In America's heartland, the American Dream is in crisis

POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY, Kansas -- The cheers of Wall Street fade outside American cities. Business is usually tough for the American farmer, but right now, it’s an even harder row to hoe.

In America’s heartland, the American Dream is in crisis. Just ask Donn Teske. 

“People are going broke right and left,” Teske said. 

Teske is a fifth generation farmer in Wheaton, Kansas, who, at 62 years old, says he’s barely breaking even. 

“Corn sold for $8 dollars a few years ago -- I sold my corn this year for $2.87, and that don’t pay the bills,” he said. 

Teske says an increase in worldwide production is contributing to a multi-year decline in prices for key commodities like corn and wheat. All the while, the cost of operating a farm is steadily increasing. 

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Donn Teske is a fifth generation farmer in Wheaton, Kansas.

CBS Evening News

The Department of Agriculture predicts farmers’ incomes will drop an additional nine percent this year, extending the worst slide in generations. As a result, more farm operations are expected to close -- on top of the almost 140,000 that have closed or consolidated in the last nine years. 

In Pottawatomie County, Kansas, 34-year-old Matt Ubel and his younger brother Tim are also fifth generation farmers. 

“When you got guys my age that are trying to raise a family, trying to farm and having to work in town just to produce cheap food for the country, it’s a crisis,” Ubel said. 

The Ubels say they spent $34,000 last year farming wheat and other crops, but they only brought in $35,000. Though they may have found a solution. They now sell cattle, and cut out the middle man. 

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The Department of Agriculture predicts farmers’ incomes will drop an additional nine percent this year, extending the worst slide in generations.

CBS Evening News

If these cattle go to slaughter, the Ubels might make a thousand dollars a head. But if they slaughter, process and sell directly to the consumers themselves, each head could be worth $2,800. 

With an uncertain future for farmers, those like Donn Teske, can only hope the family farm will survive. 

“We’re gonna lose another generation of farmers through this, and that’s sad,” Teske said.