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What are the problems facing North American farmers?

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North American farmers face numerous problems having to do with energy costs, availability of water, environmental degradation, climate change, and economic uncertainty. Additionally, in the United States many smaller independent farms, which have been crucial to the nation's prosperity, are suffering unprecedented privation and increasingly are being forced out of business by large farming conglomerates.

Fossil fuels are considered essential for manufacturing equipment, powering farm machinery, and creating pesticides and fertilizers. To maintain production, cheap energy is necessary, but as the cost of oil continues to rise, so does the cost of raising livestock and growing fresh produce.

Agriculture consumes a tremendous amount of groundwater, and the volume of water needed for irrigation of farmlands is continually increasing. There is a limit to how much water can be used before it is replenished. Climate change comes into this by creating uncertain weather conditions. Farmers used to be able to count on annual rainfalls, but replenishment of groundwater through rain is becoming less dependable. To make matters worse, agricultural runoff is one of the major causes of pollution of the water that remains.

Another major problem is environmental degradation. In some areas, drought conditions and poor land management techniques have drained nutrition from the soil. Overgrazing by livestock also causes dry soil conditions by eliminating essential grasses and encouraging the growth of sagebrush and other weedy shrubs.

Americans waste a tremendous amount of fresh produce every year, which creates a strain on farmers to grow even more. People typically over-shop and then throw away a lot of food, but also supermarkets, restaurants, and other venues insist on only stocking fresh produce that matches their size and color criteria, which wastes a large portion of healthy crops simply because they don't look good enough.

Another problem that farmers have is rooted in politics. When immigration becomes too restricted, the laborers who usually harvest the fields are unavailable, and unpicked crops rot in the fields.

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