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2002 Farm Bill anniversary leaves little for family farmers to celebrate

(Thursday, May 15, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release.

Contact: George Naylor (515) 544-3464
John Bunting (607) 746-3892
Katherine Ozer (202) 543-5675

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 13, 2003 Exactly one year ago today, President George Bush signed the 2002 Farm Bill into law. This anniversary leaves little for family farmers to celebrate however. This farm policy ignored viable solutions to record low commodity prices, dwindling farm credit, and the continuing loss of family farms that devastate our rural communities.

In a press statement released May 13, 2002 George Naylor, an Iowa farmer and now National Family Farm Coalition president stated, “Everyone will know this bill is a failure within one year, if not sooner.” One year later there are absolutely no bright spots in the farm economy; small improvements in grain prices are only the result of widespread drought last year.

“This farm bill continues to tap taxpayers’ hard earned money to keep the farm economy limping along while the giant food processors and exporters reap cheap commodities to expand their control of the world’s food supply,” Naylor said. The National Family Farm Coalition upholds that family farms, not corporate farms, can and should be the farms of the future. “That won’t happen with this Farm Bill in place,” Naylor concluded. “We need a complete change in U.S. farm policy.”

A recent survey conducted through NC State University by a team of land grant university researchers called “Food from Our Changing World: The Globalization of Food and How Americans Feel About It” documented that 77 percent of the public believed that farm policies should focus on helping family, owner-operated farms. The report also showed that nearly six of 10 feel that family farms should be supported even if it means higher food prices. This study is available online at: http://sasw.chass.ncsu.edu/global-food/foodglobal.html

Because last year’s Farm Bill debate dwelt on subsidy payments going to large farms, politicians chose to ignore addressing the price level of farm commodities. Current farm policy still delivers cheap commodities to the greatest threat to family farms--those same giant food processors and exporters. Instead of Corporate America paying a fair price to farmers at the farm gate, the U.S. government caved-in to corporate interests and chose to use taxpayer financed subsidies to partially compensate for the record low commodity prices allowed by the 2002 Farm Bill.

Dairy farmers receive the same price for their milk now that they received in 1978. From March 2002 to March 2003, the already low all market average milk price dropped another $1.63--from $12.32 to $10.69. “The hope of recovery is gone,” said New York dairy farmer John Bunting. “Because of the low milk prices most farmers don’t have the money to plant spring crops and farms are collapsing faster than anyone could have anticipated.”

While these low prices force dairy farmers out of business, giant corporate dairies rapidly expand by using cheap grain to feed its thousand-animal lots. The dairy processors benefit from record low dairy prices and illegal imports such as Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC) that further depresses milk prices. Losing family dairy farmers means that the U.S. exchanges good stewards of the land for an unsustainable production model that is destroying both rural communities and the environment at the taxpayer’s expense.

Despite billions of dollars spent to keep the farm economy afloat--whether for grain or milk payments--many family farmers go out of business every day. The U.S. is experiencing the greatest farm loss numbers since the mid-1980s. Farm Credit is tight, and with a negative cash flow, the only option for many farmers is foreclosure or bankruptcy.

“The temporary extension of Chapter 12 Bankruptcy until June 30 th means that farmers can use this as a last resort,” said Katherine Ozer, NFFC executive director. “If Congress doesn’t act soon it will expire on July 1, 2003, further closing the door on farmer’s options.”

The failure of the 2002 Farm Bill to address the price of commodities means its reach is beyond the United States. “This Farm Bill is bad public policy for family farmers all over the world,” said Bill Christison, a farmer leader from Chillicothe, Missouri. “There is universal denouncement of the bill by international peasant and farmer groups because they know that corporate agribusiness’ push supported by government policy to depress prices for farmers knows no borders.”


The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), founded in 1986, brings together farmers and others to organize national projects focused on preserving and strengthening family farms and rural communities. The organization’s mission is to serve as a national link for grassroots organizations working on family farm issues. NFFC membership currently consists of 30 grassroots farm, resource conservation, and rural advocacy groups from 32 states. NFFC coordinates grass roots efforts on the following issues: farm and trade policy centered on cost of production plus profit pricing at the farm level; equal access to farm credit programs; environmental stewardship; an affordable food supply; educational campaigns about biotechnology and corporate control of food production. For further information about the organization, call 1-800-639-3276 or visit www.nffc.net.