Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist
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Monday, February 05, 2007

Is this THE future envisioned?

A word of warning from an Auburn professor of Agricultural Economics concerning the future of cellulosic crops:
"It's likely going to be more profitable to grow these types of crops on a vast scale - on 50,000-acre farms with huge machines and very investment intensive operations - nothing like we have now."
He's probably correct, but I wonder if the anti-corporate farming types have thought about this.

I have done some back of the envelope calculations concerning the corn prices and on a 100 acre farm, a corn crop would yield an expected profit of somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000. That's nothing to sneeze at as a second income but seems unlikely to prove a long-term strategy for smaller farmers. This seems confirmed by this EPA calculation: "An economically viable crop/livestock operation in the Corn Belt would have between 2,000 and 3,000 acres of row crops and between 500 and 600 sows." As the price of corn increases, ceteris paribus, the size of the viable farm might drop a bit.

A 50,000 acre farm is approximately 78 square miles. Arlington, the 50th most populous city in the country, is 95 square miles, Boston city proper is 48.4 square miles, Washington D.C. is 61.4 square miles, and Cleveland city proper is 77.6 square miles (Figures from the 2000 census more here)

That puts things in some perspective. While there are vasts areas of the country that are empty, and such farms would undoubtedly be located in such areas, farms that are the size of some of our most populous cities is a bit mind-boggling.

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