Friday, September 26, 2008

Farmers Speak At Durham CT Fair

This evening I attended the Durham Fair up in Durham Connecticut. These types of dairy and livestock fairs have become somewhat more routine over the last few years as My step daughter is a member of the 4H club and is actively involved in competitive cow showing.

The experience has been enlightening, and my travels far as last month I found myself up at the Big E in Agawam Massachusetts. This was an opportunity for me to have several conversations with farmers, and also to learn the wisdom behind Ghandi's famous words that "Life is one indivisible whole" every action in our lives affect others and today that realization has made me even more aware than just a month ago.

While in Durham I met with some of Connecticut's top dairy farmers, and I asked them what they thought were the main concerns facing farmers in our state. One thing immediately came up, and that was that sales are down but only because of the low fat, diets that Americans have undertaken. Since the advent of video games, and our sedentary lifestyle more of us than ever have developed weigh issues that consequentially eliminate fat from our diets. This reduces the demand for our dairy farmers fatty products limiting what they are able to sell.

Another issue they mentioned was the broader economic competition from farms across America. While most farmers here in Connecticut get tax breaks on their land that equate to an average of $400.00 per acre in tax, they do not have the undocumented workers that other western farms use to gain a competitive advantage. One thing I personally know for certain, from my endeavors in trading produce at Hunts Point in NYC price and quality is everything when it comes to trading food. Connecticut just cannot compete with the rest of the country on many products, except Milk and some dairy.

The cost of gasoline is making imported products more expensive, so the less distance they travel the better the price. Many farms here in our state receive federal grants and subsidies to ensure their continued operation during difficult times.

When I asked about the food situation relative to the National economy, both these gentlemen felt that America has more than enough food to feed ourselves and other nations like China who purchase many of the high fat products we snicker at here in the states. It was their opinion that there is no cause for concern that America will run out of food anytime soon.

One question I had in particular was the use of GMO foods, or those that are genetically modified. Both these gentlemen were well aware of the debate surrounding GMO's but defended them on the grounds that they were good for our farmers. They indicated that GMO's result in more robust higher yield harvests, are more resistant to pests and deliver a good looking highly marketable product. When I asked about how the nutritional aspects of these products relative to us the consumers he did admit that little consideration was given to that as a matter of fact that was secondary to increasing profits. He also said that most farmers here in our state are receptive to the products developed by the "Big Agra's" like the Mosanto Corp.

In summary both these people felt that the overall health of the industry in our state appears to be vibrant, with lots of interest from many facets of our state including great clubs like the 4H clubs and several agribusiness/science programs. The overall feeling about farming here in our state is that their is plenty of room for improvement but for now, even though its not highly profitable, things are looking good.

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