Inflation Talking Points

INTRODUCTION

Mainstream media is demonstrating its conservative bias in how it’s been talking about inflation. There are short term and long term factors, and the obvious cost side, but also the income side, where things are harder to afford. The key issues discussed here include.

The Pandemic, and the Denial of it that Prolonged it and made it worse.

• Damage from Climate Change, and Denial of it which made it worse.

• The conservative philosophy of Comparative Advantage, which put our supply chains at risk.

• Support for the Industrial Power Complex and the super rich at the expense of the bottom 98%.

• Lowering the Minimum Wage to the lowest level since 1949.

• Food Costs, Farm Bill: ending maximum Price Ceilings and Reserve Supplies.

• Farming Costs: loss of “Livestock Crop” diversity, making farmers more dependent upon giant input sellers.

• “Externalization” (denial) of a list of major Costs of damage to the economy, with damage costing us money while reducing value creation.

• Opposition to Stimulus Money that provided better income in light of massive damage from the prolonged pandemic.

Each of these ignored factors behind the problem of inflation comes from conservative policies and programs, and is supported politically by Republicans and Democrats who vote like Republicans.

REPUBLICAN CAUSES OF INFLATION

Republican causes of inflation are both short term and long term, and involve both the income side, (the ability to tolerate inflation,) and the cost side. In both cases, Democrats have better grabbed the bull of inflation by BOTH horns.

Denial of the Pandemic and criticism of measures to prevent it: social distancing, masks, vaccination. The Pandemic killed more than 1,000,000 in the U.S. and more than 10,000 in Iowa, (more than World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined, and in a shorter period of time). Republican denial prolonged it, and made it worse. (& more died in Republican areas.)

Short Term. This caused massive damage to the economy, with huge health care costs. It killed and straining health care workers, with shortages filled at greater costs. Many lost their employer health care, but the Democratic Affordable Healthcare programs helped many.

Long Term. Health costs, including insurance, will likely stay higher long into the future. 

Denial of Climate Change & opposition to measures to reverse it.

Short Term. We’ve had massive storms, and droughts with unprecedented forest fires, causing massive damage, reducing the personal income of many, and inflating the costs of building supplies and many other items. The Iowa Derecho storm damaged large numbers of grain bins, machine sheds and other facilities over hundreds of miles and was the “most costly thunderstorm disaster in U.S. history.”

Long Term. This will continue and become more and more expensive. In supporting giant oil companies, Republicans have blocked the change to alternative energy, making us more dependent upon fossil fuels, with more damage from climate change. Democrats: as with the pandemic, “an ounce of prevention” would have been “worth a pound of cure.” Among the many long term cost increases will be insurance costs for residents, farmers, and businesses.

Philosophy of “Comparative Advantage

Conservative economic philosophy, (corporate globalization,) has had us send our industrial jobs over seas, to be produced with sweat shop labor, lowering wages here and there, and greatly reducing the buying power of the world’s consumers. Transportation costs and climate damage are increased.

Short Term. Supply chain issues were greatly magnified, such as building supplies, computer chips for cars & etc., raising costs.

Long Term. This has been going on a long time, and fixing it will not be easy.

Support for the Industrial Power Complex & the super rich

Corporate domination shows up in many of the issues listed here. It greatly inflates health care costs in the U.S. It’s all made worse by Republican opposition to the rich and the giant corporations paying a fair share of the taxes. “In 2019…, before the pandemic, corporate behemoths hauled in roughly a trillion dollars in profit. In 2021, during the pandemic, they grabbed more than $1.7 trillion. This huge profit jump accounts for 60% of the inflation now slapping US families!” Jim Hightower, https://hightowerlowdown.org/podcast/the-inflation-blame-game/.

Lowering the Minimum Wage

Republicans have opposed raising the Minimum Wage to keep up with the inflation that occurs every year. The inflation rate is only one side of the problem. Whatever the rate of inflation, when incomes go down, inflation becomes a bigger problem. In 2009, the federal Minimum Wage floor was raised to $7.25 per hour (not adjusted for inflation). If we adjust for inflation in 2009 dollars, (CPI,) then we see that, in real terms, the Minimum Wage floor dropped from 7.25 in 2009 to just $5.40 in 2022. $5.40 is the lowest the Minimum Wage Floor has been since 1949!

Food Costs: Reducing and ending Farm Bill Supply Management programs. 

Republicans led in ending top side Price Ceilings & Reserve Supplies, such as those now needed in light of the Ukraine war. It’s similar to the 1970s, when Republican Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz emptied out the grains reserves, (lowering farm prices). This was followed by the huge, secret, (cheap/below cost,) Soviet grain purchases, which, (with no reserves to put on the market,) raised farm prices far above parity levels, causing a global hunger crisis, and causing inflation. On the bottom side, in lowering farm income, Republicans made it harder for farmers to cope with inflation, damaging the rural economy, running farmers out of business, depopulating rural areas, and putting downward pressure on wages, as the U.S. lost money on farm exports (vs. full costs) for decades.

Farming Costs: Opposition to Sustainable Agriculture

The cheap farm prices, (section above,) forced farmers to subsidize agribusiness/CAFOs, leading to the loss of value added livestock & poultry, from most farms across the crop growing regions, leading to a loss of pastures, hay and oats, lowering wealth, damaging the rate of wealth creation, damaging rural communities in multipole ways, damaging public health and the environment. With lower income, farmers have increasingly had to get off farm jobs to survive, reducing their labor availability for farming while increasing their off-farm capital, further damaging diversity. All of this reduced the infrastructure for diversity on farms, in rural communities, and across farming regions. More specifically, with the loss of sustainable diversity, farmers lost the economic possibility of utilizing resource conserving crop rotations to reduce input costs, instead of relying on inputs purchased from giant corporations who can easily inflate what they charge.

“Externalization” of the Costs of Damage to the Economy

In the conservative economic paradigm, damage to the environment, public health, communities/ neighborhoods, etc., (all of which damages the economy, and even the rate of wealth creation, as in the previous section,) is given little attention as mere “externalities.” In this way, these many, (often highly inflationary,) damages are left out of economic calculations. (See other sections, including climate change and agriculture.)

Support for the Corporate Power Complex and Corporate Concentration

Republicans have opposed the antitrust measures needed to block unnecessary inflation. They’ve supported the giant corporations who fund their campaigns, and who lobby against campaign finance reform, greatly increasing the costs of getting elected, at the same time that they block serious discussions of our most important issues, (as simplistic negative ads that grab the bull by only one horn dominate). One massive, Republican-led spending spree over decades has been in support of the Military Industrial Complex, where the spending creates little wealth, but rather results in the stockpiling of weapons.

Opposition to Stimulus Money to Provide Better Income and Strengthen the Economy.

In light of the massive economic hit that the U.S. took from the pandemic, Democrats are criticized for strengthening the economy too much, including money to help citizens’ ability to survive all of the economic damage. Republicans generally have emphasized stimulus money that subsidizes the rich and giant corporations. Benefits to the income side were opposed and are denied by Republicans. The Democrats “Inflation Reduction Act” includes money to fight climate change, to prevent further damage to our economy. Again, an ounce of short term prevention is worth a pound of long term cure.

CONCLUSION: NEGATIVE POLITICAL ADS OMIT THE DEEP CAUSES OF INFLATION

Part of the political problem is the lack of Campaign Finance Reform. As the party most supportive of the corporate complex and the super rich, Republicans have long opposed these reforms, and relied on more corporate money to fund their campaigns. As a result we’ve seen much more focus on negative political ads. In general, negative ads “grab the bull by only one horn.” They provide false solutions to the real dilemmas behind inflation. A better metaphor is “the mariner’s dilemma,” of avoiding both the obvious rock and the vague whirlpool. Negative ads scream out about the simplistic rocks, while ignoring the more complex whirlpools that need to be addressed.

For example, military responses to terrorism provide a simplistic solution, (rock,) but typically also create new terrorists, (whirlpool and grabbing the bull of terror by only one horn). Similarly immigration is an obvious crisis at our border, (rock,) but what’s happening in their home countries leading to why they are coming in the first place, such as atrocious conservative foreign policies regarding Central America. The Reagan administration’s support for corrupt dictatorships was a huge factor and Middle East foreign policy has had similar effects for Europe. Likewise, conservative farm policies of lowering minimum farm Price Floors to subsidize agribusiness donors led to the U.S. losing money (vs. full costs) on corn exports to Mexico, causing a farm crisis here and driving millions of farmers out of business there. Clearly, these and manly other problems can’t be solved by grabbing the bull by only one horn, when negative political ads show us only the simplistic “rocks,” and not the huge, more complex “whirlpools.”

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Family Farm Justice Movement Literacy Test

This test covers the more recent history, since 1952. It was initially designed for 21st century audiences, such as that of the Food and Environmental Movements and related sectors, (especially those who work on Farm Bill related issues,) and more generally, the educated public. I’ll post some answers later.

[1.] What was the leading activist family farm organization of the 1960s, (& 50s, & 70s,) making big headlines? What was the name of a new national family farm organization that played prominent roles in the big family farm activist events of the 1970s. Can you name a key difference in the approaches of two different Family Farm organizations, or something different about their “corporate cultures,” (1952-1990)? Can you name a conflict within the Movement? Can you say something about a change in the style of the Family Farm Movement at a certain point in history? (When?) Which organization mobilized a million people to come out to meetings in 19 states within a six month period against cheap food? In what decade?) What are two family farm coalitions or alliances from prior to 1990?

[2.] Name three prominent leaders of the Family Farm Movement who played prominent roles between 1955 and 1980. How about during the 1980s? Today? Can you name three prominent women who were leaders in the Family Farm Movement prior to 1995? Can you name three blacks who were big leaders in the U.S. Family Farm Movement, (or in fighting for it’s issues, outside of movement organizations,) prior to 1990?

[3.] Name three important orators from the Family Farm Movement of 1953-1990. Can you name at least one from the 1960s, and one from the 1980s? Can you remember any lines from the speeches? Were you there? If not, and if you know these things, how did you learn them? How often and in what ways have you been exposed to information about this? What has had the greatest impact on you?

[4.] Name three songs from the Family Farm Movement. Name three singers. Do you know some occasions where they were sung? Were you there? If not, how do you know about them?

[5.] What’s the largest rally of the Family Farm Movement that you recall? (i.e. 40,000?) What’s another large rally that you recall, (indoors: 34,500? 10,000?) Where were they? Were you there? If not, how do you know about them?

[6.] What are two methods of activism, (i.e. kinds of demonstrations,) that have been more or less unique to the Family Farm Movement? Of the 1960s? Of the 1970s? 1980s? 1930s?

[7.] When in the past 60 years has the Family Farm Movement come head to head with a U.S. President? A Presidential advisor or cabinet member? On what issue(s)? How was it resolved? Which family farm organization was on who’s “blacklist” in what decade?) Who said something about exporting farmers? What was said? When? How about conflict with a governor (prior to 1990)?

[8.] What’s a major court case or decision related to issues of the Family Farm Movement? Prior to 1950? After 1970? What’s the name of one of the lawyers, and/or the organization that provided the lawyer(s)? How did you learn about this? (What major family farm organization fought a court case for about a decade [until about 1980]? Who won? What big case went from Clinton to Bush, and to what result? What kinds of issues is one of the current/recent dairy cases about?) Can you name someone in a family farm case prior to 2000 (i.e. _ vs. _)?

[9.] What’s a major federal law that was passed between 1953 and 1990 on Family Farm issues, (& that was not a farm bill)? Were they good or bad for the Movement? When were they passed (what decade)? What quantitative change happened to the Commodity Title of the Farm Bill in 1985 (what increased a lot, what decreased a lot)? What big things happened in the Farm Bill in 1953 and 1996? In 1961? Can you name a Farm Bill issue that Earl Butz got passed?

[10.] Have large corporations played a major role in opposing or supporting the Family Farm Movement? Businesses in general? What kinds of businesses? How? When?

[11.] Name three books from, representing, or about the Family Farm Movement (prior to 1995)? Can you name three authors? Have you ever read a historical (to you) novel about family farms?

[12.] Name three films about Family Farm issues from prior to 1995. Do you know three about the Family Farm Movement itself? Fiction? Documentaries? Have you ever seen a historical Family Farm Movement documentary on PBS? How many? Do you recall ever seen historical footage (prior to 1990) of leaders from the Family Farm Movement on commercial TV? Public?

[13.] What are two Family Farm Movement organizations of today? What are the two major Family Farm Movement Farm Bill proposals of today that focus on the core, historical issues of the Family Farm Movement? How are these proposals treated in the Food courses, books, films and conferences today? Who is the leading academic who has supported these two proposals (with studies)? What academic group did similar work on Farm Bill proposals during the 1980s? Can you name a media source that has mentioned either of these proposals? Can you name a media source that has called for subsidy reforms?

[14.] Have you ever taken a food course, attended a food conference, or read a food curriculum that featured sections teaching about the historical issues of Farm Justice Illiteracy along the lines described above (i.e. organizations, law, politics, songs, leaders, media, race, women, etc.)? What did you learn?

[15.] What are two (or more) main things you learned about the Family Farm Movement or your knowledge of, or relation to it, by taking/reading this test? How would you describe your general reaction?

[16] Who else do you know in the United States who is working on these historical issues of the Family Farm Movement, in the sense of academic Farm Studies Illiteracy?

[17] Can you answer these questions for other social movements, such as the Civil Rights Movement? (Try it!)

Jesse Jackson and Rural America: Together We All Win

As Democrats gather in convention at Atlanta, among them will be rural delegates drawn into the party processes for the first time by Jesse Jackson’s populist message. Jackson’s proven commitment to economic justice has won the hearts and minds of thousands of rural people, motivating many who had never before been active to vote and attend caucuses. 

Reverent Jackson carried Vermont, the nation’ most rural state. In Kansas, Jackson supporters took Sheridan, Gove, and Graham Counties. In Iowa, rural Adair County. IN Wisconsin, Polk County, and more than twenty counties in Alabama – scores more across the South. 

Rural people voted for Jesse Jackson because he put rural America on the national agenda, sending a clear message by opening his first state office in Greenfield, Iowa, surrounded by farmers and townspeople. Rural people voted for him because they know he cares. He stayed in their homes, stood on their farms, and learned about the current crisis first hand. Jackson appreciates the land as a source of life and knows the importance of the farm economy to our nation’s economic security. He understands the urgency of a crisis which has driven over 600,000 farmers off their farms since 1980. He reminds all Americans that if you eat, you’re involved in agriculture.

At the 20th Anniversary March on Washington in 1983, he met with a farm delegation led by Merle Hansen of the North American Farm Alliance to bond his relationship to family farmers.

Reverend Jackson has consistently stood with farmers int heir struggle to stay on the land. He knows that farmers cannot win alone, that it will take a mighty coalition to reverse our nation’s priorities on behalf of the nation’s working people.

Since that time, he has traveled across the country to help save farms at sheriff sales or speak at rallies and draw attention to the crisis in the countryside.

Jackson’s commitment to rural families is more than just rhetoric. Ask Darrell Ringer and the Bates family in Great Bend, Kansas; ask Jim Langmann in Western Minnesota; Perry Wilson, Sr. and Marvin Porter in Western Missouri; Dorthy and Verne Lau in Nebraska. Reverend Jackson was there. When he was called to help Iverline Payne, a 62 year old widow in Dublin, Georgia, he was there. When Chillocothe, Missouri farmers fighting the abusive tactics of the Farmers Home Administration called, he was there. When invited to farm rallies in Omaha, Nebraska or South and North Carolina, Reverent Jackson spoke of the need to join together, displaces worker and farmer, urban poor and peace activist, and so to build a coalition for jobs, farms, and justice.

When Carlos Welty and other midwest farmers needed assistance in developing urban markets, Jackson was there, offering access in Chicago. When cucumber farmers in Alabama needed help in developing a cooperatively owned pickle processing plant, he was there to help secure the needed purchase commitments.

As testimony to his work, over 400 farmers traveled to Washington, D. C. to attending the Founding Convention of the National Rainbow Coalition. At a “Save the Family Farm” Breakfast, he brought Congressional, Labor, and Farm leaders together with an overflow crowd to talk about the need to work together on our common agenda of economic justice and peace. 

Jackson was there when farmers needed political clout. Reverend Jackson brought a group of Chillicothe farmers to visit with Secretary of Agriculture Lyng, where they presented the Secretary with petitions to Save the Family Farm. Secretary Lyng agreed to respond when Reverend Jackson presented him with cases where USDA violates it’s own policies. The Secretary agreed to visit North Carolina and investigate the situation faced by black farmers, who are threatened with total obliteration by the end of the decade.

Jackson went to Wilmington, North Carolina when red tide fungus threatened to destroy the livelihood of fishermen. Jackson relayed to the Small Business Administration the importance of the fishermen’s work to the whole community. He convinced the SBA to provide immediate relief, enabling the fishermen to survive the crisis.

In Wisconsin in 1988, Jackson drew attention to the irrationality of farm and food policies which simultaneously refrain from buying food products from farmers while cutting food distribution to hungry people. As a result of heightened attention to this issue, the Wisconsin state legislature authorized $2 ½ million to ensure proper federal food distribution.

In 1986, Reverend Jackson joined Willie Nelson and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower in Austin for the Farm Aid II Concert. A few months later, national farm leaders invited him to be one of 3 keynote speakers at the United Farmer and Rancher Congress in St. Louis, along with Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and Commissioner Hightower. While in St. Louis, Reverend Jackson also delivered a speech to the International Agriculture Summit entitled “World Trade Peace Begins with Justice for the Farmer.”

Now in 1988, Jim Hightower endorsed Reverend Jackson and said, “If he was standing for my principles, why was I not standing for him? Frankly it had not occurred to most populist leaders like me that our movement might become black-led, reaching out to whites, but there it is… He has put himself on the line for the work-a-day majority of this country. He has earned our respect for the strength and tone of his campaign, and he is strumming a cord that American’s want to hear. Today, I join Jesse Jackson on that line, because it is the right place to be.”

The doors that Jesse Jackson has opened for rural activists, the bridges across racial lines, and the hope that he has brought has created the momentum for a powerful movement in rural America. Reverend Jackson stands for integrity, for quality, for principle, for justice, and for peace, and the urban and the rural coalition united behind these principles continues to grow.

MORE INFORMATION 2017

Rev. Jesse Jackson, “A New Direction in Farm Policy,” https://familyfarmjustice.me/2022/08/11/jesse-jackson-a-new-direction-in-farm-policy/.

“1988 Presidential forum on Agriculture and Rural Life,” YouTube, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P_u_3tvGyM&index=26&list=PLA1E706EFA90D1767

See video of Jackson and other materials at The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa Women’s Achives, Carol Hodne Papers, http://collguides.lib.uiowa.edu/?IWA0488 .

“Jesse Jackson ’88 Iowa Campaign Headquarters records, 1987-1988,” from Jesse Jackson ’88 Iowa Campaign Headquarters (Greenfield, Iowa) 1987, in Des Moines Historical Library Manuscripts (MS2014.7 ).

Jesse Jackson: A New Direction in Farm Policy

In Iowa and across the Midwest, the hopes and dreams of thousands of family farmers are now on the auction block. Iowa has lost 10,000 farms since the Reagan administration came into office. A crisis of proportions unseen since the thirties is stalking the countryside, leaving in its wake, poverty, despair, broken homes, and broken hearts.

Farming is a science and an at. Farmers are professionals who spend their entire lives honing their skills and passing their knowledge on to their children. To separate these professionals from their professions by economic force should be considered nothing short of criminal.

Every Iowan understands the role that agriculture plays in the broader scheme of things. It is part of the foundation this country was built on. Weaken that foundation and the entire building is in danger of crumbling. The crisis engulfing rural Iowa is coming home to roost in our towns and cities. Between 1979 and 1985, 55– small town businesses closed their doors. In 1985 and 1986, twenty-one Iowa banks failed, and the rate is the same for this year.

Farm Foreclosures lead to plant closures. We can’t afford the luxury of fighting among ourselves, or hunting for scapegoats. Town and country, rural and urban, one can’t do without one another. Famers need a fair price just as workers need a living wage. Both must join hands and walk forward together. Our very survival is at stake.

We reap what we sow. No one plants corn and harvests wheat, it’s just not possible. The same is the case with the Reagan farm policy, which promotes the concentration of the food industry into fewer and fewer hands. From it grew a harvest of despair.

Farmers want parity, not charity. A fair price is a price that meets the cost of production. When farmers don’t receive a fair price the countryside becomes submerged into a sea of debt.

We need a working system of supply management. This would eliminate the need to store runaway commodity surpluses, while making the welfare subsidy program unnecessary. It is critical that measures called for in the Family Farm Act are put into practice. This would bring the surplus under control, while giving the producers themselves say over how this should be done. The Act includes safeguards for low income consumers, which would offset any possible rise in food prices.

Some are against effective supply management. It’s not popular with the grain speculators of the Chicago Board of Trade. It will cut into the profit margins of farm chemical and oil companies that produce fertilizers and pesticides. The multi-national food corporations that have been growing fat on farm subsidies are lining up against it.[1]

Government policy shouldn’t assist those who are out to farm the farmer. Profits for food processing companies increased 13% in 1986;[2] most farm prices fell 6-9%. This year 76 cents out of every food dollar will go to middlemen. The grocer gets more for the coupon on the box of Rice Krispies than the farmer gets for the rice in the product.

If managing supplies means consumers pay a few pennies more in the short run, preserving the family farm will save us all dollars in the long run. Monopoly agriculture will give a handful of huge food corporations undue influence over the prices that consumers would pay.

Farm policy needs more than a cosmetic change, it needs a new direction. Supply can’t control American agriculture. Agriculture must take control of supply. We need to restructure farm debt. We must add a temporary moratorium on foreclosures to our country’s political agenda.

The Farmers Home Administration has taken over 5000 farms – a total of 1.5 million acres. The Farm Credit System is holding 2.2 million acres. The FmHA and the FCS are selling off the land at firesale prices to speculators and agri-business. The men and women who worked the land, giving so much of themselves, must have the right to buy back or lease their land at today’s lower interest rates. Packages o sell inventoried land to corporate America must instead be prepared for beginning, restructuring, and minority farmers.

The world is full of hunger. The Iowa farmer is one of the most efficient food producers in the world. It is not rational that farms in Iowa are going under because too much has been produced. Nor does the Reagan administration’s refrain, “produce more for exports” make sense, it only results in other governments increasing their farm subsidies to stay in competitive and adds to the surplus in the international market.[3] Third word countries end up exporting more cash crops to get badly needed foreign exchange, while at the same time weakening their ability to feed their own people. We must correlate production with hungry people.

America has come to the fork in the road and new leadership is needed to take us in the right direction. Construction is better than destruction. Our national priorities must place farms ahead of arms, if we are to live in a secure world. Food to the hungry will do more to promote peace, than weapons to the contras. Dollars which are now pouring into defense boondogles must be shifted into nutritional programs for our nation’s children. A nation which neglects its young is a nation at risk.

Creative solutions are needed to solve the problems of rural America. I have called for an international conference that would bring together the feeders and the eaters, the producers and the consumers. We need trade that’s aimed at meeting need. We must bring food to those who are hungry, while assuring that farmers get their due. If we work to meet need while curbing greed, our dreams can be realized.

BRAD’S NOTES

[1] This sentence may be misleading, in that it sounds close to a technical error even as it expresses the essence of the problem. Free markets are the economic cause of cheap market prices which subsidize these corporations, and the weakening (and later elimination) of market management provisions in the farm bill is the political cause. So this system of lower and lower minimum farm price floors, is the policy cause of the cheap prices that subsidize the food corporations. They get (from farmers,) something like 8 times more than the subsidies the government pays back to farmers. The (inadequate) farm subsidies are correlated with the cheap prices, but do not cause the cheap prices. Bottom line: the “farm subsidies” that the corporations get are paid by farmers, (are from farmers,) when farmers sell to them at cheap, below cost, market prices.

[2] 1986, right after passage of the 1985 Reagan farm bill, which made the farm crisis even worse.

[3] The Reagan administration and it’s friends in Congress, (and similar voices earlier and later,) promised that the cheaper market prices would lead to great increases in international sales, and later, higher prices, but we now know that neither one came true. See: Daryll E. Ray, Agricultural Policy Research Center: “Exports: Does Lowering the Price to Capture Market Share Work in the Grain Markets?”8/4/00, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/005.html ; “Allowing Grain Prices to Fall Does Not Stave Off Loss of Export Market Share,” 8/11/00, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/006.html ; “Corn exports: A case of unrealized expectations and farm policies that did not deliver,” http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/684.html ; “Are “things different now” so that low prices will cure low prices?” http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/839.html , etc.

MORE INFORMATION 2017

“Jesse Jackson and Rural America: Together We All Win,” Jesse Jackson Campaign 1988, (see archive below,) https://familyfarmjustice.me/2022/08/11/jesse-jackson-and-rural-america-together-we-all-win/.

“1988 Presidential forum on Agriculture and Rural Life,” YouTube, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P_u_3tvGyM&index=26&list=PLA1E706EFA90D1767

“Jesse Jackson ’88 Iowa Campaign Headquarters records, 1987-1988,” from Jesse Jackson ’88 Iowa Campaign Headquarters (Greenfield, Iowa) 1987, in Des Moines Historical Library Manuscripts (MS2014.7 ).

You Can’t Fix Sustainability Without Justice

Author’s Note: This paper presents background material in support of my slide show series on “The Decline of Agriculture” in 42 counties in Iowa, (with summaries of these counties for each Congressional District, and with a survey of all of Iowa). County level data from the Census of Agriculture is used to show how cheaper and cheaper farm prices, leading to reductions in the farm economy have forced farmers to subsidize animal factories, (Confined Animal Feeding Operations, CAFOs,) with cheap, below cost feed ingredients. This farmer-paid subsidization has then led to the further penalty where most farmers have lost all value-added livestock and poultry. Without livestock, most farmers have then lost the sustainable “livestock crops,” grass pastures, alfalfa and clover hay, and the nurse crops for these, like oats. These “Environmental Impacts” are the focus of Part 1 of my surveys. 25 additional state summary surveys are also being developed. These are the core, systemic policy issues for agriculture and the environment. 

In the map above, the darker counties are the ones surveyed.  Links to the slide shows are found farther below. A preliminary survey for Wisconsin is found here. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3719393414781721&type=3. Part 2 slide shows focus on “Farmer Impacts” (see below).

Understanding the Core Environmental Policies for Agriculture

From the crisis of the Great Depression, the Farm Bill was invented and implemented, fairly slowly, during the 1930s to 1941. At it’s core, it was a market management solution to at least six decades of prior crisis caused by cheap farm prices. Minimum farm price floors, (similar in principle to minimum wage,) were implemented and backed up by supply reductions, as needed, to balance supply and demand. For consumers and industry, price ceilings were used, to trigger the release of reserve supplies during times of drought and shortage.

The second national crisis of World War II led Congress to raise minimum farm price floors to “living wage” levels, 85% or 90% of parity with a goal of prices at 100% of parity. This was seen as a government managed, private sector economic stimulus, (not a government spending stimulus,) and was passed, in part, through the banking committees.

The farm program worked well, raising farm prices to “living wage” levels, and at minimal or no cost, even making money for the government through 1948. Agriculture as a whole achieved 100% of parity every year, 1942-52. 

The agribusiness buying corporations were forced to pay farmers $1.2 trillion more, (1942-52 vs. averages from 1920-32). 

For 1933-1960, an estimated 99% of the impact was from minimum farm price floors, and only 1% from farm subsidies.

Congress then lowered minimum farm price floors, more and more, 1953-1995, and then ended them, (1996-2023). This had devastating impacts on farmers, rural communities and the rural environment. Over time it forced farmers to massively subsidize the loss of their value added livestock to CAFOs, with cheap feed ingredients, (below full cost levels most of the time at least since 1981). With cheaper and cheaper prices, net farm income fell low and stayed low, even with higher yields and with implementation of the major farm subsidy programs. These started in 1961 for corn, wheat and sorghum, 1962 for barley, 1964 for cotton, 1976 for rice, 1982 for oats, and 1998 for soybeans. The evidence is very clear that farmers were penalized toward these changes, not rewarded toward them.

Iowa, though it has had some of the very biggest subsidies, also seems to be the state with the biggest reductions, resulting in the biggest net reductions over the long haul (net = market reductions below parity standards + subsidies). Iowa is the biggest farm bill loser, as is the cornbelt region.

Nationally the reductions since 1953 add up to trillions of dollars, so these are huge issues affecting agriculture, and affecting agriculture’s impact on climate.

US net farm income in 2016, (adjusted for inflation and including farm subsidies,) was less than 50% of what it had been during the parity years of 1942-52. Net Farm Income for Iowa in 2016 was less than 35% of what it had been for 1949-1952, (the earliest years for which data is available). 

That’s in spite of much increased yields for crops like corn and soybeans.

Nearly 60% of farmers were run out of business during the massive reductions in farm income. Losses of farms livestock and poultry poultry occurred at an even faster rate, especially for hogs, dairy and poultry. According to data from the Census of Agriculture, between 1950 and 2017, Iowa lost 97% of its farms with hogs land pigs, 98% of it’s farms selling poultry products, and 99% of its farms with milk cows. It also lost 86% of its farms with cattle and calves and 88% of its farms with sheep.

Losing livestock from farms was very damaging to the environment, leading to our poor water quality, contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and to climate change. That’s because, without farms with livestock, we also lost farms with the sustainable “livestock crops” like grass pastures, alfalfa and clover hay, and nurse crops like oats and barley. Farms with these sustainable crops were also lost at a much faster rate than the loss of farmers and the loss of crop farmers. For example, according to Census of Agriculture Data, between 1950 and 2017, Iowa lost 82% of it’s farms with hay, 96% of its farms with pasture on cropland, and 99% of its farms with oats.

As a result of these losses, farmers have lost much of the economic viability for these sustainable crops and diverse crop rotations, which are especially needed on hills and near streams. These areas have been increasingly planted to corn and soybeans. We’ve then seen increasing destruction of the infrastructure for sustainability on farms, in small towns, and across rural regions. 

A related factor is that, while 92% of Iowa farm operators reported farming as their primary occupation in 1950, by 1997 only 61% of the remaining farmers did, and for some counties, less than half. And while only 7% of Iowa farm operators worked 200 or more days off the farm in 1950, by 2017 31% of the surviving farm operators did. These changes were reflected in farming’s share of total farm household income. While in the early 1960s, when USDA’s data series on this begins the farm portion of total farm household income was nearly 50%, this figure fell to just 12% by the 1990s and 11% for 2000-2009, even with the start of the biofuels boom. Those temporarily higher prices continued for corn, soybeans and rice through 2013, and the farm share of farm household income rose for 2010-2019, but only to 20%.

I’ve documented many these changes away from sustainability for Iowa, for 42 counties in Iowa, and with summaries of this data for each of the 4 Congressional districts in Iowa, (9+9+12+12=42 county summaries + 4 District summaries). 

(See data charts here, organized by the new Congressional Districts: The Decline of Farming in 9 Counties of Iowa’s 1st Congressional District: Environmental Impacts [10 slide shows]: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/11Ii_bwimdYxDjC-pyuYKm3mYLVGJfsXF; The Decline of Farming in 9 Counties of Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District: Environmental Impacts [10 slide shows]: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1WUkjXENDtc0XimXxzDA47adZ-6KqHXxc; The Decline of Farming in 12 Counties of Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District: Environmental Impacts [13 slide shows]: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1a_muA-EeV8nX_mjqzCIfjowjcGLr3PkL; The Decline of Farming in 12 Counties of Iowa’s 4th Congressional District: Environmental Impacts [13 slide shows]: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/185K4Wiu43x_rmWmhXPY6EGItYJHqay0b. For all of Iowa [99 counties,] seehttps://www.slideshare.net/bradwilson581525/the-decline-of-farming-in-iowa-pt-1pdf. See Iowa charts below.)

Examination of the acreages for these crops shows more clearly how they affect crop rotations. Without the diversity of the sustainable livestock crops, most of Iowa has been reduced to a simple corn-soybeans rotation, (corn-following-soybeans,) leading to damage to the environment, especially on hills and near streams. The slide shows compare the changes in these acreages, shown in pie charts, to various crop rotations, (including acreages for soybeans and “other,”) jumping from 1950 to 1969 to 1992 to 2017.

Compare the two-year, corn-soybeans rotation, above, with the five-year rotation shown below, which has been popular among organic farmers in Iowa. 

Compare that with the acreage results for the state of Iowa in 1950 and 2017, below.

Iowa’s diverse pie pieces have shrunk! Iowa has lost the possibility for sustainable crop rotations.

The increasing role of off-farm jobs and income for those farm operators who have survived, and as the percentage of young farmers declined and the percentage of old farmers rose has also affected the environmental impacts of Iowa agriculture. These statistics mean that farmers had less availability of labor on farms and relatively more capital from off-farm sources. The quite old farmers of today want to do less labor and they have more capital than young farmers do. These changes during the period of declining farm prices and income has fostered systems of “tax loss farming,” favoring those with higher off-farm incomes and those in higher tax brackets. They got bigger tax write-off subsidies per acre, (assuming identical farms,) than farmers with lower total incomes. This also magnified the loss of diversity and sustainability on farms, and increased the use of purchased inputs, like fertilizers, pesticides, and larger machinery.

Slide shows on these farmer impacts for each the 42 counties (and 4 Congressional districts) are not complete yet, but the one for all of Iowa is available here: https://www.slideshare.net/bradwilson581525/the-decline-of-farming-in-iowa-part-2-farmer-impacts.

In general, with much lower net incomes per acre, and with the loss of several kinds of value-added livestock/poultry from a large majority of farms, farms have had to get much bigger in acres to stay the same economic size, which is another systemic factor working against diversity and sustainability.

To address a wide range of issues, including those of rural economic and community health, rural environmental decline, and agriculture’s impacts on climate, changes are needed in the federal farm bill to restore programs of market management for economic justice. Iowa farmers need the kinds of Democratic Party Price Floor and Supply Management programs that we had in the past. Proposals to do this have been available for decades, and there have been many econometric studies showing this approach is much better than each of the increasingly Republican farm bills we’ve seen from 1980 to 2014. These proposals have come from the organizations of the Family Farm (Farm Justice) Movement, including support from the National Farmers Organization, the American Agriculture Movement, the North American Farm Alliance, the National Family Farm Coalition, the National Farmers Union, and the Texas Farmers Union. Many of them address the dairy portion of the farm bill, which has been hurt so much by the cheap prices that have forced farmers to subsidize CAFOs. These proposals were much cheaper than each of the Farm Bills, (farm bill baselines,) that they were compared with. They each would have significantly reduced the huge CAFO and junk food subsidies of these farm bills, and would also have reduced the export dumping of these decades, where the United States has been losing money on farm exports, subsidizing foreign countries while damaging the economy, the environment, public health, and rural community life here.

One of the most comprehensive of these studies was the FAPRI, (Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute,) study of the 1987 Family Farm Act, (Harkin-Gephardt proposal). (https://familyfarmjustice.me/2016/12/09/family-farm-act-of-1987/). FAPRI found that the Harkin-Gephardt proposal would have greatly increased Net Farm Income and income from farm exports, as in the charts below. (The charts below are adjusted for inflation in 2019 dollars, and therefore different than those at the link above.)

At the same time, Harkin-Gephardt would have greatly reduced the costs of these core farm programs to government and taxpayers.

For the 8 major crops studied, the programs would have reduced acreages below the inadequate levels of the 1985 Republican Farm Bill.

This would have resulted in reduced production of the 8 crops, to prevent oversupply and cheap prices, as seen in the chart below of 6 of the crops where production can be measured in bushels.

The value of the 8 crops would then be much higher, however, under Harkin-Gephardt than under the 1985 Farm Bill. 

A similar pattern would have been seen for exports. The quantity exported under Harkin-Gephardt would have been significantly smaller, as seen in the chart below featuring 6 crops measured in bushels. Similar patterns were found for cotton and rice.

On the other hand, income from exports was found to be much higher with Harkin-Gephardt.

If USDA-ERS “full cost”* figures are applied to the FAPRI data, we also see that the Harkin-Gephardt proposal would result in exports above zero, while the 1985 Farm Bill that President Reagan signed would have farmers losing money on their investments. (*Here USDA “full costs” include a wage equivalent for the farmer, plus a portion of general farm overhead and other factors. So the resulting figures are a return to a farmers’ investments in land, machinery and facilities.)

Because the Harkin-Gephardt farm bill proposal would significantly raise the costs of grain for feeding livestock, ending CAFO subsidies, it was found to affect farming systems in ways that would help the environment. For example, there would be more forage, (grass, alfalfa, clover,) and less feeding of grain in CAFOs and feedlots. According to the study, (https://econpapers.repec.org/paper/agsfaprsr/244143.htm):

“a major shift in the type of meat produced would occur concurrently with the shift toward less production.”

“As feed costs increase toward an 80% parity level, producers shift away from grain-fed animals and utilize available forage to add weight to beef.”

“… the higher costs of beef production associated with parity crop pricing would likely push the industry toward an animal which matures (finishes) at a lighter weight and could be forage-fed for a substantial part of the weight-gaining process.”

“Such an adjustment would be costly to current feedlot operators.”

Our macro, systemic conclusion is clear. We can’t fix sustainability for agriculture without restoring economic distributive farm justice. 

Church Statements on the Rural Crisis

PrairieFire Rural Action – NCCC 

(Iowa Family Farm organization) – (National Council of Churches of Christ) 

ECUMENICAL AND INTERFAITH STATEMENTS and POLICY STATEMENTS OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN THE U.S.A. 

In recent years, ecumenical bodies at the state and national level have taken an increasingly active and public role on rural crisis issues and state and federal farm policy. 

The first document in this Section is “A Resolution by Religious and Ecumenical leaders of the United States,” passed by an ecumenical and interfaith gathering of religious leaders in Kansas City, Missouri, in November, 1986. The Resolution stands in clear support of the principles of the Family Farm Act. 

Also included here is a “Declaration on Rural Crisis” adopted by the National Interreligious Conference on Rural Life, held in Chicago in February, 1987. This Conference of Christians and Jews marked a major step in the development of strong interfaith policy positions on rural issues and public policy development. 

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCC) is comprised of thirty-one communions — Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican church bodies with a combined membership of 40 million Christians. It is the primary national expression of the ecumenical movement in the United States. 

This special section includes the NCC’s basic Policy Statement adopted in 1958, “Ethical Goals for Agricultural Policy,” and six related Resolutions passed by the Governing Board since 1983: 

1. On the Status of the Family Farm May 12, 1983 

2. On the Status of Black-Owned Farm Land in the U.S. November 11, 1983 

3. A Call for Justice and Action May 17, 1984 

4. On the Exploitation of the Rural Crisis by Extremist Organizations November 8, 1985 

5. Save The Family Farm Act of 1986 November 6, 1986 

6. Resolution on the “Christian Identity” Movement November 6, 1986 

Of special note is the Resolution passed unanimously by the Governing Board on November 62 19861 in support of the Save The Family Farm Act of 1986. 

National Council of the Churches of Christ, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115 

RESOLUTION ON THE STATUS OF THE FAMILY FARM

(Adopted by the Governing Board, May 12, 1983) 

In order to restore some integrity to farm tax and credit policies which have increasingly favored high-income: expanding firms at the expense of small and modest sized family farms in the U.S., the Governing Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. calls upon the Congress and the Administration to develop and implement policies which: 

(1) restore the limited resource loan program of loans to low-equitv and low-income farmers and establish it as the principal loan program of the Farmers Home Administration; 

(2) restructure eligibility guidelines for all other Farmers Home Administration farm loan programs so that larger-than-family farms are not eligible for this kind of assistance: 

(3) provide proper servicing to borrowers who for no fault of their own are unable to meet scheduled loan payments but who show evidence of ability to pay when agricultural prices stabilize at levels which afford them the opportunity to do so; specifically, loan deferrals should be granted on a case-by-case basis under provisions which guarantee full and fair consideration of each applicant for a deferral and which safeguard the procedural rights of the borrower, including the right or administrative appeal; and 

(4) eliminate the use of the investment tax credit for specialized farm buildings for the production of livestock and for the purchase of irrigation equipment which is used to irrigate land which is not considered to be irrigable within soil conservation standards.

The Governing Board further cells upon its member denominations, local congregations, end affiliate organizations to advocate for and support such measures.

Resolution on THE STATUS OF THE FAMILY FARM 

Introduction

One of the most complex problems facing the United States government today is the financial crisis in agriculture. Partly the product of farmers’ success in improving productivity and partly the product of farm policies which have failed to stabilize farm income. this crisis threatens to erode the family farm base of American agriculture more than any development in our lifetimes. 

Neither recent Congresses nor recent administrations have responded responsibly to this growing crisis. To the contrary, there has been a tendency on the part of public officials to avoid the issue by opening public credit programs to an ever-wider group of larger farms and offering tax concessions which encourage further expansion on the part of these farms. The result is more concentration in production, diminished economic opportunity for farms of modest means. and greater financial vulnerability for our food system as a whole. These trends undermine an owner-operated system of agriculture, which a substantial body of scientific literature has established as the most efficient unit of production.

Particularly grievous has been: (1) the steady deterioration in the services afforded small farmers with limited resources by the Farmers Home Administration and the corresponding shift in that agency’s emphasis to larger-than-family farms: and (2) the expansion of the investment tax credit, a superfluous subsidy to capital which invites unneeded investments by tax-motivated investors in areas of agriculture already sufficiently capitalized. These policies have tended to reward the rich at the expense of the poor, and to diminish economic justice. 

The general direction of these and other policies is therefore viewed as contrary to the Ethical Goals for Agricultural Policy adopted by the General Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. on June 4. 1958, which called for the development of “… programs which will enlarge the opportunities for low-income farm families to earn adequate incomes and achieve satis- factory levels of living…” 

Background Considerations 

Credit: Since the 1940’s, the Farmers Home Administration has provided credit as a last resort to farmers who could not get it elsewhere. Its purpose has been to help tenant farmers become owners and to help marginal farmers reach the point where they could operate through normal commercial credit. 

In recent years, the government has reduced services to such farmers while expanding Farmers Home Administration credit to larger, more aggressive farmers. In 1978, Congress eliminated the interest subsidy from 80% of Farmers Home Administration’s “regular” loans. reserving the lower interest loans “limited resource” (LR) borrowers, vaguely defined as those who could not afford the regular interest rate. At the same time, Congress established an Economic Emergency (EB) loan program for larger-than-family-sized farmers including those who do not depend on farm income for a living. By 1979, the EEprogram was larger than the regular loan program, and limited-resource borrowers, the group for whom Farmers Home Administration was established, were getting less than 10% of the agency’s farm loans. 

The present Administration has opposed re-authorization of the limited resource program and has opposed any appropriation for it. Last year, it spent only half the limited resource allocation, despite authorizing legislation requiring it to make the loans. Meantime, Congress, is considering legislation to strengthen the EE program by making it mandatory. 

At the same time, the Administration has generally resisted efforts to take Farmers Home Administration procedures more open and fair for the borrower. This has been particularly true in the case of requests for deferrals, or one-year extensions of overdue loans in cases where the delinquency is for reasons beyond the borrower’s control. A U.S. District Court case (Curry 7. Block) requires the Administration to develop criteria for such deferrals, but Farmers Home Administration has appealed the case to the Circuit Court. Congress is considering legislation requiring implementation of the deferral policy. About 25% of Home Administration borrowers are delinquent, and that proportion is expected to increase. 

Tax Policy: The general effect of U.S. income tax policy on the structure of American agriculture has been to encourage non-farm investment, concentration of production, and the separation of ownership from operation. Recent major studies by the United States Department of Agriculture and land-grant universitiesconfirm this.

The effect has been particularly strong in livestock production which h= become more capital-intensive and therefore more susceptible to tax-motivated investment. The University of Missouri reports that about 13% of the slaughter hogs in the U.S; now come from large operations, and in Nebraska, the Center for Rural Affairs has documented that 24% of the feeder-pig crop (an especially important crop for beginning farmers) now comes from corporate hog factories.A high-income investor in such a facility can receive as much as 50% of his her initial investment back in the first year of operation through reduced federal taxes, and over the life of the facility can receive as much as 80%. This subsidy is attracting investment capital into an area of agricultural production which is already sufficiently capitalized. United States Department of Agriculture reports that the U.S. hog industry presently has about double the productionfacilities necessary to meet production requirements. 

Irrigation development is another example. New technologies (sophisticated sprinkler systems) have made it possible to irrigate marginal range land which is highly susceptible to erosion. A high-income developer and investor can recover about one-third of the purchase price of such land through federal and state tax breaks on the irrigation development, according to the Center for Rural Affairs. Ironically, the tax breaks work to encourage the selection first of those parcels which are most vulnerable to erosion (the higher the ratio of development costs to original purchase price of the land, the larger the tax breaks; the lover the purchase price, the more marginal the land). Most of the production from these developments is corn, a commodity already in surplus. 

Theological Rationale 

A Christian ethical approach to agriculture begins with the acknowledgment that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof…” God the Creator has given human beings a special position in the world, with specific responsibility for the fruits of tie earth and all living things. Thus the production of food and fiber — the primary task of farmers — becomes a service to God and humankind. 

The Christian faith also attaches special significance to the family, where Christian love and forgiveness can be personally experienced. The family farm has provided, throughout our history, that type of rural environment most co to the growth of human personality, the stability and enrichment of family life, and the strength of the community and its institutions. This pattern of agriculture he also contributed notably to national strength and the preservation of democratic attitudes and practices. 

Therefore, the preservation and extension of the efficient family-type farm as the predominant pattern of American agriculture has been affirmed as a conscious goal of national policy by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Furthermore, the Christian concept of justice demands that family farmers who produce efficiently and abundantly, where such production is in the national interest, should not suffer from this fact, but should receive economic rewards comparable with those received by persons operating larger-than-family-type farms or by persons of similar competence in other vocations. 

Because of their ineffective bargaining position, farmers have rarely enjoyed true parity of income in the open market except during wartime periods of extreme demand. Yet sustained farm income is essential both as a requirement of justice for farmers – and of stability for the total economy. Therefore, programs designed in accordance with sound economic principles and equitably administered to protect the rights and interests of small as well as large farmers are a legitimate and necessary function of the federal government. 

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1. A commonly accepted definition of the “family farm” is a farm operation in which the responsibility of ownership, management, financial risk and labor (except at peak seasons) is that of the family. 

2. The economic literature on economies of scale and farm size are voluminous and conclusive. A farm which fully employs one or two persons achieves lowest costs and optimum efficiencies. The classics in this literature are: J. Patrick Madden, Economies of Size in Farming, AER Report #107, USDA, 1967, Warren R. Bailey, The One-Man Farm, ERS-519, USDA, 1973; and Thomas A. Miller, et al, Economies of Size in U.S. Field Crop Farming, AER Report #472, USDA, 1981. The entire issue was reexamined by USDA as part of the “structure of agriculture” project conducted by the agency in 1980. It confirmed previous findings that “most of the technical economies…are attained at relatively small sizes” and concluded that “we have passed the point where any net gain to society can be claimed from policies that encourage large farms to become larger”. (A Time to Choose, USDA, January 1981.) 

3. Two of the Studies: A Time to Choose, January 1981, USDA Ch. 6, “Tax Policy” pg. 90-99. The Effects of Tax Policy on American Agriculture, Charles Davenport, Michael D. Boehlje, David B.H. Martin, USDA/ERS, Agricultural Economic Report #480. February 1982. 

4. “Ethical Goals for Agricultural Policy”, Statement adopted by the General Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., June 4, 1958. 

RESOLUTION ON THE STATUS OF BLACK OWNED FARM LAND IN THE UNITED STATES

Adopted by the Governing Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ, November 11, 1983 

According to the Census in 1978, the rate of Black farmland loss was two and a half times greater than the loss rate for white farmers. Black farmers as a group, compared to other farmers, depend more heavily on farming for an income and have less off-farm income. The continuing loss of ownership and control of agricultural land by Black American farmers has reduced their ability to achieve economic viability and financial independence. This loss has been accelerated by the Black land owner’s lack of access to capital, technical information and legal resources needed to retain and develop agricultural land holdings into stable, income-producing self-sustaining operations. 

Resolved: that the Governing Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. calls upon the Congress, the Administration and in particular the United States Department of Agriculture to develop and implement a Federal program designed; 

1) to prevent the loss of ownership of agricultural land by Black Americans; 

2) to assist Black Americans to acquire such land or to expand present holdings; and 

3) to achieve a significant increase in the participation of Black American owners of agricultural land in applicable Federally sponsored programs. 

This program should: 

1) identify, reduce and eliminate barriers which have resulted in reduced participation by Black farmers in, and reduced benefits from, Federally sponsored programs. 

2) provide technical assistance to Black Americans who seek to develop or upgrade land for agricultural purposes, 

3) identify Black Americans who may wish to acquire land for agricultural purposes and to target applicable existing Federal programs to assist in such acquisition, and 

4) encourage the development of private-sector initiatives directed toward the achievement of these objectives. 

The Governing Board,concerned about the increasing disappearance of American small farms, especially those owned and operated by American Blacks, urgently calls upon its-member denominations, local congregations and affiliate organizations to advocate and support these measures. 

Policy Base: Ethical Goals for Agricultural Policy June 4, 1958 

BACKGROUND STATEMENT REGARDING PROPOSED RESOLUTION ON BLACK OWNER FARM LAND

Psalm 24: The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, a the world and those who dwell therein.

Isaiah 58:6 Is not this what I require of you…to loose the fetters of injustice…. 

A Christian ethical approach to agriculture begins with the acknowledgment that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof…” God the Creator has given human beings a special position in the world, with specific responsibility for the fruits of the earth and all living things. Thus the production of food and fiber — the primary task of farmers — becomes a service to God and humankind. 

Land development promotes community stabilization, creates opportunities for profitable investments and benefits local and national economies by strengthening the economic independence of farmers and creating profitable markets for goods and services. 

During a ten-year period ending in 1978, Blacks lost 57 percent of their active farmland base — down from 133,000 operating farms comprised of 6.2 million acres in 1969 to 57,000 farms and 4.2 million acres in 1978. The two million acre loss over 10 years is conservatively valued at 1 billion dollars. 

Farmland is included in the Census of Agriculture count every five years if it produces an income for its owner of at least $1,000 a year. The Census has an information base on only those Blacks who derive at least $1,000 in farm sales a year. They numbered 57,000 controlling 4.2 million acres in 1978. 

The Emergency Land Fund, Atlanta,- Georgia, und r contract to the Farmer‘s Home Administration. U.S. Department of Agriculture, made a study of “The Impact of Heir Property on Black Rural Land Tenure in the Southeastern Region of the United States” in 1980 and developed the following data: 

“In 1974, Blacks owned or had access to 9.5 million acres with as many as 1.6 million individual Black owners who were scattered throughout the United States with a land title in the rural Southeast. Therefore, over two-thirds of the Black farmland base, some 5 million acres, receive no policy attention, and most certainly none of the program resources available through public supported agricultural institutions. This category of “unaccounted for” Black rural land 

is often idle, subject to absentee ownership, occupied by elderly individuals who are often on public assistance, who in many cases cannot read or write well, if at all, encumbered with clouded titles, lost in tax, partition and foreclosure sales and an easy prey for land speculators. According to the Census in 1978, the rate of Black farmland loss was two and a half times greater than the loss rate for white farmers. 

“Black farmers as a group, compared to other farmers, depend more heavily on farming for an income and have less off-farm income. Additionally, the net farm and farm-related income earned per dollar value of land and building represents a 15% return on investment by the Black farmer compared to the 9% average for all farms. Blacks, therefore, are good farmers but continue to lose land because of a lack of farm financing and operating capital, and suffer also because of the lack of land utilization information. technical and management assistance and markets. There is also a host of legal. financial and discrimination problems that are contributing factors. Often these problems involve both public and private lending institutions, courts, legal representation and land speculators – both private and corporate.” 

Secretary Block of the U. S. Department of Agriculture appointed a special Task Force on the “Decline of Blacks in Agriculture” in April 1983. The information in this resolution will support the Emergency Land Fund’s recommendations to that Task Force. 

Based on NCCC Policy Statement:  Ethical Goals for Agricultural Policy, June 4, 1958. 

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l. The Emergency Land Fund was founded-in 1971 by Robert S. Browne, who is also the founder of the Black Economic Research Center and the Twenty-First Century Foundation. For the past eleven years, ELF has maintained a regional focus, working throughout the rural Southeast providing a variety of services and conducting special projects and programs aimed at the retention, acquisition and better utilization of farmland for the benefit of Blacks. ELF’s services include legal, financial, technical and management assistance. Additionally, ELF has maintained an extensive outreach and community education program. Emergency Land Fund, Joseph Brooks, President, 564 Lee Street, S.W., Atlanta, Georgia 30310 (404) 758-5506 

A RESOLUTION

of the 

NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN THE U.S.A, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115 

Resolution on the Exploitation of the Rural Crisis by Extremist Organizations 

(Adopted by the Governing Board November 8, 1985) 

The Governing Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.: 

Endorses as its own statement the resolution adopted on April 13, 1985, by the Iowa Inter-Church Agency for Peace and Justice, an agency of the Iowa Inter-Church Forum, and member of the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition: 

“We deplore and reject the extremist philosophies and actions of those individuals and organizations that promote violence, anti-semitic, or racist responses to the Farm Crisis, and reaffirm and recommit our efforts and energies to building a constructive, progressive, non-violent farm movement that is committed to justice for all people of this nation and the world.” 

(2) Urges the member communions to communicate this Resolution to their congregations along with materials which will inform them about this racist and anti-semitic campaign, and how to combat it. 

Policy Bases: “Religious and Civil Liberties in the United States of America,” adopted by the General Board October 5, 1955.  “Ethical Goals for Agricultural Policy,” adopted by the General Board June 4, 1958. 

A RESOLUTION of the NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN THE U.S.A.

475 Riverside Drive New York, NY 10115 

Resolution on the Save-the-Family-Farm Act of 1986 

(adopted by the Governing Board, November 6, 1986) 

The Governing Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. endorses 

(1) The objectives of the Save-the-Family-Farm Act of 1986, which incorporates a strong supply-management program; price supports that cover at least the cost of production; a producer referendum that will enable farmers and ranchers to determine their own future; and a minimization of the financial burden of federal farm programs on the taxpayer. 

The Governing Board of the National Council of Churches instructs 

(1) The General Secretary to ask Congress and the appropriate Committees of Congress to docket this proposed legislation for immediate consideration upon the convening of Congress in January 1987. 

(2) The General Secretary is also instructed to inform the President of the United States and the Secretary of Agri- culture of this action by the National Council of Churches and our expectation for support from the administration. 

Policy Base: Ethical Goals for Agricultural Policy, June 4, 1958. 

For presentation to Document_________

NCC Governing Board

November 5-7, 1986 

Resolution on the Save-the-Family—Farm Act of 1986

Since 1984 the Rural Crisis Issue Team, an ecumenical group of staff persons, responding to a directive from toe Governing Board of the National Council of Churches, has been advocating change in the legislation governing the farm economy. The directive from the Message, “Rural Crisis: A Call for Justice and Action”, states the following: 

“to press for enlightened public policy that will preserve the diverse ownership of land and the continuation of the family farm system with its attendant values of stewardship, family, and community responsibility through education and organized action within the congregations of our member Communions.” 

The Governing Board has put the National Council on record in Resolutions to support the status of the family farm as it relates to farm tax and credit policies, loss of Black-owned farm land, to warn against extremist organizing in the rural communities, and to respond to the economic development needs from the drought crisis on the farms in the southeastern states. 

The Federal Office of Technology Assessment, Spring 1986, stated that “if present trends continue to the end of this century, the total number of farms will continue to decline from 2.2 million in 1982 to 1.2 million in 2000“.

Legislation to reopen the debate on the problems facing family farmers was introduced into the Senate and the House of Representatives on September 23, 1986. The Save-the-Family-Farm Act of 1986 challenges the Food Security Act of 1985, the most recent legislation on farm policy. The new legislation is supported by a broad-based coalition of farmers, consumers, laborers, church leaders, small businesses, bankers and community leaders. The Save-the-Family-Farm Act seeks to control overproduction of farm products while restoring supply/demand balance to the marketplace. It is designed to save dollars for the taxpayer and save America’s family farms and rural communities. 

The Governing Board of the National Council of Churches endorses the objectives of the Save-the-Family Farm Act of 1986, which incorporates a strong supply-management program; price supports that cover at least the cost of production; a producer referendum that will enable farmers and ranchers to determine their own future; and a minimization of the financial burden of federal farm programs on the taxpayer. 

The Governing Board of the National Council of Churches instructs the General Secretary to ask Congress and the appropriate Committees of Congress to docket this proposed legislation for immediate consideration upon the convening of Congress in January 1987. 

The General Secretary is also instructed to inform the President of the United States and the Secretary of Agriculture of this action by the National Council of Churches and our expectation for support from the Administration. 

Note accompanying analysis of Save-The-Family-Farm, Act of 1986. 

RESOLUTION ON THE “CHRISTIAN IDENTITY” MOVEMENT

Since its beginnings, the National Council of Churches has voiced opposition to all forms of racism and anti-semitism. It has expressed concern about the recurring signs of Nazism and for the victims of Klu Klux Klan violence. In the Theological Statement of Racial Justice, the Governing Board reiterated this concern when it stated that: 

“Racism is an expression of idolatry replacing faith in the God who made all people and who raised Jesus from the dead with the belief in the superiority of one race over another or in the universality of a particular form of culture.” 

Because of the “Christian Identity” movement’s ideological under- girding for racist violence, it represents a threat to the Christian understanding of the Gospel. “Identity” doctrine is preached at rallies by the para-military White Patriot Party in North Carolina, at survivalist encampments in many sections of the Midwest, and in the halls of the Aryan Nation in the Pacific Northwest. “Christian Identity” played a major role in The Order, an armed criminal underground organization. In addition, Identity ideology has promoted a practical working unity among geographically disparate organizations and groups. 

“Christian Identity” centers around the belief that the people of Northern Europe — white Anglo-Saxons — are the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Jews are considered to be the Children of Satan, and racial ethnic people are considered to be “pre-Adamic” — a lower species than people of European ancestry. 

“Christian Identity” is neither a single organization nor a monolithic doctrine. Instead it is composed of hundreds of small groupings throughout the United States. It is not confined to any single region of the country, and small Identity churches exist in metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and in the rural hills of Arkansas. Some Identity groups are directly engaged in political action — often violent political action and others are content simply to pass their racist heritage on to their children. Therefore, the most helpful model with which to understand “Christian Identity” is to regard it as a movement rather than a denomination. The Identity movement is composed of interactive parts that continually develop and re-develop its ideological and organizational expression. 

The development of para-military activity within the Identity movement is tue result of a convergence of the impulse towards armed violence within the general racist population and an impulse towards armed activity from within Identity ideology itself. Any analysis of para-military activity within the Identity movement must take both sources into account. “Christian Identity” has emerged as a primary religious and spiritual orientation of the Far Right. It incorporates the major neo-Nazi themes, while maintaining itself as an “American” phenomenon. Recently the U.S. has been undergoing a resurgence of bigotry under the guide of Christianity. This resurgence is a deep, ugly stain in American society. 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA: 

Reaffirms its commitment to Racial Justice and its opposition to the ideology of the “Christian Identity” movement.

2. Condemn the Identity movement’s perversion of Christianity as a pretext for hatred, racism and anti-semitism. 

3. Calls on its member communions to educate their constituencies about the nature and purpose of the “Christian Identity” movement. 

4. Calls on the Division of Church and Society to keep the NCCC member communions informed about the “Christian Identity” movement. 

Rural Crisis: A Call for Justice and Action

Message adapted by the Governing Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., May 17, 1984

THE CRISIS OF THE PEOPLE OF THE LAND

We warn that America is teetering on the slopes of a dark precipice: we are dangerously close to abandoning the egalitarian and communitarian goals of our religious and social heritage. We are well on the way to becoming a landless and fragmented people subject to the whims of those few holding disproportionate wealth and power.

Like our ancestors of the Farmers Alliance of 100 years ago, our cry seems to be lost in the void. Then, as now, family farmers were being driven off the land due to a mixture of high interest rates, low prices for farm produce, and a stagnant economy. Now, as then, the people of the land are told that this is the result of the inevitable march of history, that this disenfranchisement of the people from the land marks a steady onrush of the tide of progress. One hundred years ago the people of the land looked in vain to their elected representatives for assistance. Now, as then, our congress has favored the proponents of the “trickle-down” theory of economics, allowing the wealthy to pile riches upon riches while the people of the land diminish in number.

Our present period of crisis is unparalleled since the days of the Great Depression. An economic crisis in agriculture – one result of decades of public policy aimed at displacing people from the land – hastens the demise of our family – owned and operated – farms. Ownership and control of our rich land base is being consolidated at an alarming rate, and the loss of farms and people from the countryside is causing serious economic problems in our rural communities. Our cities re experiencing high unemployment rates among workers associated with agriculture-related industries. The economy of our states and of the nation itself is deteriorating because the foundation of that economy – agriculture – is suffering extraordinary losses.

This course of tragedy, which can be charted by statistics, masks an ever deeper and widespread suffering in the countryside. Economic stress results in personal and family stress. Many farm families facing financial difficulties are being personally blamed for their plight, even though it is due to circumstances well beyond their control. There are signs of increasing family tensions and even family violence, and the outright discussion of larger acts of violence against people and institutions indifferent to the rural crisis is heard more and more often.

The Crisis of Values – The Need for the Faith Community

One hundred years ago the Populists raised the alarm that the values of the day – the notorious “Gilded Age” – glorified greed, ruthless competition, and embodied an ethic of “progress” which was devoid of humanity. They demanded that the human costs of this so-called progress become a prime factor in policy decisions, and championed coalitions among farmers and city workers, among black and white persons alike.

The Populists’ most dire warnings have gone unheeded. The crushing effects of “progress” have proceeded apace. 

Where does this all end? When so-called rural communities consist entirely of urban bedroom commuters? When small businesses have4 been entirely supplanted by national chain-stores? When the number of farmers has been reduced to 10,000 per state, or 1,000 or 100? Who will decide that enough is too much. And by utilizing which values?

It is into this ethical vacuum that members of the faith community, and their organizational leadership, must plunge. It is true that over the past fifteen years individuals, churches, and representative bodies of the Christian faith have spoken often and eloquently in support of family farm agriculture and of the principle of widespread ownership of land. Yet, the larger society’s pursuit of unbridled individualism and of the accumulation of wealth without limit has continued without interruption.

Perhaps we of the church have been too silent, permitting our leaders to speak alone. Perhaps we have relegated the warnings of the prophets and the lessons of Scripture to the “safety” of a dead past. Perhaps we have forgotten that it was to the chosen people of Israel that Amos presented his list of grievances and his call to repentance. The Israelites, like us, had been very attentive to retaining the forms of religion, but had forgotten its substance. They had grown proud in their successes, and the wealthy rulers and their economic allies had come to oppress their people and to cheat the poor.

Perhaps we, like the Israelites of old, have turned our stony hearts from the message of Moses and the prophets and pursued other gods by making the economy and its siren song of promised individual enrichment fuel our greed and harden our hearts to the growing number of landless and poor among us.

The people of the land demand that we be loyal to our faith and, in so doing, come to their assistance.

The Terms and Promise of God’s Covenant

God’s promise was not limited in time. It and the terms of the Covenant, remain as valid for us today as thousands of years ago. In sum, God’s people were called to exercise loving stewardship over all of creation – land and creatures alike. Such were to be conserved in their use so that their blessings would continue for further generations. Further, we were to properly order our use and disbursement of those resources with regard to each other in order that God’s justice might reign. Greed, the accumulation of more than each person needs, and the driving of growing numbers of persons into poverty are absolutely inconsistent with God’s justice. All of us concerned today with the need for true peace in our war-threatened world should recall that peace was God’s promise to those who exercised the terms of the Covenant stewardship and justice.

THE CALL TO JUSTICE

God still calls us to give our all to the creation of a just world and, even now, summons us to action and justice with and on behalf of the suffering people of the land, regardless of color, race or creed.

We pledged ourselves to heed that call! 

We call upon our brothers and sisters of good will:

To realize a conversion of heart, to recognize that the values of individual enrichment and material accumulation are false gods, designed not only to lead one from God’s Covenant but to destroy community and harmony in our land. 

To remember the teachings of Francis of Assisi, who counseled the need to live in harmony with nature and to utilize tenderness in our dealings with others, and not follow the path of competition or hostility; who spoke of the ned to live minimally, and not to pursue the accumulation of surplus goods; and who said that we must live as an integral part of nature, not as one sundered from our roots; from the land and each other.

To stand side by side with their neighbors who suffer personal loss as a result of the economic crisis on the land, and to bring to a halt once and for all the demise of family farm agriculture by supporting actions and public policies that will bring about peaceful change in rural America.

We call upon our church leaders to make the continuing tragedy of rural America – the erosion of our fields and small communities, the demise of family farming and the forced liquidation of family farm operations, the growing concentration of land ownership – an urgent part of each church’s national agenda for action.

We call upon church leaders and members alike to press for enlightened public policy that will end existing favoritism towards speculators in land ownership and to create, in turn, public policy that has as its aim the preservation of diverse ownership of land and the continuation of the family farm system with its attendant values of stewardship, family, and community responsibility.

This we do as a people of God, struggling to be honest to the call to discipleship in rural America and all the world, and believing that future generations will judge us harshly if we fail in this time of grave urgency.

This message is from the Conference “The Church Encounters the Rural Crisis,” Des Moines, Iowa, October 4-6, 1983

Sponsored by the Iowa Inter-Church Forum, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Rural America, Rural Iowa and the NCCC/Division of Church and Society

This Message and the Rural Crisis Resource Kit are available* from:

Division of Church & Society, Domestic Hunger and Poverty

National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.

475 Riverside Drive, Room 572

New York, N.Y. 10115

*as of 1983

Review: Silvia Secchi on the Farm Bill:  Part 1: Synopsis

Introduction to the Series: A Teachable Moment

This is a review of a presentation by Dr. Silvia Secchi in a webinar of the Iowa Farmers Union on the parity farm programs (here: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=272843577976670&id=107307789290804&anchor_composer=false). Upon hearing Dr. Secchi’s presentation, a number of farmers expressed concerns that she didn’t understand the issues, and I commented that her presentation surely contained at least “two dozen falsehoods.”

First:  “Review: Silvia Secchi on the Farm Bill: Part 1: Synopsis,” is a condensed version of the long 2nd paper, a quick overview. Less than 5 pages. (You’re here now.)

Second: “Review: Silvia Secchi on the Farm Bill:  Part 2: ‘2 Dozen Falsehoods?‘” is a lengthy rebuttal or response to 28 claims or statements that she made in her presentation. About 34 pages, including 15 data charts. More than 80 endnotes are posted separately as Part 3, below.

Third:  Silvia Secchi on the Farm Bill: Part 3:  Endnotes to Part 2

Fourth: “Silvia Secchi on the Farm Bill: Part 4:  Generalizations that Mystify,” is a fairly brief discussion of 8 generalizations that she made in her talk. While I see these as good and sometimes great generalizations, I see each one as misapplied, and generally more applicable to my rebuttal of her thesis than to her claims in support of it.  This mixture of common sense and false applications, I argue, mystifies us, blocking our progress on these important issues.

The reason I’ve gone into such great detail is that I see this as a teachable moment. Dr. Secchi’s views are widely held, and closely related to additional views that are also widely held. At the same time, the issues are extremely important, as they are the biggest issues of U.S. and global agriculture.

Dr. Secchi’s Core Anomaly

As I explain in great detail in Part 2, (the long paper with endnotes,) Dr. Secchi supports policy positions that most strongly work against her (progressive) values.  While I generally share most of her core values, I reject her core anomaly, and offer solutions that are more congruent with these values.

Two Dozen Falsehoods?”

Right after hearing her presentation to the Iowa Farmers Union, I commented below the video that there were probably at least two dozen falsehoods in it. In the long paper I identify the specific falsehoods and related matters that I see, 28 of them, and provide rebuttals to them. Here below I briefly describe each of these.

[1] Dr. Secchi suggested that we got rid of parity because it was a bad idea. I show that overwhelming evidence points the other way, that it was and is a great idea, and that Congress/Presidents reduced and ended it because of pressure from the agribusiness lobby, which has always opposed it.

[2] Dr. Secchi suggested that price and supply management works by the government buying up the excess to push up the price, such as of corn, which, of course, would not reduce the supply. I show that it works with price floors and by cutting acreage, and if that’s done correctly, the government rarely has to take temporary ownership of grain, and in that case, when they do, they’ll likely make a profit on it. 

[3] Dr. Secchi argued that, under parity programs, government “is in charge of stocks,” such as of grain, and that, “history proves” that oversupply is the result of the programs. I show that there was little oversupply during parity, that the problems occurred with the decline from parity and the ending of parity.

[4] Dr. Secchi argued that minimum price floor programs, (which are similar in principle to minimum wage floors,) cannot work if a country exports. I show that price floor/supply management programs did work as we exported, and that this is also supported by academics in a number of econometric studies.

[5] Dr. Secchi argued that the only way parity programs work with exports is if you lose money on exports with a two-tiered price system.” I show the evidence for how, though you export a smaller quality with these programs, you make more money on the exports.

[6] Dr. Secchi argued that the WTO would oppose what she imagines as a system of losing money on exports. I showed how WTO has never really opposed export dumping, and has never had a system for preventing it.

[7] Dr. Secchi argued that the programs can’t work because farmers will increase production with these programs, producing more because the higher prices, (which is a conservative, free market philosophy, assuming that supply and demand effectively self-correct, as in economic theory and economics textbooks). I show a list of reasons why that view is incorrect: that that philosophy fails for agriculture in the “aggregate,” (as in the real world,) for a variety of reasons that make it different from other industries; (that farmers have only so much land, and if they acquire more, others have less); that there is a huge factor of diminishing returns with over-fertilization; that the programs just cut back on supply however much more is needed on following any year of increased carryover (oversupply).

[8] Dr. Secchi argued that the programs also fail because of new technology that increases yields. I address that along with [7], showed how parity successfully handled the huge change from draft power to tractors, (which freed up tens of millions of acres from usage as draft power feeds [fuels]), showed how the extreme conditions of the Great Depression that radically altered supply and demand for farm equipment manufacturers was successfully addressed by supply management, showed also how the huge recent changes in technology in the auto industry did not at all eliminate their need for their supply management, which they see as essential, and in fact, all of this is all exactly why the programs are needed.

[9] Dr. Secchi argued that “at the end of the day, there was no supply reduction, but rather “a lot of surplus.” I show not only that that was false, as discussed above, but that here, and on other issues, she surely doesn’t know WHEN parity happened, and therefore was blaming parity for what happened during the time of decline from parity, and the time after the ending of parity, including times when Republican administrations mismanaged the programs. My answer outlines 5 different periods:

A. Before 1933, before the farm program.

B. Early farm bill years, pre-parity, 1933-1941.

C. The parity years, 1942-1952, (100% of parity or more every year for agriculture as a whole).

D. The Decline from Parity, 1953-1995, a time of (lower and lower price floors and inadequate acreage reductions).

E. The end of the remaining major programs, 

[10] Dr. Secchi claimed that “Parity pricing … really does nothing for the environment.”  I show why, in multiple ways, these programs have been the biggest thing in agricultural policy that has protected the environment during agricultural production, and how this has become so much more visible in hindsight. For example, it became visible after decades of reductions in farm prices, leading then to the subsidization of the loss of value-added livestock and poultry to CAFOs, leading then to the loss of the sustainable crops, the livestock crops like grass, hay and feedgrain nurse crops like oats.

[11] Dr. Secchi also claimed that “There’s also nothing for anti-trust, to reduce the power of the big agribusiness corporations,” in parity programs. I show how the parity programs made the biggest agribusiness corporations pay farmers $1.2 trillion more than they were paid over 13 years prior to the farm bill, (based upon averages per year). The higher prices, then, were a huge deterrent to CAFOs.  On the other hand, I show that the severe reduction and then ending of parity programs, (leading to multi-trillions of dollars of over all agribusiness subsidization below parity levels,) resulted in the taking away of livestock farming from diversified farmers, as a massive further subsidization of giant corporations.

[12] Dr. Secchi argued that we have CAFOs because we ignore the hidden costs. I show how, with parity, a variety of major hidden costs, (which she fails to mention, i.e. to farmers, to communities, to the economy,) are paid, by CAFOs, junk food makers, export dumpers, and others in the agribusiness input (sellers) and output (buyers) complex. This, of course, also includes hidden costs to the environment.

[13] Dr. Secchi argued that, “If we did not have oligolipsic power, CAFOs wouldn’t make sense,” which is another argument for standard antitrust laws and enforcement. I show that simply having smaller corporate sizes does nothing to reduce the massive subsidization, (i.e. cheap farm prices,) of CAFOs by farmers, since that is based on chronic market failure on both supply and demand sides.

[14] Dr. Secchi argued that farm subsidies, (seen as extra rewards,) are pushing up the price of land. I show how farmers have been paid less and less with subsidies, (due to the overlooked aspect of lowering and ending of minimum price floor programs,) resulting in much less net farm income (including subsidies) and much lower returns on equity and assets, (including subsidies). So the evidence doesn’t support her theory, (which is widely shared). I show, on the other hand, how, with this massive penalization of farmers through cheaper and cheaper farm prices, surviving farmers have increasingly had to get off farm jobs, greatly reducing the availability of their labor, while greatly increasing the role of capital in their operations. This in turn, I show, has enabled them to use their large off farm incomes for “tax loss farming,” leading then to both further capitalization, and the bidding up of land prices. (All from penalizing farmers.)

[15] Dr. Secchi then further argued that “That’s why a lot of young farmers are into CAFOs,… because you don’t need as much land.” I showed how young farmers are not “into CAFOs.”

[16] Dr. Secchi argued that “parity would do nothing for” the “transition to the next generation of farmers.” I showed how it’s the decline from parity that has been so devastating for young farmers, even when they come from established farms.

[17] Continuing re. “the next generation of farmers” Dr. Secchi further argued that “The way to break this link is to think of a subsidy system that is decoupled from production,” such as “a fixed payment per farm.” I show how her solution would maintain the cheapest of cheap farm prices for junk food, export dumping and CAFOs, which is how we lost our young farmers in the first place, as farms lost the livestock systems that favor young farmers. 

I also explain the theory of decoupling, how it came from agribusiness, and how it’s been a disastrous policy. I give a numerical example from 1980-2005 to show how the “fixed payment per farm” idea is absurd and much more unjust, (being based on misunderstandings of statistics, [where tiny acreages would get the same as full-time family-sized farms,] misunderstandings of the farm economy and misunderstandings of farm programs. I show how it would therefore be a kind of political suicide for people with progressive values. 

[18] Dr. Secchi argued that “Decoupling supports…. helps more small farmers.” I show that it continues the strategy that corporate leaders have used to get rid of them. I also explain the theory of decoupling, how it came from agribusiness, that how continues the strategy that corporate leaders have used to get rid of small farmers. I show how it’s been a disastrous policy, in all it’s versions, (both practically and politically).

[19] Dr. Secchi’s view is that, “If you have a fixed amount of support that doesn’t go away, regardless of what prices are. If you want, you sell to the open market. You do it, without subsidies.” I describe how, in the real world, this is an irrational, very expensive, and politically disastrous approach.

[20] Dr. Secchi claims that decoupling is “a policy that works regardless of market circumstances.” I show how, in truth, it’s a policy that almost always fails in real world markets, like a clock that has stopped.

[21] Dr. Secchi called for policies to “Make grazing more attractive, reward farmers who do that.” I show how trying to do that without adequate price floor programs is an extremely contradictory policy that is both expensive and doomed to fail.

[22] Dr. Secchi’s solution against CAFOs and monoculture was: “Don’t give subsidized crop insurance to corn and beans, subsidized crop insurance only for extended rotation.” “If you want to buy crop insurance, you buy crop insurance without subsidies.” I rebut this in multiple ways through my paper, (as described above,) even as I show how, with parity programs, farmers buy crop insurance without subsidies.

[23] Dr. Secchi argued that parity was chosen only for the Great Depression, but then “prices went up” and so “parity became less relevant.” She called for “a robust policy that works when prices are high, and when prices are low.” I show how prices did NOT go up over the next 7 decades, except for help from parity programs, (with fairly small exceptions,) how the reasons why parity is needed, (lack of price responsiveness on both supply and demand sides,) have continued, and how de-coupled programs are the worst we’ve ever had with regard to the issues of “when prices are high” vs. when prices are low, while parity programs have been, by far, the most successful programs to address this.

[24] Dr. Secchi suggested that farmers support systems of overproduction and the illusion that they would then “get paid more for it,” with reference to a statement identified with Earl Butz, (Nixons Secretary of Agriculture, i.e. “fencerow to fencerow,”) thus suggesting that farmers believed and followed Butz. I argued that, first, productivity is valued by farmers whether prices are high or low, second, I showed that most farmers have repeatedly supported adequate supply management, based on their understanding that oversupply leads to getting paid less, and third, I showed how farmers have vigorously rejected the myths of Earl Butz, (myths quickly proven wrong after the 1970s 2-year price spike, as Butz failed to adequately manage supply). (Of course, while rejecting supply management for farmers, [so that giant corporations can buy cheap and sell more products to farmers,] Butz supported supply management at Ralston Purina where I worked both before and after his time as Secretary of Agriclture. This has long been the standard, self-centered and hypocritical position of agribusiness.)

[25] In all of this, (and very specifically, near the end,) Dr. Secchi argued that supply management and parity programs were minor and irrelevant in significance in general, a waste of time and a diversion away from important issues like anti-trust, racial justice, and the challenges for small and beginning farmers. I showed how these core farm programs were the biggest, most important issues by far, no less relevant in 2nd or 3rd decade of the 21st century, and also much more powerful solutions with regard to antitrust, the environment, racial justice and small/beginning farmers than what others have proposed.

[26] Dr. Secchi expressed perplexity that she was viewed as being supportive of a conservative/agribusiness position like Farm Bureau and the Heritage Foundation. I showed how her positions are essentially the same as theirs with regard to the core economic issues, (and based upon the same false interpretation of the history farm program impacts,) while at the same time, her position was the opposite of Farm Bureau and others with regard to environmental regulations.

[27] Dr. Secchi made a side comment about the parity price of corn “at $12, $14 per bushel,” apparently to support her argument that the programs don’t work. Parity prices are quite high relative to most prices of recent decades, and this is a common criticism of parity. I provided a number of considerations for addressing this charge. I showed how parity prices for crops have risen more slowly than inflation, (with exceptions for a couple of highly inflationary periods specific to agriculture). I raised the question of how much social good we want from farmers in relation to costs, such as with regard to environmental considerations, (and how much do we want CAFOs and junk food makers to pay for their feed and food ingredients). I pointed out how a number of proposals, which may initially be more politically winnable (for replacing subsidies with better prices,) use lower price floor levels, and how the 1987 Family Farm Act started with lower price floors, to then gradually raise up to a final standard.

[28] When asked about reading recommendations, Dr. Secchi offered no suggestions other than to her own writing, which was not yet online, and without reference to where it would be. During her talk she offered no references to others who support for her views. In answering this, I showed the key online sources from a variety of organizations and academics. I also provided about 100 additional reference citations to support the specific points I made in answering these, “more than two dozen,” falsehoods.

1980: Culver Warns of Farm Crisis, Calls for Raising Price Floors

CULVER URGES FARM, SMALL BUSINESS PRIORITY

Sunday March 23, 1980. Manson — U.S. Senator John C. Culver, (D-Iowa) Sunday said the Federal Reserve Board and the U.S. Department of Agriculture must act to assist farmers and small businesses in rural areas in light of the “devastating effects” high interest rates and low farm prices are having on them.

Speaking at a fundraising reception at the Dave and Norene Wollenzien residence, Culver said such steps as encouraging a greater flow of funds to rural banks and strengthening farm commodity programs could “help avert disaster” in these sections.

He said the Federal Reserve can help increase the flow of funds to rural banks through a greater emphasis on “productive rather than speculative credit needs.” He said he has personally urged Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volker to take this step. Noting that the Board has now indicated that it is moving in this direction, he said it is “important to keep the pressure on to see that they follow through.”

Culver stressed, however, that “credit is no substitute for fair prices,” and said the USDA should strengthen commodity programs by raising support prices and reversing its decision on a paid diversion program. “This is what our farmers really need, and the Administration owes it to them, after the embargo,” he said.

Culver said the scarcity and high cost of credit caused by the Federal Reserve’s tight money policies are having “a disproportionately heavy impact” on farmers and small business operators.

He said they are suffering more than others because farmers with high fixed costs cannot pass borrowing costs on to consumers, and small businesses do not have the alternative sources of credit which large corporations do.

“Actions must be taken,” he said, “to spread the burden of high interest rates more equitably through the economy. If we cannot do this, many small businesses and family farmers – who are the backbone of our economy and way of life in Iowa – may fold. The net result will be even greater inflationary pressures in the future because of the loss of competition and productivity which will result.”

Culver said the ultimate solution to interest rate problems is reducing the rate of inflation. He said he has “spent many long hours” this month in the meetings the Administration has had with congressional leaders to balance the budget, and believes that “a balanced budget is critical at this time to send a signal to the rest of the economy that the government is serious about putting its own house in order.”

This fiscal restraint will also help lessen the excessive reliance on high interest rates to fight inflation,” he said.

In his remarks, Culver also repeated his call for filling the current vacancy on the Federal Reserve Board with a person who understands farm and small business credit needs.

“The Board, and it’s policies, are currently controlled by large banking and corporate interests,” he said. “There is no strong voice on the board for the needs of the agricultural and small business sectors of our economy, and the current credit crisis graphically demonstrates why this must be corrected.”

Culver said his proposal has gained the support of the Northwest Iowa Farm-Business Coalition, various state and national associations and Senator William Proxmire (D-Wis.) who chairs the Senate Banking Committee. Proxmire’s Committee is the Senate panel which must approve nominations to the Federal Reserve Board.

CULVER SAYS LOAN RATE HIKE MOST EFFECTIVE STEP

Monday, April 7, 1980. Indianola – Increasing the corn loan rate is “the most effective single step that can be taken at this point to ease the crisis facing Iowa’s agricultural economy,” U.S. Senator John C. Culver (D-Iowa) said here Monday.

Speaking at a fundraising reception at the Simpson College Chapel Lounge, he said it is “really too late” to effectively implement a paid land diversion or set-aside program because the planting season is about to begin.

Culver criticized the administration for its unwillingness to adopt either program, saying the White House “has failed to keep its word that the farmers would not have to bear the brunt of the effects of the Soviet grain embargo.”

He said the grain purchase program has not been effective because the Administration “has been unwilling to buy grain at reasonable prices even though they were willing to pay major grain companies the full cost of contracts for Soviet-bound grain that was not shipped.” 

Culver said the Administration’s “unwillingness to do more to help farmers” stems from its “overly rigid reliance” on interest rates and fiscal restraint to combat inflation,

He said he has “repeatedly urged” the White House, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board to “take further steps to restore farm prices and market confidence.”

He said the steps he has been urging include implementation of a paid diversion program, a set-aside program, meaningful loan rate increases, a greater flow of Federal Reserve funds to rural banks, appointment of a farm and small business credit expert to the current vacancy on the Federal Reserve Board, opening the grain reserve to all farmers, requiring government grain purchases to be made at pre-embargo prices and jawboning national supermarket chains to offer consumer specials on beef and pork.

WHAT’S THE FARM BILL

How the Biggest Part of the FARM BILL has Become Hidden from View

The FARM BILL is often described as a huge omnibus thing that you’re never really going to understand. There’s truth in that. I’ve done some time on the “wonk” side of things, and I know. I wrote two training manuals on issues of the Commodity Title and the CONSERVATION Title, and used them in training of staff at Iowa CCI, and in meetings with FSA and farmers. I also know that there are “the wonk’s wonks,” and on up the chain of complexity. On the other hand, this view, this kind of definition mystifies and de-powers us.

Another common way of explaining the Farm Bill is in terms of a pie chart of Farm Bill spending. This is a dominant paradigm today. I call it the “Visible Farm Bill.” Really though, spending, the Visible Farm Bill, should be understood as only part of the Farm Bill, and in fact, it’s the smaller part.

These two categories can provide to the Sustainable Food Movement a simple way of understanding the Farm Bill. There are really two main parts to the “farmer” part of the farm bill: 1. market management, and 2. supplemental provisions. (I’ll discuss the NUTRITION Title farther below.)

Market management is the bigger part of the farmer side of the Farm Bill, historically, ideally, and as measured by it’s absence from what’s called the Farm Bill today. Market management refers to management of the supply and price of farm products. It’s been needed in the Farm Bill for at least 150 years because farm crops, especially grains and oilseeds, cotton and DAIRY, “lack price responsiveness” (http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/248.html) “on both the supply and the demand sides for aggregate agriculture.” (http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/325.html) That means that in unregulated (deregulated) ‘free’ markets, farm prices are usually very low, even below the cost of production. The Farm Bill has fixed this economic problem by helping farmers to cut back on production, as needed to balance supply and demand, and then to use Price Floors, to help farmers get fair prices. Price Floors are not subsidies, and are usually the opposite of subsidies in their impacts. They’re like minimum wage.

The farmer part of the Farm Bill, (when we have a real farm bill,) isn’t just for farmers. It’s for the good of everyone. For one thing market management also includes Price Ceilings to trigger the release onto the market of Reserve Supplies during rare times of excessively high prices. This protects consumers, LIVESTOCK interests, and other buyers of all kinds, all along the food chain.

Unfortunately, under corporate pressure, Congress reduced, (1953-1995) and eliminated (1995-2018) farm bill price and supply management. Farmers fought back against this “cheap food,” cheap corn, cheap cotton, cheap milk, etc. In response, Congress continued to reduce Price Floors, but added subsidies, to quiet down angry farmers. With subsidies, however, farmers have continued to get less than what they used to get (reduced prices + subsidies per unit = net reductions).

Cheap food and cheap farm products, (from reducing and eliminating market management,) have contributed to a large number of major problems. They’ve provided extremely cheap ingredients for junk food, and feeds for unsustainable CAFOs, as the United States, the dominate farm exporter, has lost money on exports, (export dumping,) that, at the same time, have run farmers out of business all across the world, causing rural poverty and hunger.

Many problems have been addressed with Farm Bill market management, and many more could be. That means that we can fix things without much spending money. (Early Farm Bills made money for the government, as farmers paid interest on Price Floor loans, for example.) Others cannot. That’s why there is Farm Bill spending to address a variety of needs. Unfortunately, as Farm Bill market management has been reduced and eliminated, many of these needs have been made worse, starting with the need for farmers to earn an income. Other problems include reductions in Resource Conserving Crop Rotations, (as CAFOs took over the livestock industry,) air and water pollution from those CAFOs. Rural poverty has also been fostered, both in the US and globally, creating a greater need for spending on Rural Development and Food Aid.

Food Subsidies, (originally Food Stamps,) and similar programs of the Nutrition Title are similar to farm subsidies. They’re in the farm bill, and there are contentious arguments about the money spent on them. There are also important market management components on this consumer side, but most of these are not in the Farm Bill, and not under the jurisdiction of the agricultural committees that make the Farm Bill. These include minimum wage standards, such as LIVING WAGE, labor laws, and full employment policies and programs. With a living wage, much less money is needed for food subsidies.

It’s crucial that the lexicon of the farm bill de-mystify it, bringing the Hidden Farm Bill, (market management,) back out into the open. The problems of the Farm Bill can’t be solved by considering only the Visible Farm Bill.

The FARM BILL has also had market management for vegetables and fruits. These are perishable farm products, like DAIRY, and market management has been handled differently for them than for storable crops, like grains. As in the case of dairy, this this has been handled through Market Order programs. According to Douglas Bowers et al, in “History of Agricultural Price-Support and Adjustment Programs, 1933-84,” (https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=41994) these kinds of “Marketing agreements raised producer prices by controlling the timing and the volume of the commodity marketed.” “Regulations for other commodities (primarily fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts) approached the problem of producers’ prices indirectly. Quantity, quality, and rate of shipment to market could be controlled, and prices received by producers were indirectly affected.” These programs also need to be fixed. This kind of supply management can provide vegetables and fruits to other USDA programs, such as those of the NUTRITION title.

Further Reading

See these articles from APAC.

“Clever money delivery systems,” December 29, 2006, #334, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/334.html.

“Johanns’ ‘facts’ divert attention from agriculture’s root policy problem?,” October 13, 2006, # 323, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/323.html.

“Johanns’ ’60 percent of farmers do not receive payments’—A case of correct answer to the wrong question?” October 20, 2006, #324, http://agpolicy.org/weekcol/324.html.

See data at slideshare.net:

Vimeo Video link: Defining the Farm Bill is a Political Act