Farm Women United
P.O. Box 113
Laceyville, PA 18623
January 27, 2020
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Trump:
Farm Women United (FWU) and the undersigned organizations are voicing deep concern about policies that continue to drive farmers out of business and decimate many rural communities throughout our great country.
We do not blame the trade war with China. In fact, many of us vocally opposed “Permanent Normal Trade Relations” (PNTR) with China nearly 20 years ago. The ever-deepening crisis in agriculture goes back many decades because farmers have no power in the marketplace.
The federal government has been both an active and passive player in the demise of the family farm. The federal government has pushed globalization of food policy by taking away “protections” from our own farmers and intensely pressuring other countries to do the same, under the guise of increasing exports to help farmers. Exporting agricultural products at “world prices” ultimately lowers farmgate prices everywhere. The U.S. agricultural trade surplus has fallen from a 2-to-1 ratio in the 1970s to a roughly equal amount of imports and exports currently on a dollar-value basis. Imports are always used as leverage to keep farmgate prices low while creating the illusion of oversupply.
Furthermore, since almost all farm loans are backed by the federal government, the feds essentially choose the winners and losers in farming. The federal government has also imposed burdensome regulations on farmers. Thank you, Mr. President, for starting to roll back some of these regulations, but more needs to be done.
The federal government also prohibits public schools from serving whole milk. Federal agencies, particularly the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have openly overlooked violations of “standards of identity” for food and allow corporations to use whatever they please to extend yields and compromise food quality. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has shown no concern about anti-trust activities which have left farmers with no competitive markets. It is unclear whether the Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMOs) track domestic “milk protein concentrate” (MPC) or other milk derivatives that are being used to perpetuate the presumption of “oversupply” in dairy.
Washington lobbyists promote policies that have led to record profits for giant agribusinesses and Capper-Volstead co-operatives, while the farmers, who produce the food, teeter on the brink of financial ruin or are forced out of business.
Mr. President, a vast majority of farmers voted for you in 2016, expecting you to “Drain the Swamp.” However, in agriculture, the bi-partisan status quo of globalization, corporatization, and consolidation continues unabated and, seemingly, with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s blessing.
Mr. President, you, as a businessman yourself, understand the need for actual costs to be covered in order for a business to survive. This must include farmers as well, yet farmers and ranchers suffer in silence, unable to cover their business costs and receiving no official advocacy on their behalf to correct this injustice now widely institutionalized in U.S. agricultural policy.
A number of things must be done promptly to restore some level of dignity and financial stability to farmers and ranchers:
- Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) must be expanded to include beef, pork, and dairy products. Other consumer goods are labeled or stamped as to where they come from. Certainly, people should know what country their food comes from.
- Anti-trust concerns must be addressed. This must include Capper-Volstead cooperatives.
- Market concentration and the shortage of, or absence of, competitive markets must be addressed.
- Production contracts must be made more farmer-friendly.
- Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) must be restored as a stand-alone division of the USDA and the regulations it enforces strengthened, not weakened, as the proposed rule published on January 13, 2020, will do. The years of abuse and intimidation of farmers by packers and poultry integrators must stop. USDA was created to support family farmers, not big ag, which this proposed change clearly does.
- FDA must enforce honest “standards of identity” for food, including restoring the real definition of milk. FDA must not rush to “modernize” these standards.
- All food ingredients must be properly stated on ingredient labels.
- All lab-produced food, including that grown from genetic material, must be so labeled.
- All food that is processed using “Ultra-High Temperature” (UHT) or other technologies, including food that has been irradiated, must be so labeled.
- Current “Check off” programs must be made transparent, accountable, and voluntary.
- An emergency “floor-price” of $20 per hundredweight (cwt) for milk used for manufacturing, as proposed by Progressive Agriculture Organization, must be implemented to stabilize farmers’ milk prices until real, long-term solutions are developed and implemented. These solutions would have to include cost of production as well as a transparent and accountable supply management program. This emergency “floor-price” must be financed by milk processors, not by taxpayers, and must be paid directly to farmers, with none of these emergency funds being siphoned off by Capper-Volstead dairy co-operatives or other handlers, for any purpose.
- Public interest hearings and investigations to address systemic problems in dairy and other agricultural commodities, including those injustices eliminating our traditional fishing communities, must be held.
- Nutrition “standards” must be backed by sound science, not agenda-driven.
Mr. President, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is the public face and voice of American agriculture. In this role, he has the responsibility to promote public policy that will enable the real family farmers, who have been the backbone of this country, to receive a just economic reward for their labor. Instead, Secretary Perdue dances around difficult issues like a typical politician and seems to attend mostly short-notice meetings with “establishment ag” figureheads committed to the farm and food policy status quo that has already wreaked unprecedented havoc across rural America.
American farmers and ranchers expect and deserve a U.S. Secretary of Agriculture who will be a true and vocal advocate working on their behalf by supporting the policy changes farmers and ranchers are demanding to reverse and remediate the current adverse conditions destroying rural America.
Mr. President, is it time for a change to another Secretary of Agriculture, one who will finally listen to real farmers, not the “industry?” We need a seat at the table.
If Mr. Perdue is not this advocate, he should resign or be fired.
Gerald Carlin, Chairman of Policy Development
Farm Women United
Cattle Producers of Louisiana
Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association
Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias
Mike Eby Family Farm Activist
Family Farm Defenders
Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance
Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire (NOFA-NH)
Oklahoma Independent Stockgrowers Association
Progressive Agriculture Organization
FWU Press Release
Farm Women United
P.O. Box 113
Laceyville, PA 18623
January 27, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Farm and Ranch Organizations Call on President Trump to Drain the Agricultural Swamp
Eleven farm and ranch organizations from across the United States sent President Trump a letter on January 27, 2020, expressing deep concern over the state of family farms and the rural communities that rely on them. The letter indicates that the federal government, for decades, has been both an active and passive player in the demise of the family farm. While acknowledging that a large majority of farmers voted for President Trump, expecting him to “Drain the Swamp,” the letter points out that the predictable, long-term bi-partisan status quo of globalization, corporatization, and consolidation of our food supply continues on unabated, with dire consequences for American farmers and the nation’s food supply that, to date, have not been addressed by anyone in Washington. In view of this, responsibility for this unprecedented rural crisis is now being brought to President Trump’s attention in this letter from farm and ranch country.
The letter lists a number of broad policy changes that are essential, not only to allow family farmers to stay in business but also to ensure that consumers have the ability to know where their food comes from, what is in it, and how it is processed.
Furthermore, the letter insists that anti-trust matters be addressed as well as unresolved mandatory commodity “check-off” issues and that farmers be allowed a voice in the marketplace, access to competitive markets, ability to cover their cost of production, and protection from market intimidation.
Lastly, the letter declares that US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is the public face and voice of American Agriculture. In this position, he has the responsibility to be an advocate for policies that would benefit real farmers and ranchers. The farmers and ranchers signing this letter are clearly informing President Trump that Secretary Perdue has not been this advocate and that, therefore, he should resign or be fired. The full text of the letter can be seen at www.farmwomenunited.org under the Letter to the President tab.