Demand a Fair Farm Bill
June 13, 2012
Two key Farm Bill votes – on the Senate floor and in the House Agricultural Committee – will take place in the next several days. Will you take action with us today, and send a message to Congress that we need U.S. farm policy to address the underlying problems of the global food system?
On September 30 of this year, the U.S. Food and Farm Bill is set to expire. Grassroots International and our partners know that the Farm Bill impacts lives around the world – especially for family farmers and small producers in the U.S. and the Global South. Unfortunately, most of the impacts they feel make it harder for them to survive, while big agribusiness profits from their suffering.
Peter Rossett, technical team for Grassroots' partner the Vía Campesina, explains how the situation evolved. “Before the 1970s, U.S. farm policy was designed to protect American farmers from low prices – with price guarantees, reserves and loans – and attempted to give U.S. family farmers an income comparable to those in urban areas. In addition, these policies meant that U.S. farm products couldn’t be dumped on other countries at prices below the cost of production.” This allowed food economies in the Global South to be based on local, small-scale production.
But starting in the 1970s, the U.S. changed policy, removing price supports to farmers and allowing big corporations to buy products at ridiculously low prices. These corporations could then sell the products at below-market rates to large companies in other countries, making it nearly impossible for farmers in those countries to make a living. Peter explains that in Mexico, “the price today for the main crop of small farmers – maize – is 75 percent lower than it was 25 years ago. Farmers are three times poorer today, can no longer afford to live there and must join migrant streams within Mexico to the U.S. and Canada.” And Mexican consumers are no better off – because U.S. corporations like Cargill have set up special relations with large Mexican companies, they have established a monopoly that drives up prices to consumers, even as prices paid to farmers have drastically fallen.
Ben Burkett is a farmer in Mississippi, state coordinator of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, a member of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, and president of the National Family Farm Coalition. Ben explains, “It's not fair that a few middlemen profit from U.S. farm policies while the majority of producers and consumers suffer at their hands. The 2012 farm bill should provide farmers and consumers the tools necessary to take back our food system. We must work together to ensure that this happens. As Congress decides whether to craft a new farm bill or extend the last one, it has a chance to create programs and policies based on the principles of food sovereignty – the fair and democratic control over one's food supply.”
As we write this, members of Congress are pushing forward legislation that would maintain the structural inequities of recent Farm Bills and could threaten funding for some of the programs that have been critical in getting resources to disadvantaged farmers, farmworkers, and low-income consumers. Please join us in taking action to demand that Congress hear the voices of the people most impacted by the Food and Farm Bill: continue funding for specific valuable programs, and fundamentally reconstruct our government policy to ensure that it benefits family farmers, small producers and consumers, not agribusiness giants.
Executive Director, Grassroots Intl.