The agribusiness industry is a catch-all term used to describe every part of the modern food production system, from seed growers to supermarkets. This industry is divided into a multitude of subgroups, each with its own individual business practices and goals. Often, agribusiness industry is used to describe a specific agribusiness practice called corporate farming. A corporate farm is a company-owned farm used to grow crops at profit. The environmental impact and profit-oriented views of corporate farms have caused a significant amount of controversy at times.
When viewed as a collective, the joint goal of the agribusiness industry is to feed people and animals; in reality, the system is much more complex. Unlike some industries, the processes that create and sell food are rarely straightforward. Material is purchased for production, but yield won’t happen for months or years. The timeframe and land scale used are much greater than most other manufacturing systems.
At the beginning of the agribusiness industry chain, there are production industries that create the things used for farming such as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. Next come the farming groups themselves, which take the produced goods and use them to create completely different goods. This is in contrast to a normal supply chain operation, since many of the initial inputs are essentially destroyed in the growing process. Lastly, the produced food goes on to further production locations, where it is made into packaged food or goes directly to retail in supermarkets. In addition to all this, there are hundreds of other industries that are directly or indirectly involved in the process.
Corporate farming began in the mid-20th century. A corporate farm is owned by a corporation and ran as a business. Many food production companies create corporate farms as a means of vertical integration. Since their business relies on a steady supply of food material, they create farms to oversee the production and delivery of said food. To continue this process, they often have their own trucking and packaging companies, keeping as many of the processes in-house as possible.
When used to describe corporate farming, ‘agribusiness industry’ is often used as a negative remark. It attempts to create a line that differentiates a corporate system from a family-owned or small-scale farm. In many cases, the distinction created through this term is more useful as propaganda rather than an actual view on reality, as nearly all farms work for some form of profit, regardless of their scale or ownership.