Farm Aid founders Willie Nelson and Neil Young listened solemnly as one farmer after another detailed how the Freedom to Farm Act, passed by Congress and signed by the Clinton administration in 1996, has decimated their livelihoods.
By promoting the drastic overproduction of grain, livestock and dairy products and restricting the government's ability to raise commodity prices, they said, the act has forced family farmers to sell their products at far below production costs.
"Both political parties are bought and paid for at the business roundtable and that's why you get policies like this," said Reform Party candidate Buchanan, pinpointing global free trade as the root of the problem.
He proposed using the same antitrust laws which have broken up Microsoft to break up the agribusiness cartels, and also endorsed banning the import of commodities that are produced in the United States, pointing to the contentious China trade bill as a serious threat to family farmers.
Green Party candidate Nader drew the morning's rowdiest applause when he opened by saying, "I don't hear anybody naming names -- now let's really talk about the companies who own our government," and prattled off ConAgra, Archer Daniels-Midland, Monsanto, Phillip Morris, Purdue and Tyson among others.
Nader went on to discuss his own solution to the family farming crisis, the result of a ten-year study called "Towards a Better Farm and Food Policy."
The report calls for the enforcement of antitrust laws against the giant agribusiness conglomerates, a prohibition of packing company ownership of livestock and grain production, and a redirection of federal research funds toward ecologically sensible production methods.