Iowa dairy farmer Dan Beard. Photo courtesy of Practical Farmers of Iowa
The end of parity pricing and supply management farm programs was a huge boon for agribusiness, particularly the meat industry. As the farm programs were dismantled, farmer grain prices fell to well under the cost of production, giving the meatpacking industry access to below-cost feed grain. Cheap feed was – and still is – a critical component of industrial confinement-based meat production.
When applying economic theory that values preservation of our natural resources, health of small farm communities, and the cooperative culture of family farms, it becomes clear that the current agricultural system not only does not work for farmers or consumers, but inevitably creates externalities and, in fact, is a market failure.
The Black farming community has experienced so much pain. We have to begin by returning and maintaining land to Black farmers, and then addressing credit and debt. Until then, talking about fair prices is a luxury
In a farmer-controlled food system, we can reclaim our food system from the speculators, the corporations, and the international financial institutions that pressure farmers to grow commodities instead of food. Food can again be produced and purchased locally, giving power to farmers and consumers alike.
A hallmark of New Deal era agricultural programs, price floors were eliminated along with other supply management tools over the second half of the 20th century. Absence of price floors drives down farm income and encourages overproduction – a vicious cycle with numerous externalities, from environmental degradation and agricultural intensification to supplying factory farms with cheap feed. Reinstating price floors is an essential step in restoring farm income and addressing these externalities.