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Grassroots-driven policies could help U.S. small farmers 

click to enlarge SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

By far the most abundant commodity produced under the 50-year-long corporate-centric agriculture policy is not corn, cotton or cattle, but stupidity. Washington’s overall policy approach has consistently exploited farmers, our land and water, agricultural workers, livestock, taxpayers, food quality and rural communities — all to further enrich the handful of monopolistic profiteers controlling both policy and policymakers. And we’re presently in Year Six of the worst farm crisis since the disastrous 1980s.

But hark! What light glows on yon horizon? Why, it’s some smart, new policy ideas — emanating not down from corporate front groups, Congress or other bastions of the status quo, but up from the grassroots. 

Family farmers have coalesced with other political outsiders and victims of Big Ag to propose a complete overhaul of industrial agribiz policies, supplanting them with sensible, democratic approaches to serve the common good. The most cohesive and comprehensive plan, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s “A New Farm Economy,” tackles the big structural changes necessary to, “break the stranglehold that giant agribusinesses have over our farm economy.” Her proposals percolated up from the grassroots, for her ag brain trust consists primarily of dirt farmers and rural advocates. In dozens of small gatherings, these ground-level, hands-on experts have hammered out pragmatic ideas that really would produce democratic, sustainable farm prosperity. 

Building on the New Deal’s successful “supply management” approach, Warren’s proposal:

• Stops constant overproduction of commodities that keeps busting farm prices and drastically strains our environment; 

• Cuts billions from taxpayer subsidies that go mainly to wealthy agribusiness operations; 

• Provides effective incentives for farmers to convert land from intensive production to conservation practices that mitigate climate change; 

• Strengthens and enforces anti-trust laws to break up and prevent ag monopolies that are bilking farmers; 

• Provides hands-on assistance to help farmers, workers and rural communities build local and regional systems to free them from dependence on multinational food giants; and

• Purposefully expands opportunities for beginning, female and racially diverse farmers.

How to replace a corporate-rigged food economy with one that serves the common good? There’s a plan for that:


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