For decades, corporate interests have been gaining control over the food and farm system, transforming it into something that squeezes farmers, rural communities, and food workers for excessive profit — rather than a system that generates a living wage for those delivering nutritious, affordable food to consumers. Although this process was facilitated by government policies, the American public has remained largely unaware, deceived by corporate PR campaigns and the illusion of choice on grocery store shelves.
The COVID-19 pandemic shattered these illusions: producers and consumers were left out in the cold while the breakdown of our food supply exposed dramatic flaws in the way we treat farmers, workers, and animals. This crisis prompted the public to call for big systemic change in the food system.
And so in 2021, we channeled this newfound awareness into opportunities to create a food system that respects our land, natural resources, and neighbors here and around the world. Below, we pull back the curtain to reveal our ongoing strategy to dismantle industrial agriculture and shift power into the hands of individuals all along the food supply chain. Read on!
EDUCATING AND ENERGIZING THE MOVEMENT
The fair food movement needs a groundswell of informed support to make transformational change. And so in 2021 we met a growing public interest in the food system with increased awareness and education initiatives, connecting the dots and providing pathways to make change.
- To amplify our call for change, we successfully placed our research, advocacy, and policy recommendations in big Hill-facing publications, community-based papers, and ag-focused journals. Our thought leadership paid off and we achieved an astounding 500 press hits in 365 days, with over 1.5 billion views of our coverage. Some highlights include: Reuters and Wall Street Journal coverage of our call for the DOJ to investigate the fertilizer industry, stories from the New York Times and Meatingplace about our actions to expose labeling fraud, and a Newsweek piece exposing the barriers young farmers face in a corporate-controlled system. See more of our great media coverage on our website.
- In July we published our groundbreaking “Truth About Industrial Agriculture” report, which exposes the hidden costs of the industrialized agriculture system and dismantles the myths Big Ag has used time and time again to defeat reforms to our food system. The report’s companion blog series, Big Ag Mythbusters, explores each of these well-funded myths in-depth. Both the report and blog are straightforward education tools to arm the public with the facts they need to join the fight.
- To deepen public understanding of the complex issues facing our food and farm system, we published a series of in-depth explainer blogs, including such titles as The Feed-Meat Complex, Foreign Corporate Farmland Ownership Explained, Chasing Checkoff Dollars: The Corruption Continues, A Guide to the Farmer Fair Practices Rules, and Trailblazers and Game Changers: How Kansan Black Women Leaders Are Fighting for Family Farms.
PRESSURE'S ON THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION
2021 opened with ample opportunities to make inroads with a brand-new Presidential administration and the agencies that regulate agricultural sectors.
Laying the Foundation
- On the heels of our transition plan for the Biden-Harris Administration, we kicked off the year by influencing appointments to ensure that strategic decision-makers would support our values.
- We relentlessly advanced our positions on COVID stimulus grant distribution, Biden’s Executive Orders on supply chains and the climate crisis, and investments into small meat processing plants.
- We also challenged corporate abuses by taking legal action over Smithfield’s fraudulent sustainability claims and urging the DOJ to investigate the consolidated fertilizer industry.
- The flurry of regulatory activity paid off: in June, the USDA announced it would take on livestock market concentration through Packers and Stockyards rulemaking.
- At the FTC’s first open meeting in decades, we offered key, concrete actions the agency should take to foster fairness and transparency in our food system. In the course of this meeting the FTC commissioners debated and passed “Made in USA” (MUSA) labeling regulations, requiring all meat and meat products to be 100% born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S. to qualify for that label.
- Key provisions from Biden’s momentous Executive Order to improve competition across the U.S. economy, which set out 72 action items to be taken by federal agencies with the goal of disrupting corporate power, were drawn from Family Farm Action’s playbook for the Biden administration.
TURNING CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS INTO FARM CHAMPIONS
The Farm Action team’s research and policy expertise have earned the respect of key members of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, and we are frequently called upon to brief Congressional staff on food and agriculture policy. For instance, Senator Booker, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics, and Research, publicly credits us for teaching him about the impacts of corporate consolidation on farmers and ranchers, and spurring him into action for fair market competition and healthy local and regional food systems.
Our trustworthy reputation helps our message resonate with policymakers from both sides of the aisle, where it can more successfully counter the world’s most powerful corporations and their lobbyists in Washington, D.C.
Laying the Foundation
- We rang in 2021 by providing incoming Congressional leaders with a policy toolkit to tackle the food monopoly crisis.
- As members of the Rural Coalition, we lifted up the work of organizations led by Black farmers, Indigenous communities, and people of color. We supported their priority reforms within the food and agriculture system, including support for the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act and a call for emergency relief for disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
- At our November 2021 virtual Fly-In, we introduced policymakers to the four pillars of change necessary to achieve a Fair Farm Bill: Food, Not Feed; Justice for All; Build Local, Eat Local; and Conservation and Regeneration.
- Urgent requests from Farm Action and our allies yielded historic Agriculture Committee hearings on livestock and meatpacking in both the House and Senate this summer, giving our colleague Dr. Mary Hendrickson an opportunity to testify on corporate concentration.
- Our advocacy efforts ensured that fair and just policies were included in legislation that became law in 2021. The American Rescue plan contained serious investments to address resilience in the food chain, and also confronted historic discrimination in our food system by creating an Equity Commission and supplying historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Native American tribally-controlled colleges and universities (TCUs) with additional resources to work on issues like land loss and the next generation of BIPOC farmers and ranchers. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act substantially invested in rural communities, such as $65 billion dedicated to expanding internet access across the country.
- With an eye to the 2023 Farm Bill, many of our policy recommendations have been drafted into legislative packages and introduced with bipartisan support, including the Competition and Antitrust Enforcement Reform Act, Climate Stewardship Act, Farm System Reform Act, American Beef Labeling Act, Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act, and more.
With a skilled and expanding team of staff and volunteers working diligently toward our goals, in 2022 we’ll advance our carefully-crafted strategy.
- We’ll continue to spread our message across the nation, energizing the public and building support for our movement.
- With our Fair Farm Bill campaign, we’ll continue leading the charge for transformational shifts in our food and farm policy.
- We’ll keep the Biden Administration’s feet to the fire to ensure they deliver on the commitments outlined in the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy.
We hope you’ll consider one of the many ways to lend your support to our movement.
- Sign up for our newsletter and action alerts. We send our subscribers only the most important breaking news and meaningful opportunities to break up Big Ag.
- Donate to support our work. Our work is dependent upon individual donations to support our small but mighty team.
- Volunteer to become a Farm Action Local Leader. Our new cross-country network will meet every other month and deploy targeted campaigns at the local, state, and national levels.