Between natural disasters, extreme weather, pest infestation, disease, high input costs, or low commodity prices, risks abound that can swiftly tank farming operations. That’s where U.S. farm support programs come in. Yet, these insurance programs have insidious effects on the greater food and agriculture system. Crop insurance — which is heavily subsidized by taxpayers — is a major driver of consolidation in our food system.
These insurance programs are structured so that the more acreage you have to insure, the more taxpayer money you are able to get. It’s the largest and wealthiest farms that receive the lion’s share of government subsidies: 78% of annual commodity payments go to the top 10% of recipients. This imbalance exacerbates the plight smaller farms have been facing for decades: They have to get big or get out. As many are forced to abandon farming and the larger operations snatch up farmland, the ripple effects of consolidation have catastrophic impacts across rural communities and the environment.
In order to reform this abusive system, Farm Action is calling for Congress to use the 2023 Farm Bill to rein in these out-of-control programs. Now, in a new report, the Government Accountability Office is echoing many of our recommendations for crop insurance reforms. Learn more in our “News to Chew on” blog.
TAKE ACTION! SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK ON THE FARM BILL
Every five years, Congress passes legislation through the farm bill that shapes the structure of and funding for our food and farm system.Negotiations for the 2023 Farm Bill are ramping up, and this is our best opportunity to reform our food system so that it works for everyone, not just a handful of corporations.
Congress wants to hear your feedback! Simply fill out this form to share your ideas for the 2023 Farm Bill with the Senate Agriculture Committee. Not sure where to begin? You can pull out a few policies from Farm Action’s Fair Farm Bill Policy Handbook to help inform your feedback.
FARM ACTION MOVEMENT NEWS: KEEPING EGG PRICE HIKES TOP OF MIND
Just weeks after we called egg companies out for price gouging, wholesale egg prices are dropping for no apparent reason — funny how that works! Even as prices fall, they’re still more than two times higher than they were last winter. Farm Action will continue calling for an investigation to hold these companies accountable so they can’t keep cheating consumers.
"With hundreds of millions of dollars missing from Americans’ pockets to enrich the profits of the egg industry’s handful of robber barons, antitrust enforcers owe the public a duty to investigate," writes Farm Action’s Basel Musharbash.
Farm Action’s work was highlighted in a letter from Senators Warren and Porter, decrying industry practices as "a pattern we’ve seen too often since the Covid-19 pandemic: companies jacking up their prices to pad their own profits."
“What we found was that the net effect was closer to 3-4% fewer eggs in the market. It did not justify a 138% increase in the price of eggs at the grocery store to the consumers,” explained Farm Action’s Joe Maxwell.
CRITICAL LEGISLATION RE-INTRODUCED
With the 2023 Farm Bill in our bullseye, our political partner Farm Action Fund is advocating for the inclusion of these important bills:
Senators Cory Booker and Mike Lee reintroduced the OFF Act this week to reform abusive checkoff programs that work against farmers’ and ranchers’ best interests. “For far too long, America’s farmers and ranchers have been forced to pay into government checkoff programs, only to see their dollars used against them by trade and lobbying organizations representing the world’s largest meatpackers and grain traders,” said Farm Action Fund’s Joe Maxwell in the Senators’ press releases.
Senators Chuck Grassley and Jon Tester reintroduced the Meat Packing Special Investigator Actlast week.The bill would help fight consolidation and strengthen our antitrust laws by establishing an office within the USDA to ensure the Packers and Stockyards Act is being enforced.
FARMERS CALL FOR FOOD NOT FEED
At Farm Action’s recent Food Not Feed Summit, Bryn Bird of Bird’s Haven Farms discussed how we can shift our farm supports to help more farmers grow and raise food for their communities.
She emphasizes the importance of investing in regional food systems so farmers like her can access local and regional markets to supply their communities with fresh foods. Listen to Bryn’s take on why we need to support food, not feed in the 2023 Farm Bill in our new video.
FARM ACTION ON THE MOVE
The Farm Action team has been making the rounds at conferences across the country!
The team presented ways to challenge monopoly power in our food system at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Conference in February. The room was packed with folks eager to change our corporate-controlled food system, and we had a blast getting to meet and learn from other presenters and attendees.
Next, the team is heading to the National Farmers Union Convention in California this weekend. Be sure to swing by our booth to say hello and learn about how we can work together to create a food system that works for everyone, not just corporations.
WHAT’S THE TALK?
Here’s what the Farm Action team has been reading:
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance released a report revealing that through predatory tactics, dollar chains are killing off grocery stores and other local businesses, leaving communities with fewer jobs, diminished access to basic goods, and dimmer prospects for overall well-being.
More than 100 children as young as 13 years old cleaned dangerous meat processing equipment using hazardous chemicals for a sanitation company contracted by major meat and poultry producers including JBS and Tyson, reports Food Dive.
Investigate Midwest reports that agribusiness spent a record-breaking $165 million on federal lobbying last year. Industries in the “agricultural services and products” category spent the most, which includes chemical companies Corteva, Nutrien, and AgLife America.
A report by Open Markets Institute and Friends of the Earth reveals Big Ag’s plans to use carbon payment programs and farmer data to tighten its grip on the food system. Carbon market policies that support such programs do little more than allow giant agribusiness to define climate-smart agriculture and further entrench their market power.
Unsurprisingly, meatpackers are fighting to prevent USDA from passing its Packers and Stockyards rulemaking to strengthen protection for farmers — and they are doing so in part by misleading farmers and the public about the state of the law, writes Jamie Crooks in Tri-State Livestock News.
Written and edited by: Jessica Cusworth, Dee Laninga, and Angela Huffman
Farm Action leverages its research, policy development, and advocacy campaigns to create a food and agriculture system that works for everyday people rather than a handful of powerful corporations. Our political partner organization, Farm Action Fund, is building the political muscle to take action in our state and federal capitols and at the ballot box.
Together, our two organizations represent a seamless chain of action from research and policy development, to the adoption of the policy through legislative action by elected officials who support our vision.