If I were a small farmer, what would I do? I just read in my latest issue of Wired Magazine (March 2004, p. 44) about an amazing tractor that basically drives itself using nagivation software and satellite guidance. The onboard computer is powerful and the rig is completely wired. Its autopilot is GPS-guided, and after the farmer inputs speed and row width, guides the tractor “on a path accurate to within 1 inch.” Its software “sets fertilizer and seed distribution levels, reads and records topographic maps, and monitors crop yield.” A Wired article in 1996 about Smart Farms predicted a major change in agricultural production as technology caught hold. They said it was coming, and now some of it is here.
Large corporate farming interests invest in technology, boost productivity, and make it nearly impossible for the smaller farms to stay in business. Thus the cry for continuing farm subsidies. I wonder how effective cooperative US farmer ventures could be to compete with global agribusiness? I think if I were a small farmer, I would look at the technology that is available now, and find a way to get big or team up with others so that I could benefit from these latest advances.