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011209 Farm Groups Warn Congress of Catastrophic Loss

December 4, 2001

Des Moines, IA - As the inside-the-belt way debate over farm policy hits the floor of the U.S. Senate, farmers across the nation are raising serious concerns about the future of families that produce the food in this country.

"Last year, the United States lost 20,000 family farmers while Cargill and ADM posted record profits, subsidized by billions of taxpayer dollars," stated George Naylor, an Iowa grain farmer. "Unless the full Senate significantly improves the farm bill approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee, we will see more of the same corporate gouging and the hemorrhaging in the countryside will only accelerate."

"America's farmers, ranchers, and consumers desperately need a farm bill that provides long- term food security for our nation and economic security for farmers," stated Helen Waller, a Montana rancher and wheat farmer. "While the Senate Ag. Committee bill minimally increases market prices for farmers, it will not cover farmers' cost of production. This farm bill will continue the current policy of relying heavily on unsustainable taxpayer subsidies to prop up the farm economy."

"What we witnessed last month as the Senate agriculture committee debated its farm bill clearly illustrates the influence corporate agribusiness has on the policy-making bodies of our government," stated Larry Mitchell of the American Corn Growers Association.

Farmers point to last month's defeat of the Competition Title introduced by Chairman Harkin. The Competition Title was a new provision of the farm bill designed to mitigate the effects of corporate concentration in food production and its impact on competition. Of all the provisions in the Competition Title, which were supported by dozens of family farm organizations, only country of origin labeling made it into the final Senate Agricultural Committee bill.

The National Farm Action Campaign called for massive grassroots pressure by farmers, taxpayers and consumers to show their opposition to the current Senate proposal. "We can't let this go down without a fight," said Bill Christison, a Missouri farmer and President of the National Family Farm Coalition. "Farmers from across the country will be demanding true farm bill reform now and during the reconciliation of legislative proposals moving between both houses of Congress."

Farmer-Designed Solutions to the Farm Crisis

Members of the National Farm Action Campaign are fighting for significant improvements in the Senate Farm Bill, including support for amendments to be introduced from the Senate floor. These amendments are pieces of a comprehensive farm bill proposal (The Food From Family Farms Act) developed by member groups to address the farm crisis.

Support for an amendment banning packer ownership of livestock

Packers use direct ownership of livestock to force independent producers to take lower prices. Packers also use captive supplies - livestock they buy under premium long-term forward contracts that are kept secret between them and the largest producers - to control the market, reduce fair competition, and keep prices to independent producers down. A ban on packer ownership and restrictions on captive supplies will increase competition in the livestock industry, and boost the economic security of farmers and ranchers.

Support an "EQIP" amendment to stop taxpayers' dollars from subsidizing factory farms

The Senate Agriculture Committee bill includes a billion-dollar per year Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which will funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to factory-style livestock farms owned or controlled by corporate agri-businesses. EQIP as it has operated over its first five years has been a good program, but the U.S. Senate bill would increase EQIP funding 500% and remove the prohibition against using EQIP funds for factory-style livestock facilities for huge manure lagoons. The Wellstone amendment will stop EQIP funds from being used for giant confinement livestock operations, by continuing the prohibition currently in place.

Support an amendment to re-establish a farmer-owned grain reserve

One step towards establishing a policy that helps farmers earn a fair price in the marketplace (instead of from taxpayer-funded subsidies, which benefit the agribusiness corporations which buy from farmers, not farmers), the Senate bill should include a farmer-owned grain reserve. A farmer- owned reserve would provide for more orderly marketing, protect consumers from price surges, and could meet energy and humanitarian needs. The only significant, stored U.S. grain supply in these volatile political and economic times is owned by multinational grain corporations, which use that supply to manipulate market prices. A well-managed farmer-owned reserve will promote domestic and international food security while keeping excessive grain inventories off of the market.


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