I found this short article to be spot-on! Mechanization increases productivity, reduces the cost of food, and more importantly takes away the drudgery of agriculture manual labor. A main complaint about mechanization is that it eliminates jobs. But many farmers complain that laborers are more difficult to find and more expensive, especially during planting and harvesting season. What is your opinion on this?
One Big Reason Some Foods Cost So Much More than Others -- The Washington Post
Source: The Washington Post (19 Jun 2017)
Author: Tamar Haspel
(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) In this article, Tamar Haspel, who writes a column on food policy issues, asks why some foods are cheap and others are expensive. It’s not subsidies, she says, although they certainly play a role in shaping our food supply. A factor that plays a much larger role is machines. Machines allow farmers to produce a crop for less. Haspel uses tomatoes as an example. Fresh tomatoes, at about $3 a pound, are harvested by hand; canned tomatoes, at 92 cents per pound, are harvested by machine. In general, says Sun Ling Wang, an agricultural economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, technology helps produce more products, which tends to decrease prices. The combine is another machine that has had an enormous impact on American agriculture, says Haspel. With the advent of the combine, the price of row crops, such as grains and legumes, has dropped fairly steadily. The combine also led to larger farms and the standardization of growing practices. “Combines give you scale economies to expand farms,” says Prabhu Pingali, a professor of applied economics and management at Cornell University. And, while machines have led to the elimination of jobs, the dynamic is often the other way around: farmers turn to them due to a lack of laborers. So, adds Haspel, while people who care about our food system often decry the “industrialization” of American agriculture, it does bring some significant benefits. “The ability for fewer people to grow more food is one of them,” she concludes, “and machines are a part of that. While people’s livelihoods still depend on farm jobs, it’s important that we safeguard those livelihoods, but field work is grueling drudgery. Post-Industrial Revolution modernization has brought its share of problems, but freeing humans from grueling drudgery is a big win. I do just enough farm labor to be reminded regularly that the world’s a better place if farm labor is done by tractors and harvesters and combines, rather than people.” more