Taking On Big Ag
Fighting for farmers shouldn’t just be a line in a speech or an empty promise. It’s something that we need to be doing every day, and that starts with taking on Big Agriculture.
Over the past decades, giant corporations have consolidated control of the world’s agriculture market, slowly gobbling up the resources and means of production, putting them under their control. These corporations, collectively known as “Big Ag,” are effectively shutting small, independent farmers out of the market.
Today, just a handful of agricultural companies have taken control of the agriculture market. These corporations, including Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, and BASF, have control over 75 percent of the world’s pesticides market and have dominated the seed treatment, seed trait and development, and seed sales markets. This means that most farmers have no choice but to purchase from one of these companies, giving just a few corporations the sole opportunity to set their own prices and raise them to any point they see fit just to make the largest profit possible.
In an effort to further consolidate control, in the past few years these companies have undergone grand scale mergers; for example, Monsanto, one of the largest, most influential companies in the market, was acquired by Bayer and dissolved. The growth of these already-large corporations, and their domination of the markets, eviscerates market competition, leaving farmers with little choice but to comply with Big Ag and high production costs.
This cost barrier can cripple a farmer’s operation, even before they can get their foot in the door or a seed in the ground. A study showed that it would cost the average newcomer around $5 million just to get started in the business, simply due to the financial investment it takes. Because of this, the number of corporate-owned farms likely increases, as they are often the only likely provider of the needed investment. This, paired with the already bare-minimum profit margins of our nation’s farmers, stifles competition and even-further consolidates power in the hands of Big Ag.
Beyond farm ownership, Big Ag controls the agricultural supply market, essentially forcing farmers to purchase their seeds and materials. Without competition, Big Ag is able to inflate the prices of its goods, knowing that their customers have no choice but to rely on them to remain in business. The small farmer continues to be squeezed by corporations when it comes to selling, as well—corporate farms can drop their prices to be so cheap that they force independent farmers to cut their profit margins just to get by another day.
While farmers are exploited to spend every dollar possible, our leaders stand idly by, letting these issues sweep under the rug. When the United States’ Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, was questioned on how small dairy farmers in Wisconsin were expected to survive in these conditions, he told farmers that, “in America, the big get bigger, and the small go out.” Perdue proved to these dairy farmers, and all farmers in this nation, that their leaders were going to stand by as they suffered, and that they would even encourage these farmers to become a part of the beast that is Big Ag, instead of taking it on.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends that, if we expect to slow down climate change while still feeding the world, we must make real changes in all aspects of our life; this statement included recommendations to farmers, like reducing excessive fertilizer use, improving cropping systems and reducing harm on natural environments. These ideas seem clear and straightforward to do, but it threatened corporate interests. So, in turn, they exploited their excessive influence to prevent any progress, even if individual farmers or legislators wanted to do something about it.
Every person in this country relies on the work of American farmers—every item on the grocery store shelf, and every meal on the table has to come from somewhere and be made by someone. That’s why we have to put power back in their hands, allowing Americans to take back control over their businesses more easily. We need our leaders to take on Big Ag, prevent further consolidation of the industry and reverse the damage that has been done. We must rebuild our infrastructure so that individual farmers can actually succeed on their own. We must restore our farmers’ chances of freedom and independence. They deserve to have the choice to make positive, progressive choices that will keep our environment healthy for years to come.