Reviews | We talk about power – who has it and who gets punched in the face by it


In 1971, Susan DeMarco, Susan Sechler, and I teamed up in a Washington-based public interest group (rather awkwardly named the Agribusiness Accountability Project) to launch a foray into the little-examined and multibillion-dollar maze of policies. American agriculture and food. But other progressive activists at the time were baffled by us. They were all working on big high-profile issues like the end of the Vietnam War and urban poverty. So, they asked, why were we talking about tomatoes, land-grant colleges, Earl Butz, and concepts as obscure as oligopolies?

Massive corporate consolidations in manufacturing, hospitals, newspapers, hardware stores, farm equipment dealers and virtually every other industry mean that local employment opportunities are shrinking in a place paying a low wage … or take a hike.

“We are not,” we replied, “we are talking about power.” After all, what power do people really have if we can’t even control what’s in our dinner and where it’s coming from? This requires maintaining a democratic grip on food and agricultural policy, which requires knowing what those policies are doing and who is doing them.

We know about the monopoly, the anti-competitive consumer scam when a very small number of companies control the sale of a product. But what about mo-nop-so-ny? It is then that very few buyers control the purchase of products or services offered by several. For example, when most of the local farmers go to the market to sell their produce, instead of having several processors and traders bidding competitively, almost all American farmers who produce grains, milk, vegetables, meat etc., are faced with monopsonies, with one or two buyers offering a low take-it-or-leave-it price.

This same kind of manipulation and domination of the so-called free market also crushes working families. Massive corporate consolidations in manufacturing, hospitals, newspapers, hardware stores, farm equipment dealers and virtually every other industry mean that local employment opportunities are shrinking in a place paying a low wage … or take a hike. The intentional creation of these cartels has already enveloped 60% of the US labor markets and is a major force in suppressing wages and deepening inequalities in America. Yet our public officials – Democrats and Republicans alike – have so far refused to view the corporate monopsony as the antitrust crisis it is. President Joe Biden has proposed an aggressive anti-monopoly agenda; let us urge him to act.

There is nothing fancy about being a dirt farmer. While working in and with nature can provide a deeply satisfying life, it tends to be a difficult task, as Christopher Kimball, food writer and champion of small farms, recently said: “Farming is full of manure, mud, blood, big, stubborn animals, dangerous equipment and days when things never go right … it’s all about hard work and tough choices, trying to earn your money. life thanks to the earth, 365 days a year. “

It will test your courage. But add another factor: you are black.

Uh-oh. This has long meant that the expansive public agricultural support system (advantageous loans, matching grants, technical assistance, etc.), which gives farming families a chance to fight against the cruel misdeeds of nature and monopolies , is not here for you. This blatant racial discrimination has driven hundreds of thousands of good black farmers from the land.

This year, however, we have witnessed an astonishing Republican-led uprising against unfair racial exclusion from farm programs! Hallelujah, is this party finally resuscitating its inner Abe Lincoln?

Barely. A group of GOP goobers like South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller have risen on their hind legs to rage against a proposal by Biden to provide debt relief since long to farmers of color who have been systematically deceived. The whine of these ultra-white, newly born civil rights activists is that any aid going to African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, et al. Is “racism inside out” so they demand this money for it. to alleviate black farm debt caused by racist lenders and farm agents must be divided with privileged white farmers who have not suffered any discrimination.

Funny, isn’t it, that Lindsey, Sid and their gang of racial raiders showed no protest last year when then-President Donald Trump handed out dozens of billions of dollars of our taxes into a special farm giveaway that has been swallowed up almost entirely by wealthy farm owners, businesses and even foreigners, to the exclusion of nearly all black farmers? You’re right … it’s not funny.

You don’t have to be black or a farmer to join the National Black Farmers Association and support its mission to “fight hunger, prevent land loss and secure food sovereignty”. nationalblackfarmersassociation.org

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