Today, Farm Aid joined 34 farm and food organizations in calling upon our elected officials, as well as candidates running for office, to ensure a fair marketplace for Americas family farmers and ranchers. Today, giant corporations have a virtual chokehold over livestock and poultry sectors, forcing farmers and ranchers to operate in a rigged economy that forces many to the financial brink.
As Roger Johnson, the president of National Farmers Union states:
While just a handful of multi-national corporations have been allowed to exert more and more control over every step of the agricultural supply chain, farmers and ranchers have been left to cope with higher production costs and fewer marketing choices as well as unfair and abusive business practices. These factors have contributed to the increasingly slim profit margins that have forced too many farms to close their doors. Between 2012 and 2017, nearly 70,000 farms went out of business, most of which were mid-sized, family-owned operations.
Every day, we hear from farmers pinched by these conditions. Contacts over the 1-800-FARM-AID hotline spiked by 109% between 2017 and 2018, a vast majority of them from farmers in crisis, facing the loss of their farm businesses and homes, and struggling to feed their families and keep the lights on.
In fact, today’s economy is leaving family farm agriculture at a crisis point. When large meatpackers and processors control all stages of meat and poultry production, farmers are forced into one-sided contracts that eliminate market transparency and depress prices. Today’s ever-consolidating marketplace undercuts not only the livelihoods of independent farmers and ranchers, and but also farmers’ ability to adopt regenerative farm practices that can withstand the growing frequency of natural disasters help solve the climate crisis.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We have a lot of the tools we need to foster fair markets that level the playing field between farmers and the corporations who rule the roost, if only our political leaders demonstrated the backbone to enact them.
In order to ensure fair and competitive markets for farmers and ranchers, political leaders can act today to:
- Enforce and strengthen antitrust and fair practice laws, including enforcement of the Packers & Stockyards Act.
- Ensure access to fair farm credit, including holding lenders accountable for equitable lending practices.
- Restore mandatory country-of-origin labeling for beef and pork.
- Stop subsidizing overproduction, including restricting government loan guarantees to large-scale contract operations.
- Break up food and agriculture monopolies, including instituting a moratorium on new mergers in the food and agriculture system.
- Stop subsidizing foreign corporations, by prohibiting federal procurement programs from buying meat from animals born, raised or slaughtered outside the U.S.
- Level the playing field for independent processors, including addressing the bias in food safety regulations toward large corporate slaughter and processing facilities.
These actions not only benefit farmers and ranchers; they also support the farmworkers, foodworkers, eaters, rural economies and natural resource base that suffer in today’s corporate-dominated marketplace.
Farm Aid joins the following organizations in urging all 2020 presidential candidates prioritize corporate consolidation in agriculture and anti-trust enforcement in their platforms:
Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
Center for a Livable Future
Community Farm Alliance
Dakota Rural Action
Family Farm Action
Family Farm Defenders
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Farm Women United
Food & Water Watch
Food for Maine’s Future
Government Accountability Project
Idaho Organization of Resource Councils
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Kansas Farmers Union
Missouri Farmers Union
Missouri Rural Crisis Center
National Center for Appropriate Technology
National Family Farm Coalition
National Farmers Union
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Nebraska Farmers Union
New England Farmers Union
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
Ohio Farmers Union
Organization for Competitive Markets
Powder River Basin Resource Council
Western Organization of Resource Councils