Bernie Sanders Has A Farm Policy, E-I-E-I-O
Bernie Sanders was campaigning in Osage, Iowa, Sunday when an animal rights protester tried to interrupt his rally, accusing him of kowtowing to Big Dairy because he was appearing with Vermont ice cream moguls Ben and Jerry. As an Old Fart, Yr Wonkette thoroughly agrees with his response: He yelled, "I've got the mic and I'm louder than you." (The same group had sent a representative to shout at Elizabeth Warren on Saturday, accusing her of being in the thrall of Big Milk; we imagine she responded by burying them in policy papers.) After that was out of the way, Sanders moved on to unveiling his great big agriculture policy, which isn't only about farming but also about revitalizing rural America. While Yr Dok Zoom lives in the bustling metropolis of Boise, Idaho, we think there's some pretty good stuff here!
In the speech, and in the policy paper the campaign posted at the same time, Sanders called for an end to the domination of agriculture by huge conglomerates, which have wrecked small rural towns just as thoroughly as megacorporations have wrecked America's industrial base. He invoked the trust-busting spirit of Teddy Roosevelt, the last progressive Republican president, saying it's time to end the "growing monopolization of agriculture."
"If he were alive today, I think I know what he would be saying to these huge agribusiness corporations," Sanders said. "He would say we are going to break them up. And working together, that is exactly what we are going to do."
The policy paper gets its own historical reference in, too, quoting the central axiom of Nixon's notoriously corporate-friendly Ag secretary Earl Butz (without naming him, because that's left to nerds like us).
For far too long, government farm policies have incentivized a "get big or get out" approach to agriculture. This approach has consolidated the entire food system, reducing farm net income, and driving farmers off the land in droves. As farms disappear, so do the businesses, jobs, and communities they support.
Moreover, one in six American children still live in food-insecure homes, industrial agriculture has taken a toll on the environment, and our rural communities have been left in a chronic state of economic decline and decay.
So, what to do about it? Here's a radical proposition: How about we get rid of the rules that have rigged the system in favor of huge corporations -- which have, since Butz, tilted the playing field in Big Ag's favor?
Sanders proposes several ways of using existing (but unenforced) antitrust laws to not merely limit the power of giant agribusinesses that dominate the market, but to actually break them up. Oh, yes, there are some awful stats behind that, too:
According to Food & Water Watch, "consolidation in the pork packing industry has contributed to the 82% decline in the number of hog farms in Iowa between 1982 and 2007." In our country, just four companies slaughter 85% of beef cattle. USDA reports that between 2000 and 2015 "soybean sales from the largest four sellers rose from 51 to 76%." Additionally, after the Bayer-Monsanto merger, the two largest conglomerates now control 78% of the corn seed market.
Sanders would also move to prevent increasing "vertical integration" of the agriculture market, in which a handful of companies take over more and more parts of the food chain, and to beef up (ahem) the regulatory agency that prevents monopolistic practices in agriculture, which of course Donald Trump gutted in the name of getting rid of "burdensome" regulation. Hell, Sanders even wants to guarantee that farmers can fix their own tractors and combines, which like all vehicles have increasingly become software packages with wheels that only the manufacturers are allowed to repair, thanks to freaking IP law. Hail the revolution!
We think some of those babbies are not to scale
Sanders also wants to reshape how federal commodity subsidies work, ensuring that the bulk of them go to small- and medium-sized farming and livestock operations, not to corporate giants, and to bring back a New Deal style "parity system" to ensure a living wage for small farmers:
That means setting price floors and matching supply with demand so farmers are guaranteed the cost of production and family living expenses.
And because agriculture policy is also environmental policy AND racial justice policy, the plan also includes incentives to move to sustainable land use and farming practices, and to bring more diversity to the industry through helping "beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers [to] get fair access to land and resources":
When the average age of farmers is 58 and 95% of farmers are white, we need to help new farmers transition on to the land and ensure farming is a viable profession to support their families.
Seriously, we haven't seen this much discussion of the nexus between ag policy and discrimination since Breitbart had a hissy fit about the Obama administration's "Pigford settlement" of longstanding discrimination claims by black farmers. While we're at it, regardless of who gets the nomination, is Shirley Sherrod available to be appointed as Agriculture Secretary?
Ever the socialist, Sanders even includes calls to "Incentivize community ownership of farmland to allow more people to work the land and produce food for local consumers" and to "Make government owned farmland available as incubator farms for beginning farmers."
Go take a look! We love a good policy proposal, Crom help us, especially when it reminds us that the food we eat didn't just come from the market; it's the result of great big corporate powers that have been mostly bad for people and the environment but awfully nice for the rich. Fuck that.
Also too, a little thing we noticed: Lookit the icon the Bernie website puts on your browser tab.
OK, that's cute. Remember when that little birb perched on Bernie's lectern, then the campaign released this sticker?
Let none say Bernie doesn't support recycling. As does Yr Wonkette!
What, no t-shirts or mugs? Well, we have plenty of others!
We sure hope all the great ideas coming from Democratic primary candidates see some similar sharing next year. We want virtually all of 'em!
Yr Wonkette is supported by reader donations! Please send us money so we can help spread agrarian socialism, comrade!
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.