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George Monbiot Misinterprets Farm Subsidies 1


(This blog is Part 1 of a 2-part article.)

Monbiot’s Pro-Corporate Outrage

(Authors note: This is a work in progress which I will further edit as I have time. There is demand for access to it, however, so I’m posting this now. The same goes for Part 2, which begins with his discussion of sustainable agriculture, and it’s relationship to farm subsidies.)

George Monbiot, of Great Britain, recently spoke on Farm Subsidies, at a farming conference there.[1] He sees himself as exposing the hypocrites, and begins with a joke about “the audience” of farmers “leaving your shotguns at the door.”

This is exactly like the way urban food progressives in the US also often talk, for example, when they talk about coming to Iowa, (a leading farming state,) or generally interacting with farmers in a public forum. One leader from California even asked Iowa farmers: “Do you have any risk in growing corn?” (because you get so many subsidies).

Monbiot displays a “generous” amount of outrage at various points, (in a nice way). That’s certainly understandable to farmers, at least in part. He’s got a point. Farm policy in the European CAP, and here in the US, are outrageously bad. In fact, however, they’re much worse than Monbiot makes them out to be! After all, Monbiot doesn’t even mention the role of corporate agribusiness, or the much larger global impacts of the US and EU policies. Farmers know about agribusiness, however. They also understand export dumping!

As to the general farm economy, Monbiot is a neoliberal, bt doesn’t know it. That is, he thinks that farm subsidies distort markets, and that distortion is a key issue. Get rid of subsidies, and things will be much better. In fact, however, his conclusions are essentially ‘free’ market solutions, and for agriculture, they almost always fail.

What subsidies really do, and he misses this as well, is hide that failure, the failure of neoliberalism applied to agriculture. Out of that, then they divide and conquer the critics, so that progressives blame the first or core victims, farmers, while ignoring the much bigger issue, the issue of agricultural neoliberalism itself. Monbiot, a highly respected writer and advocate, exemplifies the brilliance of the agribusiness strategy regarding the farm economy. He falls for it, yes, even such a brilliant leader from the left as George Monbiot, and he supports agribusiness to the maximum extent on the biggest issues. Meanwhile, he doesn’t even know he’s doing it, nor do the vast majority of those listening to him.

But how? How can this possibly happen? That story takes some time to tell.

GEORGE MONBIOT ON FARM SUBSIDIES

EXCEEDLINGLY, (BLINDLY) WRONG

The problem is that Monbiot himself is so outrageously wrong, (and outrageously hypocritical, but unknowingly so,) that my response is much like his. For me to speak with a group of people like him, well, the joke works. I could thank George for leaving his shotgun at the door, which, metaphorically speaking, he certainly did NOT do in this case!

My work is like his, “speaking to people who aren’t necessarily sympathetic to what I have to say,” people like him.[2] In my case, however, I actually know where BOTH sides are coming from, while he, clearly, does not really know the farmer side of the issues at all.

Now though, (I hope it’s not too late,) I must present my standard qualifier, (since I do know both sides). I strongly agree with George Monbiots values and general goals, surely most of them at least. The disagreements only occur because there are such vast areas in the debate about which he apparently knows nothing.

WHAT MONBIOT SAID

The Poor. Monbiot sums up his thesis by asking: “what do the rest of us, … receive in return for farm subsidies?”

An important part of his thesis is to compare the poor with farmers. The poor, he says, pay 45% of their incomes in taxes, while the rich pay 33%.

He then explains that some very rich people receive farm subsidies, even millions per year. Additionally, he makes a direct comparison between benefits for the poor and farm subsidies. In July 2013, he says, households were capped in their benefits at £26,000 (pounds) per year. At the same time, in Brussels, British leaders argued against a reduced cap of 300,000 (euros) in the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a cap on farm subsidies. The unreduced cap, he says, was £260,000. “And it won.” So the second cap, on farmers, was 10 times bigger than the first, on the poor.

In his next comparison, he finds farm subsidies to be “almost identical” with feudalism, because the larger the farm, the more subsidies that are paid. In feudalism, the larger the farm, the more the vassals had to pay to the Landlords, he says.

So he emphasizes his view that farm subsidies are “ASTONISHINGLY REGRESSIVE, GROSSLY INJUST distribution.” (Note: I use capitals to express his emphasis, which is sometimes dramatically strong.) So then, he concludes, “there will have to be some EXTREMELY powerful justification,” for farm subsidies, “in this age of austerity, when there is not enough money for basic public services.”

He then goes through what he says are the main justifications that people, (farmers?, farm organizations?, political leaders?) use for farm subsidies.

IF ONLY IT WERE TRUE

Wow! What a presentation, (and we’ve only just begun)! I’m reminded of the children’s book, Charlotte’s Web: “SOME PIG!” And that, of course, is his view of farm subsidies.

If only it were fact based and logically valid.

As it turns out, Monbiot’s argument is founded on a series invalid premises, myths that have gone viral among nonfarm advocates in both the U.S. and in Europe, in both mainstream media and alternative media, among conservatives, moderates, progressives, and, it seems, the left. I’ll explain these before addressing the reasons for farm subsidies that he thinks he debunks. Later I’ll expose his bogus, unjust, and environmentally destructive solution and related matters, which, while appearing to be sound from within his limited paradigm, lose their justification when the larger context is known. I’ll then explain what a just and sustainable solution looks like.

(Note: I’m posting Part I online, as it seems to be needed. Some of the points in the previous paragraph may require Part II.)

First, in general, what does everyone else receive from subsidies? That’s his overall question, but it’s an inadequate question. Before a nonfarmer like Monbiot can get to that question, he should ask: what do farmers receive along with subsidies in the CAP (or in the US farm bill)?

WHAT DO FARMERS RECEIVE?

Monbiot’s blind assumption is that farmers receive a lot from the rest of society, so that’s why he asks what society gets back. Superficially, he’s right on target. Yes, it certainly looks like this is the appropriate question. It’s intuitive, not counter-intuitive.

Apparently he thinks, however that farm subsidies are like pure money.

Clearly, that’s NOT how he views the people who received the £26,000 cap on welfare payments or whatever. He understood, (as he should,) that there is a larger context behind it. He described some of that context, for example, “that it’s become very very hard for people with large families, to live on what might sound, ostensibly, like quite a generous cap.” They pay more taxes than the rich, as a percent, for one thing. He could have given more. Do they get a living wage? They certainly don’t in the U.S.

Are there jobs, full employment policies and programs? Are there adequate labor laws? How about antitrust laws? How well is the economy managed, and with what kinds of ends prioritized? Is there a priority on profits for stockholders, along the lines of the laws we have here? How about giving a a general economic priority to labor, and then build the other parts of economic management around that. I don’t know about over there, but for food subsidy recipients and other welfare recipients here, we have nothing adequate along those lines of “market management” context, (though they at least get a minimum wage standard, and labor laws exist, and there are macro-economic policies).

We see, then, that, for Monbiot, the poor get their benefits in a larger context, one in which their children are still often hungry (ditto in the U.S.!).

So Monbiot needs to understand the context for farm subsidies. Are farmers simply paid ten times as much, as a sort of 10x bigger salary, but apparently without showing any need, as in his example (where he gives no such context of need)? He gives not the slightest evidence of any differing conclusion. It’s as if, (applying the logic he uses on farmers to the other category,) he believed that the £26,000 of welfare payments that are given, were given to rich people for no reason. That would be a similar logic.

It’s perfectly understandable that Monbiot might have this as a first impression. I doubt that there’s anything in the media there to countradict it. There certainly isn’t any accurate context in U.S. media (I’ve reviewed hundreds of mainstream media editorials that have been collected by Environmental Working Group, and hundreds of others.[http://www.ewg.org/research/all-over-map])

On the other hand, it’s irresponsible for him to give a talk without first asking about, knowing and then explaining such a context.

Ok, so what do farmers get? Well, before they get subsidies, they get cheap farm prices and big costs of production. Additionally, they have a variety of huge disadvantages compared to other businesses, even without considering the role corporate agribusiness, (i.e. without considering the input complex selling to farmers, the output complex buying from farmers, and the corporate CAFO complex taking “value added” livestock away from diversified farmers, on the basis of cheap feed, also taken from farmers). Again, Monbiot really makes no mention of corporate agribusiness.

Ok, prior to even considering the corporate and political issues, it might help to understand how, on the farm and in the economy, “farming is different.” For example, farmers make plans for a crop year and often buy inputs (i.e. seeds,) long before they plant, and long before they sell it, (and they may sell it months after it’s harvested).[3] They don’t repeatedly come up with new inventory, over and over throughout the year, like most other businesses. In most cases there is only one harvest. There is no question of “just in time” production and marketing, like some other businesses, for example.[4] Farmers often store unsold inventory for a long time, and even if they did sell it, there will be no replacement coming for months, no additonal turnover of money. So this is one example, from among many, of how farming is different.

Clearly, the various ways that farming is different need to be considered.

Back to the point, however, is, first, the question of economics. Clearly Monbiot thinks that he has “followed the money,” as they say, to uncover the real issues. As I’ve pointed out, however, he clearly has failed in that effort, in not knowing anything about the background of economic context on the farming side. The root economic issue, which is especially bad for storable crops, (i.e. grains, like corn, which he emphasizes,) is price inelasticity,[5] the “lack of price responsiveness”[6] “on both the supply and the demand sides”[7] for crops considered in the “aggregate,” as in the real world. What farmers sell, (especially,) doesn’t self-correct in ‘free’ markets, and prices are usually low, even below the cost of production, (as measured here, for example).

Unfortunately for Britain, these realities of the ‘free’ maraket are huge global problem s for farmers. For British farm exports, for all of European farm exports, it means that they lose money per unity, as we do here in the U.S.

Well, there’s an exception for the agribusiness output complex! For them ‘free’ market and ‘free’ trade economic realities are a great solution, enabling them to pay below cost to farmers for their raw materials!

Globally, as it turns out, the United States dominates this issue, in that we dominate farm exports. Over recent decades, (i.e. 50-60 years,) the U.S. has been the dominant global exporter of “commodity crops” where we’ve had more than 50% of the total global export market,[8] including as much as 70% of corn exports.

That’s bigger than OPEC was when it cut back on supplies and drastically raised oil prices.

Note that at times US corn exports left, for example, a 30% export market share for all of Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia. For soybeans, the numbers once were 90% vs 10%. While US export market shares have gone down, it’s primarily because of South America, not Europe.[9] All ofEurope has had relatively little farm export clout, let along Great Britain!

What this means in that bigger picture, is that Britain has long been a very minor player. After joining the EU, it still was part of a fairly minor player[10] that, in important ways, had to remain subservient to US actions.

Now consider what the U.S. has done in response to this problem, in response to the “lack of price responsiveness,” and the chronically low farm prices we’ve had for 150 years, with few exceptions. During the Great Depression, the U.S. fixed the problem of price inelasticity with the New Deal farm programs.[7][11] We cut back on production, as needed to balance supply and demand (but at the same time kept reserve supplies for times of shortage). We kept these policies for many years. We could do that single handedly because of our dominant global position. That is, like OPEC, we could insure that our domestic and global farm sales were fairly priced. We could choose to keep farming profitable. In the process we have been the “price leader,” setting global farm market prices.[pp. 8, 24, in this report: http://agpolicy.org/blueprint.html] Again, we were and are more dominant than OPEC.

Another key to the New Deal programs was the use of Price Floors to establish minimum prices, like minimum wages. Initially we set them quite low, but then we raised them. Eventually, (1942-1952,) through the Steagall Amendment of 1941,[“Farm Bill was Steagall, New Deal Stimulus, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/02/06/693903/-Farm-Bill-was-Steagall-New-Deal-Stimulus] we set the minimum standard at a “living wage,” “fair trade” standard called parity. A minimum wage is not a government check. It doesn’t take money away from other spending. It’s a completely different category of policy. (Monbiot emphasizes subsidies as solutions, albeit subsidies his way, rather than the utilization of market management and living wage standards.)

Another part of the missing context, and another component of U.S. farm policy, long supported by farmers, is the use Price Ceilings, backed up by the Reserve Supplies, to protect those consumers on welfare Monbiot mentions, plus livestock interests, and other buyers, such as food and fiber processors. That is, farmers have not only supported fair minimum standards for their own self interests. The’ve also supported maximum levels to limit returns on their sales.)

What has happened in U.S. policy was that the corporate agribusiness out putcomplex, (which Monbiot fails to mention at all,) was forced to pay farmers fair prices, with no need for any subsidies. This happened in the “New Deal,” during the Great Depression, but it it didn’t just address the Depression. It addressed the chronic problem, the “lack of price responsiveness.[7] Here in the U.S. these programs actually made money for the government through 1948, (as farmers paid for their own programs through interest on Price Floor loans).[my footnote 12, “Crisis by Design,” p. 3 & their footnote 5, & I have data showing this which I’ll post at SlideShare as linked in note 18] Those profits were then available for the kinds of other uses that Monbiot supports, even as no “commodity subsidies” were paid for farmers. (Note: There were other payments for optional conservation practices.)

This political solution (minimum prices set at “living wage” standards,) to the economic problem (chronic cheap prices) provided some fairness to the distribution of created wealth among stakeholders. The government limited the exploitation of farmers by giant agribusiness firms. (The agribusiness firms had no similar “Price Ceilings,” by the way.)

The political history of this issue in the US since the New Deal[12] is that minimum price mechanisms, (Price Floors,) were lowered, under pressure from corporate lobbyists, further and further below the “living wage” standard of the past, (1953-1995), even below previous “minimum” standards, below costs of production, (below zero,) and then totally eliminated. Meanwhile most farmers were run out of business. And in fact, running farmers out of business was a goal of these programs, as defined by corporate interests.

What we’ve had is an ignoring of economic realities in order to secretly subsidize corporate buyers (with cheaper and cheaper prices,) and Farmers have protested massively against it. Did government then reverse itself, as farmers wanted? No. Price Floors continued to be lowered.

Instead, farmers got subsidies. That is, subsidies were added to the farm program, as a partial substitute for fair prices, one in which agribusiness benefits were preserved, and giant corporations took away most of the value-added livestock, and with them, Resource Conserving Crop Rotations, and in both of these ways, economic and ecological resilience.

Farmers consistently fought AGAINST, not FOR the subsidy approach, as can be seen in these video clips from 1985, (and yes, that’s me, in the winter sweater, half a lifetime ago this February).[13]

What happened is that the agribusiness lobby fought against these programs, and won gradual reductions to Price Floors, along with a weakening of supply management. In fact, one corporate think tank argued that Price Floors should be lowered in order to get rid of “excess resources (people primarily).”[14 pp. 25 & 42] Specifically, they called for cheap prices to run one third of US farmers/farm workers out of business within five years. [15 p. 59] This was enacted, only a bit more slowly that what agribusiness demanded, but the cuts, in continuing and increasing beyond that, decade after decade, went much deeper, with results that were much worse.

Similar arguments for getting rid of farmers via cheap prices were made in Europe, as E. F. Schumacher documented in Small is Beautiful.[16] They have the same problems.

One result of the implementation of these programs over the years has been that, farmers lost money every year for more a quarter century or more than a third century depending upon the group of crops examined. We lost money every single year, 1981-2006, (except 1996,) on a sum of 8 crops, corn, wheat, cotton, rice, soybeans, oats, barley, and grain sorghum, and on to 2013, (6 of 7 years) for 5 of these crops, and the same for dairy, (every single year, 1993-2013, except for 2007, when farmers made a few pennies per gallon above zero).[17] That’s in terms of full costs, in terms of their money invested in the farm operation.

Meanwhile, agribusiness corporations have had repeated record returns on equity and record profits, especially on the worst years of crisis for farmers, (for example, as farmers had double digit negative returns on equity for about 5 years during the 1980s.[18] We see, then, that the benefits to agribusiness, (which here are something like 8 times bigger than subsidies, have always been given with no demonstrated need at all, but rather the exact opposite.[20] Here again, Monbiot doesn’t even consider that such kinds of evidence might exist.

Understandably, farmers fought back against such callous corporate exploitation, (at least here in the U.S.,) and we’re still fighting back today, except food progressives and intellectuals like Monbiot, while professing the same basic values, and even while speaking out against “cheap corn,” “cheap food,” misguidedly advocate for agribusiness and against “farm justice,” unknowingly, by default and by omission, as in this speech.

Ok, so what did farmers get out of subsidies (plus the hidden part where U.S. prices, [& the US sets global prices,] were lowered so drastically that most of us were driven out of business? In the big picture, in the U.S., compared to previous price levels, Monbiot sees that farmers got about $1 in subsidies for each $8 in the reductions (that he cannot see, that he can’t even imagine the existof [of a context in which subsidies exist]).

So subsidies gave us a 7/8 net reduction instead of 8/8. That’s the key answer to the question of what farmers got, (based upon past standards). This is where, as I suggested earlier, Monbiot is all worked up over the 1/8, (the “speck” that farmers get,) or whatever the ratio is in Europe, but not the 8/8 (the “log” that corporate agribusiness gets from farmers, and that he can’t see at all). And note that farmers first lose money at the 8/8 level before getting their 1/8 benefits. That’s our equivalent of “means testing,” as I pointed out above.[20] Meanwhile corporate agribusiness has no such requirement, but rather has had repeated huge, even record-level profits and returns on equity,[17] (as farmers have lost money and even had negative returns on equity, even into the double digits below zero, as agribusiness positive ROIs that were 30 and 40 percentile points higher).

This point has been highlighted here in the debate over crop insurance, the new, less effective kinds of farm subsidies. It’s been seen as a pure benefit for “fat cat” farmers, as I’ve been emphasizing. Subsidies for crop insurance companies, however, are examined in terms of “reasonable” Returns on Equity, which are said to be about 13%, which compares to recent actual ROIs for them of 18%. It’s never mentioned that U.S. farmers have rarely had even the 13%. (i.e. we were close to 13% only 7 times, 1960-2011, close to 18% once, and above it once, or only 9 times out of 52). Although the root of the whole discussion focuses on subsidies for farmers, there’s no mention of what would be a “reasonable” ROE for farmers.

Overall, for the U.S. and in today’s dollars, the 8/8 reductions from farmers to benefit agribusiness add up to something over a $4 trillion in today’s dollars (figuring impacts back to 1953, when reductions started). That’s then followed by about $500 billion in subsidies, (since subsidies started, for the first crops, in 1961,) the 1/8.[19] So what farmers got with subsidies, was a net reduction of $3.5 trillion, with corn as the biggest loser, and with part of this going into drastic per-unit reductions on exports.

These ratios, which vary somewhat according to the crops raised, and with U.S dairy getting, by far, the least subsidization for the amount of reduction. You can apply them generally to farms. If you sell a lot at cheap prices, you have the largest reductions. So if you’re reduced by $80,000 dollars over a period of years, below the “living wage” standard of fair prices, you might get $10,000 in subsidies (and at that size, if you specialize in crop farming, not livestock, you’re probably a part-time farmer who survives through off-farm income). If you’re reduced by $8 million you might get $1 million in subsidies. It all then becomes “tax loss farming,” where increasingly, dramatically, those who survive have significant off-farm income, that can be sheltered via farm losses, thus inflating land values, (another point that Monbiot misunderstands, in the same basic ways).

Here, consider that farmers make so little that it takes a huge return to cover costs, leaving very little as farm income. This is part of the reason why the large subsidy amounts are so misleading. As agricultural economist Daryll Ray put it, “$500,000 in sales does not (usually) a viable net income make.”[20] So, for example, £260,000 against farming expenses, is not necessarily as good as £26,000 in net income. Usually it would be much worse. So Monbiot’s example is apples versus oranges.

Monbiot is also wrong about the feudalism example. The comparison is wrong because it doesn’t consider the part where, the larger the farm, the larger the reductions that come first, before the subsidies. In the U.S., there are at least some subsidy caps, so the largest farms, get a lower ratio of subsidies. That too is apples and oranges.[21]

It’s fine to argue against larger farms, but that’s a separate issue that is handled in other ways, by market management, for example, not by subsidies. It’s much better to argue against the input, output and CAFO complexes that exploit farmer and that are much more, radically more, concentrated. The top four poultry CAFOs in the U.S. have more than 50% market chare. For hogs, it’s 66%. For corn farmers, on the other hand, it’s far below 1%, perhaps even under 0.1%. The share of cheap corn benefits for the top three grain exporters is even greater, estimated at about 80%. Cargill and ADM each get far greater benefits than even the CAFO corporations, who get more than 5 times as much in benefits than the largest Co-op, with 8,000 farmer members, in the farm subsidy database. Except, of course, the 8,000 farmers first have reductions 8 times larger than their benefits, while none of the corporate buyers have any such reductions. Again, for the corps. it’s a pure benefit.

The basic structure of subsidies, is like that of the market. Without subsidies, larger farms would be paid more, as they have greater production, but the issue would be largely ignored. Lots of businesses are bigger than lots of other similar businesses in terms of market income, and no one is screaming about that. Larger farms also have larger costs, and again, with unfair prices, larger reductions and/or losses. Since there should be no subsidies for farmers in general, (we should all be paid more fairly,) the subsidy cap issue is ultimately a false one. More than that, it covers up the real issue, cheap prices (tri££ions) for agribusiness. The alternative is to stop (secretly, unknown to Monbiot,) subsidizing agribusiness at a rate eight times greater, (or much much more in the case of U.S. dairy).

A solution under Market Management is to require larger farms to do a greater amount of the Supply Reductions that are needed to balance supply and demand, as in the proposal of the U.S. National Family Farm Coalition.[20] That addresses the issue of larger farms without, at the same time, ignoring the issue of the 8/8 benefits that go, in the billions (historically, globally trillions?) to just a few mega-agribusiness, which is what all payment limit (subsidy cap) proposals do.

Europe, with it’s much smaller export market share, got started in farm policy as individual countries, I guess, and the collective CAP didn’t start until much later than US Farm Fill work on these matters. The CAP was structured less effectively in Europe than the Farm Bill in the US, without adequate supply reductions to support the Price Floors.[23] Europe also had subsidies compensating for part of the inadequacy of Price Floors, which is a much weaker approach, one utilized in the process of dismantaling the core of the U.S. farm programs. Like the U.S. Europe also got rid of Price Floor Programs, under pressure from the U.S., the overwhelmingly dominant global player.

I’m not sure how European subsidies compare to those in the US. I’ve heard that they’re more generous, and that they’ve cared more about their farmers than U.S. leaders have cared about ours. Let’s hope so. I doubt that farmers in Europe would rather get paid by the government than by agribusiness in the marketplace. Of course with the subsidy approach, not only do divisified farmers lose their livestock, (as market prices remain cheap,) they also, (with their version of our 1/8 benefits here,) get the blame, rather than by agribusiness (and through them, consumers), who get the (8/8 here) benefits from farmers. We see this here, in messages related to our “Farm Subsidy Database,” and in Europe’s parallel messages about it’s farm subsidy database.

All of this has been made worse by corporate trade agreements like GATT/ WTO and the various AFTA’s, such as NAFTA. We can expect the same from TTIP and TTP. The lack of macro policies to balance supply and demand and provide Price Floors and Ceilings is the first problem. The US has often acted alone in the Farm Bill sphere, with Europe merely following along. Decades ago, the US set farm prices much higher. Then, for decades, the U.S. chose to make less, and eventually, to lose money on exports, in a trade war, and effort to destroy agriculture in other countries, to then take over the markets. In mainstream media, this trade war has been called an antidote to trade wars among farming countries. When farming countries are helped to be paid fairly, well, we’re told, “those are fighting words!” When dominant countries try to destroy their abilties to create wealth, we’re told that that helps everyone, that’s in everyone’s strategic “farm interests.”

Tariffs and other trade mechanisms are part of this messaging about “trade wars. Really, it’s ‘free’ trade that has been the key trade war in agriculture, while tariffs, for example, have helped to prevent these wars, at least, from entering into their internal markets.

In this regard, as we were heading toward WTO, the European Community called for international agreements for Price Floors and Supply Management,[24] (as we’ve had in limited ways in the past, such as in wheat agreements, and as we have in the US sugar program today.[25] The same views are held all across global farm country, with support from the WTO Africa Group[26] and the peasant Movement La Via Campesina[27]). The US, as the dominant exportor who’s long been dominated (or colonized) by corporation agribusiness, has not supported our own profits, as these other entities have called for profits for all. The U.S. has insisted that we all lose money on farm exports, (capitalism?) in a trade war that massively subsidizes the corporate agribusiness-output-complex at the expense of the major farming countries, again, starting with the U.S. itself. And while corporate executives would have to be insane to produce at maximum levels, (no inventory management,) under conditions of limited market demand,[28] they think that’s fine for farmers. Meanwhile, with maximum production the agribusiness-input-complex maximizes their sales of pesticides and fertilizers.

This has been a bit repetitive, but sometimes, when people (i.e. Monbiot,) can’t imagine the alternatives that real life offers, things need to be heard multiple times.

WHAT DO THE REST OF US RECEIVE IN RETURN FOR FARM SUBSIDIES?”

Ok, the question of what farmers have received is a big one. So now we can begin to address Monbiot’s main question of what everyone else receives from the system, but not from the pretend system that Monbiot sees. What does everyone else receive from the system as it really is, in context.

Well, first, they get a mega corporate agribusiness snow job. That is, they get attention diverted from what’s really going on. In that regard, they get someone to blame, someone relatively weak, who can’t effectively fight back, (victim blaming). (And note the politics of the farm voice, which qualifies this point, as described further below.) The snow job is not so much possible because of incompetence by people like Monbiot, (in spite of my list of criticisms,) but rather arises because of the great competence and effectiveness of agribusiness in divising the strategy of subsidies to the victims, that look like subsidies to the winners and exploiters. It’s been massively successful in dividing farmers and other rural people from well-meaning advocates like Monbiot, dividing and then conquering, which is my thesis about Monbiot, that he’s been conquered, and

that farmers have been conquered.

Second, they get massive subsidization from farmers to agribusiness, and through them, to everyone else. We certainly see that in the data I’ve presented for the US. In other words food and other products are massively subsidized by farmers, below “fair trade,” “living wage” standards, below moderate “minimum wage” standards, and below zero. The subsidization, ultimately to consumers, has been so severe that it’s run most farmers out of business, in spite of the $1 in subsidies paid to farmers in compensation for the $8 in reductions.

Of course, the cheap prices, on crops like corn and soybeans, have subsidized junk food ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and transfats. So that’s another consumer “benefit” from this exploitation of global farmers, (including Africa, which exports significantly into Europe). Then there are CAFO meats, also at cheaper prices, driving the healthier alternatives, such as grassfed, out of production. That may be different in Britain, but it’s spreading globally. (40% of global farm income has come from “value-added” livestock, and it’s been especially important to the global poor, who are, mostly, farmers.[29])

There’s one important caveat from all of this, however.

EXCEPT IT’S NOT CAUSED BY SUBSIDIES!

Subsidies don’t cause cheap farm prices in any practically significant way, so the massive subsidization of corporations and “the rest of us” isn’t caused by subsidies. It’s all caused by the absence of Price Floor and Supply Management Programs (set at adequate standards).

So what subsidies have done is to reduce, somewhat, the rate at which farmers are run out of business.

Basically, then, there have never been any reasons at all for farm subsidies, except for when there are no adequate market management policies and programs. In other words, the only reason for them is a bad farm bill or no farm bill. I call this point “the hidden farm bill.”[see link 19] Market management is the real U.S. farm bill, but today most food progressives don’t know enough about the issues to even know that existed, that it was reduced, that it ended, and that it still exists in the form of effective proposals that they should be supporting.

Again, those programs are needed because farm commodities (especially,) and other crops don’t self-correct in ‘free’ markets. The solution is to manage markets, to pay farmers fairly. It’s the same argument as the one for “living wage” standards, which would drastically reduce the need for food subsidies and other forms of welfare.

THE POLITICAL CONTEXT FOR

MONBIOTS THESIS

Monbiot supposedly debunks several “common justifications” for farm subsidies. Based on what we’ve seen above, however, my first point is simply that Monbiot apparently knows very little about the politics of the issue, which, historically, has primarily involved farmers, politicians, and agribusiness lobbyists.

I can’t speak for the farm politics of the UK, but here’s how it is in the US, and how I, therefore, read Monbiot’s analysis, including his repeated criticism of the “National Farmers Union” over there.

Farm politics is one thing that is almost never understood over here, in mainstream media, among the new urban food progressives, among conservatives and moderates, or even in the farm press. Alternative media here is not much better.

There is often talk of what the “agricultural industry” wants, or the “farm lobby.” Often most farmers don’t agree, though that’s clearly what’s assumed in mainstream media. Meanwhile, the “farm lobby” are those who lobby against, not for authentic farm interests.[30] It’s sort of like defining the “strategic national interests” of the United States. They often aren’t what’s really in our interests.

I define “authentic farm interests,” in simple terms, as being for fair prices, for keeping farmers in business, and for farmers keeping their livestock. Toward this end, fair price proposals, as defined above, without any subsidies, is the core issue, as in my video link above. Another illustration is the United Farmer and Rancher Congress of 1987, from thousands of grassroots farmers in all 48 lower states, who elected more than 1,000 delegates who then voted on the resolutions. They prioritized the price issue, calling for fair prices through market management, and no subsidies. [31]

Here we have some “farm” groups that oppose those interests, and instead support the interests of corporate agribusiness. Farm Bureau is the best example. Others include the big commodity groups, (National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Pork Producers Council, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, and similar groups for crops like wheat and cotton).[32] Forgive my “American English,” but we see them as Tories, siding with the British King George, so to speak, (against the American revolution). These are groups that buy into conservative ideologies developed by agribusiness and it’s conservative academic, political and media allies.

On the other side are the “patriot” farm organizations that represent authentic farm interests. These have included the National Farmers Organization, our National Farmers Organization, the U.S. Farmers Association, the American Agricultural Movement, the North American Farm Alliance, the National Family Farm Coalition, the American Corn Growers Association and r-CALF. There are, of course, issues of political compromise, but these are the general divisions.

Naturally, of course, IF a Congressional proposal has no Price Floor or Supply Management component, then the groups favor subsidies as a lousy compromise.

The British National Farmers Organization may fit into one or the other of these categories, and, of course, they don’t have our history of having had excellent, well balanced Price Floor/ Ceiling programs. Given Britain’s (& the EU’s) small agricultural size, and apparent lack (mostly?) of a similar history, they’re likely less oriented than we are to proposals that utilize market management to eliminate the need for subsidies.

My opinion is that Monbiot had no clue as to which of these two categories of groups that he was speaking to, or event that they might exist. My view is that his approach, (if it had been accurate,) would have been appropriate for “Tory” type groups (that support cheap farm prices via ‘free’ markets,) but not for the “Patriot” type groups (that know that ‘free’ markets don’t work very well at all for agriculture under most market conditions we’ve had for 150 years).

He does mention another farming conference, focused on sustainable agriculture. In U.S. farm politics, however, the sustainable agriculture movement, (or sustainable family farm movement,) sides with agribusiness on these, the big “farm justice” issues that I’ve been talking about. (That’s a long story, where, like Monbiot, they oppose CAFOs and other agribusiness exploitation in rhetoric, but not in action that supports the needed Farm Justice policies and programs.) It’s another way that we’ve been divided and conquered here, by the subsidy smokescreen/ scapegoat.

MONBIOT’S “COMMON JUSTIFICATIONS” FOR SUBSIDIES

Ok, given that subsidies are such an incredibly stupid idea, (except for farmers [who live in a country hell bent on losing money on exports, and on forcing farmers to massively subsidize everyone else’s food,[ who therefore desperately need the subsidies,) what reasons should there be for getting subsidies?

(Or, in Monbiots thesis, if you think subsidies are good for farmers, but really they’re grossly regressive, what are the reasons given for them in spite of the down side.)

Monbiot gives several of the “common justifications that have been put forward.” He doesn’t say who puts them forward. Certainly, there are huge reasons for providing justice to farmers. As to providing stupidly unjust and expensive programs for farmers, well, those “huge reasons” (for justice,) very clearly should NOT be pulled out to justify them.

1. THE NEED FOR FOOD

Ok, his first reason is that food is really important. “Without subsidies there would be less food production.”

Well, in general, having enough food is very important, and it’s part of why nonsubsidy market management programs are needed, instead of subsidies.

On the other hand, as illustrated above, the chronic problem is overproduction, too much food, which causes massive damage in a wide variety of ways (to crop rotations, fostering junk food & CAFOs, export dumping). Additionally, subsidies don’t affect that one way or the other, except in slowing, a bit, the rate of destruction of diversified farming. So what’s really needed is to prevent overproduction while simultaneously holding reserve supplies to address unexpected shortages, as I’ve emphasized above.

Along the way, Monbiot argues that farmers on fertile land don’t need subsidies, while farmers on marginal land do. He provides no evidence of that, (beyond an anecdote). Data from the U.S. (and I live in Iowa, which has a large chunk of the most fertile land in the world,) clearly shows that there is no basis for Monbiots claim. In fact, Iowa gets some of the cheapest prices in the U.S. and is the biggest farm bill loser here, (because we have the most to be taken away).

Those on extremely infertile land, who supposedly need the subsidies, (again, falsely assuming a chronic food shortage,) produce so little food, that the idea of subsidies being needed for food production really doesn’t do enough to amount to anything.

He gives an example of Wales, with livestock production on 76% of the land in Wales, with a further example of 1 sheep per 2 hectares. He then emphasizes a problem of “keeping the hills bare,” meaning bare of trees, with the idea of that’s “what sheep do” damages the hydrological cycle (floods and droughts).

This, I believe, is a false issue, especially given the small size of Wales in relation to climate. Sheep only damage the land with poor management practices. They can, of course, do great damage, but they can also do great good.[33] Having trees, if that’s actually needed, does not really need to conflict with sheep production.

Wales imports, by value, 7 times as much meat as in exports

2. “KEEPING PEOPLE ON THE LAND”

Monbiot’s second theme for the justification of subsidies is a claim that subsidies keep people on the land. He refutes that, first of all by pointing to a massive previous loss, and a rapid continuing loss of farmers.

This is a common genre of myth here in the United States where almost no articles written about subsidies set them into the context of severe reductions in prices and the value of agriculture production. We see it in government documents, (i.e. USDA. Economic Research Service,) in academia, and among NGOs. It’s part of a larger pattern of erasing from history, not only farmers views, but any significant discussion of the Democratic Party’s New Deal farm programs, (which were almost all ended in 1996).

The obvious answer, we now know from above, lies in the “hidden farm bill,” the part where farm prices have been reduced by $8 prior to receiving the first $1 in subsidies, or whatever ratio applies in Britain. So the program, of massively draining wealth away from farms, then covering it up with a subsidy smokescreen, hides the real story. The net result, of lower prices PLUS subsidies that are too small to make up the difference is the reason why, even with subsidies, the results are so bad for farmers and rural communities.

Monbiot also talks of high expenses in buying land, even for small horticulturalists. He attributes that to the false but viral myth of too much wealth being made by farmers, or as he puts it, “you are paid for owning the land.” I strongly doubt, however, given the global nature of farm prices, that the situation is much different over there than it is over here. Here, as I showed above, farmers have lost money on their land for 25-33 years in a row, (on a sum of 8 major crops, with only 1 or 2 years that were not losses,) leading, (with previous major declines, 1953-1980,) to most farmers going out of business.

In short, few can pay for a farm with the money made from farming over here. What they can do is use tax loop holes to write off nonfarm income through farm losses, to then accumulate wealth through inflation of the land. I can’t speak for the tax system over there, but here, the rich in the top bracket get tax subsidies, (expense write offs,) that are four times bigger than those in the bottom category, per acre. And you need an income to get any write-offs at all. That contrasts, as I mentioned above, with farm subsidies, where the large farms have subsidy caps, and get less per acre.

Here in the U.S., then, as the farm economy has gone down, down, down, we’ve seen a rapid rise in off-farm income, as only the richer, (with lucrative tax write-offs on their other money, can afford to farm).[I’ll be posting data charts showing the dramatic, (exponential?) rise in off-farm income on SlideShare.]

He then points out that young farmers are primarily “inheritors.” But what’s happened here, and probably there as well, is that farmers have often not been able to bring family members on board to farm with them, due to the problem of chronic low farm prices. At the same time, there are strong incentives to hold on to the land, and not pass control over to sons and daughters, due to estate laws. Not much liquid money may be left over for retirement, so land rent, rather than sales, what have massive capital gains implications, is important. (Capital gains disappears with death.)

Beyond that, recall that corporate agribusiness called for drastically reducing farmers and farm workers, by one third within five years. But that was not enough in their minds. They also called for special programs to especially encourage farm youth to move away.[14, pp. 34-37]

Monbiot criticizes his audience (National Farmers Union,) for being white, male and old. Well, if you start out with a white population, and then farming makes no money, and has strong incentives to hold on to the land, then the color won’t change much.

Here in the U.S., and in the massive global implications, everything I’ve said applies to ethnic minorities, such as African American farmers. The reduction in prices, combined with racism, (especially in the South,) and often a beginning in abject poverty, in their case, drove them out of farming at even faster rates. Among the “patirot” farm groups in the U.S. we’ve all been on the same team for decades, (white male farmers, women, and ethnic minorities,) in fighting these issue. African American farmers (and women,) take the same stands that I do on these issues, calling for nonsubsidy Price Floors set at “living wage” levels, for both U.S. and global farmers, instead of what they call the subsidy “scapegoat,” (but qualifying it by pointing out that, without adequate market management programs, farmers certainly need subsidies).[34]

Monbiot’s misunderstanding here is shared by “race and food” leaders in the U.S. today, unfortunately. Three decades ago it the proposals I’ve presented were supported 100% by the Congressional Black Caucus, and by African American Presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, who opened his campaign in a rural town in “white” Iowa, where he received strong support, especially from farmers.

In so much of this, what I see is that the subsidy myth easily leads well meaning progressive-types to then pile on a long lest of additional issues that we call here, “politically correct,” (a derogatory term coined by conservatives for standard progressive values). Note that, as you go down the list of “pile-on” points by Monbiot, the analysis is weak, with little valid evidence, and especially, with little effort, apparently, to understand the real context.

In sum: so YES!, obviously, the “subsidy system,” (total absence of minimum price mechanisms, let alone “living wage” prices,) runs people off the land. It doesn’t keep them on the land.

So then, also, YES to Monbiot’s further point: employment prospects are poor, “the shops are closing, the chapels are closing, the schools are closing, … this is a community catastrophe which is taking place.” Yes, but the reality is not one of merely receiving subsidies on top of an assumed fair income. It’s one of multiple dollars of reduction prior to each single dollar of subsidies. That’s what the data actually shows here, and it’s surely similar over there.

And it’s all been massively documented over many decades, typically by farm groups, or by those academics who are close to them.[33] Monbiot himself appears not to know that, most likely, the farmers sitting in front of him know this better than anyone else, and have been advocating on the issue for decades, (which is certainly true of the National Farmers Union here and the NFU in Canada, but see my discussion of the politics, above).

Again, his faulty underlying assumption leads to these further massive misunderstandings.

Monbiot concludes by saying that:

We cling to this dominant land use, the thing which is going to be the only thing that can work. Well I believe there might be better options.”

This is an incredibly naive and absurd argument for an urban and/or nonfarm intellectual to make to a group of farmers! As they said in a musical about Iowa, “you’ve got to know the territory.”

Here the plain fact is that farmers have been fighting against, not clinging to, “this dominant” approach of cheap prices to subsidize agribusiness for decades! And centuries! We have, in fact, been screaming it out! (as in the video I linked above) It’s only recently that many urban political advocates have paid any attention or offered any help, and then, here and in Europe, I keep finding, they enter into the issues blindly, and end up siding with agribusiness against us, by default, as in this piece by Monbiot, (in stark contrast to his obvious and wellmeaning intentions).

MONBIOT DOESN’T KNOW OUR PEOPLES HISTORY (U.K., U.S., E.U., LDC.)

I’m sure I share basic values with George Monbiot. One way of explaining how he could then so misunderstand the issue of farm subsidies is that, I feel certain, he lacks a “peoples history” of farm issues. He probably doesn’t understand that our story is pretty much never told. That’s certainly true in the United States, where it’s never in mainstream media and almost never in alternative media as well. Thirty years ago our story often was told in alternative media. Occasionally, especially for a number of months in 1985, pieces of it also got told, here and there, in mainstream media. Some farm justice leaders spoke here and there, such as on the Donahue Show. I don’t think Phil Donahue really heard us. No, he kept repeating his false summaries.[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2UY2jXvYfM&index=5&list=PLA1E706EFA90D1767] That may also apply all across mainstream media. We occasionally were heard, as in the case of letters to the editor and op-eds. It’s a different thing, however, if the editorial writers or news analysts ALSO tell your story. That I’ve rarely seen.

Teaching peoples’ history continues to be a struggle. It’s understandable that Monbiot fails. If you don’t know the “peoples history” parts of the context, then you really don’t know much.

A lot of what I’ve tried to show here is that, for farmers, the issue of farm subsidies is what we call a “Catch 22.” By this I mean that farmers are placed into a double bind. Among other things, it divides us from those who should be our allies, people like Monbiot. It divides and then conquers us all.

Monbiot is an leading intellectual on the left with decades of hard work under his belt. It’s a tough fight and it takes a lot of ego. He demonstrates a lot of self confidence, in his “unknowing” criticisms of farmers. To his credit, he also qualfies it with some humility. Repeatedly he says things like, farmers “need extremely big reasons” to justify subsidies, given the part that he knows about them. That’s the sign of an open mind, even if other things he says sound very different to those of us who know the peoples history of these issues.

The answer, of course, at least as I have explained it, internationally, from over here, is that, not only do we have the big reasons, but we also don’t use those big reasons to justify the absurd subsidy system. As our activists have said repeatedly, “We don’t want your damn subsidies. We want a price in the market place.”[see Donahue Show link above] In short, we want Cargill to pay, and ADM, and Bunge and Shuanghui. We also want them to pay it to the farmers of Africa, and Asia, and Australia and Central and South America and the UK. Some of these, in their rural economies, are the poorest people in the world. 70% of LDC populatin is rural, as are 80% of the “undernourished.” We’re on the right side of that. Monbiot is not. It’s time that he and the many others like him, all across Europe and the Americas and the world, switched sides.

NOTES

[1] George Monbiot, “Robbing the Poor to Give to the Rich,” from Oxford Farming Conference, 1/8/15 https://www.monbiot.com/2015/01/08/robbing-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich/ .

[2] Brad’s blogs at ZSpace, https://zcomm.org/author/bradwilson/ ; links to the rest of my work online https://familyfarmjustice.me/brads-farm-justice-work-online/ .

[3] Daryll E. Ray & Harwood D. Schaffer, “Farm-level production decisions and industry-level impacts,” Policy Pennings, APAC, U. of Tennessee, 11/14/14, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/746.html.

[4] Daryll E. Ray, “Wouldn’t it be nice?” Policy Pennings, APAC, U. of Tennessee, July 18, 2003, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/154.html ; Daryll E. Ray, “‘Just in time inventory’ and crop prices,” Policy Pennings, APAC, U. of Tennessee, 2/21/03, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/133.html .

[5] Willard W. Cochrane, The Development of American Agriculture: A Historical Analysis, first edition, University of Minnesota Press, 1979, p. 371.

[6] Daryll E. Ray, “It’s Price Responsiveness! It’s Price Responsiveness!! IT’S PRICE RESPONSIVENESS!!!” Policy Pennings, APAC, U. of Tennessee, 5/6/05, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/248.html .

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

[8] A Time to Choose: Summary Report on the Structure of Agriculture. USDA. Washington, DC. January 1981, p. 139.

[9] Daryll E. Ray, “Subsidies II: Exploding production south of the equator,” Policy Pennings, APAC, U. of Tennessee, 10/17/02. (Don’t be misled by the title, or the relatively mild criticism of the misunderstandings of subsidies.)

[10] A glance at a couple of Agricultural Statistics Annuals ( https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Ag_Statistics/index.php ) shows that the European Union as a whole may have less than 20% of the corn production of the US, or an amount similar to the state of Iowa, where I live. For exports, the EU is only about 5% of the US, for example, in last years annual for 2013/14.

[11] Henry A. Wallace, Achieving a Balanced Agriculture: How the National Farm Program Meets the Changing Problem, Division of Special Reports, Office of Information, USDA, 1934, 1940, http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009075829.

[12] Mark Ritchie & Kevin Ristau, “Political History of US Farm Policy,” League of Rural Voters, January 1986 https://www.iatp.org/documents/political-history-us-farm-policy ; Mark Ritchie & Kevin Ristau, Crisis by Design: A Brief Review of US Farm Policy, League of Rural Voters Education Project, December 1986, http://www.iatp.org/search/node/%22Crisis%20by%20Design%22%20%22A%20Brief%20review%20of%20US%20Farm%20Policy%22.

[13] “Food Movement 1985: Were You There? We Were.” YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2UY2jXvYfM&index=9&list=PL7K_XwGI3jVS4AMDeEdFfHALIOYnoWg53 .

[14] “An Adaptive Program for Agriculture,” A Statement on National Policy by the Research and Policy Committee of the Committee for Economic Development, 1962. (no longer on line the last time I looked).

[15] D. Bergmann, et al, A Future for European Agriculture, (Paris: The Atlantic Institute, 1970), (as quoted in E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), p. 110.

[16] Data comes from United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, “Commodity Costs & Returns,” (full cost figures, adjusted for inflation,) https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/commodity-costs-and-returns/ , multiplied by production, USDA, NASS, Track Record Book: Crop Production, http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/MannUsda/viewDocumentInfo.do;jsessionid=5B408B60A71527B1968E5565B47CDA9A?documentID=1593 .

[17] NFU Canada, “The Farm Crisis and Corporate Profits,” 11/30/05, http://www.nfu.ca/sites/www.nfu.ca/files/corporate_profits.pdf , A. V. Krebs, The Corporate Reapers: The Book of Agribusiness, Washington, D. C.: Essential Books, 1992, pp. 417-419.

[18] This is my own research using, USDA data. I had a lot of the data online at ZSpace in my photo albums, (a dozen slide shows,) but they were removed in the ZSpace upgrade. I’ve begun to repost them on SlideShare, here: http://www.slideshare.net/bradwilson581525/presentations. Cf. Brad Wilson, “The Hidden Farm Bill: Secret Trillions for Agribusiness,” ZSpace, 7/16/12 https://zcomm.org/zblogs/the-hidden-farm-bill-secret-trillions-for-agribusiness-by-brad-wilson/ .

[19] Daryll E. Ray, “$500,000 in sales does not (usually) a viable net income make,” APAC, U. of Tennessee, March 6, 2009, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/449.html.

[20] On this point see Brad Wilson, De- Mystifying ‘Means Testing’ for Commodity Farmers,” ZSpace, 10/23/13, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/de-mystifying-means-testing-for-commodity-farmers-by-brad-wilson/ .

[21] “Food from Family Farms Act,” National Family Farm Coalition, (no longer online).

[22] Céline Delayen, “The Common Agricultural Policy: A Brief Introduction,” IATP, 9/27/07, https://www.iatp.org/documents/the-common-agricultural-policy-a-brief-introduction ; Brad Wilson, “Europe Misunderstands Farm Subsidies,” ZSpace, 10/22/10, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/europe-misunderstands-farm-subsidies-by-brad-wilson/ .

[23] Mark Ritchie, “Impact of GATT on World Hunger, pp. 3-4, excerpt on exactly this point, ZSpace, https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/impact-of-gatt-on-world-hunger-by-mark-ritchie/ ; full article, Speech to the International Symposium of Food Self-Sufficiency, Tokyo, Japan, August 1988, IATP, https://www.iatp.org/documents/impact-of-gatt-on-world-hunger .

[24] R. Dennis Olson, “Sweet or Sour?: The U.S. Sugar Program and the Threats Posed by the Dominican Republic- Central America Free Trade Agreement,” IATP, 4/26/05, https://www.iatp.org/documents/sweet-or-sour-us-sugar-program-and-threats-posed-dominican-republic-central-america-free .

[25] Carin Smaller & Sophia Murphy, “On the Right Path to Development: African Countries Pave the Way,” IATP, 6/15/05, https://www.iatp.org/documents/on-the-right-path-to-development-african-countries-pave-the-way ; Brad Wilson, “WTO Africa Group with NFFC, Not EWG,” ZSpace, 4/1/11, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/wto-africa-group-with-nffc-not-ewg-by-brad-wilson/ .

[26] Brad Wilson, “Via Campesina with NFFC: Support for Fair Farm Prices,” ZSpace, 9/16/10, https://www.zcomm.org/zblogs/via-campesina-with-nffc-support-for-fair-farm-prices-by-brad-wilson ; “La Via Campesina Policy Documents,” La Via Campesina, https://viacampesina.org/en/la-via-campesina-policy-documents/ .

[27] See, for example, Daryll E. Ray, “Agribusinesses practice inventory management, farmers should not (?)” Policy Pennings, APAC, U. of Tennessee, 8/25/06, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/316.html ; Daryll E. Ray, “On accelerating without brakes,” Policy Pennings, APAC, U. of Tennessee, August 18, 2006, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/315.html; Daryll E. Ray, “Other industries have the tools needed to manage excess capacity,” Policy Pennings, APAC, U. of Tennessee, 6/6/03, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/148.html .

[28] “The State of Food and Agriculture 2009: Livestock in the Balance” p. 3, UN FAO, http://www.fao.org/docrep/012/i0680e/i0680e00.htm ; cf. Millennium Project, “Interim Report of Task Force 2 on Hunger,” February 1, 2004, Coordinators: Pedro Sanchez M. S. Swaminathan, (available through online academic sites).

[29] For example, a mere 20 corporations spent 60% of $100 million in agribusiness influence money for the 2009 election cycle, as reported in the Chicago Tribune. I have the data, though I’ve lost the link. Of the 20, 15 (for $45 billion) were from the agribusinessoutput- complex, buying from farmers and lobbying for cheap prices. (At least three of them were corporate CAFO owners competing against farmers.) The other 5 (for $15 billion) were from the agribusiness-input-complex, selling to farmers, and opposing any supply management reductions, (and the more farmers that go broke, the better for them to substitute chemicals for labor).

[30] “Delegate Approved Resolutions,” United Farmer and Rancher Congress, St. Louis, MO, September 10-13, 1986, https://www.iatp.org/documents/united-farmer-rancher-congress .

[31] Brad Wilson, “Smashing the Illusion ‘Farmer Clout:’ A White Paper,” ZSpace, 8/16/14, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/smashing-the-illusion-farmer-clout–a-white-paper-by-brad-wilson/ .

[32] On this point see Allan Savory, Holistic Resource Management; cf. “Allan Savory: How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change,” YouTube, TED, 3/4/13, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpTHi7O66pI&list=PL7K_XwGI3jVQJL1S52s5SHSDexjkYdHN4 .

[33] Jerry Pennick & Heather Gray, “ Ensure that farmers receive a fair living wage, Federation of Southern Land Cooperatives, Land Assistance Project, 10/10/06, https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/ensure-that-farmers-receive-a-fair-living-wage-by-jerry-pennick-heather-gray/ . Cf. their 3-part study, “U.S. Cotton Program & Black Cotton Farmers in the United States,” which is linked there. On women, see, Carol Hodne, ed., “Farm Women: Holding Our Ground,” and other references that I’ve collected in Brad Wilson, “The Women of Farm Justice: Forgotten by Women Today?” ZSpace, 8/1/14, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/the-women-of-farm-justice-forgotten-by-women-today/ .

[34] This was documented by numerous family farm organizations, especially during the 1980s farm crisis (which continues today for most crops and for dairy). From PrairieFire Rural Action: ““The Continuing Crisis in Rural America: Fact Vs. Fiction” and “Fate of the Land: Rural America’s Continuing Crisis.” From the North American Farm Allliance, “A Strategic Response to Assertions that the Farm Crisis is Over.” Academic papers, much of it from the work of Linda Lobao, was summarized and updated by Curtis Stofferahn, who worked closely with the North American Farm Allliance in earlier years. See his “Industrialized Farming and Its Relationship to Community Well- Being: An Update of a 2000 Report by Linda Lobao,” Prepared for the State of North Dakota, Office of the Attorney General, http://www.nffc.net/Learn/Reports/IndustrializedFarmingonCommunity.pdf . The original classic study on the topic is Walter Goldschmidt, As You Sow: Three Studies in the Social Consequences of Agribusiness, Allanheld, Osmun (1978).

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