Farm Women United
Articles by Farm Women United or their supporters
TWO AGRICULTURAL POLICIES THAT HAVE HURT OUR NATION’S FARMERS by Gerald Carlin, Meshoppen, PA
Many farmers today may be trying to figure out how we have gotten into such a seemingly, hopeless mess. We have lost all power in the marketplace. Farmers are without a doubt more efficient than ever, fewer in number than ever, and more broke than ever, in body and spirit, as well as financially. To add insult to injury our elected officials, who claim to want to hear from constituents, steadfastly ignore concerns of their constituents who happen to be farmers. There seems to be absolutely no interest or concern in Washington or Harrisburg, in even allowing real family farmers to have any voice or insight whatsoever in any pending farm legislation.
How have farmers become so marginalized? Detrimental public policies have been proposed and promoted by academics and powerful people for decades. Two major policy papers which I have referred to a number of times in the past, closely followed, perhaps coincidentally, two very important Supreme Court Rulings.
On June 25, 1962, the US Supreme Court banned organized prayer and Bible reading in public schools. In July 1962, the Committee for Economic Development (CED) made up of some 200 corporate executives, economists, and other distinguished experts (not one farmer) released An Adaptive Program for Agriculture with a stated goal of reducing the farming population by one third within five years. The report complained about wasted resources in farming, particularly labor, as technology increased productivity in agriculture and the large public expenditures for vocational training for young farmers in public schools. They proposed a policy of actively discouraging young people from getting into farming as well as actively trying to coax existing farmers to exit agriculture and even proposed public funds be spent to assist farmers in moving expenses to relocate their families off of the farm.
Kenneth E. Boulding, Ag Economist with the Department of Economics at the University of Michigan and member of the research advisory board for the CED stated the following: “The only way I know to get toothpaste out of a tube is to squeeze, and the only way to get people out of agriculture is likewise to squeeze agriculture. If the toothpaste is thin, you don’t squeeze very hard, on the other hand, if the toothpaste is thick, you have to put real pressure on it. If you can’t get people out of agriculture easily, you are going to have to do farmers severe injustice in order to solve the problem of allocation.” Although this quote does not appear in the text of An Adaptive Program for Agriculture, the sentiment is still evident. The sentiment expressed by these distinguished experts was that farmers were merely disposable pawns in an economic plan. If the inefficient farmers would just leave farming, the farmers who are left will prosper. Efficient farmers will produce food more cheaply, people will spend less money for food, leaving more disposable income to spend on consumer goods, which will cause economic growth and increase income for all, or so the theory goes. Of course, consumer food prices have continued to rise even as farmers get less and less of the retail dollar. I guess there is a fly in the ointment somewhere.
There were 1.1 million farms with dairy cows in the United States in 1964, 600,000 in 1969, and some 40,000 today, so those who are left are really prospering, right? Oh wait, they are struggling more than ever before. Obviously there are still too many. You get the point.
The official belief that there are too many farmers has grown and become entrenched in public policy evidencing itself in numerous ways, not the least of which are burdensome and senseless regulations on many fronts. Technology, including patented GMO and Terminator seeds, limits farmers’ ability to preserve seeds while increasing the power and control of corporate seed giants. Food additives extend yields of “food” with less raw product. Irradiation and Ultra-pasteurization, along with other questionable practices, ruin the real nutrition of food while extending shelf life. The list could be endless, but the goal is to put food under corporate control, with as few farmers as possible. This, of course, is called “progress”.
The belief that farmers are not important is evidenced in the attitudes and actions of both co-ops and processors as they believe that they are turning worthless raw product into something of value (Some believe that milk has no value until it is at least pasteurized). Dairy farmers are lucky that the milk truck stops at the farm, takes the hazardous material, and actually pays them for it. No wonder farmers are strapped with paying “make allowances” to insure that the processor can make a profit, and of course, farmers have to pay the hauling charges, advertising fees, and all other appropriate fees, as a co-op or processor sees fit. Countless rural communities that rely on agriculture and provide Ag-related services have been decimated. Social impacts are obvious.
In January 1973, the US Supreme Court legalized abortion. In April 1973, Agricultural Trade and the Proposed Round of Multilateral Negotiations aka the Flanigan Report was published. This document basically sought the elimination of any and all protections and trade barriers for farmers domestically and worldwide. It was their dream and goal that eventually no country on earth would be able to offer any special protections for their farmers. Farmers would be forced to be “efficient” and would no longer be able to be such a pesky, if not powerful, lobbying force in Washington, DC, or any other country in the world. Eventually through a number of trade agreements, negotiated by “esteemed” and unaccountable experts, the farmer has essentially lost all protections and all rights to seek redress of wrongs because international trade agreements supersede farmers’ rights and domestic food policy. Politicians can throw their hands in the air and declare that there is nothing that they can do, or, as most have chosen, just ignore the concerns of farmers, because, after all, there are more important issues to deal with and more important people to talk to.
The reason that I mention two Supreme Court rulings in this rant is simple. Scripture says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14:34. God’s judgement on our nation for turning our backs on Him takes many forms, mostly, I believe, by letting foolish policy run its course. Agricultural policy is not something that would typically be mentioned in connection with God’s judgement. Certainly, other moral depravity and policies that protect it have led to great public expense and debt.
I hate to close without a solution. Certainly, we can humble ourselves and pray, seeking God’s wisdom, as we exercise our Constitutional right to protect our private property and fulfill our duty to support and sustain life. If our nation supports life, I believe it will value farmers. If our nation encourages death, it will continue to devalue farmers.
Gerald is the husband of Farm Women United's Secretary/Treasurer Tina Carlin
Link to An Adaptive Program for Agriculture: http://www.normeconomics.org/AN%20ADAPTIVE%20PROGRAM%20FOR%20AG.pdf
Link to the Flanigan Report: http://www.themilkweed.com/Flanigan.pdf
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On January 8, 2018, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, presented President Trump with Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. This report focused on rural America in general.
To the extent that agriculture was mentioned, the Task Force put forth five main objectives. The first being e-connectivity. US population is estimated to grow to 400 million by 2050. “To supply this number of people with food, American farms need reliable, real-time internet connectivity to oversee operations in the fields, manage finances, and respond to international market conditions. To match world food demand, innovative technologies such as precision agriculture can insure American farms reach the necessary levels of productivity. Such methods require every part of the farm be connected to the World Wide Web, not just the farmhouse.” What about traditional, family farms? Are they necessary? Is not “overproduction” the constant excuse for low farm prices? The Task Force report states that “Precision Agriculture Technologies . . . could mean the difference between success and failure.” It seems like “over production” and rock bottom farm prices are the real goal.
The second Ag related objective is to insure access to lawful agricultural work force, with the goal to implement policy and regulatory change to improve the H-2A visa program to facilitate more H-2A work visas. The Task Force does not value the incredible farm raised talent of both young farmers and older farmers who have been and are being forced off the farm because of low prices.
The third main Task Force objective is to expand technological innovation especially biotechnology. “On the biotechnology front, better coordination of the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration, regulations on genetic modifications of crop, and livestock, is needed to reduce barriers to commercialization of safe, beneficial, and improved genetically engineered entities.” Certainly the rails are well greased, with a large revolving door, between the regulatory agencies and biotech firms. The goal of the Task Force is to “increase public acceptance of biotech products” both domestically and world-wide. Of course, no mention is made of consumer choice, or labeling, on the domestic front. Considerable space is devoted to the advancement of biotechnology. This does not bode well for skeptics and those who want a choice in the food they eat.
The fourth major Ag objective is to expand export markets. This claim, that exports will boost farm income, is at least 45 years old, and the results on farm income have not been all that positive.
The fifth major Ag objective is to increase access to capital. What good is that without a fair price and the ability to pay back loans?
In summary, the Task Force report does not mention farm price or consumer choice, but does promote policies which will likely accelerate the loss of family farms and the consolidation of the control of our food supply.
Gerald Carlin, Meshoppen, PA
Link to Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity:https://www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/rural-prosperity-report.pdf
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Thoughts Concerning Free Market in Dairy
In a functional free market system for dairy, dairy farmers form cooperatives to give them both bargaining power and marketing ability. The co-op would be owned by, and controlled by, its farmer-members.
Today, National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) is the only voice for dairy farmers in Washington, as it claims to represent some 75% of the nation’s dairy farmers. NMPF is made up of “farmer-owned” co-ops and processors who are associate members.
Let’s examine the current “benefits” of being a farmer-owner of a modern day co-op. The farmer-owner, hereafter referred to as owner, pays the dairy cooperative management, hereafter referred to as employees, to market the owner’s milk. The employees are not required to pay the owner the Federal minimum milk prices.
- The owner has no right to know what the employee’s salary is.
- The owner has no right to know where his milk is going on any given day.
- The owner has no right to know who all of the other co-owners are.
- The owner can lose his market if he is critical of, or even questions his employees, therefore, most owners remain silent in fear of retaliation. Employees make examples out of owners who get out of line.
- The employees vote in Federal Order referendums without the consent of the owner.
- The employees have been seen at Federal Order hearings trying to get more money out of the owner without the owner’s knowledge.
- The owner has no ability to call a meeting of fellow owners.
- The owner has no practical ability to fire an employee.
- The employees try to dictate how the owner runs his business.
- The employees have plenty of lobbyists at all levels of government to ensure that their control over the owners continue. This is the unseen and untold story of “farmer-owned” co-ops.
Resources that may help in understanding co-op corruption
- Jonathan and Claudia Haar (315) 855-4465-dairy farmers and plaintiff in Northeast Dairy Case Allen vs. DFA, and their son Joshua Haar who is an attorney.
- Dr. Peter C. Carstensen (608) 263-7416, [email protected], Dr. Carstensen has spent nearly 50 years devoted to anti-trust and consolidation issues in agriculture. He is very knowledgeable.
- Dr. Richard Levins, (612) 625-5238, [email protected], a Capper-Volstead expert
Dr. Ronald Cotterill, (860) 786-8157, [email protected], University of Connecticut, Dairy Compact Expert.
Allee Ramadhan, Justice Department Retired, He oversaw the Justice Department probe of DFA during the George W. Bush administration. The investigation was suspiciously terminated.
Christine Varney-former Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, Department of Justice, conducted extensive field hearings across the US under the Obama Administration to examine anti-trust issues in agriculture, including those impacting dairy farmers(final workshop held December 8, 2010, Washington, DC) (https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/assistant-attorney-general-antitrust-division-christine-varney-delivers-closing-remarks)
Although the DOJ antitrust field hearings conducted under Ms. Varney's leadership were welcomed by dairy farmers and others victimized by flagrant antitrust abuses in agriculture, Ms. Varney left the DOJ before any summary conclusions were issued to the public.
Free market will not work in dairy until farmers once again have power.