In a letter sent earlier this week, NFU joined a coalition of 210 farm, rural, worker, and consumer advocacy groups to urge Congress to address the lack of competition the food chain.
Farmers and ranchers have been dealing with rapid consolidation in the industries that both supply and buy from their operations over the past several decades. It is hard to think of a sector in which this isn’t true – fertilizer, seeds, agrichemicals, biotechnology, farm machinery, slaughter houses, meatpacking, cane sugar processing, food distribution, processed food, and supermarkets are all heavily consolidated, with only a handful of companies controlling the majority of the market.
This level of consolidation has serious consequences. As the letter notes, “the consolidated economic power in the hands of few agribusiness and food companies captures most of the economic value in the food system, leaving little for farmers, workers and consumers throughout the food chain. These trends play a significant role in the ill health of our rural economy.”
This manifests itself in several ways. For one, input producers are able to increase prices for farmers, while supermarkets lower prices for farmers and ranchers, cutting the already slim profit margins for food producers. At the same time, consumer prices continue to rise. This can wreak havoc on rural communities, as small and mid-size farms are priced out of the market, removing a core piece of local economies with potentially devastating ripple effects, including rural depopulation. Additionally, monopolies and oligopolies have little motivation to compete or innovate, leaving farmers and consumers with fewer and worse choices.
The groups urged Congress to include commonsense protections to level the playing field for farmers, workers, and consumers by prioritizing antitrust enforcement, anticompetitive behavior and market transparency. Read the full letter here, and learn more in the NFU release.
Farmer Fair Practices Rule Due to be Finalized
The Farmer Fair Practices Rules’ (FFPR) “competitive injury” provision is due to go into effect in less than three weeks. The rule will eliminate the unreasonable burden that for livestock producers to be able to sue for abusive practices, they must prove that harm was done to the entire industry rather than just to themselves.
The FFPR, once known as the the Grain Inspectors, Packers, and Stockyards Act (GIPSA) rules, are intended to protect farmers from fraudulent and anti-competitive practices that are all too common in the highly concentrated livestock and poultry sectors. However, for almost a decade, Congress has prevented the rules from being fully implemented through the appropriations process.
This particular rule, which is a clarification that is required for family farmers to remain protected under the Packers and Stockyards Act, has been debated thoroughly for the past seven years – the U.S. Department of Agriculture has solicited comments and rewritten it several times, only to have industry groups funded by the meatpacking conglomerates stall their progress through backchannel legislative and regulatory means. This has occurred at the expense of family farmers and ranchers, who have long been waiting for the basic protections the rule will offer.
NFU and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association released a joint statement earlier this week, emphasizing the importance of FFPR and urging U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to allow the rule to be finalized on schedule.
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a Notice of Data Availability(NODA) proposing a reduced renewable fuel volume obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This week, in response to the announcement, NFU and 10 prominent biofuel organizations sent a letter to President Donald Trump, calling on the administration to honor its commitment to RFS, the biofuels industry, and rural America.
The RFS, which sets a minimum volume of renewable fuel to be blended into the U.S. transportation fuel supply, is the nation’s preeminent policy for encouraging the production and development of American grown and produced transportation fuels. However, the required volume has waned in recent years, and the latest proposal would decrease it further, from 19.24 billion gallons to 18.77 billion gallons.
In the letter, the coalition requests that the administration “prevent actions that will freeze innovation, hurt numerous rural manufacturing sectors, and slow economic growth in America’s heartland.” In particular, the group asks that the 2018 RFS require 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuels, grow biomass-based diesel and cellulosic biofuel standards, maintain current treatment of imports and exports of biofuels, and ease commercialization of cellulosic fuels.
Read the full letter here, and learn more in the NFU release.
Farmers for America Film Trailer Released
Narrated by Mike Rowe, Farmers For America traces the extraordinary changes coming to America’s food system. With the average age of today’s farmer at 60, and rural America losing population as the cost of land and equipment soars, this film reveals the people waiting to take their place, the practices they’re championing and the obstacles they must overcome.
At the center of the film are the farmers, young and old, who provide the spirit and energy to bring urban and rural America together over what both share in common: our food. These farmers reflect nothing less than the face of America.
Watch the trailer here, and find out how you can host an upcoming screening at Farmers for America website.
Share Your Input on Food and Ag Priorities
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is accepting input on research, extension, and education priorities in food and agriculture.
If you would like to share your thoughts, you can share them online here or email them to [email protected]by December 1. NIFA will also be holding in-person listening sessions in Kansas City, Missouri, Atlanta, Georgia, Sacramento, California, and Hyattsville, Maryland. At those sessions, individuals will be able to make five minute oral presentations. If you are interested in doing so, submit an input form by October 12.
Register Today for Our Growing for the Future Online Conference
Growing for the Future is a unique online, interactive virtual conference focused on beginning farmer and rancher issues, including mentorship, business planning, USDA programs, women and veterans in farming, conservation, and much more! Speakers from Farmer Veteran Coalition, National Young Farmers Coalition, USDA Farm Service Agency, and Female Farmer Project will headline the event.
This year’s conference, which will be held from December 4-7, includes farmer-to-farmer webinars, live Q&A sessions, a discussion board, a resource center, and giveaways and prizes!
Learn more about Growing for the Future here, and register for free here.
New on the NFU Blog
New on the Climate Column: EQIP
Conservation practices help farmers mitigate climate change while also cutting input costs and improving their operation’s resilience to extreme weather.
However, many food producers who want to implement on-farm conservation practices may lack the knowledge or capital to do so. In those instances, NRCS‘s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) can help those producers get the technical and financial assistance they need to accomplish conservation goals on their operations.
New on the Beginning Farmer Forum: Farm Ownership Loans
Land access is one of the biggest obstacles beginning farmers encounter. A big contributor to the problem is cost – the price of farmland has nearly doubled in the past decade, and beginning farmers generally don’t have the resources to make a downpayment or the credit history to access private loans.
Farm Service Agency‘s farm ownership loans help beginning farmers overcome these obstacles to become farm owner/operators. The loans are available to those with brief or tarnished credit histories who may not be able to access capital elsewhere. Additionally, FSA requires less extensive farming experience than a private lender generally would.
Nasco has over 21 different catalogs offering over 96,000 unique items to meet the needs of teachers in 14 different educational subject areas, farmers and ranchers, and industry.
In addition to serving customers in all 50 states, Nasco’s unique blend of products for education, healthcare, agriculture, and industry appeals to customers in over 180 countries. Nasco provides customers with high quality, affordably priced products. Nasco’s mail-order catalogs offer a convenient, inexpensive way for individuals in education, healthcare, agriculture, and industry to shop for the items they need. NFU members receive 10% off and free shipping.
Visit nfu.org/join to become a member and start saving today.
Watch this short video to learn more about Teladoc.
National Farmers Union and Sprint have teamed up to bring you discounted cell service!
The best value in wireless just got even better. As an NFU member you are now eligible for savings up to 15% off of your monthly bill and up to 20% off select Sprint products
when purchased through a Sprint retailer. Both new and current Sprint users can take advantage of these terrific savings.
Visit Sprint and use the “upload” option to upload your membership card and start saving!
Farmers Union Insurance
Farmers Union Insurance has always been a community-based insurance provider. Founded by Farmers Union leaders in 1945, the company offers personalized, relationship-based service to farmers and rural residents across the Rocky Mountain and upper Midwest states. Last year alone Farmers Union Insurance provided more than 90,000 policies.
Looking to get the most out of your insurance policy or know a farmer who is? Remember that by choosing a Farmers Union Insurance product you are supporting your state Farmers Union as well as National Farmers Union’s 114 year old effort to advocate on behalf of the American family farm.
Hastings Mutual provides members top farm insurance products as well as other great coverages including home, auto and commercial insurance. The company operates in six Midwestern states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Last year alone, the partnership garnered over 500 new memberships in those states.
Know a farmer in one of these six states? Tell them to contact their state farmers union or a Hastings insurance agent in their area to receive discounts on their farm owners policy premium.
Watch the Hastings Mutual/NFU partnership video here.
Visit our website to learn more about your state farmers union. Call Hastings Mutual at 1-800-442-8277 to find an agent near you.