This project on updating parity emerged from nearly a decade of collaborative agricultural policy analysis, building out from a 2012 Symposium on the Farm Bill at American University School of International Service. Research partnerships ensued to untangle the deleterious impacts of US farm policies. In both domestic and international realms, the specter of subsidized exports, of dumping, of collapsed prices, has long haunted farmers and those who know their struggle. And yet, in the Washington Beltway, discourses of scarcity reigned; and in the burgeoning food movements, myths that subsidies are the root cause of an irrational food system further obscured the picture. Only a few of us could talk openly about the longstanding, global problems of surplus. Farm justice elders, George Naylor, Brad Wilson, Ben Burkett, the late Kathy Ozer, and Ralph Paige worked to convey the complicated truth of who wins (factory farms, grain dealers) and who loses (everyone who farms and eats, the climate, and our environment) with commodity crop glut. The 2018-2019 trade tantrum with China stopped the export ‘fix’ of surplus disposal; mountains of unused soybeans weighed heavily, as big checks from USDA hushed frustrations.
In the summer of 2019, the taboo on talking about parity began to lift. As usual, with its literal dumping of fresh milk, dairy served as the doorway to discussions of supply management. Garrett Graddy-Lovelace, Niaz Dorry, Jordan Treakle, Cornelius Blanding, Ben Burkett, Ben Lilliston, Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Adam Diamond, Jim Goodman, Brad Wilson, and others began to meet to put together a workshop on Updating Supply Management & Parity for Racial Justice & Climate-Resilience. Through the Agroecology Research-Action Collective, Kathryn Anderson, Michele Miller, and Sarah Lloyd joined the project. The Naylors, who have long been building the case for parity, joined the conversation, as did Farm Aid and Campaign for Family Farm and the Environment. Around the same time, a parallel effort to bring parity and supply management to public attention was initiated by Food First. This project represents a melding of these two efforts, which added the thinking and work of organic farmer-writer Elizabeth Henderson and Savi Horne from the Land Loss Prevention Project to this project.
By 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter uprisings sharpened the urgency of the endeavor - even as we all moved to virtual workshopping. Johns Hopkins University Center for Livable Future, and others, joined. Important movement leaders in Black agriculture cooperatives (Marcus Bernard), food system labor organizers (Jose Oliva), Black farming (Jovan Sage), organic farming (Klaas Maarten), agricultural political economy (Mary Hendrickson), young farmers (Bari Zeiger), and others contributed pieces. For a full list of authors and their bios please visit the Who We Are page.
In November 2020, we launched the site with an initial batch of essays on the why and what of ‘parity.’ In early 2021, we hope to have the second, larger batch featuring parity’s history and economic analysis online, ready to engage a whole new audience of readers, farmers, activists, food providers, land stewards, organizers, scholars, students, movements, and policy-makers in how to forge wise and fair agricultural governance that works for all us.
The journey continues. Join us!