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Comment Number: AGW-14106
|Sent:||Wednesday, December 30, 2009 1:08 PM|
|Subject:||Comments Regarding Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy|
I am the owner of a small feed company in Southern Illinois. We mainly
provide feed for cattle, dairy, chicken, and horses.
I am very concerned about the consolidation of corporate power in the food
and agriculture sector.
Once upon a time I sold hog feed along with the 4 categories mentioned
above. There is no longer a market here for pig feed except in bulk
quantities to large confinement operations. There are no small or medium
sized producers left in this area raising pigs. There is no business model
that works for them.
As a retailer of animal feed I am very concerned about the margins we are
forced to live with. There are few retail sectors that can live on 15-25%
margins but that is what we contend with. Compare that to normal retail
margins that run 30-70%. Basically, there is not enough profit in raising
livestock on even a medium scale to allow reasonable flow through to the
retailer and distributor. What I am saying is that low profits at the farm
means low profits at the feed retailer, low profits at the feed distributor,
and probably on up the chain. As distributors close, which we are seeing
here in Southern Illinois, we have to bring products in from farther away
which then increases transportation costs. It's a vicious circle, margins
shrink to a point of a business being unsustainable, it closes putting
additional pressure on other business within the supply chain which either
close or pass the costs on to the farmer who can't afford them anyway.
It's a cascading effect. The closing of these Ag businesses contributes to
other business closures in our small towns, forcing people to drive farther
for supplies, groceries, etc? Anyone think gas is going to get cheaper?
If we are going to have a sustainable Ag industry in this country we have to
enable medium sized farmers to make the equivalent of the median income
($46,000 in Illinois) and small farmers to be able to make a reasonable part
time wage. That's in their pocket before taxes and after leaving some profit
to go back into the farm for improvements and expansion.
What have the large conglomerations brought us? Genetically modified corn
and beans that the rest of the world doesn't want and which there is some
evidence that it contributes to cancer rates in this country. Feed lots and
dairies with such crowded conditions that disease is a problem and overuse
of antibiotics is contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistant
disease. Worse yet, the (mis)use of antibiotics to increase the rate of gain
in calves. Growth hormone and pus now showing up in our milk. And all of
this done to increase efficiency which includes employing less people. Food
prices are up, food companies are bringing in record profits, and farmers
are steadily going under. There's something fundamentally wrong here.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to comment on this situation.
Culpeper Feed Co
211 W Jefferson
Altamont, Il 62411