This week, the public interest law firm Public Justice announced the rollout of a national food project that will unite attorneys and communities across the country to work on cases that involve agribusiness. The announcement comes as concerns about the power of corporate agriculture are growing, from the heartland to Capitol Hill.
After a week in which Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who's running for president, was in the spotlight for her call to check the power of big agribusiness and "level the playing field for America's family farmers," Big Ag began to hit back, insisting her ideas are out of touch with reality.
Last week, seven corporate agriculture interest groups sued the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to halt the extension of a public comment period on a proposed mega-dairy expansion in Winona County, Minnesota. The suit highlights broader efforts by agribusiness to silence opposition from rural residents who speak out against large concentrated animal feeding operations in their communities. (No paywall)
A coalition of 55 environmental, agricultural, and food-safety organizations signed a letter urging the Iowa General Assembly pass a moratorium on new and expanded factory farm development in the state. Iowa currently houses nearly 23 million hogs, a record for the state and the highest number in the country.
Large farms, with more than $1 million a year in gross income, nearly doubled their share of U.S. agricultural production in the past quarter-century, says USDA's Economic Research Service. As production shifted to larger farms, so did crop subsidies and crop insurance indemnities, says the ERS, which made the comparison on inflation-adjusted revenue figures.
Big Ag is back on the offensive in Oklahoma, less than a year after voters defeated a bill that would have stripped the state’s residents of their ability to regulate corporate farming. The Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association wants ranchers to pay an additional $1 tax per head of cattle sold in the state, and will hold a Nov. 1 vote on the tax for Oklahoma cattle producers. Family farm advocates say that much of the money collected under such checkoff taxes is funneled to private industry groups that use it to promote the interests of corporate agriculture over independent farmers.
JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, will sell its Five Rivers Cattle Feeding operation as part of a global divestiture plan intended to generate $1.8 billion. Five Rivers operates feedlots in six western states with a combined capacity of 980,000 head and manages a 75,000-head feedlot in Alberta.
Art Cullen, co-owner of the Storm Lake Times, published twice a week in northwestern Iowa, won the Pulitzer Prize "for editorials fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa." The editorials criticized county officials for letting agricultural interests dictate their response to a lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works over nutrient runoff and held agriculture responsible for polluted waters.
Hawaiian lawmakers killed a bill that would have required agribusiness companies like Monsanto and Syngenta to notify nearby residents before spraying pesticides, says Civil Beat. “Reporting provisions requiring notifications for each application would be very onerous and difficult to carry out,” testified Warren Mayberry, DuPont Pioneer’s senior manager of government affairs.
The fight over North Dakota's ban on corporate farming continues in federal court despite a June referendum in support of the 1932 law. The North Dakota Farmers Union, which spearheaded the successful referendum, asked for permission to intervene in the lawsuit, said the Fargo Forum.