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Not only do they misrepresent most family farmers,
they also promote an agenda that supports
industrialized agriculture and corporate agribusiness

Calling for Farm Bureau investigation

U.S. National Family Farm Coalition calls for a Congressional investigation
into the American Farm Bureau Federation

Bill Christison
Washington, D.C.

Bill Christison.
Bill Christison on his farm in Chillicothe, Missouri. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.
Bill Christison is president of both the U.S. National Family Farm Coalition.the Missouri Rural Crisis Center .This statement was issued April 10, 2000

I am pleased to be here today representing the National Family Farm Coalition. We join with over 180 organizations calling for a congressional investigation into the American Farm Bureau Federation. I am a family farmer and a former Farm Bureau member. I have long known that the Farm Bureau doesn't represent my interests or the interests of my fellow farmers.

I am hopeful that the 60 Minutes story and the Defenders of Wildlife expose, the Amber Waves of Gain, will inform the general public about Farm Bureau's misrepresentation of "farmer" interests. Not only do they misrepresent most family farmers, they also promote an agenda that supports industrialized agriculture and corporate agribusiness. In addition, they misrepresent many of their non-farmer members by the positions they take. Their continued support for the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act and unfair trade policy shows that they support increasing profits for corporate agribusiness and not the family farmer. They have been pushing for granting most favored nation status to China (now known as PNTR), which is a decision that will hurt and not help family farmers. Other American Farm Bureau policies thwart social and economic justice in this country. They have opposed the funding of legal services for farmers and actively supported fast-track authority for international trade agreements.

Last month, I was in D.C. for the Rally for Rural America on National Agriculture Day which brought together farmers, religious, labor, environmental, and consumer organizations calling for a change in our current farm policy. I want to emphasize that family farmers do not have much to celebrate this year. The celebrations will be in the board rooms of multinational corporations, vertical integrators, food processors and their farm organizations which include most commodity groups and the American Farm Bureau. Never have their profits been higher and never have they enjoyed such unrestricted access to exploit family farmers in the U.S. and around the world.

In the U.S., thousands of farmers will begin to plant their fields with the knowledge that there is little chance they will be able to survive economically. Record low commodity prices have devastated our farm and rural economy, and will not get any higher if we do not change farm policy. Hog farmers are still reeling from low prices fueled by the overproduction from factory farms like Premium Standard Farms (PSF) of which American Farm Bureau owns an interest.

Farm Bureau continues to support the current farm bill. They need to take responsibility for promoting a failed policy, and stop blaming its failure on loss of exports to Asia. Their advocacy of counter-cyclical payments to farmers does nothing to address Freedom to Farm's flawed agricultural policy which ensures low prices since there are no mechanisms to control production or supply. True representation of the interests of their family farmer members means supporting a new farm policy. Everyone needs to understand that their support of the Freedom to Farm Act represents Farm Bureau's corporate interests and not the interests of their farmer members. Legislators and the public need to be aware of this fact, and therefore the need for this investigation has never been greater.

Freedom to Farm has failed. It has failed farmers, consumers, taxpayers, and the environment. The $23 billion in government payments this past year alone, through AMTA and emergency disaster payments, is the best example of that failure. The current crop insurance program doesn't work for either the farmer or the taxpayer. One of the largest beneficiaries of the taxpayer financed subsidy for crop insurance is to the American Farm Bureau. It is time to change our flawed policy so that a fair price is paid for all commodities. Without this, there will be even further consolidation and corporate concentration in the food industry. We are rapidly seeing the increasing consolidation of our food supply from the seed through genetic engineering to the food table by corporate agribusiness fueled by the investments of organizations such as the American Farm Bureau.

Today, the Farm Bureau is a legislative force blocking the adoption of policies that would help restore competition in the marketplace, such as the enactment of legislation to impose a moratorium on further consolidations and mergers. They support international trade agreements that limit our domestic farm policy and threaten the food security of farmers and consumers around the world. Their corporate interest far exceeds any interest they might have in representing their family farmer members. We call on Congress to initiate an investigation into the operations of the American Farm Bureau Federation. It is urgent. Without immediate action, the economic devastation in our rural communities will continue to escalate.

Published in In Motion Magazine - April 22, 2000