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. 

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.