what is big agriculture



A term that was (and is) often bandied about is “Big Ag.” It’s become an all-encompassing term to describe a world in which all farms are owned by major corporations, which also control the nation’s (if not the world’s) supply of seeds, plants, food, machinery and land. However, it is not entirely clear that this world actually exists.


How do big farmers do agriculture?

 · For livestock operations, does “Big Agriculture” really mean Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (“CAFO’s”) or Animal Feeding Operations (“AFO’s”)? Organic farms can be CAFO’s. Is that still Big Agriculture? What about the farm with 30 goats near a stream that is deemed to be an AFO due to its proximity to water bodies?

Why big data is big business in agriculture?

 · An update to IBM’s quantum computing roadmap now says the company is on course to build a 4,000- qubit machine by 2025. But getting the device to do anything useful will require the development …

What is big data in agriculture?

1. Feeding a growing population. This is one of the key challenges that even governments are putting their heads together to solve. One way to achieve this is to increase the yield from …

Is agriculture worth it?

Large, medium or small, farms that foster diversity contribute to a healthier agriculture. Typically, smaller organic or biodynamic farms are the most diverse, but in the last decade or …


What are the complaints about big ag?

Among the other specific complaints these days are deforestation and negligence. In Brazil, for example, a tripling of soybean production since 1990 has been blamed for the ongoing stripping of the Amazon basin. In the United States, ill-managed factory farms and processing plants have contributed to repeated outbreaks of food-borne illnesses that kill about a thousand people a year and sicken millions. Of course, not all those casualties can be attributed to food conglomerates—and regulations have helped curb some of the worst abuses. But the political and economic clout of Big Ag can make effective regulation of their facilities difficult.

How many farms are there in the world?

There are somewhere between 50 million and 100 million farms [PDF] in the world (if you exclude those smaller than about three American football fields). But about half the crops produced by those farms rely on the seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides supplied by a mere dozen or so companies. Most of those crops are bought, traded, and transported around the world by another half dozen. Yes: Something like half of the crops on this planet are grown, processed, and shipped by fewer than two dozen companies. And when it’s time for agricultural products to be processed and distributed to stores, that’s another dozen or so, many overlapping with the aforementioned traders and suppliers.

What is contract farming?

One ongoing trend is contract farming, in which farmers grow according to a food company’s specifications, with all supplies provided by the company, in return for its commitment to purchase the farmers’ output if it is acceptable. In West Bengal, India, where PepsiCo has engaged more than 10 000 farmers to supply potatoes and other crops for its snack products, the practice is credited with increasing yields substantially and insulating farmers from price fluctuations in the open market. In the United States, though, contract chicken farming has been characterized as a modern version of sharecropping. Large companies such as Tyson Foods supply chicks and feed to farmers who build and operate vast henhouses (with chickens confined to cages only slightly bigger than their bodies). The farmers sign agreements that can be terminated with as little as two months’ notice if the chickens don’t gain enough weight or a farmer doesn’t make the exact henhouse modifications the company requires.

Which companies produce the most pesticides?

Start with the so-called Big Six [PDF]. Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Bayer, and BASF produce roughly three-quarters of the pesticides used in the world. The first five also sell more than half the name-brand seeds that farmers plant, including varieties modified for resistance to the very pesticides they also sell. Meanwhile, if farmers want fertilizer, a list of 10 other companies, starting with PotashCorp, account for about two-thirds of the world market.

Is Big Ag a cloud?

But Big Ag has long operated under a cloud. Researchers and activists have questioned the safety or long-term consequences (or both) of various Big Ag practices, such as the use of certain pesticides, fertilizers, animal hormones, and food additives.

What is the problem with big agriculture?

But the bigger problem is arguably that there is too little vertical integration of food processors with food producers and landowners. Today, big food processors are able to take an outsized share of the profits from the food system while pushing the economic risk onto those further down the supply chain. Many large farmers, meanwhile, lease rather than own much of the land they farm, with much of America’s farmland owned by absentee landowners.

What is the rise of modern agriculture?

For this reason, the rise of modern agriculture is as much a story of railways and highways as combines and tractors, refrigeration and grain elevators as pesticides and fertilizer. The development and growth of feedlots followed a similar path.

What percentage of food sales are organic?

Meanwhile, only a bit more than 5 percent of food sales come from organic producers, mostly because organic sales are overwhelmingly concentrated in high-value sectors of the market, namely produce and dairy, and fetch a premium from well-heeled consumers.

Where are soybeans harvested?

Soybeans are harvested from a field on Hodgen Farms in Roachdale, Indiana, on Nov. 8, 2019. Bryan Woolston/REUTERS. In some ways, it is not surprising that many of the best fed, most food-secure people in the history of the human species are convinced that the food system is broken. Most have never set foot on a farm or, at least, …

How can we improve the competitiveness of agriculture?

First, the United States should double down on technology and productivity. Better seeds, irrigation, fertilizers, feeds, and animal breeding—together with precision farming made possible by big data, GPS systems, and rural broadband—could significantly improve both the competitiveness and environmental performance of U.S. farms. We estimate that doubling federal support for agricultural research and development, from $4 billion annually to $8 billion, over the next decade would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from global agriculture by an amount equivalent to about 40 percent of current U.S. cropland emissions while increasing U.S. exports.

Is agriculture bad for the environment?

That benefits the U.S. economy, of course, but it also comes with an environmental benefit for the world. In the contemporary environmental imagination, highly productive, globally traded agriculture is a bad thing—poisoning the land at home and undermining food sovereignty abroad.

Is organic farming sustainable?

Many sustainable agriculture advocates tout the recent growth of organic agriculture as proof that an alternative food system is possible. But growing market share vastly overstates how much food is actually produced organically. In reality, organic production accounts for little more than 1 percent of total U.S. agricultural land use. Meanwhile, only a bit more than 5 percent of food sales come from organic producers, mostly because organic sales are overwhelmingly concentrated in high-value sectors of the market, namely produce and dairy, and fetch a premium from well-heeled consumers.

What is a big ag?

The term Big Ag means different things to different people. The Big Ag catalog… is delivered only to large-acre producers and features larger equipment and products necessary to run commercial operations.

When did agriculture start growing?

Farming—and all the economic activity around it—started growing long before we knew what DNA looked like. Since 1900, and especially since the end of World War II, agricultural has been transformed on nearly every level, according to the USDA: In 1900, 41 percent of the country’s workforce was in agriculture.

Why do farmers need to have a pipeline of innovation?

Companies who can do this will have a competitive advantage.Farmers will need to have a pipeline of innovation going forward to meet the demands of the world food market and of the changing environment. Only having a few big players can provide this innovation, yet it can also lead to the stifling of invasion.

What percentage of farms are family run?

For farmers, while 97 percent of farms are small, family run operations, the economic value from all our farms come from a very small percentage of larger operations. This is also a result of farming consolidation and concentration on one or two crops we see today. And these operations can’t rely on a dozen small seed companies or six tractor manufacturers.

Which companies supply inputs and outputs for farms?

So, today, we see a handful of major corporations that supply the inputs and outputs for farms: Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Bayer, and BASF top the list, which also include a few newer companies from Eastern Europe and South America.

Who said “get big or get out”?

Earl Butz served Presidents Nixon and Ford as Agricultural secretary, and he’s famous for saying “get big or get out,” farming “fencerow to fencerow”, and otherwise getting farmers to become as large-scale as possible (he’s also known for saying some other things, but you can just Google those).

How many tractors were made in the 1930s?

First, technological changes made these efficiencies possible. Mechanization was one, as the number of tractors, for example, jumped from less than a million in 1930 to just shy of five million in 1960.

How can big data help agriculture?

How big data can help agriculture. To counter the pressures of increasing food demand and climate changes, policymakers and industry leaders are seeking assistance from technology forces such as IoT, big data, analytics, and cloud computing. IoT devices help in the first phase of this process — data collection.

Why is big data important?

Big data provides farmers granular data on rainfall patterns, water cycles, fertilizer requirements, and more. This enables them to make smart decisions, such as what crops to plant for better profitability and when to harvest. The right decisions ultimately improve farm yields.

What is SMAG data?

Using a tool to help process the vast amount of stored and accumulated data, SMAG developed a complex agronomic Data Crop algorithm, allowing for the use of different types of data to optimize decision-making. For example, Data Crop enables users to track the progress of crops over the year and predict yields — a data point that has led to incredible wheat production results. Currently, 80% of French agricultural land under wheat cultivation is managed through Data Crop. SMAG plans to expand this to other crops and countries as well.

What is SMAG’s objective?

Their objective: use digitization to solve the food challenges of the 21st century.

How does Big Data help the supply chain?

To address this, food delivery cycles from producer to the market need to be reduced. Big data can help achieve supply chain efficiencies by tracking and optimizing delivery truck routes.

Why is monitoring important for farmers?

By monitoring it closely, farmers can adhere to government regulations and avoid overuse of chemicals in food production. Moreover, this leads to increased profitability because crops don’t get destroyed by weeds and insects.

How can big data make a difference?

Let’s take a look at a few use cases where big data can make a difference. 1. Feeding a growing population. This is one of the key challenges that even governments are putting their heads together to solve. One way to achieve this is to increase the yield from existing farmlands.

What is FOIA in agriculture?

Big Ag has convinced House Republicans to include language in the proposed 2017 House Agricultural Appropriations bill that would exempt agricultural commodity groups from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. FOIA is an important tool for journalists and activists to obtain government records when investigating potentially shady activities.

Why did Big Ag lobby for ag gag?

Instead of being outraged at appalling living conditions, food safety concerns or animal torture, Big Ag chose to lobby for state “Ag Gag” legislation – laws that would punish those who record and distribute images of horrifying conditions at animal agriculture facilities, without the owner’s consent.

How many Iowa farmers made more money in 2015?

In year 2015 the CEOs of Monsanto , DuPont Pioneer and John Deere combined made more money than 2,129 Iowa farmers.”. The day after the cartoon was published, Friday was dismissed, via email. You’ve got to hand it to Big Ag.

What is the agriculture sector?

The U.S. agriculture sector extends beyond the farm business to include a range of farm-related industries. The largest of these are food service and food manufacturing. Americans’ expenditures on food amount to 13 percent of household budgets on average. Among Federal Government outlays on farm and food programs, …

What are the sectors of agriculture?

Sectors related to agriculture include: food and beverage manufacturing; food and beverage stores; food services and eating and drinking places; textiles, apparel, and leather products; and forestry and fishing.

How much does agriculture contribute to GDP?

Agriculture, food, and related industries contributed $1.109 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, a 5.2-percent share. The output of America’s farms contributed $136.1 billion of this sum—about 0.6 percent of GDP.

How many jobs are there in agriculture in 2019?

In 2019, 22.2 million full- and part-time jobs were related to the agricultural and food sectors—10.9 percent of total U.S. employment. Direct on-farm employment accounted for about 2.6 million of these jobs, or 1.3 percent of U.S. employment. Employment in agriculture- and food-related industries supported another 19.6 million jobs.

How many people are employed in the food and beverage industry in 2019?

In 2019, the U.S. food and beverage manufacturing sector employed 1.7 million people, or just over 1.1 percent of all U.S. nonfarm employment.

What is big data in agriculture?

Big data in agriculture. Big data applications in agriculture are a combination of technology and analytics. It entails the collection, compilation, and timely processing of new data to help scientists and farmers make better and more informed decisions. Farming processes are increasingly becoming data-enabled and data-driven, …

What are the issues that are being addressed by big data applications in agriculture?

Sustainability, global food security, safety, and improved efficiency are some of the critical issues that are being addressed by big data applications in agriculture. Undoubtedly, these global issues have extended the scope of big data beyond farming and now cover the entire food supply chain. With the development of the Internet of Things, various components of agriculture and the supply chain are wirelessly connected, generating data that is accessible in real-time.

What has allowed the development of useful agronomic traits?

Access to plant genome information – This has allowed the development of useful agronomic traits.

What are the traditional players who offer their platforms and solutions to the farmers?

Technology and input suppliers are the traditional players who offer their platforms and solutions to the farmers. Data privacy and security risks compel farmers to form coalitions to benefit from their data, creating a close and proprietary environment. Big data also attract start-ups, private firms, non-agricultural tech companies, and public institutions.

What is big data?

Big data is an extensive collection of both structured and unstructured data that can be mined for information and analyzed to build predictive systems for better decision making. Besides the government, telecom, healthcare, marketing, education, and several industrial sectors, big data applications in agriculture are gaining momentum as technologies like livestock monitoring gadgets, drones, and soil sensors are generating large volumes of data to support data-driven farming. The ultimate goal is to help farmers, agriculturists, and scientists adopt beneficial farming practices.

What is the role of stakeholders in big data?

The organization of the stakeholders determines the infrastructure of big data solutions – either proprietary or an open-source system. The development of big data applications in agriculture will result in either the farmers becoming franchisers in integrated long supply chains or a scenario in which farmers collaborate with suppliers and the government to engage in short supply chains.

How does agriculture help the world?

According to the World Bank, development in agriculture is one of the most important tools we have to end extreme poverty while providing at least the basic nutrition to an ever-growing global population which is expected to reach nearly 9.7 billion by 2050. You might be wondering how this can be, but the truth is, growth in the agricultural sector is said to be around two to four times more effective than similar growth in any other sector. This does make sense though when you consider the fact that around 65% of people who earn a poor income are engaged in the agricultural sector. Therefore, improving growth and income in the sector will have a significant effect on the overall median income in the world.

What is the biggest crop in the US?

Corn is the biggest crop grown in the US, with over $50 billion worth of corn being produced in 2014, followed by soybeans, wheat and alfalfa.

How much does agriculture contribute to GDP?

The farms alone contributed around $136 billion, or 0.6% of GDP. Of course, this is just the direct contribution; many major industries rely on the output of these farms for their own production and supply, such as the food and beverage manufacturing beverages, food services, restaurants, textiles, forestry, fishing and leather among many others. The industry creates around 22 million jobs for Americans which is around 11% of the total employment in the US. On farm employment numbers are around 2.6 million people, which is 1.3% of the total employees in the US. Indirectly, the sector supports an additional 19.6 million jobs, so directly or indirectly more than 41 million employees are related to the agricultural sector.

Why is agriculture unsustainable?

Agriculture accounts for around 70% of the total water usage while also generating waste and pollution at unprecedented levels, because most countries still use old methods for agriculture which aren’t efficient , while the supply chain in the sector is also not even close to being optimal; a third of all food production goes to waste, which is heartbreaking in a world where nearly 700 million people are hungry, an increase of 60 million in just 5 years. This lack of availability of proper nutrition leads to poor diets which can causes diseases and illnesses, to the point that poor diet and its risks are the biggest cause of death globally. In fact, not having the proper nutrition doesn’t just result in starvation; some poor countries stack up on fats and unhealthy food, which is why you’ll see many poor countries among the 25 most obese countries in the world.

How much of the world’s GDP is agriculture?

While globally agriculture accounts for around 4% of the total global GDP, that is because many developed countries have a lower focus on agriculture and more on other sectors.

Is agriculture the most important industry in the world?

Agriculture is one of the most important industries in the world, and this cannot be understated at all. While it may not be the primary industry in the world as it used to be not very long and had been for thousands of years, it is still absolutely integral to the world and its population.

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