute

12-06-2012 - Last Minute Shoppers

11-15-2012 - Attitude of Gratitude

11-08-2012 - Thanksgiving Time

11-01-2012 - Bacon is Big

10-25-2012 - Rural Votes Matter

10-11-2012 - The Farm Bill Big Deal

09-07-2012 - Farm Progress

08-23-2012 - A Real Dilemma

08-16-2012 - The Next Season

08-09-2012 - Land of Legacy

07-19-2012 - All Things Considered

07-06-2012 - One of Those Years

06-28-2012 - The Real Uncle Sam

06-07-2012 - Something Certain

05-11-2012 - Not Asparagus

04-05-2012 - Something to See

03-22-2012 - Doing Our Part

03-15-2012 - Farmers Get Trendy

02-23-2012 - We Reap What We Sow

02-02-2012 - Fanfare for Farmers

01-27-2012 - Recovery from Ruin

01-19-2012 - A New Coffee Shop

12-15-2011 - The Farmer's Tale

12-08-2011 - Made in USA

11-22-2011 - Tired from Retiring

11-03-2011 - Scars on Their Souls

10-20-2011 - Hooked on Halloween

09-15-2011 - Told You So!

08-17-2011 - They're BACK!

08-11-2011 - A New Type of Vacation

08-04-2011 - Perfection, Summer

07-28-2011 - It's a Show-Me Thing

07-07-2011 - Country Girl

05-12-2011 - Land Grab Underway

04-14-2011 - Earth Day Controversy

01-20-2011 - EPA, TMDL and AFBF

01-14-2011 - A Word of Caution

12-29-2010 - Mincemeat Madness

12-15-2010 - The Farmer's Tale

12-01-2010 - A Tale of Two Farmers

11-04-2010 - Scars on Their Souls

09-16-2010 - Ratify to Help Rectify

09-01-2010 - Cut to the Crash

08-18-2010 - It's Not about Puppies

07-28-2010 - What a Great Ride!

07-15-2010 - Just a Smidgen More!

06-24-2010 - Oh, Oh - SpaghettiOs

05-20-2010 - Weiner Patties?

05-13-2010 - Farmland Restoration

04-15-2010 - God Bless You 14 Times

03-12-2010 - Don't CAP Our Future!

02-05-2010 - Thank A Farmer

01-15-2010 - Food Prices Leveling!

12-17-2009 - The Farmer's Tale

12-11-2009 - Who is in Charge?

12-04-2009 - Deal or No Deal?

11-24-2009 - Connect the Dots