Letter to the editor
To the editor,
I’ve farmed now 45 years under 13 U.S. secretaries of agriculture, and like I suspected, heard nothing new from our “new” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. (Farm News, March 12, 2021)
Farmers, farmers, farmers–markets, markets, markets repeated over and over again. It’s the same mantra I heard when I was a member of the first Iowa Corn Promotion Board in 1978. It should be obvious that “the swamp” in Washington, D.C. is populated by corporate lobbyists and lawyers who make sure the secretary of agriculture acts like a typical bureaucrat totally devoid of thoughts about fairness to farmers or what’s happening to our precious topsoil and water supplies. Vilsack touts carbon markets–anything but saying the corporations should pay fairly for our commodities.
Free trade agreements, supported by both political parties and the commodity groups in what’s called “The Washington Consensus,” have created a global “free market” with cheap food as the goal and farmers all over the world beaten down by low commodity prices. I’d like to hear an explanation of why Vilsack and other politicians have nothing to say when they see millions of acres of Amazon rainforest being burned to produce more cattle, corn, and soybeans. Why no mention of the billions of dollars of profits for the real consumers of our commodities, like Smithfield, Poet, and JBS?
Last year a young farmer doing some trucking for me told me how difficult times have been and how much the packers were making from each head of cattle he sold. He asked sadly, “Can’t we get a president that understands agriculture?” I had to tell him, “Oh, our presidents always understand agriculture. All they need to know is we farmers are willing to go out every day to do the chores and tend our crops no matter how low our prices go. It’s called a cheap food policy.”
Cheap feed has driven livestock off family farms and into the hands of vertically integrated corporations. Destroying the cheap food policy requires a secretary like Iowa’s Henry A. Wallace who recognized that buyers of our commodities need to pay a fair price, a parity price. Carbon markets or government checks we’ve received from deficit spending let the buyers off the hook. We need to recognize where this is all headed: Big data managed by artificial intelligence controlling farmers’ every move and dictating our virtual extinction.
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