Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reached back to the Carter era in calling for a transformational 2023 farm bill that helps small and medium-size farmers earn more from the land rather than move to town. Secretary Bob Bergland "issued a warning to all of us about" the problem of too much consolidation in agriculture, said Vilsack.
For all their differences, the United States and the European Union share a common experience — the abrupt decline in farm numbers, said the agriculture ministers of the agricultural powerhouses. The transformation of the agriculture sector, more recent in Europe than in the United States, resulted in a relatively small number of large farms that produce the majority of the food and many small farms with little revenue from crops and livestock.
Acknowledging "we need to get inflation under control" as part of the economic recovery from the pandemic, President Biden said on Wednesday that the administration will inject competition into the highly consolidated meat industry to bring down prices at the grocery store. Meat prices soared by 14.8 percent during 2021, part of overall food inflation of 6.3 percent.
The Agriculture Department will launch a $250-million-dollar grant program this summer to support "independent, innovative and sustainable" fertilizer production at home and to reduce reliance on imports. The USDA also said it would launch a public inquiry into concentration in the seed and agricultural input, fertilizer and retail markets.
Grocery prices are climbing at their fastest pace since 2008, with beef, pork and poultry leading the way — up nearly 13 percent since last November, said the government's new inflation report. The White House pinned the blame for surging meat prices on meatpackers "taking advantage of their market power to raise prices while increasing their own profit margins."
When Sanderson Farms announced a base pay cut for its growers throughout Mississippi in early August, farmers claimed it was an effort to undercut wages in the wake of a merger between Sanderson and Wayne Farms, another major producer in the state, as Marcia Brown reports in FERN's latest story, produced with The Capitol Forum. (No paywall)
Buoyed by a Biden administration pledge to vigorously police agricultural mergers, the National Farmers Union launched the nationwide "Fairness for Farmers" campaign on Wednesday to restore competition in the marketplace. "This endeavor has clear goals: to curtail consolidation in agriculture and bust the monopolies, which negatively impact farmers, ranchers, and consumers," said NFU president Rod Larew.