National Farmers Union calls for ....
By Danielle Endvick WFU Communications Director
Farmers only receive 16 cents of the food dollar today compared to 50 cents in 1952. National Farmers Union has something to say about it.
National Farmers Union was founded in 1902 in large part because farmers were at the mercy of large monopolies, trusts, and other dominant firms that controlled everything in the marketplace, from farm inputs to the transportation of their final goods. The organization's early work supported then President Roosevelt’s efforts to bust up monopolies and restore fairness to the marketplace.
"Unfortunately, we find ourselves once again facing similar challenges," NFU Vice President Patty Edelberg told attendees at Wisconsin Farmers Union's virtual 91st Annual Convention January 29th. "That’s why we need 'Fairness for Farmers.' We launched this campaign with the goals of curtailing consolidation in agriculture, busting the monopolies that hurt farmers, ranchers, and consumers, and restoring competition in the marketplace."
Fairness for Farmers launched during NFU's fly-in last fall and has garnered national media attention, with the family farm organization's President Rob Larew and members from across the country speaking up about how monopoly power affects their farms.
Edelburg, who dairy farms in central Wisconsin and has been a strong advocate for farmers in her work with Farmers Union, helped collect Fairness for Farmers stories in a number of states. She stressed the complexity of the issue, and how important it is for NFU to have concrete examples of the injustices farmers are facing, so they can better educate policymakers and consumers.
The pandemic has increased awareness of food supply chain issues — a factor that has elevated concentration in agriculture to a level of national discourse.
"It’s not just about prices and who gets what slice of the pie," Edelburg said. "When corporations get too big, they don't need to compete or to treat workers, buyers, or sellers fairly. They also become susceptible to disruptions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and cyberattacks."
She says now, more than ever, people want to know where their food comes from — a fact that puts NFU in a strong position to affect change. "We’re not just getting noticed in the press, we’re getting noticed by the Biden Administration and by Congress," she said.
Farmers Union members are the heart of Fairness for Farmers. The movement seeks to lift up stories from across rural America.
As Edelburg pointed out, the strategy is working. When President Biden signed an Executive Order on “Promoting Competition in the American Economy” in 2021, Farmers Union policies on fairness and competition, created by the grassroots membership, were included. When the National Economic Council held a White House press briefing on problems with consumer food prices, especially with meat, they talked about NFU's policy priorities in expanding local and regional processing capacity and investigating the big packers and integrators. When USDA announced a $500 million investment to increase local and regional livestock processing capacity — largely in response to NFU’s call to action on this issue — Farmers Union leadership was present for the announcement of the investment.
"Congress keeps inviting NFU to testify on competition issues and livestock market concentration," Edelburg said. "We’re being heard and we are making an impact, but we know more needs to be done. We’re not going to stop until we have economic justice for family farmers, ranchers, and rural communities."
NFU is taking a solutions-oriented approach, working with champions in the administration and on Capitol Hill to pass legislation, or take administrative action, to:
Strengthen and reform our antitrust laws
Increase price discovery and transparency and fairness in U.S. livestock markets
Facilitate more diverse market opportunities
"But we need your help to keep the momentum going," Edelburg said. "We know that we are in for a fight. The giants that dominate the agriculture industry aren’t going to be toppled without a struggle. This is your campaign. Help us share your story."
NFU is asking members to join the fight for Fairness for Farmers by sharing their stories about impacts of unfair markets, market manipulation, and a lack of competition.
If you are a Wisconsin Farmers Union member who would be willing to share your story, let WFU Communications Director Danielle Endvick know at 715-471-0398 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Farmers from throughout the country are encouraged to share via the Fairness for Farmers webpage.
Follow #FairnessforFarmers on social media and learn more at www.nfu.org/fairness-for-farmers