How America’s food giants swallowed the family farms / The Big Tech takeover of agriculture is dangerous / (Video) The reason the world is running out of farmers
When the vast expanse of rural Iowa was carved up for settlers in the 19th century, it was often divided into 160-acre lots. Four farms made a square mile, with a crisscross of dead-straight roads marking the boundaries like a sprawling chess board. Within each square, generations of families tended pigs and cattle, grew oats and raised children, with the sons most likely to take over the farm. That is how Barb Kalbach saw the future when she left her family’s land to marry and begin farming with her new husband, Jim, 47 years ago. “When we very first were married, we had cattle and calves,” she says. “We raised hogs from farrow to finish, and we had corn, beans, hay and oats. So did everyone around us.”
Half a century later, Kalbach surveys the destruction within the section of chessboard she shared with other farms near Dexter in southwestern Iowa. Barb and Jim are the last family still working the land, after their neighbours were picked off by waves of collapsing commodity prices and the rise of factory farming. With that came a vast transfer in wealth as farm profits funnelled into corporations or the diminishing number of families that own an increasing share of the land. Rural communities have been hollowed out….
On January 15, Liu Jin, a 45-year-old driver for Alibaba’s food delivery platform in the Chinese city of Taizhou, set himself on fire in protest over unpaid wages. “I want my blood and sweat money back,” Mr Liu said in a video shared widely over social media.
Meanwhile, across the border in India, millions of farmers were refusing to vacate the streets of New Delhi. They had been protesting for months, stubbornly defying the central government’s attempt to impose reforms that would put them at the mercy of giant corporations.
The two protests may be different in form, but have something fundamental in common. Each expresses outrage over the takeover of food systems by some of the world’s largest technology companies. In China, Alibaba has been leading a wave of investments and takeovers by technology companies in the food system, most recently spending $3.6bn to acquire the country’s largest chain of hypermarkets. In India, similar moves are being made by companies like Amazon and Facebook, through the backdoor of e-commerce, to take over food distribution and retail in partnership with India’s wealthiest tycoons and the backing of the central government’s reforms….
Gender inequality and fewer opportunities for migrant workers mean that farmers are starting to look alike: old. What impacts will this have on our food supplies in the future and are there any ways to reverse this trend? Follow the Food is an eight-part documentary series that questions where our food comes from and how this will change in the near future, thanks to new technologies and innovative ways of farming.
Satarupa Chakraborty: CJI's Remarks on Women Farmers Are an Assault on Human Agency and Constitutional Rights / Pratap Bhanu Mehta: SC’s order on the farm bills is terrible constitutional precedent, bereft of judgment