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Family farmers want fair policies from presidential candidates

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To revitalize independent family farm agriculture, 35 farm and food organizations called on the the federal government to restore competition to agriculture and ensure a level playing field for all farmers and ranchers. In the letter, the group called on elected officials and presidential candidates to address the disproportionate market power held by the giant agribusinesses that dominate livestock and poultry markets. 

“Our food system is clearly rigged. 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,” said National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson. “In light of these circumstances, it is critical that we act now to restore fair competition to agriculture. As the field of 2020 candidates vie for the presidency, we urge them to take the issue of corporate consolidation and anti-trust enforcement seriously by incorporating these recommendations into their platforms.”

The policy changes urged by the groups are needed because the largest meatpackers and processors control all stages of food animal production, forcing farmers into one-sided contracts that eliminate market transparency, depress prices, undermine the livelihoods of independent farmers and ranchers, and threaten farmers’ ability to adopt sustainable production practices.

“Our farm advocates have taken in hundreds of hotline calls from livestock and poultry producers in recent years struggling to make ends meet,” said Sally Lee, Associate Director of RAFI-USA. “These are hardworking farmers who are experts at what they do, but the marketplace has been rigged against them. Farmers deserve dignity and respect for their work, and we cannot let their basic rights be written off in the fine print of an unfair contract.”

The groups are calling on elected officials and candidates to support measures to rebalance the economic relationships between farmers, ranchers, consumers, workers, and food companies, including policies 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.
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