The Changing Landscape of U.S. Farm Production

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15 July, 2013

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From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

Demand for meat, milk and eggs is growing around the world. To meet that demand, the way these products are produced is changing. The change is from small farms to large industrial operations. This has already happened in the United States.

But not everyone is happy with the change. As a result, there is also a growing demand for products growing locally on small farms.

In Clinton, North Carolina, some old buildings are all that remain from the days when James Lame raised hogs next to his home. He saw that small farmers were having trouble competing with companies that own large farms.

"They had better consistency, better pork quality, better genetics. So after college, in '98, I decided to try and modernize."

He stopped raising hogs in small building and built two industrial-sized hog barns, each of them holds 1,500 hogs. Nearly all pigs are raised this way in the United States now.

The government says the efficiency of large-scale production in a controlled environment has helped reduce the price of a pork chop by nearly 20 percent since 1998.

These efficient and intensive production methods are being used around the world, many experts say that is a good thing as the demand for meat grows. But livestock expert Carolyn Opio points out that the land, water and feed required to produce it are limited.

"If we are to produce within the constraints that we are facing today, efficiency, I think, is key."

Mrs Opio is with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, but the results of the efficiency are not always necessarily good. The waste from thousands of confined animals can pollute waterways, and produce greenhouse gases.

And some health experts are concerned about the antibiotics and other chemicals being put in the animal's feed. Others criticize the conditions in which the animals are kept.

So today a growing number of people are like Kevin Summers in Amissville, Virginia, are returning to small-scale farming.

"In order to feed the world, I think this is a better way, It's a cleaner way. It's a more humane way."

More Americans today say they want to know where their food comes from, some might like the way Kevin Summers raises his hogs.

"I can see the entire process unfold before my eyes and know that they had a good life and were healthy and happy."

The hogs eat damaged apples and old pumpkins, this reduces food waste, but this kind of farming also means higher prices. Even so, Kevin Summers as he believes it would still be possible to meet global demand this way.

"It would just involve people making the choice to buy this kind of food and say that, 'I care about something other than just the cost.'"

And that's the Agriculture Report from VOA Learning English, I'm Karen Leggett.