If Tomato Blight Wasn't Bad Enough...
Farms have not had an easy time of it this year, according to a report just released by the Agriculture Department. The report states that net farm income is forecast to plummet 38 percent in 2009, "$9 billion below the average of $63.2 billion in net farm income earned in the previous 10 years." Farm earnings enjoyed near-record levels last year; this year's decrease in part reflects the slump in both milk and farmland prices, the struggling ethanol industry, and "global uncertainty." It's easy to forget, with all of the adulation surrounding urban rooftop farms, locavorism, and farmers markets, that farming is an undertaking fraught with hardship, unpredictability, and failure. But behind every heirloom tomato and garlic ramp whose purveyors are name-dropped on restaurant menus, there lurks the fact that farmers are struggling to put food on the plate -- whether it's their own or everyone else's.
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