Duped by Chicken Little’s ‘Dairy Cliff?’ That’s Your Brain on Agribusiness

Your Brain on Agribusiness

I find more than 200,000 hits on Google for “dairy cliff,” and at least 1,000 tweets on Twitter.  That’s clearly a dominant viewpoint. As it turns out, it’s the agribusiness viewpoint, a hidden case FOR cheap corn, soybeans, cotton, milk, etc. for cheap hfcs, transfats, CAFO feeds, etc.  

The new Food Movement has taken a strong stand against agribusiness exploitation, against cheap corn, etc.  This has been strongly reinforced in the mainstream media (Environmental Working Group has collected more than 500 mainstream media editorials and articles on this topic, which I’ve read.)  Unfortunately, it’s all been based upon false analysis of the farm bill.  Translated into policy, the Food Movement and the media have called only for a reduction in subsidies that very partially compensate farmers for the cheap prices.  They have not called for the policies that end cheap prices, that make agribusiness pay fair prices.  We see this in most of the major food books and films, blogs and short videos, and sign-ons, such as the one last summer from “70 food experts.”  Take any food movement leader and search for their name plus “farm subsidies.”  You can then see what I mean.  (See my many food movement reviews, linked on my zspace home page and not cited here, on this topic.)

We see, then, that the food movement and the mainstream media, while giving lip service to the farm bill problems that have arisen from agribusiness domination of Congress, in fact advocate in favor of the very kinds of policies that agribusiness wants, in order to obtain cheap corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice, milk, etc.  Basically it’s a subsidy smokescreen, that then prevents people from understanding what’s really needed, market management through price floors (and ceilings to protect consumers) and, to back them up, supply reductions as needed (and reserve supplies for times of shortages).  

Basically, that’s “your brain on agribusiness,” the domination of the Food Movement mind by the dominant agribusiness mindset.

Dairy Cliff:  Your Brain on Agribusiness

Another way to see this is by looking at responses to the end of cheap prices.  What I see is that, for example, cheap corn and cheap high fructose corn syrup are bashed, but then price floors to keep sugar prices up are ALSO bashed.  Or I talk to someone in the food movement about cheap corn and then say, “So then you’re all in favor of giving more to corn, huh!”  Oh no, they don’t want to give anything to corn, to “King Corn.  Paradoxically, “cheap corn,” the pauper, is labeled as “King Corn!”  So ending cheap corn by raising corn prices sounds horrible to them.

Ok, so come now to the dairy cliff.  The mainstream media is all abuzz with articles about a “dairy cliff” or “milk cliff,” the end of cheap milk.  There are no references to any standard of fair prices, or usually even to the dairy crisis.  In recent years, cheap milk has been, by far, the worst cheap commodity crisis related to the farm bill, and yet the Food Movement has rarely mentioned it.  This, the worst farm and food injustie for the 2008 and 2012 farm bills is not in the sign-on of the 70 food experts, mentioned above!  

We find, then, that the Food Movement, in spite of all of the books, films, blogs, videos, conferences, etc. is not at all prepared to understand the “dairy cliff” question.  It’s not seen at all for what it is, an end to the very cheap prices that have probably been, ironically the biggest farm bill (or food bill) issue in the Food Movement!  Well, as I say:  “That’s your brain on agribusiness.”

In fact, dairy prices have fallen so low that, not only have they run most dairy farmers out of business, but the rate of devastation has increased dramatically.  Amazingly, that’s not even mentioned in dairy cliff articles.  In fact, dairy farmers have been massively subsidizing consumers, not only below fair trade price levels, but below the cost of production.  Share of the food dollar has been cut in half, and more. Prices have fallen to as low as 29% of parity, which is the traditional standard of fair prices.  The so-called “dairy cliff” would fix these problems, rather dramatically.  

With no relief yet implemented for dairy farmers, after 2 decades of savage exploitation by agribusiness, the “dairy cliff” hysteria attacks the victims, in defense of the agribusiness exploiters.  

Ironically, it’s the “tea party” in Congress that’s forced the change to the 1949 law, to the New Deal farm policies of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations.  While the Food Movement unknowingly sides with agribusiness and expresses hopelessness for any farm bill “reform,” the tea party has forced an end to cheap corn, cotton, soybean, milk ….  all directly against Cargill, ADM, Smithfield, Tyson, Kelloggs, Quaker Oats, Dean Foods, Kraft etc. They too, we must assume, have no idea of what they’re doing.

There are many other issues involved in all of this, such as food stamps (SNAP) conservation funding, etc. which go beyond the scope of this paper.  On the other hand, higher feed prices for CAFOs to pay is a great move for resource conserving crop rotations, and might have a much bigger impact on conservation (involving farm commodity markets as a whole, not just farm bill spending  on conservation,) than any recent farm bill.  Certainly it prevents export dumping (another severely misunderstood topic,) helping Least Developed Countries, which are 70% rural, and which have been devastated by the decaded of dumping, as I’ve explained elsewhere.

Brad’s Tweets on the Dairy Cliff

Here are a few bits of information gleaned from my deeper and more extensive analyses, which are abundantly linked, farther below.  These are some of my recent tweets:

Cheap #corn cliff. Cheap corn is doomed with the 1949 Farm Bill. Tell me! Has any #Food Leader mentioned it. HFCS/transfat/CAFO Cliff!

Dairy Cliff? Congress secretly “subsidized” #dairy processors, consumers, reducing dairy farm prices $.776 Trillion 1953-2010 (in 2010 $).

Dairy Cliff? Cedar Rapids Gazette daily: 5¢ in 1944, 75¢ today, to bash dairy. At that price milk would be $9.36gal My letter not in yet..

Dairy Cliff? Milk was above $8 on 8 yrs, above $7 on 34 yrs, av. 1932-1997 (av. of avs.) $6.83/gallon. 1932-1974, $7.78/gal. $5.08 75-97.

Dairy Farmer share of your dairy food dollar: 59% in 1947, 25% in 2009, yet blamed. AgBiz market share= 41% in 1947, 75% in 2009.

1993-2011, dairy farmers lost money every year (except 2007 3¢/gallon above zero). USDA-Economic Research Service-Commodity Costs and Returns

Dairy prices have fallen to as low as 29% of parity (of the traditional fair price standard).  Why is there no discussion of fair standards?


“Farm Bill: Turn Back? Take Back the Clock!”  ZSpace, Brad Wilson, Sep 03, 2012, http://www.zcomm.org/farm-bill-turn-back-take-back-the-clock-by-brad-wilsonRecommended!

“The Myth of the Temporary Farm Bill: Thoughts on the Permanent Farm Bill,” ZSpace, Brad Wilson, Oct 28, 2010, http://www.zcomm.org/the-myth-of-the-temporary-farm-bill-thoughts-on-the-permanent-farm-bill-by-brad-wilson.


Video:  “The Dairy Crisis & the 2012 Farm Bill,”  FireweedFarm, YouTube, 8/24/12, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2UZg0GzOcI&list=PL9AB172F046C852C2&index=1Recommended!

“Slides: The Dairy Crisis and the Farm Bill,” ZSpace, Brad Wilson, Jun 14, 2012, http://www.zcomm.org/albums/list/bradwilson.

Data Slides:  “Dairy Crisis Slides,” ZSpace, Brad Wilson, (http://www.slideshare.net/bradwilson581525/presentations, soon be here)

Video Playlist:  FireweedFarm: YouTube:  “Dairy Crisis:”  http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9AB172F046C852C2


John Bunting & Pete Hardin, “USDA’s Milk-Pricing Fails:  Producers Lose Half a Billion Dollars, The Milkweed, No. 332, March 2007, http://www.themilkweed.com/Feature_07_Mar.pdf. “The major seller of nonfat dry milk—DairyAmerica—has improperly reported values of weekly nonfat dry milk sales for the past six months to USDA. In turn, USDA uses formulas incorporating these dairy commodity product prices to establish farm milk prices under the complex federal milk order program.

Kraft Foods secretly dumps cheese to drive down milk prices, “Joel Greeno: Live From the Heartland 4-18-09,”  heartlandmedia, YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hI8t8cP5_kU&list=PL9AB172F046C852C2&index=2.


(*that the Food Movement needs, but hasn’t told you about)

“Fact Sheet: Farm Justice Proposals for the 2012 Farm Bill,” Brad Wilson, May 11, 2012, http://www.zcomm.org/fact-sheet-farm-justice-proposals-for-the-2012-farm-bill-by-brad-wilson.

“Primer: Farm Justice Proposals for the 2012 Farm Bill,” ZSpace,

By Brad Wilson at May 11, 2012, http://www.zcomm.org/primer-farm-justice-proposals-for-the-2012-farm-bill-by-brad-wilsonRecommended.


“It’s Price Responsiveness! It’s Price Responsiveness!!  IT’S PRICE RESPONSIVENESS!!!”  Daryll E. Ray, U of Tenn.: APAC, 05/06/05, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/248.htmlRecommended.

“Are the five oft-cited reasons for farm programs actually symptoms of a more basic reason,” Daryll E. Ray, U of Tenn.: APAC, 10/27/06, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/325.htmlRecommended.

“Agricultural Policy for the Twenty-First Century and the Legacy of the Wallaces, Daryll E. Ray, Blasingame Chair of Excellence and Director, Agricultural Policy Analysis Center, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Tennessee, 2004, http://agpolicy.org/pubs/RayLecture2004FromGretchen1st.pdf.

Henry Wallace, “Achieving a Balanced Agriculture: How the National Farm Program Meets the Changing Problem,” USDA, Division of Special Reports, Office of Information, 1934, 1940.  

Brad Wilson, “Michael Pollan Rebuttal: Four Proofs Against Pollan’s ‘Corn Subsidy’ Argument,” Brad Wilson at Oct 01, 2010, (links to 2-part video) http://www.zcomm.org/michael-pollan-rebuttal-four-proofs-against-pollans-corn-subsidy-argument-by-brad-wilson.


“Milk Prices May Spike To $8 Per Gallon Without ‘Dairy Cliff’ Solution,” Huffington Post: Reuters, Posted: 12/21/2012 6:03 pm EST  |  Updated: 12/22/2012 11:27 am EST, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/21/milk-prices-dairy-cliff_n_2348764.html?utm_hp_ref=business.

Editorial Board, Washington Post, “The ‘Milk Cliff,’” 12.22.12, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-milk-cliff/2012/12/22/cd4daacc-4ba2-11e2-9a42-d1ce6d0ed278_allComments.html?ctab=all_&


“The Hidden Farm Bill: Secret Trillions for Agribusiness,” ZSpace, Brad Wilson, Jul 16, 2012, http://www.zcomm.org/the-hidden-farm-bill-secret-trillions-for-agribusiness-by-brad-wilson.

“Corn is the Biggest Farm Bill Loser, and Other Surprises,” Space Brad Wilson, Tue Aug 21, 2012, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/corn-is-the-biggest-farm-bill-loser-and-other-surprises/.

Subsidy Narratives: How Foodies Unknowingly Bash Family Farmers,” ZSpace, Brad Wilson, August 4, 2014, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/subsidy-narratives-how-foodies-unknowingly-bash-family-farmers/.

“Corn Farmers Have Long Subsidized You, Not the Other Way Around,” ZSpace, Brad Wilson, Feb 23, 2012, http://www.zcomm.org/corn-farmers-have-long-subsidized-you-not-the-other-way-around-by-brad-wilson.

“Bittman Bashing Butter: And Beyond: A Re-Buttal,” ZSpace, Brad Wilson, Aug 13, 2012, http://www.zcomm.org/bittman-bashing-butter-and-beyond-a-re-buttal-by-brad-wilson.

“Eight Myths Block Dairy Farm Justice,” ZSpace, Brad Wilson, Aug 08, 2012, http://www.zcomm.org/eight-myths-block-dairy-farm-justice-by-brad-wilson

Video Playlist:  FireweedFarm: YouTube:  “Farm Bill & Food Bill:”  http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA1E706EFA90D1767

Data Slides, various titles: ZSpace, Brad Wilson, 

(http://www.slideshare.net/bradwilson581525/presentations, soon will be here)

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