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Nation’s Food System Nearly Broke

February 27th, 2009 · No Comments

Nation’s Food System Nearly Broke
by John Kinsman
As our government enacts a stimulus package and President Barack Obama announces bold initiatives to stem home mortgage foreclosures, disaster threatens family farmers and their communities.

The government’s response to plummeting commodity prices and tightening credit markets leads to the basic question: Who will produce our food? This is a worldwide crisis. U.S. policy and the demand for deregulation at all levels — from food production to financial markets — contribute greatly to the global collapse. The solution must be grounded in food sovereignty so that all farmers and their communities can regain control over their food supply. This response makes sense here in Wisconsin and was the global message from the 500+ farmer leaders at the Via Campesina conference in Mozambique in October.

Many U.S. farmers are going out of business because they receive prices equal to about one half their cost to produce our food. How long could any enterprise receiving half the amount of its input costs stay in business? As an example, dairy farmers in the Northeast and Midwest must be paid between 30 and 35 cents per pound for their milk to pay production costs and provide basic living expenses. Until 1980, farmers received a price equal to 80 percent of parity, meaning that farmers’ purchasing power kept up with the rest of the economy. Unfortunately, a 1981 political decision discontinued parity, and today the dairy farmers’ share is below 40 percent.

“Free trade” and other regressive agricultural policies have decimated farms. We are now a food deficit nation dependent on food imports, often of questionable quality.

Tags: globalization

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