By John Clement
The challenges of farm policy used to be simpler. Most farms in most commodities were about the same size and generated somewhat comparable farm revenues. But those days have been leaving us for awhile now, with new challenges emerging about how to deliver public support that is both fair and appropriate to changes in the scale of production.
Increasingly, farming and public interest groups are noting that we are starting to experience what could be called the “missing middle.” In short, it means that there are becoming fewer and fewer farms in the middle of the farm income picture, with increased polarization crowding farmers into either lower or higher farm incomes. Roughly, most farms are now either grossing under $100,000 in annual income, or above $250,000.
Here’s an overview of just some of those who have been paying attention to this trend:
Although this trend has been developing for a few years now, the time could soon be arriving when policy makers will need to seriously consider the implications of the “missing middle.” All farmers make contributions to their communities and deserve appropriate government support, but that support may end up looking quite different over time due to the differing characteristics of the farm business. It’s worth the farm community’s time to start discussing the issue and to debate how to manage the phenomenon before others turn their hands to the task.
John Clement is the General Manager of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, Ontario and is archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org/index.html. CFFO is supported by 4,353 family farmers across Ontario.