We are in a farm crisis
Thank you all for being here — it is important to hear from farmers, no matter the number of acres we farm. The more farmers can speak in a unified voice, the more we can accomplish. Agriculture is, of course, vital to every citizen of this world, as the production of food must protect our natural resources for future generations.
We need to face some hard truths:
The Farm Bill negotiations, the immediate concern about Trump’s trade disputes and Iowa’s emphasis on improving water quality and soil health — while all important topics — do not address the serious predicament faced by farmers here in Greene County, across the U.S. and around the globe.
We are in a farm crisis that needs both social recognition and political change to truly be addressed.
The root of this crisis is the price the farmer is paid for his or her product.
Who can deny that the farmer who produces our food deserves a fair price?
The free-market economic ideology under which we now operate was not designed to ensure the farmer a fair price. Instead, it creates boom-or-bust cycles, neither of which is beneficial for the family farmer nor the consumer.
The global production of corn and soybeans with increasing yields creates an oversupply and keeps prices low. The promise of finding new markets and new uses for this abundance of corn and soybeans will not guarantee higher prices at the farmgate, but will line the pockets of agribusinesses and destabilize farmers in other countries.
Long periods of low prices have resulted in numerous negative consequences:
• Farmers increase production of corn and soybeans, continuing the problems of soil erosion and water quality.
• Livestock in confinements and feedlots have flourished, taking livestock production and diverse rotations away from family farms.
• Extreme stress on farmers also affects their families and their communities.
• Low incomes leave farmers and communities vulnerable to exploitation as seen with the livestock industry, and more recently with the wind energy industry, which entices landowners to sign contracts before neighbors know what is happening.
• Young men and women have few opportunities to become farmers.
The future may be one of no farmers, but managers and employees relying on data-collecting technology for the benefit of absentee and investor landowners only interested in generating income.
• And finally, fewer families are living in rural areas creating a societal disconnection to farming, to farm animals, to the land, to nature and to our food.
This is an agrarian crisis, an environmental crisis and is a crisis of the human spirit.
The solution, I believe, is a parity system of price floors, grain reserves and supply management. We must also include assistance to farmers in transitioning livestock back onto farms.
The positive results will be numerous, including:
• More crop rotations and perennial pasture
• More biological diversity on the landscape
• Climate change mitigation and resilience
• Increased economic vitality in our communities
• More stability of food prices and supply, farm income and rural population
• And more.
So I ask: Are we going to join together to build grassroots and political power that ends the current domination of our food system by multinational corporations?
Are we going to create an equitable food and farming system for family farmers and for all of our citizens for generations to come?
Churdan farmer Patti Naylor delivered these remarks Aug. 9 in Jefferson during a Democratic candidate roundtable on agriculture.
She is a candidate for Greene County supervisor.