The impacts of the New Deal parity system on the most vulnerable of southern farmers – sharecroppers and tenant farmers, many of whom were and are farmers of color – cannot be overstated.
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.