On November 8, 2023, Farm Aid, along with Honorary Co-hosts Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) held a virtual briefing for Hill staff and members of the media on “The People’s Farm Bill.” This event was a follow-up to “The People’s Hearing,” which was held at Farm Aid’s Annual festival this year, where organizers addressed USDA staff on the need for a transformative Farm Bill.
Speakers for the event included Rania Masri of North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, Patty Lovera from Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, Berleen Wobeter of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Eowyn Corral of Dakota Rural Action, Rosa Saavedra of Compañeras Campesinas, Denise Jamerson of Legacy Taste of the Garden, and Tim Gibbons of Missouri Rural Crisis Center. These panelists spoke to the need for a Farm Bill that serves people, not corporations, addresses climate change, and builds a more racially just food system.
Watch the video recording or read a transcript below:
Hannah Tremblay [00:00:03] Good afternoon. My name is Hannah Tremblay and I’m the policy and advocacy manager at Farm Aid. For those of you unfamiliar with our work Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant family farm centered system of agriculture in America. Since 1985 we raised more than $70 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the good food movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture and promote food from family farms. Today’s briefing builds off of the people’s hearing an event held at this year’s farming festival with the prospect of farm bill extension looming. It’s clear that we have time and that we should be aiming for a bill that is ambitious that meets the needs of constituents and actually serves communities and farmers. We’re here today to share with you what our vision of a better farm bill looks like. Now, I’d like to introduce Dr. Rania Masri. She’s co-director of organizing and policy at the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network.
Rania Masri [00:00:59] Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us at this hearing. The original farm bill was enacted during the 19 thirties as part of the New Deal. It was crafted to respond to a crisis of corporate consolidation and influence. Where are we now? Four multinational corporations control more than 70% of the entire U.S. pork market. 6% of farming operations produce 90% of all the meat, dairy and poultry. In 1990 small and medium sized farms accounted for nearly one half of all agricultural production in the United States. Now merely 30 years later, small and medium sized farms account for less than 1/4 of all agricultural production in that in the United States. With the loss of these farms came, the loss of communities, the businesses they helped support disappeared. And a community of owners became serfs on their very land. All the while the quality of the food decreased, the nutritional value decreased the land, the water, the air got more polluted. And state laws such as the Orwellian named right to farm laws were changed to protect the agro industries rather than the communities and the farmers.
Rania Masri [00:02:16] So the question becomes, how can the farm bill support? Farmers solutions were presented at the farm aid people’s hearing for the Farm bill. And I’d like to briefly summarize those solutions that were presented by the farmers themselves first in confronting corporate power in the farm bill. What do we need? We need to include mandatory country of origin labeling for beef and which would be S 52 and hr 508 we need to reinstate cool for beef. We need to have common sense transparency. We need stronger packers and stock.
Rania Masri [00:02:51] Our yard rules. We fundamentally and urgently need to stop promoting methane digesters and to stop greenwashing manure biogas and to stop funding them via the Inflation reduction Act. We in essence need a farm bill that stops megamergers. Decades of flax antitrust enforcement have actually created a food system defined by consolidation. We need that to stop two in responding to the climate science and environmental justice in the farm bill. What do we need? The climate crisis is here now, it is no longer something that’s coming. Later, we heard the solutions.
Rania Masri [00:03:29] The solutions are clear, diversified farm systems, sustainable agroecology, conservation of the existing wetlands and an end to the hijacking of big ag into programs like the environmental quality incentives program that pay farmers for climate friendly practices. Grants from that program include a misguided requirement that 50% of projects fund livestock operations. Thus funding dirty factory farm biogas. Third in responding to the need for racial justice in the farm bill. What do we need when we talk about racial justice? We have to start with recognizing and addressing the historic racial injustice in land ownership in the United States. As reported back in 2019 through a variety of means, legal coercive, sometimes violent farm land owned by Black people came into the hands of white people.
Rania Masri [00:04:23] We’re talking about 98% of Black landowners. Approximately 1 million Black families were dispossessed of their farmland. Black farmers in the United States lost rough roughly $326 billion worth of acreage. During the 20th century. There can be no racial justice without addressing this core injustice. So racial justice in the farm bill needs to address this. It needs to prioritize bo for federal farm programs and resources.
Rania Masri [00:04:54] We need to increase access to programs and increase language accessibility. We need to allow farmers access to nutritional programs and we need to prioritize investments in communities such as the Agricultural Res resilience Act and the Justice for Black Farmers Act. Finally, there is one word that represents family farmers around the world and not just in the United States. And that word is community. Farmers cannot farm on their own. They recognize relationships. There are communities. While on the other hand, agro industries do not recognize communities.
Rania Masri [00:05:28] They treat the land, the animals, the workers, including the migrant farm workers and the contract farmers as disposable as extractive as commodities, rendering the food poorer in nutrition, the land infested with more pollution and the workers and farmers as disposable as invisible. Where do we want Congress to stand? The solutions are present. What is missing is the courage of will from decision makers, the courage to break free from the shackles of the lobbyist and to choose the path of humanity and community and not the path of corporate greed. And Agro Industries. Thank you.
Hannah Tremblay [00:06:13] Thank you. Next up, we have Patty Lovera.
Patty Lovera [00:06:18] Hey, everybody. My name is Patty Lovera. I’m based here in Washington, DC and I do policy work for a coalition of groups called Campaign for Family Farms in the Environment. And that consists of some national groups and four state-based groups from the Midwest. And what we do when we’re together as CFFE is really talk about what policies have to change. So we can stop propping up a factory farm system.
Patty Lovera [00:06:43] And one of the key attributes in our mind of what a factory farm system is, is what we just heard about it, really extreme levels of consolidation. Another way to think about consolidation is really power, who has power in this industry. So that is included in literally the shape of it. If you wanted to graph out the food system, we have a lot of farmers, we have a lot of consumers and the steps in between, it really looks like an hourglass. We have a very skinny pathway between those two steps in the supply chain and it’s shrinking the time in terms of who is running those steps that gives them a lot of economic power, those dominant players in the middle steps. I think we’re all used to thinking about that, you know, what workers get paid. If there’s not a lot of competition for their labor, what farmers get paid.
Patty Lovera [00:07:27] If there’s not a lot of competition for the things that they raise. But it also gives them a lot of decision making power, those dominant players in terms of literally who can farm, where they farm, how they farm and how much money flows, everybody involved in this, this system. So one of the ways that that decision making power shows up in a very consolidated food system, like the one that we have is in policy and and what are the rules of the road for our food system are? And a lot of those rules come from the federal level and they come from the farm bill. And our past farm bills in recent memory really reflect the wishes of those dominant players. But there are a bunch of things happening right now that, that are quite helpful to take that fact on and try to do things a different way. So the USDA is writing is, has a mandate from the White House under the executive order on promoting competition to do a bunch of things including writing new rules to enforce an old law called the Packers and Stockyards Act. That is supposed to police the conduct of these really dominant meat packers and chicken processors when they interact with the farmers raising those animals.
Patty Lovera [00:08:41] We’ve had that law for 100 years. We’ve never fully used it to protect producers in an imbalanced relationship where, where you know, there’s a lot of leverage on one side. So the USDA is writing rules to finally enforce that law. And in fact, this morning announced that one of them the first in a series just hit the final rule stage. So we want all of that. We want more, we want it faster, we want those rules to keep coming out. But we also need Congress not to interfere. The meat industry is very good at shenanigans.
Patty Lovera [00:09:12] writ large to try to stop agencies like the USDA from finishing the job on things like writing those rules. So that could show up in a farm bill, it could show up in an appropriations bill and we need Congress to not interfere with what the USDA is doing to finally enforce the law and protect farmers. And then when it comes to the farm bill itself, one we do need a farm bill. We are currently expired. The farm bill expired on September 30th, but the way we do the next farm bill really, really matters when it comes to the short term issue of what is the plan post expiration? What happens in an extension where there’s lots of talk about an extension that is appropriate. But how that extension happens, the details matter one, we don’t want ni and whatever the extension is on things like Packers and Stockyards Act rules or anything else that that might be happening.
Patty Lovera [00:10:06] We don’t want the extension to monkey with programs that are already running that people are doing. And we also need to remember that there are programs that essentially get left behind depending on how an extension is done. It’s a short list, but there are programs that folks use. There’s some very specialized conservation programs. There’s some specialized research programs programs that help folks get certified organic. It’s a longer list, but they are left behind depending on how an extension happen. So that’s something that needs to be considered.
Patty Lovera [00:10:34] And then when it comes to an extension period, we need Congress to use that time wisely and write a farm bill that looks different than the way the last many of them have looked, we’ve heard a couple of ideas already. I’ll just reinforce the ones that, that our folks are thinking about. When you think about livestock and consolidated power and these dominant players, there are places in every section of the farm bill where we could do it differently to ratchet back that control and try to level the playing field for folks who are raising animals a different way. We could stop giving factory farms money through conservation programs like equip, we could address why the USDA guarantees loans for new factory farms. You know, credit is hugely important to farmers, but we could talk much more clearly about who is deserving of that government backing as a lender and, and which corporate entity should maybe be paying their own way. We can talk about commodity checkoff programs which take farmers money, put it in a pot and it’s supposed to be used to promote their products. But there is a lot of abuse and there’s a bill called The Off Act that would talk about how that check off money gets used and why right now it is currently often being used to fight against policies that would help farmers.
Patty Lovera [00:11:47] And then we already heard a really important one and it’s basic that markets function on clear information. And when it comes to our food, we don’t always get that information in the marketplace. So one way to fix that would be restoring mandatory country of origin, labeling for meat. We would like to also see country of origin labeling on dairy products. So that’s just an example of the many ways in different sections of the farm bill, we could really ratchet back the, you know, all of the goodies that we’ve been giving to the same old players and start to level the playing field. There are bills for all of those things I just mentioned right now. So when probably when a farm bill gets extended and there is more time, we need to set the bar higher and we’re happy to work with, with all the offices that you work for, to really think about how we can be more ambitious and, and do a farm bill that looks different.
Patty Lovera [00:12:36] Thank you.
Hannah Tremblay [00:12:40] Thank you, Patty. Next, we’re going to hear from Belene Loiter. She’s with Iowa Citizens for Community improvement.
Berlene Wobeter [00:13:00] I’m Belene Wobeter and I’m speaking today on behalf of my family and we’re small farmers and as a member of Iowa citizens for community improvement. And this happens to be d during a time where I’m also attending an Anaerobic Digester conference put on by two universities and the EPA and I’m here to find out if there’s anything in it for middle and small farmers. And basically there is not.
Berlene Wobeter [00:13:30] So my husband, Pete and I have been farming corn, soybeans and raising beef cattle since the 1980 in Chamber County Iowa. And we want, and we need the farm bill to serve the interests of everyday people like me and my family and not the interests of big money corporations like Smithfield J, Bs Cargill and AD M. Since we’ve started farming, we’ve seen the pork industry get dominated and taken over by corporations at the expense of our rural communities, our family, farmers, our workers and we’ve seen what happens to our land, Iowa has the worst water and to our air and it took three decades to lose 70% of all small family farm swine producers while the number of swine has doubled. We were one of those producers and we left just as things began to change. Production has moved to large concentrated specialized operations under the thumb of corporate contracts. Eliminating the independent producers and over and over this is rationalized as being in the name of Effin efficiency and affordable pork for consumers. What is not said by these promoters is that the resulting concurrent environmental impacts are water quality concerns, health impacts to work workers and communities, antibiotic, overuse animal welfare concerns and declining rural communities, labor shortages and inadequate profits for producers. And what is this cost to us and who benefits?
Berlene Wobeter [00:15:11] Well, we don’t gain anything. We see the corporate giants who exploit labor, land and the environment have always been the wealthiest and most politically influential power brokers in the country. And that needs to change. As you’re hearing by our previous speakers and the beef industry which we are involved in isn’t far behind consolidation that has happened in the pork industry. There is only one thing saving us and that is the differing needs of production of the beef animal versus pork. But there are four conglomerates, two of which are foreign owned who handle 80% of steer and heffer slaughter shuttering. Many independent beef packers, farmers and ranchers who are left have only one or two buyers.
Berlene Wobeter [00:15:56] And there is no competition. The farm bill must restore competition in livestock markets and serve the interests of everyday people and not the interests of corporations. And again, specifically, the farm bill should include mandatory of country, country origin labeling. I have just heard in the last two days how consumers when they are surveyed want transparency and they want to know where their food comes from. We lost the ability to see where our food comes from. In 2015. When the giant meat meat packers and the corporate beef industry put the pressure on to stop the country of origin labeling, this mandatory labeling would give consumers accurate and reliable information as to where beef was born, raised and processed and it would prevent foreign beef from being imported.
Berlene Wobeter [00:16:50] And because of some simple processing step, be labeled as product of the USA. Finally, consumers could confidently choose us beef and support American family farmers. We also want the farm bill to protect and strengthen the Packers and Stockyard Act as has been mentioned previously. Finally, and I think this is critical, do not be confused by organizations who claim to represent beef producers but do not align with the voices of the independent producers out here. I have read and studied with the American Farm Bureau and the National Cattlemen’s Association or NCB A say about these policies that we are trying to support and they, they are against them and their objections are simply nonsensical, their interests are obviously elsewhere. We urge you to make this the farm bill that advances the interests of everyday people and my husband and I offer you an open invitation to visit Iowa and we will show you firsthand what’s going on on these issues. I had an opportunity to hear representative Conor last year at our Iowa Farmers Union conference.
Berlene Wobeter [00:18:07] And I also had a chance to hear Senator Booker when he ran for his presidential run in Iowa. And I am certain both men have impressed me and I’m certain that our words will be heard with receptive ears. So thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
Hannah Tremblay [00:18:27] Thank you, Berlene. Next, we’ll hear from Eowyn Corral, here with us today from Dakota Rural Action.
Eowyn Corral [00:18:36] Hello everybody. Again, my name is Eowyn Corral and I am with Dakota Rural Action. And I’m honored to call the homeland of the Oceti. That’s the Dakota Nakoa and Lakota peoples. My home today Dakota Rolla began organizing South Dakota farmers and ranchers in 1985 and we are a member group of the campaign for family farmers in the environment and we heard from Patty earlier who helped organize this. I will be brief as many of my colleagues have gone before me, have passionately laid out some facts for us today.
Eowyn Corral [00:19:15] There are many examples of how the current food and farm policies are failing us. All. A few include lack of support for biodiversity, refusal to prioritize local and regional food systems that would inherently reduce the climate change footprint of agriculture production. And now this push from all sides to make CO2 a commodity and the Blank Check approach to supporting health solutions such as industrial bio digesters for factory farming operations which we have already heard about We are organizing and advocating from the ground. A farm bill that establishes and promotes and supports policies to create an equitable food and agricultural system free from corporate influence and continued systemic injustice. A farm bill that supports infrastructure that centers community based food systems over putting more money and power into the hands of the corporate elite and this global approach to food, a farm bill that fosters diversity. And we’re talking about all manner of diversity, diverse peoples communities, cultural diversity and biodiversity.
Eowyn Corral [00:20:35] A farm bill that celebrates differences and uplifts Black and indigenous and people of color foodways and their contribution to agriculture. We would also like a farm bill that aims to be part of the solution building pathways of land access for those disenfranchised by historical us policies and of land taking and enslaved labor. A farm bill that protects natural resources and doesn’t finance false climate solutions like defining CO2 as a commodity and incentivizing unchecked ko development and bio digester build outs powers that be are very excited for these expensive false climate and food production solutions creating an environment where public resources are being diverted from healthy food and farming systems that harness the natural abilities of people and the planet to help heal from our current climate crisis, which we are now, you know, in the middle of farmers, ranchers in all manner of food producers are our front line. Observers of climate change. And while we may not all agree on the narrative or storytelling of climate change, what we know for sure is climate is, weather is becoming less and less predictable. 100 year weather events are happening annually and our current farm bill priorities fail to address climate change. We must divest from corn and soy, monocultures and industrial factory meat production and use of us taxpayer dollars to grow sustainable regenerative food and pasture based meat production models.
Eowyn Corral [00:22:25] Instead, both proven to help sequester carbon and mitigate climate change. Thank you.
Hannah Tremblay [00:22:39] Thank you. We were supposed to be joined today by Brandon Smith with the Federation of Southern co-operatives. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to make it. You can see a link to his original statement from the People’s Hearing back in September on our youtube channel, the link to that at the end of this presentation. Instead, next, we’ll hear from Rosa Saavedra with Campañeras Campesinas.
Rosa Saavedra [00:23:04] Hi, thanks. I am Rosa Savedra with Companeros Campinas and we are also a member of Royal Coalition. Thank you for coming together to hear our thoughts, concerns and hopes around the Farm Bill policy that each one of you will have the power to influence. I hope that you will consider our words in these decisions that you must make. So there’s three words I wanna focus on in speaking to you all today and that’s prioritize uplift and invest. They’re important words to me.
Rosa Saavedra [00:23:41] And then I wanna share a story about a group of people essential to the success of agriculture who are at best and afterthought in the policies and laws that are supposed to protect them. So prioritize uplift and invest in traditional ecological knowledge, secure land tenure and communi and community based organizations to support diversified regenerative agriculture at all scales and resilient local food economies that prioritize feeding local communities, rebuild infrastructure to support regional farmer led food systems to feed their communities and support farm workers to enter agriculture as producers and to so to build our next generation of farmers. I also wanna say that again, prioritize uplift and invest in infrastructure that fosters the growth of resilient rural economies. We need to build resilient markets for producers. Can that contribute to our regional food systems, ensure the safety and dignity of food of farm food and forestry system. Workers invest in safe and healthy rural communities also prioritize uplift and invest in socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers who have been historically marginalized and underserved. Over a span of about 10 years, I’ve worked on three discrimination discrimination processes, Pickford two Hispanic and women and now Ira 22 007 or D A. On one hand, it’s encouraging to know that past discrimination is being acknowledged.
Rosa Saavedra [00:25:30] But on the other hand, it’s important to realize that socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers are being discriminated against in the present financial assistance to atone for discrimination prior to 2021 will not stop the discrimination that these farmers are facing in 2023 and none of us can afford the cost of this, this discrimination to our agricultural economy. Now, I wanna share a story about five farm workers in North Carolina. So last week I attended a vigil to remember five farm workers who died as a direct result of their work. The most recent death was Jose Arturo Gonzalez Mendoza who died on September 5th 2023 in Nash County, North Carolina. Jose was an H two A worker. This is important because the H two A contract is supposed to offer more safeguards for workers. But there’s little to no enforcement of those con those safeguards in the contract.
Rosa Saavedra [00:26:43] Farmers rely on farm workers and everyone who eats, relies on farm workers. Farm workers are essential workers, not only during a pandemic, but every day, if agriculture is to have a stable, healthy, vibrant labor force, the farm bill must prioritize uplift and invest in farm workers. I’ve also attached a letter, a joint letter from Alianza Nacional de Campesina and rural coalition outlining farm worker priorities in the 2023 farm bill. I hope that each one of you will read it again. I just want to summarize that we need to prioritize our rural communities where agriculture is the heart of economic opportunities, uplift the rural communities that support agriculture and invest in an infrastructure that is equitable. That’s what we need in the farm bill and what everybody else said to. Thank you.
Hannah Tremblay [00:27:50] Thank you, Rosa. Next, we’ll hear from Denise Jamerson with Lecagy Taste of the Garden.
Denise Jamerson [00:28:14] Greetings. I am Denise Jamerson, 5th generation farmer from Lyles Station. Indiana. Lyles Station is the last remaining African American settlement in Indiana. The Lyles Station farming community along with my father Norman Greer, one of the last remaining African American farmers who are still farming land that has been in our family since Precivil War are recognized in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Denise Jamerson [00:28:44] Today, I am here to speak to you on racial justice, equitable justice. As I think about this Farm Bill season, a season of everything being centered on diversity, equity and inclusion through my lens. I look at at what is equality as it relates to equity and under the thought of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When we think about the opportunity as a people to put into place and create a way to ensure these things can be afforded to the ones who uphold the backbone of this country. Our farmers through the programs and services put forth equality is that we’re all created equal, right, equal rights, equal parts, everyone is treated the exact same way. But when we talk about equity, it means providing what is needed to succeed. When we talk about racial justice and equity.
Denise Jamerson [00:29:46] The Black farmer, the BIPOC farmer, the small farmer equity is the key to restoration empowerment and success to succeed. We need better accessibility. We need to be able to access programs, programs that require a rural farmer to use internet that is not even available in his area does not give him access to the program and we won’t even talk about being able to navigate through a process of the application, especially one that’s 25 to 37 pages and includes excuse me includes uploads. The enabling farmers to benefit from processing nutritious programs. Act will cut the red tape and streamline applications for farmers seeking to participate as vendors under several nutritional programs including snap. One of the most efficient tools in reducing hunger and food insecurity. Local farmers and farmers markets are on the front lines of providing fresh nutritious food.
Denise Jamerson [00:30:55] The senior market program and WIC programs. This act will also provide access to appropriate benefit processing equipment for farmers and farmers markets. The local farms and food Act will make it easier for small scale organizations and producers to access funding from federal programs and invest in their communities and local food systems. Reducing barriers to access grant programs can create more a more inclusive and equitable local food system that benefits all racial equity in the pursuit for Black farmers restoration, restoration of the Black farmer who has been denied services from a program that was not originally designed for us. The program may say they include us but they were not given to us. We have to look at justice for the Black Farmers Justice gives equity not equality because we have been denied deceived and left behind for so long that equity and opportunities to level up given a handicap from the years of denied access, loss of land services and programs allow, allows the Black farmers and families to not only be restored from these devastating practices from a so called equality. If you will then, but it will give an equitable opportunity to pursue our legacies, homesteads and generational wealth through agriculture, equitable will be to protect the remaining 1% of Black farmers and farm land from loss.
Denise Jamerson [00:32:46] Not another acre should be taken or allowed to be sold due to unfair situations, lack of services, lack of funding, maybe even a historical status that will protect what was left. We need to keep Black land in Black hands. Protect remaining the Black Farmers Act increases funding for farmland ownership success, succession planning, Black farmer and Black farmer development. The Pickford litigation claimants claims that were filed need equitable justice and restoration, restorative justice all the way around these legacy. Farmers and families have been in this fight for equitable justice for over 20 years. As I watched my father lose land, lose land, fight to keep his farm, the stress his resilience to continue farming despite the de devastation and humiliation to know farmers and families in my community and across the country that have endured. This deserve this act to be restored and to stop the bleeding and loss of Black farms allow aspiring young Black farmers the opportunity to continue legacies to heal and work the land with new regenerative programs and practices level the field and allow equitable subsidized loans and land grants to existing and aspiring Black farmers don’t let other foreign countries take land that rightfully belongs to our country.
Denise Jamerson [00:34:23] And our farmers allow Black farmers to return to the land in this coming decade. Empower organizations like the life project and other 25 01 grant participants working these farms to administer funds to farmers. They have identified need these resources, increase funding for technical assistance to all farmers who have been harmed by discrimination which could also look like small ag versus big ag. Don’t divide us through policies but unite us to feed this country to provide opportunities to succeed and thrive with equitable reforms and restoration to a broken culture and agricultural food system. Remember equitable restorative justice in the in the lives of our country’s backbone are American hometown, farmers equitable justice in the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of our happiness, which is farming. We all have legacies that impact lives and the futures. What is your legacy is a question that we have to begin to ask ourselves? Thank you.
Hannah Tremblay [00:35:45] Thank you. So much Denise. Finally, we will conclude with Tim Gibbons of the Missouri Rail Crisis Center.
Tim Gibbons [00:35:53] Yes, thank you, Denise. I also wanna thank Representative Khanna and Senator Booker for making this possible and, and Farm Aid for this great opportunity and all the panelists that spoke before me and the people attending. , after this, we’ll be here. just let us know what you need because I, I we can help. , Hello, my name is Tim Gibbons. I’m with the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, a statewide farm and rural membership organization.
Tim Gibbons [00:36:16] We represent thousands of family farmers across the state of Missouri. We started in 1985. The same year that farm aid started out of the same movement out of the same challenge farmers organizing to stay on a on the farm during an extremely challenging time, the eighties farm crisis in 1993 MRCC started patchwork family farms. It’s a program of ours and a project to keep independent family farm hog producers on the farm raising hogs the traditional way and getting paid a fair price. We started patchwork in the early nineties because we and our hog producing members saw the writing on the wall that the hog market was being taken from them industrialized and corporatized at the expense of farmers and consumers, our rural communities, our water and air and everything else we value as a result. Since the mid 19 eighties, nearly 90% of Missouri hog producers have been put out of business and over 80% of us hog farmers have experienced the same consequence. Say it was a big deal for corporate agribusiness to put hundreds of thousands of family farm, hog producers out of business doesn’t carry enough weight.
Tim Gibbons [00:37:24] It was an absolute catastrophe to farm families, our local economies, our food system, our, our national security and I could go on and on at what expense. But what makes it worse is that they did it by controlling our democratic process, controlling our policies and using billions of our taxpayer dollars to do it. The result. Now, four multinational corporations control over 70% of the US hog pork market and 50% of the US pork market is controlled by two foreign multinational corporations, Chinese owned Smithfield and Brazilian owned J BS. That’s why we’re here today and that’s why we’ve continued to fight for independent family farms or rural communities, workers rights, farmers of color and a fair, democratically controlled food system. And we’re demanding right now, the same things we demanded in the eighties and nineties for hog producers. We’re demanding the same thing for independent cattle producers and to save their livelihoods and the future of independent cattle production.
Tim Gibbons [00:38:22] Now, we’re an organization that works in rural Missouri. We bring diverse people into the same room and, and let me tell you when we bring people in the same room, everybody is shaking their head Yes, progressives, Democrats, libertarian republicans. Everybody knows what this issue is out here and everybody knows what the, what the cause of it is. For decades, we’ve been fighting this fight trying to stop a small number of corporate factory farms from replacing hundreds of thousands of local family farms fighting for strong local communities, good jobs, local innovation, clean water and air, sustainable climate and a truly representative democracy. And no matter what the corporate dominant narrative continually tells us, and I know it continually tells y’all on the hill that this didn’t happen out of inevitability and did not happen out of efficiency. But instead, as we know that it, it came from calculated policy decisions at the state, federal and international levels, heavily and unfairly influenced by corporate special interests, corporate lobbyists and campaign contributions. This is not what democracy looks like instead.
Tim Gibbons [00:39:32] And right now, we need to change course now is the time and speakers before me have talked about this. However, we shouldn’t forget about a few recent wins we had that are due to decades of organizing for family farmers and exposing the truth around our food and ag system where we are, how we got here, the history and how we get out. For example, President Biden’s 2021 executive order on promoting competition in Ame in the American economy that’s working to establish some semblance of fairness in the industries that impact all of our lives. That’s a big deal USDA is drafting stronger Packers and Stockyards rules. We’ve been demanding this for decades and still corporate agriculture is coming after it. Most recently trying to put a rider on the 2024 AG appropriations bill to stop the Packers and Stockyards rules from moving forward. And another recent win, the DOJ and the Federal trade Commission recently drafted new rules to address corporate mega mergers and stop the tide towards further monopolization of our food and food and farm industry. These wins would not have come about without people out here organizing, exposing the truth and making good policies, also good politics.
Tim Gibbons [00:40:46] And I want to stress that because these are both good policies out here and good politics out here. These are just the first steps and we need much, much more. We’ve got an opportunity during this farm bill process to to stop and even reverse the damage with a new vision of a farm bill that supports farm families, rural communities, workers and consumers in our environment. In short, we need a farm bill written for and by the people, by farmers, by workers and consumers, not a farm bill written for and by multinational corporations, not a status quo farm bill like we’ve had. In most recent farm bills, we need to include policies that establish competitive markets, ensure a fair price paid to farmers and a fair wage and safe working conditions for workers and adequate nutrition, safety net for everyone that needs assistance and it needs to address historical historic racial discrimination in the design of and access to farm programs. We must prioritize independent family, farmers and real conservation instead of funneling taxpayer dollars to factory farms through the environmental quality incentives program and through methane digesters a false solution. And we need to stop subsidizing corporate factory farms and we need to create additional rules to stop mergers and even break up the, the monopolistic meatpacking companies.
Tim Gibbons [00:42:07] We know what the policies are. We know how we got here. We know the policies that got us here and we know the policies to get us out. So all you have to do is ask, that’s what we’re here for. I really appreciate this opportunity and please reach out if you ever need anything in the future. Thank you.
Hannah Tremblay [00:42:25] Thank you, Tim. I’m really excited now to open this up to some Q and A. if folks can raise their hand, I think we can take you off mute and ask our panelists your questions or feel free to type up your question in the Q and A chat. If we don’t have any questions. Do any of our panelists have any concluding remarks, do we want to share anything else we’d like folks to know before ending our time here today? Yes, Rania.
Rania Masri [00:43:48] To all our listeners out there, I do want to make one thing clear if you’re listening and you’re, you’re angry at where the farm bill could possibly go. If you’re angry at what the agricultural industries have done to farmers and their communities and the land and the water. One way to get your voice made even more powerful is to join one of the organizations that’s present here to connect with us so we can be amplifying your voice. Another way is to connect with the farmers on the ground who are doing farming the way it should be and to be supporting their livelihoods as we work to build a real democratic system that actually represents the views and, and the well being of the majority of Americans rather than the rich few. So as we work to shift the policies in Congress, let’s make sure that we embrace our community of farmers and support them and let’s make sure that we join organizations on the ground that are working for the farmers and the communities. Thank you.
Hannah Tremblay [00:44:47] Thank you. And it does look like we have a question.
Guest Question: [00:44:55] Yeah. This is just to anybody who feels like they have an answer. What are you, what kind of feedback are you getting from Senator Booker or others who have got various bills that you’re supporting in terms of what they’re hearing about? How, what kind of reception they’re getting from Farm Bill writer. And also several of you have made reference to the fact that what progress there has been has taken a number of years.
Guest Question [00:45:26] Do you see what kind of time frame do you see for additional progress?
Patty Lovera [00:45:42] Hey, this is Patty from CFFE, I mean, I’m not gonna speak for any, any staff or members of congress, but I would say lots of the folks, you know, us and, and you know, people we know who’ve been going in because the process has been progressing in a way that is a little unusual in terms of pace. I mean, you know, there’s no draft bill yet to look at it and say these, the things you are asking for is impossible. You know, if we look like we’re gonna have another significant period of time as they work out the details of what, what the framework is.
Patty Lovera [00:46:24] I mean, we feel like that is an opportunity for constituents all over the place to say, hey, do X, Y and Z differently. So I haven’t heard anybody say, you know what you’re asking for is out because the process is still in that design phase. I mean, we know, but there’s big politics, there’s big questions about you know, money and, and what gets supported. But a lot of what we’re talking about is about making existing programs work more fairly be accessible to more participants spread existing money around in a better way. So, you know, I, I think there’s a lot of opportunity for this that we’re asking for just to use existing programs in a, in a better manner, make refinements, and just evaluate what is in there in light of these big issues like consolidation and, and, you know, historic, discrimination and blocking people out of programs. I think there’s a lot that can be done even if you know, even if we know like there’s a big complex bill and there’s a lot of political fighting and then in terms of the scope of getting things done, you know, we the examples I was giving, we’ve been fighting about country of origin labeling for a while. We’ve been trying to get enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act for a long, long time.
Patty Lovera [00:47:40] And we know that what we have to do is continue to, to call out that we don’t have what we need and these policies either in the form bill or at the agencies that are implementing it. So once the form bill is written, we have to pay attention to how the agencies use the law. So we know we have our work cut out for us. But I think what is different for some of us that have been doing this for a while is the kind of the reception we are getting when we say this is boiling down to power, decision making these consolidation impacts. We’re hearing more and more folks identify the, the root problem as, as that. And I think that is, is helping us make progress at a different time frame at this point.
Hannah Tremblay [00:48:28] Thank you for the question. Looks like in the chat, we have a question directed at Rania. What are two bills in the House and Senate that you believe would be beneficial for us to support? I believe you mentioned them in relation to beef production is the question.
Rania Masri [00:49:03] There were several Senate Bill 52 House Resolution 50081. This is regarding the country of origin, labeling for beef. And then there’s also the Agriculture Resilience Act and the Justice for Black Farmers Act. And I would also argue that when we think about farmers, we’re thinking about communities. So therefore environmental justice bills themselves are the real ones, not the greenwashing ones, the real ones would also be in support of, of farmers. So we need to be doing double duty as really looking at those bills and make sure they’re not green washed. But the particular bills that I’m talking about Senate 52 House Resolution 5081 Agriculture Resilience Act. The Justice for Black Farmers Act. I also want to throw this to Tim because I believe that you might know a few more bills, Tim.
Tim Gibbons [00:49:54] Yeah, and I don’t know relative to them being introduced in this Congress. But the ideas like these are important. Elizabeth Warren’s anti merger bill, both agribusiness and just mega mergers in general. was a good piece of legislation. Chuck Grassley’s 5014 bill, which said that Packers had to buy 50% of the livestock off of the spot market or the cash market. and they couldn’t hold those that livestock longer than 14 days which we re-establish a cash market in livestock production.
Tim Gibbons [00:50:29] What’s happened within hogs is there is no more cash market. It’s all based upon speculation and overproduction which pushes the price down to independent producers. That’s one of the things, if not the main thing that put independent producers out of business. So those are, those are some bills. There, there are a lot of marker bills right now that, that address these issues, which I just, it shows that people out here and, and I think peop some people on the hill are starting to, you know, move forward on the thinking of what we can do about these issues. One thing that I do want to bring up, especially to just hill staffers. This is my fourth farm bill.
Tim Gibbons [00:51:09] And what I’ve seen over recent these last four farm bills is a strategy by corporate agribusiness is to attack snap the supplemental Nutrition Assistance program or food stamp program. and say they’re gonna cut snap and then use that as a bargaining chip in order to get corporate ag policies within the farm bill. And it really pisses me off because it’s not right. People that need help people that need food. We should not be using them as a bargaining chip within the farm bill price process. Instead, we can have pro family farm or pro consumer, pro environment farm bill policies and we can have an adequate safety net for people that need assistance. So it’s not either or it can be.
Tim Gibbons [00:51:52] And so, I just wanna be, have you all be aware of that because we see it in the narrative left and right. And and it’s, it’s not a Christian or a just way to go about business. So I appreciate it. Thank you.
Hannah Tremblay [00:52:11] Thank you, Tim. We’ll give just a couple of moments for any more questions folks are typing up or as they come to mind. And as we wrap up here today, we just want to make clear that our panelists are excited to serve as resources around these issues. We’ll be sending out materials to follow up on this webinar, including contact information of our panelists, information about the organizations that they’re with. As well as what was said here today, you can also contact myself or Charlotte, the other co-host And our programs director at Farm Aid. If you are looking to get in touch with any of our panelists today or to learn more.
Hannah Tremblay [00:53:27] All right. Thank you so much for joining us and thank you to our panelists. And again, thank you to Senator Booker Rep Khanna for being the honorary co-hosts today. Thank you, everyone for attending.
Denise Jamerson [00:53:40] Thanks. Thank you for the opportunity. Thanks everyone.
Berlene Wobeter [00:53:46] Thank you.