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Family Farms Being Hammered By Subsidies and Agribusiness

December 29, 2004

How Rural Voters Helped Their Abusers Further Humiliate Them

Family Farms Are Being Fed to Corporate Sharks

President, Nebraska Farmers Union

As a recent New York Times article on ag subsidies clearly shows, family
farm agriculture is now reaping the public perception and political
backlash that the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Corn
Growers Association, National Soybean Growers, National Association of
Wheat Growers, and the U.S. based grain traders set us up for and created
in 1996.

They transformed traditional farm programs from price supporting programs
that forced the grain traders to pay up for grain commodities, which caused
the cost of farm programs to be relatively low, and the majority of farm
income to be realized through the cash market into income transfer programs
that look, feel, and taste like welfare programs to most observers.

The fact that the actual structure is a "make up allowance" of sorts for
lost market place value lost is seldom if ever recognized. The common
perception becomes the reality, which is the current structure of farm
programs is politically indefensible and fiscally vulnerable, just as
Farmers Union said it was in the 1996 Farm Bill battle.

When we compare the 1996 value of the national production of six crops:
Corn, Wheat, Soybeans, Grain Sorghum, Rice, and Cotton for the years 1997
through 2003, farmers were paid an average of $14.6 billion less for their
crops. That amounts to $102.45 billion less money the raw material
processors paid farmers for their crops during the 1997-2003 period.

So, who are the primary beneficiaries of the "farm subsidies"? Not the
family farmers who lost more market place value than they got in income
transfers -- and produced most of their crops most years at below the
USDA's Economic Research Service estimated cost of production. Not the
consumers who did not pay proportionally less for the processed food
products they bought. The food processors and food retailers.

They continue to steal raw material food production from farmers and
ranchers for below full cost of production, with the help of our national
farm and trade policy, which continues to be driven and supported by the
food industry conglomerates with the political support of the very
organizations that are supposed to be representing America's family farmers
and ranchers.

What is worse, the very same set of big agribusiness players and their
political supporters are now positioned to use the growing federal deficit
and the direction of WTO negotiations to further carry out their self
serving economic agenda to reduce and eliminate domestic income supports
which are now called "subsidies". The new Congress leadership and the White
House both support this agenda.

American farmers and ranchers are being fed to the U.S. based international
corporate sharks by their own public officials, commodity organizations,
and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Our traditional system of
independent, farmer and rancher owned food and fiber production is being
destroyed and dismantled in favor of the industrialized, top down corporate
owned and controlled version of the failed former Soviet model.

In the last election, rural voters, just as the low self esteem victims of
prolonged domestic abuse often do, once again helped their own abusers
further beat and humiliate them.

John Hansen is president of the Nebraska Farmers Union.