Photo: Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Action | June 20, 2019

Presidential Candidates Must Commit to Fair Markets for Family Farmers

by Alicia Harvie

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 Aid

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

Progressive Agriculture

RAFI-USA

R-CALF USA

Rural Coalition

Western Organization of Resource Councils

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