As Costs Rise, Opportunities Dwindle for North Carolina Small Farmers / Public News Service

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Advocates for small farms and ranches in North Carolina say the companies are ready to bring local, affordable meats and produce to residents, but they need more resources.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said buyers would pay 3% to 4% more for food this year, and about 6% more for eating out. Thus, the emphasis is on local and sustainable agriculture to help meet the needs.

B. Ray Jeffers, a North Carolina-based farmer and policy and program manager for the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA), said that to reliably feed communities, small farmers need better access to processing and storage facilities and transportation options. .

“Anyone starting a new business has hurdles to overcome,” Jeffers acknowledged. “But when you add unnecessary government policies, access to land prices, unaffordable capital and physically demanding work, a new level of challenge arises.”

He pointed out that rising supply and equipment costs are putting additional pressure on the agricultural industry. Fertilizer costs have more than doubled since last year, due to global instability caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as strong global demand and lack of competition among fertilizer producers, according to the USDA.

Jeffers added that groups like RAFI-USA can help small farmers navigate the complexities of federal policies and programs.

“You know, farmers are often beholden to the political machine of government spinning and dealing,” observed Jeffers. “The final version of US farm bill is a big part of that. And that’s not always good news for farmers working in sustainable agriculture.”

He added that the USDA recently announced $130 million in funding for the Local Farmer’s Market Programto expand opportunities for farmers to sell their products to large local institutions, such as universities and hospitals.

Jeffers explained that the average cost of farmland in the United States has also increased, adding another hurdle for small producers.

“But in terms of stability and longevity of the farm business, ownership remains the goal for most farmers,” Jeffers pointed out. “And the biggest barrier to owning land is, you know, the affordability gap.”

From 45,000 farms in North Carolina, about two-thirds are less than 100 acres in size.

Disclosure: The Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA contributes to our fund for reporting on Policy and Budget Priorities, Environmental Justice, Rural/Agricultural Justice, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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