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Coalition calls on Congress to consider reform as it writes 2018 farm bill

Tanarch/ThinkstockPhotos U.S. capitol building at night
Diverse coalition of 210 includes unions, organic organizations, Hmong and Latino groups and food co-ops.

A coalition of 210 farm, rural, worker and consumer advocacy organizations are calling on Congress to adopt policies that address unfair contracts for farmers, increase market transparency, reform USDA guaranteed loans and guarantee worker rights as they work on the 2018 farm bill.

"Corporate consolidation is the worst it has ever been in our nation’s history,” said Roger Johnson, president of National Farmers Union. “A handful of multinational companies control our inputs sector, and just four meatpackers dominate the cattle industry. Yet, as these industries and others consolidate market power into the hands of a few, the federal government continues to rubber stamp more and more mergers. If we want a country where family farmers, ranchers, and rural residents can enjoy the same economic liberty and prosperity as the rest of the country, we must address this enormous domestic policy threat to the livelihoods of these people.”

A wave of mergers has swept through every step of the food system in recent years, from seed to supermarket. The deals have made already concentrated industries reach historic levels of control by just a few powerful companies. Recent deals between seed and chemical giants Dow and DuPont and ChemChina and Syngenta, retailers Amazon and Whole Foods Market, and food processors Kraft and Heinz have changed the landscape of the food system. 

“We saw a few years ago during the financial crisis that allowing our economy to be controlled by a few large corporations puts our nation and its citizens in extreme jeopardy,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The same is true in our food system. Consolidated economic power in the hands of a few companies captures most of the economic value in the food system, leaving little for farmers, workers and consumers.” 

The letter describes how meatpackers control livestock markets with tools including packer-owned livestock, contracts and marketing agreements that are susceptible to manipulation and vertical integration. 

"Family farm agriculture is an economic and cultural cornerstone in America," said Greg Fogel, Policy Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. "Increasingly, however, our small and medium-scale farms are disappearing while corporate agribusinesses rapidly grow and consolidate. Without a fair playing field, these corporations can easily drive out family farmers, or relegate them to working within opaque and unfair contract systems. We need to bring equity and efficiency back to our agricultural markets. We cannot continue to allow agricultural consolidation to grow unchecked at the expense of our nation's family farmers, natural resources, and the American taxpayer."

The letter also described how the rapid consolidation has compromised the economic vitality of rural communities, which has been especially perilous during a steep downturn of agricultural prices for crops, livestock, and dairy.

“As long as corporations and large commodity groups dictate the contents of U.S. farm bills, antitrust laws will never be enforced, and there will never be fair, competitive markets for family farmers, fishermen, ranchers and workers who support the economies and protect the environment of the communities and consumers they sustain,” said Dena Hoff, board vice president of the National Family Farm Coalition and an organic farmer in Montana. 

The groups urged Congress to include commonsense protections to level the playing field for farmers, workers and consumers by prioritizing antitrust enforcement, anticompetitive behavior and market transparency. 

“Fairness and equity must be provided to everyone from the farm to the table. Agribusiness must not be allowed to extract economic value at every level of the food system by pushing down on prices, wages, benefits and working conditions,” said Rural Coalition Board Member Rudy Arredondo, who also serves as President of the National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Association. “They should not be allowed to drive out traditional and small-scale producers who properly care for animals and the ecology while assuring consumers safe and nutritious meat products.”

Source: Food and Water Watch

Organizations signing the letter that was submitted to House and Senate ag committee leaders:

21st Century Youth Leadership Movement (AL)

ActionAid USA

Agricultural Missions, Inc. (NY)

Agriculture and Land Based Training Association (CA)

Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association

Alaska Farmers Union

Alianza Nacional de Campesinas

Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) (MT)

American Agriculture Movement

American Federation of Government Employees (AFLCIO), Local 3354, USDA-St. Louis

American Grassfed Association

American Indian Mothers, Inc. (NC)

Angelic Organics Learning Center and Farm (IL)

Arkansas Farmers Union

Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake County (OH) Farmers' Union

Atrisco Land Grant Elders Board (NM)

Atrisco Land Rights Council (NM)

Berks (PA) Gas Truth

BioRegional Strategies

Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association (BFAA) (NC)

Black Farmers and Ranchers of New Mexico

Buckeye Quality Beef Association (OH)

Buffalo Mountain Coop (VT)

Buy Fresh Buy Local, Greater Lehigh Valley (PA)

California Farmers Union

California Institute for Rural Studies

Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform

Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (NC)

CASA Del Llano, Inc. (TX)

Catholic Rural Life

Cattle Producers of Louisiana

Cattle Producers of Washington

Center for Rural Affairs

Church Women United in New York State

Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana

Citizens for Sanity.Com, Inc. (FL)

Colorado Farm & Food Alliance

Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association

Colorado Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE) Assoc.

Community Food & Agriculture Coalition (MT)

Community Food and Justice Coalition (CA)

Concerned Citizens of Tillery (NC)

Consumer Federation of America

Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias

The Cornucopia Institute

Corporate Accountability International

Cottage House Inc. (AL)

Crawford Stewardship Project (WI)

Cuatro Puertas (NM)

Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship

Dakota Resource Council

Dakota Rural Action of SD

Dawson Resource Council (MT)

DC Greens

Delmar Farmers Market (NY)

Desert Forge Foundation (NM)

East New York Farms!

Endangered Habitats League (CA)

Fair World Project (OR)

Family Farm Defenders (WI)

Farm Aid

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance

Farm to Table New Mexico

Farmers Market Coalition

Farmworker Association of Florida

Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund

Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Inc.

Food & Water Watch

Food Chain Workers Alliance

Food First

Food for Maine's Future

Food Policy Council of San Antonio

Friends of the Earth U.S.

Future Harvest (MD)

Georgia Organics

Government Accountability Project

Grand Forks County Citizens Coalition (ND)

Grassroots International

GROW North Texas

Hawaii Farmers Union United

Health Care Without Harm

Healthy School Food Maryland

Hempstead Project Heart (WI)

Hmong National Development, Inc.

Housing Assistance Council

Hunger Mountain Co-op (VT)

Idaho Organization of Resource Councils

Illinois Farmers Union

Illinois Stewardship Alliance

Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (I-BAND)

Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska

Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming

Indian Nations Conservation Alliance

Indiana Farmers Union

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

The Institute for Rural America (IA)

International Texas Longhorn Association

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

Iowa Farmers Union

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (MD)

Kansas Cattlemen’s Association

Kansas Farmers Union

The Land Connection (IL)

Land Stewardship Project (MN)

Latino Economic Development Center (MN)

The Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy,

Teachers College Columbia University (NY)

Littleton Food Co-op (NH)

Main Street Cheese, LLC (NH)

Maine Farmland Trust

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (WI)

Michigan Farmers Union

Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Association

Minnesota Farmers Union

Minnesota National Farmers Organization

Mississippi Assoc. of Cooperatives

Missouri Coalition for the Environment

Missouri Farmers Union

Missouri Rural Crisis Center

Missouri’s Best Beef Cooperative

Momtees Healthy Eats (NM)

Monadnock Food Co-op (NH)

Montana Farmers Union

Montana Organic Association

Murray County (OK) Independent Cattlemen's Association

National Dairy Producers Organization

National Family Farm Coalition

National Farm to School Network

National Farmers Organization

National Farmers Union

National Hmong American Farmers, Inc.

National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association

National Organic Coalition

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

National Women Involved in Farm Economics

National Young Farmers Coalition

Nature Abounds

Nebraska Farmers Union

Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society

Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics

Neighboring Food Co-op Association (New England)

New England Farmers Union

North Dakota Farmers Union

Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - MA

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - NH

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - NJ

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - NY

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - RI

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. - VT

Northeast Organic Farming Association, Interstate Council (NOFA-IC)

Northern New Mexico Stockman's Association

Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)

Northern Wisconsin Beef Producers Assoc.

Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (MA)

Northwest Forest Worker Alliance

Now You Know New Mexico

Oglala Stock Growers and Land Owners Association (SD)

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

Ohio Farmers Union

Ohio Sustainable Business Council

Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project

Oregon Rural Action

Organic Consumers Association

Organic Farmers' Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM)

Organic Seed Alliance

Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA)

Organizacion en California de Lideres Campesinas, Inc.

Organization for Competitive Markets

Our Kitchen Table (MI)

Pesticide Action Network North America

Powder River Basin Resource Council (WY)

Progressive Agriculture Organization (PA)

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

Ranch Foods Direct (CO)

Range Allotment Owners Association

Real Food for Kids - Montgomery (MD)

Rio Grande Community Farm (NM)

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

Rural Advancement Foundation International - USA (RAFIUSA)

Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund

Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural

Rural Development Leadership Network (NY)

Rural Vermont

San Diego Food Shed

San Diego Small Farm Alliance

Sierra Club

Slow Food USA

Socially Responsible Agricultural Project

South Agassiz Resource Council (ND)

South Dakota Farmers Union

South Dakota Stockgrowers Association

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

Sustain LA (CA)

Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville (SAL)

Sustainable Food Center (TX)

Texas Farmers Union

Texas Mexico Border Coalition Community Based Organization

Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assoc.

Town of Atrisco Land Grant Merced (NM)

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

Upper Valley Food Co-op (VT)

Utah Farmers Union

Virginia Association for Biological Farming

West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition

Western Colorado Congress

Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC)


Wisconsin Farmers Union

TAGS: Farm Policy
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