13 March 2005

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re "Down on the Farm: The Little Guys Are O.K.," by Bruce Gardner (Op-Ed, March 7):

Yes, the number of very small farms is growing. The bad news is that midsize farms are disappearing into the maw of huge farms, which place large hidden costs on the public with their manure lagoons, pesticide drift and nitrogen runoff. And without subsidies, they're seldom profitable.

Small- and medium-sized farms using sustainable methods and selling local foods enhance the environment, animal welfare and health—and raise farm income. My parents' vegetable farm has sales of $10,000 per acre. Many farms with similar total sales sell less than $300 per acre.

Yet consolidation is the policy. It is estimated that New York will lose 6,000 small dairies in 15 years. Family farms will be replaced by a few huge dairies. Bulk milk price will stay low, but eventually even these dairies will be unable to compete with mega-dairies in the West. The green slopes of the Catskills will turn barren even as New Yorkers clamor for high-quality local milk.

Nina Planck
New York, March 7, 2005
The writer is president of Local Foods, a nonprofit group that promotes sustainable agriculture.

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