Recently, I was asked to comment on a White House webinar about some of the initiatives this administration is undertaking that may be good for agriculture. NDFU remains nonpartisan. We’ve received invites from many presidential administrations, over the years, to comment on programs, policies, legislative activities, and other actions that may impact our members. We always take these opportunities to further our efforts in guiding and establishing polices to enhance family farm agriculture. The following is a summary of my statements:

As I listened to the information and policies from the Biden administration, I paid attention to areas that help us at Farmers Union achieve our mission of supporting family farms and ranches and communities.

I was intrigued and heartened to hear the president address two areas directly, and one area indirectly, that are of high importance to our organization.

Concentration

The president’s statement, “Capitalism without competition is exploitation,” is exactly why we at Farmers Union are carrying out the “Fairness for Farmers” campaign. Most of the industries farmers and ranchers buy from – and sell to – are dominated by a handful of companies.

Four companies control more than:

• 80% of beef processing

• 80% of corn seed

• 75% of soybean seed

• 65% of grocery retail

In North Dakota, we are also captive shippers on the rail system.

This lack of competition has led to higher costs and lower returns for farmers and ranchers and has emptied rural communities.

This also has resulted in the farmer’s share of the food dollar becoming less than 15%. We learned during the COVID pandemic that consolidation also threatens the resilience of our supply chains. This supply challenge has also impacted consumers dramatically.

It is encouraging to hear the administration address these challenges by the following actions:

• Investing $1 billion to create a more diversified meat processing sector. These dollars will create new opportunities for livestock producers, especially in states like North Dakota.

• New tools and reports to strengthen price transparency in livestock markets.

• Beginning a collaboration between USDA, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on monopolistic practices.

• A “Farmer Fairness” portal, which allows farmers and ranchers to report competition law violations.

• A process to review the “Product of USA” label, so consumers can better understand where their meat comes from.

Infrastructure

The second item of great importance is the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last fall. It was also a great win for family farmers and ranchers. This bill provides:

• $110 billion in long overdue investments in roads and bridges

• $66 billion to improve our rail system

• $65 billion for rural broadband

• $17 billion for our ports and waterways

• Important steps toward addressing the trucking shortage in the U.S.

Renewables

As we search for solutions for cleaner energy and greater supply, we need to have stability in the Renewable Fuel Standard and a pathway for canola to be approved for renewable diesel. Expanding the use of ethanol and renewable diesel can be great solutions for our economy and agriculture by opening additional demand for our commodities and providing sustainable energy sources.

— NDFU President Mark Watne