Family Farming and the Marketplace

5 03 2014
The 2014 International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) aims to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming by focusing world attention on its significant role in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas. The goal of the 2014 IYFF is to reposition family farming at the centre of agricultural, environmental and social policies in the national agendas by identifying gaps and opportunities to promote a shift towards a more equal and balanced development.  The 2014 IYFF will promote broad discussion and cooperation at the national, regional and global levels to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by smallholders and help identify efficient ways to support family farmers.

The 2014 International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) aims to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming by focusing world attention on its significant role in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas.
The goal of the 2014 IYFF is to reposition family farming at the centre of agricultural, environmental and social policies in the national agendas by identifying gaps and opportunities to promote a shift towards a more equal and balanced development. The 2014 IYFF will promote broad discussion and cooperation at the national, regional and global levels to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by smallholders and help identify efficient ways to support family farmers.

By Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union President

Farmers Union was founded on the idea that farmers can work together to find power in numbers. That’s why 10 farmers and rural residents in Texas formed the Farmers Union in 1902. Whether farmers need to organize to receive better shipping rates for cotton, as those founding 10 did, or to start a cooperative that can process and market their crops and livestock, or to have a louder voice on legislative issues to regulate markets, farmers have been coming together through the NFU to have a larger say in the marketplace for more than 110 years.

As NFU continues to recognize the International Year of Family Farming, the month of March brings us to consider a very important part of our experience as farmers – the marketplace. Throughout the month we’ll feature guest writers on our blog who will discuss different aspects of the marketplace, ranging from competition, regulation, strategies and history. It will be an interesting conversation, and I urge you to offer your thoughts in the comments section of our blog.

Markets need to be competitive in order to be functional. Farmers, as consumers of many inputs and the producers of commodities, usually find themselves in the position of “price-takers” rather than “price-makers.” All too often, those prices are volatile and disconnected from readily apparent supply and demand forces.

Much of NFU’s legislative efforts are directed toward making sure that laws and rules are enacted that allow for a fair and free market, so that those with power cannot run roughshod over everyone else. This month will feature some viewpoints from leaders on those issues.

We’ll also hear from bloggers who are finding new and innovative ways for farmers to assert themselves in the marketplace. Food hubs, strategic partnerships and new customer bases are offering some promising avenues for farmers to excel in today’s market.

As our tagline says, NFU is “united to grow family agriculture,” and the preamble of our grassroots-adopted 2013 NFU Policy includes this passage:

“The loss of family farms and other independently owned businesses is not inevitable. We believe the accelerated march toward a vertically integrated production system must be reversed. This requires action to enforce and enhance antitrust and competition laws, strengthen the regulatory system and revitalize independently owned businesses and competitive markets.”

Let’s spread the word about the importance of the marketplace for family farmers during the month of March.

Advertisements




NFU Seeks to Intervene in COOL Lawsuit 

9 08 2013

WASHINGTON (Aug. 9, 2013) – Today attorneys filed documents on behalf of, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, National Farmers Union (NFU), Consumer Federation of America (CFA), and American Sheep Industry Association with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to intervene in the litigation started by nine plaintiff groups against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) regulation on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL). If granted intervention, the four organizations intend to defend the COOL regulation.

“NFU, with its allies, will continue to support COOL on behalf of U.S. family farmers and ranchers and American consumers,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “We have worked long and hard on this issue and will do so until these arguments are put to rest and the law remains intact once and for all.”

According to a recent CFA study, 90 percent of a representative sample of 1,000 adult Americans favored, either strongly or somewhat, requiring food sellers to indicate on the package label the country of origin of fresh meat they sell. Additionally, 87 percent of adults favored, either strongly or somewhat, requiring food sellers to indicate on the package label the country or countries in which animals were born, raised and processed. The poll also found that 90 percent of adults favored, either strongly or somewhat, requiring food sellers to indicate on the package label the country or countries in which animals were born and raised and the fact that the meat was processed in the United States.

“There is no denying that U.S. consumers want to know where their food comes from,” said Johnson. ‘That is why it is great to have a united front of consumers and producers in this alliance in support of COOL.”

The Court has scheduled a hearing on the preliminary injunction motion for Aug. 27.





NFU Outlines Priorities as Deadline Looms for Farm Bill

8 08 2013

WASHINGTON (Aug. 8, 2013) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson sent a letter today to leadership of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Agriculture emphasizing the importance of signing a five-year, comprehensive farm bill into law prior to the Sept. 30, expiration of the current law.
 
“The year is quickly coming to a close, and there is still much work to be done,” said Johnson. “With only nine legislative days in the month of September, it is critical that a full farm bill conference committee be appointed as soon as possible so that members can begin their work on a compromise in time for final passage by both legislative bodies and the president’s signature.
 
In the letter, NFU highlights the need for a strong safety net in times of market collapse or natural disaster, mandatory funding for energy title programs, support for fair and competitive markets, conservation compliance, permanent farm bill law, funding for beginning farmer programs, and inclusion of a nutrition title.
 
“I urge House leadership to name its conference committee members as soon as possible so that we do not run out of time,” said Johnson. “America’s family farmers, ranchers and hungry families simply cannot afford the uncertainty that currently exists due to a lack of congressional action.”





House Republicans’ Nutrition Agreement Makes Farm Bill More Difficult

1 08 2013

WASHINGTON (Aug. 1, 2013) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in response to the U.S. House of Representatives’ agreement on farm bill nutrition program cuts:
 
“Rather than try to reach a workable figure in reducing funding for  important social safety net programs, the House Republican leadership has taken a hardline political stance by proposing a $40 billion cut to the nutrition title of the farm bill.
 
“This is not progress. Instead of offering a strategy that would cut even deeper into efforts to help those in need, House leadership should appoint conferees to start the process of reaching a compromise with the Senate’s farm programs in August.
 
“The farm bill extension expires on Sept. 30, and any delay beyond that date will add unnecessary uncertainty to the livelihoods of America’s farmers, ranchers, rural communities and the more than 16 million people who are employed in agriculture. Time is limited and few legislative days will be available in September. The House Majority should stop making the farm bill even more difficult and start the conference process by naming conferees immediately.”





NFU Joins Suit to Support COOL

29 07 2013

WASHINGTON (July 29, 2013) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued a statement after the NFU Board of Directors voted unanimously today to intervene in a recently-filed Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) lawsuit seeking an injunction to vacate and halt the implementation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) final COOL rule:

“We strongly support USDA’s final rule because it addresses the issues previously brought forth to the World Trade Organization and preserves the consumer’s right to know where their food comes from.

“NFU is joining with the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association in efforts to defend COOL. We are thankful for USCA getting the process started. We have fought long and hard for the implementation of COOL, and will continue to do so for as long as it takes.

“The packer-producer organizations that have filed the suit against the USDA are continuing to refuse consumers’ right and desire to know where their food comes from.”

The aforementioned suit’s plaintiffs include the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), American Meat Institute (AMI), Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association (NAMA), American Association of Meat Processors and Southwest Meat Association.





NFU Signs Coalition Letter Supporting Competitive Rail Markets 

26 07 2013

WASHINGTON (July 26, 2013) – National Farmers Union (NFU) was among a group of 37 organizations that sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation urging action to strengthen competition in the U.S. rail transportation market.
 
“Family farmers and ranchers – and the rural communities in which they live – need access to fair rates for rail shipments,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “NFU has long advocated for the protection of captive shippers, and federal regulators haven’t kept pace with an increasingly anti-competitive business climate for users of rail transportation.”
 
The top four shippers control ninety percent of freight rail service, and 78 percent of the 28,000 places where cargo is picked up have access to only one rail carrier. Not coincidentally, rail rates have increased two-and-a-half times more than both trucking rates and inflation.
 
The joint letter stated: “Lack of competition in the freight rail industry is hurting American manufacturers and producers. Importers frequently pay lower rates for transporting their foreign-made goods inside the United States than U.S. producers and manufacturers that often are dependent on a single railroad for service. Moreover, excessive domestic rail rates are making our exports less competitive in the world marketplace, cost American jobs and drive up the prices American consumers pay for a wide range of products from electricity to food. The nation needs a pro-competitive national freight rail transportation system to ensure fair prices and reasonable service for rail dependent shippers.”





NFU Reaction to Hearings on the “Future of the CFTC”

24 07 2013

WASHINGTON (July 24, 2013) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement regarding the two hearings held this week by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management on the future of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC):
 
“Farmers and ranchers – and the cooperatives and other business that serve them – are end-users of commodities. Markets should be functional, stable, transparent and competitive, so that our members can use them to manage risk and price their products.
 
“NFU agrees with the members of the subcommittee: well-functioning markets are essential to grow the economy. But we strongly disagree with some of the members’ arguments that in order to help markets work better, the Dodd-Frank Act and many other market regulations should be repealed. Instead, Dodd-Frank must be fine-tuned and perfected, and regulators like the CFTC be provided the resources needed to do the job.
 
“I find it difficult to understand why the House Agriculture Appropriations Committee would reduce funding for CFTC for Fiscal Year 2014 if they truly believe we need a marketplace that serves the interests of end-users.”