Minnesota Farmers Union joined the National Farmers Union Sept. 23 in launching a national Fairness for Farmers campaign.
The campaign, says MFU and NFU, is designed to encourage Americans to contact their senators and representatives in Congress as well as the Biden administration to call for concrete steps to curtail consolidation in agriculture.
NFU President Rob Larew noted in a news release that the organizations “are all buoyed by President Joe Biden’s executive order on ‘Promoting Competition in the Marketplace’ — a commitment from his administration to restore fairness to our economy.”
The farm organizations are seeking:
MFU President Gary Wertish, who joined Larew in the campaign rollout, traced the effort back to the roots of Farmers Union, which was formed by farmers who weren’t getting a fair price for their products.
“You only have to drive around the countryside; whether it's Minnesota or Colorado or Montana or Iowa, you see numerous empty farm sites,” Wertish said. “All of those empty farm sites have empty buildings that were at one time used to raise livestock, but also used to support families that were part of their local community. Those families sent their children to the local school, picked up groceries at the local store and shopped at the local hardware store. That's the part we're missing.”
Wertish acknowledged the consolidation in the agricultural sector, yet emphasized the need for access to fair and transparent markets.
“When you visit the grocery store, you see many labels on the shelves, but there are only a half-dozen companies that control all those labels — and that's where all the profit is going,” Wertish said. “This is affecting everybody, farmers and consumers alike.”
The Fairness for Farmers campaign seeks to harness the power of grassroots individuals who want to see hard work fairly rewarded and access to fair agricultural markets.
Campaign efforts will:
• Encourage farmers and ranchers to share videos of their stories online.
• Build national coalitions to support lawmakers and regulators in the antitrust space to fight for strengthening pro-competition laws and regulations.
• Educate lawmakers, the media and consumers about the broken food system that allows monopolies to cheat farmers and ranchers, and charge consumers higher prices at the grocery store.
In August, the full MFU board of directors voted to go on record in opposition to Cargill buying Sanderson Farms.
County presidents from across the state gathered either in person or via Zoom in St. Paul for their biannual full board meeting. After a robust discussion on consolidation, Lac Qui Parle County Farmers Union president Doug Peterson made a motion to send a letter to Minnesota’s congressional delegation opposing the acquisition of Sanderson Farms by Cargill and Continental Grain Co.
The motion passed unanimously.
On Aug. 9, Cargill, Continental Grain and Sanderson Farms announced they had reached an agreement for Cargill and Continental Grain to acquire Sanderson Farms. Once the transaction is completed, Sanderson Farms will be combined with Wayne Farms, a subsidiary of Continental Grain, to form a new, privately held company. Sanderson Farms is the nation’s third-largest poultry producer.