Sign on to support a fair farm bill
Support a Fair Farm Bill!
Help make a better food system, level playing field
Organizational/ Farm Sign-On Letter
Please respond to Mara Schechter, Food & Water Watch:
Deadline: Monday, March 12, 2012
Please forward to other organizations and thank you!
Dear Senator Gillibrand,
We are writing to urge you to stand up for New York’s consumers and family farmers and lend your vocal support for a competition title in the 2012 Farm Bill. A strong competition title is critical to ensuring that consumers have access to quality, independently produced food and that family farmers receive fair prices for the food they produce.
Our food system is not working for most Americans. Most supermarket aisles do not offer good, nutritious foods as feasible options. Instead, what consumers will find is an abundance of cheap, processed foods that are generally unhealthy, or meat from factory farms produced with antibiotics and artificial hormones and vegetables raised with pesticides and often produced halfway around the world. At the same time, small and midsized farmers who have been the backbone of America’s food system are driven out of business or are barely making ends meet. The disappearance of farmers in the middle is happening rapidly. While the number of giant farms (with more than $1 million in gross farm earnings) grew by 93 percent between 2002 and 2007, we lost 27,000 midsized independent family farms. According to the USDA’s most recent Census of Agriculture, less than half of all farms in the United States break even; the rest rely on off-farm income to cover their expenses.
The problems of our broken food system, including lack of consumer choice, loss of family farms, growth of large polluting factory farms, and food deserts that leave many without access to basic groceries, can be traced to the extreme consolidation of our food system. A small number of extremely large corporations control every sector of the food system, from beef processing (where four companies control 83% of the market) to dairy (where one company – Dean Foods – controls 40% of the fluid milk market alone), to grocery stores (where five companies control over 50% of the market).
With such dominance, these companies are able to manipulate the market, resulting in a host of problems for consumers, farmers, and the environment. They use their market dominance to pressure family farmers to get bigger by giving preferential treatment to large factory farms, use the lack of competition to set artificially low prices for farmers, and use that same position to set prices artificially high for consumers.
In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress directed USDA to issue rules to address unfair and anti-competitive trade practices that have become rampant in the livestock and poultry sectors. Congress included these provisions to address concerns over the increasingly abusive contract and marketing practices employed by meatpacker and poultry companies that have harmed farmers, ranchers, and growers for decades. Meatpacker and poultry companies opposed these provisions in the Senate, but compromise language included in the final Farm Bill required USDA to use their existing authority under the 1921 Packers & Stockyard Act to take action. Long delays by the USDA allowed House Republicans to prevent almost anything from being accomplished. In the end, only four contract fairness provisions for poultry growers were finalized and none of the livestock rules went into effect.
We still need the complete proposed rule from the 2008 Farm Bill to be implemented, but in the context of broader reforms that make markets work for farmers and consumers. The 2012 Farm Bill presents an opportunity to create a fair Farm Bill that works for all Americans. A competition title – that recognizes that markets only work if there are rules that ensure a leveling of the playing field for small and midsized farmers – will result in better choices for consumers, more vibrant rural economies, and a healthier environment.
We urge you to support a competition title in the 2012 Farm Bill that: • Places a moratorium on mergers of large food and agricultural companies and reviews prior mergers for antitrust issues
• Bans meatpackers from owning livestock, which can be used to manipulate the market
• Requires contracts for farmers and ranchers that have a pre- arranged price, a firm delivery date, and transparency
• Investigates and enforces antitrust laws across the food system We greatly appreciated your support of the GIPSA rule, and we urge you, as a leading member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, to continue to stand with New York’s farmers, ranchers, growers and consumers by supporting a comprehensive competition title in this year’s Farm Bill.