In an effort to inform policy makers, advocates, and the public about the impact of agri-food companies on the American food system and build support for transforming agricultural practices in the country, the Family Farm Action Coalition has released a new edition Transfer On Wednesday he details how Big Ag’s survival depends on external costs and perpetuating myths about a supposed lack of fairer and more sustainable alternatives.
“Family farmers, rural communities and advocates of the Good Food movement have repeatedly pushed to shift government subsidies away from industrial farming toward a more resilient and equitable system,” Joe Maxwell, president of the Family Farm Action Alliance, said in a statement. . “Over and over again, we fail—because Big Ag controls the narrative. Our report provides a guide to counteracting Big Ag’s deception and ultimately breaking their stifling grip on our diet.”
titled The truth about industrial farming: a fragile system backed by myths and hidden costs, the Transfer (pdf) documents how firms involved in an “economically flawed” agribusiness model “deliberately evade costs along their supply chains.”
However, the costs that agri-food companies avoid paying simply do not disappear. Instead, the bill is being passed to “poorly paid and poorly treated” agricultural workers, rural communities, and consumers who have to contend with “unequal access to affordable, healthy food,” the report says. These costs “ultimately appear in the form of taxpayer-financed subsidies, a degraded environment, and poor public health outcomes.”
If actors in the corporate food system are required to absorb the true costs of production, the report notes, “their businesses will not be economically viable and will not be able to compete with independent farmers and ranchers.”
The report identifies several “costs of doing business that are simply not being paid by industrial agri-food companies,” including:
- worker safety, health care, and livable wages;
- debts of the farmer and sufficient income to the producers;
- Increase local taxes on infrastructure maintenance and facility maintenance;
- share of the product in the retail price;
- high crop insurance premiums;
- low weather-related yield; And
- Contamination of drinking and recreational water.
According to the report, the negative consequences of industrial agriculture that powerful entities transfer to farmers, consumers and taxpayers have hit low-income communities more than anything else.
“Control of agricultural markets and concentration of power has proven to be a profitable business for industrial agri-food companies,” writes Emily M. Miller, director of research and policy at the Family Farm Action Alliance and author of the report. “The erosion of antitrust law enforcement, unbridled mergers and acquisitions, and monopolistic control of the agri-food system from domestic to global markets have resulted in highly concentrated markets and companies with unprecedented political and economic power.”
Rather than “altering supply chains to extract wealth…agri-industrial interests prefer to spend billions of dollars on lobbying and marketing campaigns based on myths,” the report states. “The lies they perpetuate convince consumers and decision makers alike that there is no other choice.”
One of the main contributions the report makes is to deconstruct “some of the well-funded lies used by agri-food multinationals to defend their disruptive business model and defeat any meaningful reforms in the food system.”
For every “myth” promoted by the Big Ag about hunger, food prices, public health, economic development, environmental degradation, and a lack of alternatives, the report presents a “truth” to challenge it.
According to the report:
- Small farms meet 70% to 80% of the world’s food needs, and can double or triple production without adopting industrial farming methods;
- Efficiency limits for large-scale, centralized production of Big Ag were reached years ago—and yet not only are food prices higher compared to inflation, more Americans are classified as food insecure than before;
- The economic benefits that industrial agriculture claims to provide to short-lived rural communities far outweigh the damage it does to the economic, civil, physical, and environmental welfare of the communities;
- Public health issues—including antibiotic resistance, asthma, cancer, high blood pressure, and respiratory complications—are widely recognized by the scientific community as being associated with nearby industrial cultivations;
- Industrial agriculture causes a range of environmental diseases: degraded soils seep into waterways, making drinking and recreational water unsafe; Synthetic inputs are highly dependent on fossil fuels; The use of pesticides and herbicides leads to a decrease in plant and animal biodiversity;
- Industrial agriculture is the product of intentional policy decisions by federal agencies and other decision makers who have promoted it as the future of agriculture; And
- The US already prides itself on alternatives that offer built-in flexibility and redundancy — group food bundling, cooperative grocery stores, farmers markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA) you share with local farmers, and roadside kiosks, to name a few — that can be prioritized. Our policies and subsidies.
“This report reveals that the current standardized diet is nothing more than the result of policy choices that have prioritized a large, focused industry,” Miller said in a statement.
“If we come together to make different choices, we can have a competitive and democratic system that serves the needs of all Americans,” she added.
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Source: Shared dreams
Kenny Stancil is a staff writer for Shared Dreams.
Photo: Pigs are raised at Duncan Farms on June 6, 2018 near Polo, Illinois. (Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images)