agricultural policy | Food & Water Watch - Part 2
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I long ago stopped believing that most corporations and politicians had the good of the public in mind. We need independent groups like Food & Water Watch to raise awareness and advocate for ethical, environmentally positive laws.
Elise Zuidema

Fact Sheets: Agricultural Policy

Fact Sheets Count: 23
February 24, 2011

A Farm Bill for Consumers

Our food system is broken, and it didn’t happen by accident. Rampant consolidation in the food industry has left control of much of our food in the hands of a few large firms which serve as a bottleneck between 2 million farmers and more than 300 million consumers. Farmers receive lower prices for their products while consumers face higher prices at the grocery store. As more farms bow to the economic pressure to “get big or get out,” intensive production practices, like raising livestock on factory farms, put public health and the environment at risk.

February 22, 2011

A Farm Bill for Rural America

Our food system is broken, and it didn’t happen by accident. Rampant consolidation in the food industry has left control of much of our food in the hands of a few large firms which serve as a bottleneck between 2 million farmers and more than 300 million consumers. Farmers receive lower prices for their products while consumers face higher prices at the grocery store. As more farms bow to the economic pressure to “get big or get out,” rural communities have suffered.

February 21, 2011

Farm Subsidies 101

Whether the topic is obesity, climate change or even the budget deficit, there are few debates these days when U.S. farm policy doesn’t get mentioned. One popular recommendation to fix our farm policy is slashing payments to farmers entirely, or redirecting that money into other programs. Proponents of this approach claim it would encourage farmers to shift to crops other than corn or soybeans and would protect the environment. It’s an appealing concept — save money and stop promoting industrial agriculture at the same time. The problem is, when it comes to the food system, it’s never quite that simple.

January 21, 2011

Factory Farms in Wisconsin

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture, Wisconsin ranks fifth in the nation in factory-farmed dairy cows.

December 8, 2010

Consolidation and Buyer Power in the Grocery Industry

Food companies throughout the entire food chain are rapidly consolidating, leaving just a handful of powerful middlemen between 2 million American farmers and more than 300 million consumers. One of the most critical links in the food chain that has suffered the effects of this consolidation is the retail sector. A smaller number of grocery stores and supermarkets are exerting more and more control over which foods reach the mass market and the prices families pay at the checkout case. As food retail companies grow larger, so too does their influence on food processors and manufacturers, encouraging consolidation up the food chain, all the way to farmers growing crops and raising livestock.

August 3, 2010

Horizontal Consolidation and Buyer Power in the Beef Industry

The beef-packing industry is more powerful and consolidated now than it was a century ago when Congress enacted the Packers & Stockyards Act to break up the beef monopolies. Beef packing is the most concentrated industry in the meat and poultry sector. Meatpackers have merged into a few dominant players that slaughter and market almost all of the beef products in the United States. Today, just four firms slaughter more than four out of five beef cattle. This concentration gives large packers tremendous leverage over independent cattle producers. The beef-packing industry has also expanded beyond slaughter and processing and now large packers own their own cattle and operate feedlots, thus controlling supply through all stages of production. These practices enable the meatpackers to drive down cattle prices while keeping consumer beef prices high.

July 30, 2010

The Farm Bureau’s Billions: The Voice of Farmers or Agribusiness?

Calling itself the “voice of agriculture” and promoting itself as a tireless defender of farmers, the American Farm Bureau Federation has successfully positioned itself as one of the most powerful interest groups in the United States. A cursory look beyond its pro-farmer public relations campaign, however, reveals billions of dollars in assets, close alliances with the insurance industry, and legions of lobbyists — making it difficult to view the Farm Bureau in a different light from the powerful agribusiness corporations with which it regularly partners.

June 22, 2010

Consolidation and Price Manipulation in the Dairy Industry

Despite what the picture on the package suggests, the dairy products you buy probably don’t come from a local dairy farm that supplies a local processing plant. Over the last 20 years, the dairy industry has transformed from a local network of farms and processors to mega-dairies that sell their milk to a tiny number of corporate-style milk cooperatives and processing companies. Consolidation in the dairy industry has increased the size and power that large dairy cooperatives, fluid milk processors and dairy product manufacturers exert over dairy farms. There are now fewer companies at each step of the dairy supply chain and they are coordinated into powerful corporate alliances. These larger market players increasingly source their milk from industrial mega-dairies. But this increased scale and intensified production by farms, processors and manufacturers has not benefited farmers or consumers — farmers receive lower prices for their milk and consumers pay more at the grocery store.

Abusive Poultry Contracts Require Government Action

The poultry sector is completely dominated by a few large poultry processing companies, known as integrators, that control every step of chicken production — from chicks to cutlets. Farmers that raise chickens are known as growers; these growers do not even own the birds that they raise and fatten for the processors, often under abusive contracts. Integrators deliver chicks to the growers, micromanage how the birds are raised, and frequently require the growers to build and upgrade expensive henhouses in order to keep getting contracts. Chickens reach slaughter and processing weight in about six or seven weeks, but loans taken out to build henhouses can last for more than a decade, making many chicken growers entirely dependent on a series of flock-to-flock contracts to repay their debts. The poultry sector is less like a free market than abject serfdom. Growers are reluctant to defend themselves from abusive practices because integrators can retaliate by cutting off their contracts. Often there is only one processor operating in any one area, which leaves growers with no other options to sell poultry.

June 11, 2010

Better Food Starts with the Farm Bill

Our current food system is broken, and it didn’t happen by accident. Many people don’t have access to safe, nutritious, affordable food; farmers can’t make a living; many regions of the country can no longer produce the food they consume; and large-scale industrial agriculture pollutes our soil and water. Decades of bad food policy designed for agribusiness and mega-farms, combined with unchecked corporate mergers, have wreaked havoc on family farmers, public health and rural communities.

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