30 May '13, 8pm

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Big Ag

For farmers, oligopolies mean fewer choices of supplier and sometimes no choice at all about whom they will sell to. 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 bigg...

Full article: http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/environment/everything-yo...

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