Many environmental and animal rights groups want you to believe that “factory farms” have taken over agricultural production in our country with reckless disregard for the soil, air, water and animals in their care. They paint a picture of producers whose goal is to produce as much as possible, as quickly as possible with the least amount of money and care. They want you to believe there is little to no connection between the animals or the crops and the people. The truth is, according to the US Department of Agriculture, 97.6 percent of farms are family owned and operated and those farms account for 85% of the production in the country. The USDA says that family farms account for 96% of production in major field crops (corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat) as well as hogs, poultry and eggs. Many generations of those families have devoted their lives to producing quality crops and livestock with the highest regard for their care.
While many other industries are characterized by large, diversified corporations, agriculture in the U.S. and many other industrialized countries is dominated by family farms. Why is this? It is in large part due to the fact that agriculture faces a unique set of challenges that require extensive knowledge of the local soil, pests, animal behavior and weather patterns. Farmers must be able to adapt quickly as they are often faced with sudden changes in weather, pest populations and commodity markets. The knowledge for effective and efficient production is often passed down through many generations of the same family producing on the family farm.
In Oklahoma and across the country, the agricultural landscape is dotted with family farms of many different sizes. Many are large enough to be considered “factory farms.” Increases in land prices and input costs, and a decrease in the number of young people interested in making a living from production agriculture has led to a decrease in the number of farms and an increase in their size.
While the size of the family farm may vary, the values remain the same. Family farms are characterized by producers who care for their animals daily. They do their best to protect the air, water and soil while producing a healthy, abundant and affordable food supply. After all, they want the same opportunities to be available for the next generation.