Members of Farmers Union are the most forward-thinking and have the greatest forward awareness of all farmers and ranchers. A bold statement, but very true as the policies you select represent the future and represent the importance of maintaining our successful food production system. The challenges we face today are due to the lack of others’ willingness to address the problems and opportunities we identified before we arrived in this current financial challenge.

Farmers Union has said farm safety nets are necessary and cannot solely be based on budget constraints. Farmers Union identified this problem knowing we would be in trade wars, have surplus production coupled with an unwillingness to create demand for renewable fuels, and an environment driven by monopolistic practices of suppliers and buyers of farm and ranch products.

Farmers Union stated emphatically not to open our doors to free trade without negotiating all the variables that will haunt us in the future. The mantra “free trade,” said by all, was too easily accepted and now we are left trying to fix the poor agreements we accepted. In fact, most of the agriculture industry has now adopted our “fair trade” message over “free trade.” Wouldn’t it be great to have a farm program that allowed us to fix trade and demand solutions to issues to keep farmers and ranchers financially sound?

Many years ago, we raised alarm about competition in the marketplace. We were told a few mergers were necessary to allow for efficiency. We are now in a time when nearly every market we buy from, transport in and sell to is owned by so few players that there is nothing left for competition to truly allow for market-oriented pricing to happen. We simply buy, transport and then, sell at whatever price they want to pay. 

Recently, while testifying at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the Monsanto and Bayer merger, we were told that they agreed with our assessment but felt this merger was not going to make any additional impact on the industry because it is already monopolized. While DOJ officials were defending the Administration’s trade actions, we asked them about China stealing our genetics. Specifically, why did they allow China to purchase Syngenta and get access to nearly one-third of all the genetics in the world? Their comment was “This is different.”

We understand that corporate farming is old school methodology. In most rules of business, you give the customer what they desire. Ask any food consumer where they prefer their food be produced, I guarantee you will not hear from a corporate farm. This is why corporate farms misrepresent their business name in marketing and many times represent themselves as family farms to confuse consumers. We have identified tools to help the consumer identify with U.S. family farm food. Our restaurants are one of these forward-thinking tools.

Truth in labeling laws have been ignored. We have always been on the side of labeling items with their origin and contents. We generally support labeling the positive science-based connotations. We championed Country-of-Origin Labeling and continue to do so. Now we are fighting over what is milk, what is meat, and labeling things that never contained items as “free from.”

Farmers Union members: Be proud to be as forward-thinking as you have always been. Keep up the fight! Even in dismal times, we can and will continue to make a difference.

— NDFU President Mark Watne