Friday, July 18, 2003

Plantation Rebellion

CNN's Moneyline, currently hosted by some vapid apple polisher who knows nothing much about farm issues, aside from whatever corporate lobbyist talking points have been provided, has been airing what amounts to a corporate agribiz PR news-o-mercial disguised as journalism. Nothing new there, including the usual imbecilic stage-managed shine, costumed as news reporting from the theater department at CNN. But for more perspective on the issue of big agribusiness and its impact on "family farms", local communities and the nation as a whole, the following three writers discuss some of the important broader economic, social and political implications that surround this subject.

Part 1 - Farming, Populism, Tradition

A.V. Krebs writes:
With each passing day it becomes more apparent that our nation's family farmers are going to have to rapidly remove the shackles of the recent past, face political and economic reality and collectively organize for the future if they are to survive. {...} Either family farmers must revive and adhere to their proud agrarian populist tradition or find themselves amongst the growing number of corporate agribusiness' "excess human resources." {...} In his book The Myth of the Family Farm: Agribusiness Dominance of US Agriculture, Ingolf Voegler, a geographer at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, points out that corporate agribusiness has managed to create its own self-serving "family farm" myth which it has supported collaterally by four other myths, namely, the work ethic myth, the free enterprise myth, the efficiency myth and the equal-opportunity myth. Belief in such myths has been the basis of the "conventional wisdom" that has not only exacerbated a wholesale exodus of family farmers from farming, but has reduced the role of those remaining in our food delivery system to being chattel, merely raw material providers for a giant profit-driven food manufacturing system.

It is time family farmers put aside such "conventional wisdom" that for so long has enslaved them, speak truth to corporate power and begin to act collectively in their own and in the general public's self interest.

Part 2: The Myth of the Family Farm

A.V. Krebs writes:
Thus for decades we have witnessed a wholesale exploitation of our agricultural system by corporate agribusiness and its "communities of economic interests" directed not only at driving farmers, workers and consumers apart, but also at the same time attempting to divert the taxpayers' attention away from the root causes of the this nation's chronic farm crisis.

It has done this by preaching about farming practices, "excessive" government regulations, by creating artificial divisions within the farm community, and by replacing a fair price in the marketplace with an ever-escalating unfair burden of debt.

At the same time through corporate/government/land grant college planning during the past 100 years, coupled with the success of self-serving "communities of economic interests," corporate agribusiness has obtained its primary goal -- namely, destroying farmers' economic and political power through forced liquidation caused by enforced low commodity prices.

Part 3: "Privatization and Neo-Feudalism"

Bill Willers writes:
Corporate America has spent billions lobbying for deregulation of its activities and for privatization of everything from the health system to education to national parks and forests to Social Security -- a situation that would lead to ownership and control by the corporate sector and a tiny handful of the super rich of virtually every aspect of society. {...} With country and culture in the hands of a very few, democracy perishes. The great American Experiment would end not through internal weakness, but via carefully crafted "neoconservative" strategy from without, to be replaced by something resembling, more than anything else, medieval feudalism, only set in a high tech world. According to the plan now in place, "we the people" are to be the new serfs. As Thom Hartmann noted: "We're entering a new and unknown but hauntingly familiar era."

SUMMER EXTRA: Read "RURAL ROUTES" by Margot Ford McMillen, on local in-season farm markets.

And for those of you who live in the DC area......
The FRESHFARM market at Dupont Circle, located in the 1500 block of 20th Street, between Massachusetts Avenue and Q Streets, and the adjacent Riggs Bank parking lot in Northwest DC is open from 9am to 1pm every Sunday (summers) or 10am to 1 pm (winters) year-round. The market in St. Michaels, MD, located in Muskrat Park on the St. Michaels's harbor, at Willow and Green Streets, one block from Talbot Street, is open every Saturday from 8:30am to 12:30 pm until October 26.

This producer-only market ensures that the money you spend goes directly to the farmers, helping them to remain economically viable and hang on to their land. American Farmland Trust's Farming on the Edge report tells the story of our nation's disappearing farmland.