For every dollar Americans spent on Thanksgiving meals last week, farmers and ranchers earned around 14.3 cents, according to the National Farmers Union.
In 1952, the farmer’s share of every food dollar spent by consumers was 50%.
NFU points to consolidation as the cause, noting four companies control 85% of beef packing, 85% of seed corn production and 84% of the pesticide market. And that in the past five decades, 40% of flour mills and 88% of meat processing facilities have gone out of business.
NFU President Rob Larew, who was keynote speaker at the annual Minnesota Farmer Union banquet Nov. 20, addressed the issue and noted how multiple mergers and acquisitions over the past several decades has caused agricultural and food supply chains to be uncompetitive and fragile while underpaying farmers.
“When things are so consolidated, you have fewer choices [to market],” Larew said. Accordingly, corporate monopolies are using their size to unfairly take advantage of farmers and ranchers, while forcing consumers to pay higher prices at the market, he said.
“Enough is enough,” he said.
That’s why NFU rolled out the Fairness for Farmers campaign in September, along with the Minnesota and Montana Farmers Unions. FFF is working to educate congressional leaders and get legislation enacted to curtail consolidation in agriculture.
With the campaign, NFU members are specifically advocating for the following policy changes to support fair and transparent agriculture markets:
- strongly enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act
- improving price discovery and ensuring fair and accurate market information
- facilitating competition and more diverse market opportunities
- reinvigorating antitrust enforcement
Larew also noted concern with the crossover of big ag corporations into climate change issues while forcing further consolidation of markets.
“The biggest ag corporations are bragging about all the wonderful things they are doing about climate,” he said. “These things just don’t jive. We have the global No. 2 dairy company that is bragging about all the climate work it is doing, while telling 65 dairy farmers in North Carolina that we aren’t taking your milk anymore.
“Then it is going to Maryland and telling dairy farmers there that they need to get bigger. On its website, it talks about resiliency and cover crops, and what farmers need to do [for climate change]. It doesn’t make sense.”
Larew said NFU is leading the charge to bring back fairness to the farm.
“We can’t afford to just be in the room or at the table,” he said. “We must demand to be heard and get the change we need.”