Land was once considered to be a farmer’s most valuable asset. But now, the farmer is more commonly viewed as an “endangered species”. A farmer can feel, both literally and figuratively, that they are fighting a losing battle against tough economic and environmental conditions. However, some farmer-members of farmer’s unions suggest that farmer bankruptcies are actually on the decline.
As farms become larger and more industrialized, smaller family farms are forced to shut down or sell their business because they can’t compete with bigger farming companies. For instance, in Romania, farmer bankruptcies are on the rise because large farming businesses are cheaper to run, so small farmers can’t keep up.
This farmer bankruptcy phenomenon is not just occurring in Romania. Around the world, farmer bankruptcies are on the rise for similar reasons.
Some farmer-members of farmer’s unions suggest that farmer bankruptcies are actually on the decline. They say this decline reflects a stabilization or even reversal of inland concentration and consolidation trends during the past decade.
The future of farming in Romania …
….is uncertain as large numbers of Romanian farmers are stopping their activities annually.
The causes of farmer bankruptcies are many and diverse. The most common explanations include the following:
Farmers simply do not have enough capital to invest or they lack the necessary education,
knowledge for farming.
The profitability of agricultural activity is very low because, although there has been a gradual price increase in certain crops, farming costs have also increased.
In addition, the farmer has to deal with administrative burdens that are abnormally high. Many farmers are adopting a wait-and-see attitude because they do not know how much their crops will sell for since Romania’s agricultural market has been liberalized very recently and producers have little experience in negotiating prices. Even worse is the fact, that Romanian farmers rarely have the possibilities to stock their harvests. Excessive taxation, the high price of fuel and fertilizers are also some of the farmers’ concerns.
What happens with the land?
The farmer usually stops farming his land but does not sell or return it to the state because he still needs that land for agricultural activity. He then leases out parts of it to other farmers, who take over the actual farming.
Of big importance in Romania is land use for sheep and goat farming.
The farmer may also sell it to other people, such as real estate developers or companies interested in setting up industrial facilities (for example poultry farms).
How do we encourage farmers to remain on the land?
The main problem is farmer motivation. Much more can be done to motivate farmers through financial incentives, technology, education, and training programs. However, this would require long-term planning by the Ministry of Agriculture rather than ad-hoc responses to farmers’ problems or even worse, no responses at all.
Another farmer policy is to increase farmer support programs. This would require funding for farmer awareness ads, business plans, farmer loans, and farm insurance programs. The costs of these farmer financial programs are virtually guaranteed by the federal government due to their inherent nature.
Most farmer bankruptcies result from extreme weather events like flooding or drought, and poor farming practices like excessive plowing. Most farmers aren’t yet aware of the importance of soil health. This is a shame, considering that a lot of Romanian agriculture fields are still in good, aka chemical-free condition.
We need to try harder to keep them farming
Many farmers would like to remain to farm, however, lack of support has made them give up on their farms. More farmer training programs are needed to assist farmers with business plans and financial knowledge. Farmer education campaigns that inform farmers of different support opportunities will help them be more profitable and stay on their land.
The introduction of more CSA programs, (Customer Supported Agriculture) in Romania could help farmers because consumers will pay for products before it is grown. Examples in other countries have shown, farmer income has increased because the producers are paid before the growing season even starts and the cashflow planning for buying seeds and seedlings is much easier.
Farmers face many hardships like weather conditions, insects, and animal diseases that can wipe out an entire year’s crop. This means farmers would have to borrow money to buy more supplies for the next season, putting them further in debt.
Ideas for farmers future
The majority of farmers do not have enough money for proper business plans, financial knowledge, and farmer education.
If farmers had better access to things like farmer loans and farmer training programs more of them, would be able to stay on their land with the support they need.
Farmer loans are farmers’ biggest need because usually, they have no money saved up after the harvests. Farmer training programs should include business plans, financial knowledge, farmer education, and farmer awareness campaigns.
Farmer awareness campaigns will help farmers be more profitable and stay on their land. More information regarding CSA programs in other countries should be shared with Romanian farmers.
Every one of us has the power to speak with our wallets. Every time you spend money directly supporting a farmer, the world becomes a little bit better.
Thank you for joining our campaign to help farmers.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts. See you next time!