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We need a Farmers Bill of Rights
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Why a Farmers Bill of Rights?

Our rural way of life is under attack. Our farms are rooted in a history of fair and open markets, perseverance, liberty and justice for all that built vibrant communities. Main streets thrived. Seed suppliers, local mechanics, farm cooperatives, and new businesses had a shot. And it made us all stronger.

Now? Huge multinational corporations and monopolies are taking over. They’re concentrating and extracting wealth out of our communities, and, often, out of our country all together. Our rural communities are becoming factory farms for foreign corporations. Family farmers lack open markets to sell their goods. They’re no longer a producer; they’re a commodity.

Foreign corporations and countries like Saudi Arabia, Brazil and China are buying up hundreds of thousands of acres of American farmland, and already just a few companies monopolize control over too much of our food supply. One in four pigs in our country are now owned by China. Five multinational corporations—soon to merge to just three—dominate the market for seeds and fertilizer. “Contract farming” pushes families deep into debt, often making them beholden to a single corporation for survival and leaving them with no negotiating power at all.

We’ve seen this story before. In 1921, our country passed the “Farmers and Ranchers Bill of Rights” to strike back against excessive corporate power and monopoly, giving farmers and consumers back the fair, open markets they need.

Now, after decades of consolidation and the weakening of existing antitrust laws, farmers and consumers need our leaders to do the same, once again. American farmers are not whiners. They don’t want a handout. They want a fair shot and a fair market.

It’s time our leaders, once again, recognize our basic rights:

The Farmers Bill of Rights

  1. Right to Fair, Open Markets
    There must be open competition in the marketplace to buy seeds, fertilizer and other goods — and to sell produce, livestock, and meat in an open marketplace. It has become nearly impossible for independent farmers, processors, seed suppliers, mechanics, and other rural businesses to compete with multinational monopolies. We need strong anti-trust safeguards.
  2. Right to Feed Our Community
    As multi-national corporations have taken control of the food system they have shuttered independent processing and distribution businesses locking farmers out of their local market and denying U.S. consumers local and regional foods.
  3. Right to Fair Capital
    With the loss of community and regional banks coupled with the extraction of the wealth in our rural communities by large corporations, farmers and local businesses cannot access the capital necessary to operate. We must ensure that all farmers, regardless of background, can access the credit/capital they need.
  4. Right to Protect Our Natural Resources
    If a giant corporation wants to buy up land and operate a mega-farm, they should give the same care to the soil, earth, and water as our family farmers have for generations. Corporate megafarms should have to follow reasonable standards for aquifer use, manure storage, and other land-use guidelines.
  5. Right to Local Control of our Land
    Counties and other local governments should have the ability to pass and enforce ordinances regulating the size, placement and scope of mega-farms to protect the value of family farmers’ land and the surrounding environment.
  6. Right to Food Security
    Foreign ownership hurts family farmers and raises serious national security concerns. A strict cap on foreign ownership of farms, farmland, and agribusinesses should be set to ensure our right to food security.
  7. Right to Repair
    Huge corporations and their Wall Street backers have gone so far as to prevent local businesses and farmers from fixing their own tractors and equipment, forcing them to pay corporate technicians to make all repairs. A farmer should have the right to fix his own equipment as he or she sees fit.
  8. Right to Transparent Labeling
    A farmer should be able to label their food accurately and transparently — including strong country of origin labeling standards.
  9. Right to Rural Opportunity
    Monopolies have hollowed out local economies and taken away the traditional pathways of opportunity for free enterprise that helped communities thrive. No farmer should have to choose between continuing to operate their farm and getting access to good schools and health care. No farmer should have to choose between farming and providing a future for their children. Farmers need the right to basic services in rural communities.

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