America’s family farmers are struggling to survive the one-two punch of climate change and Trump’s disastrous trade policy. Farmers are increasingly buffeted by both floods and droughts, making it extremely difficult to grow crops with any predictability. At the same time, Trump’s “easily won” trade with China has instead led to runaway tariffs that are costing the American consumer and have resulted in the loss of many billions of dollars in lost sales of U.S. agricultural products to China, which has increased their exports from Russia and South America rather than be exposed to these tariffs. Trump has provided some subsidies to farmers to make up for the loss in sales, but these are going disproportionately to the wealthiest farm owners. Many analysts now believe the U.S. agricultural sector is on the precipice of the first major crisis since the 1980s.
Corporate farming is a growing threat. Its main objective is to strip the land of resources in order to maximize profit. Massive industrial animal feedlots have negatively impacted the environment and squeezed out family farmers. In 1980, there were 65,000 hog farmers in Iowa — there are now less than 6,000. Wisconsin has lost an average of 500 dairy farms a year for the last 15 years. It is estimated that the U.S. loses 330 family farms each week — a direct result of U.S. and state policy that supports corporate farming over family farmers.
Farmers and workers have a strong mutual interest in an America where economic growth and social justice have higher priority than rewarding corporations, their officers, and their investors. A healthy agricultural system based on strong family farms is essential to America’s economic and social well being. The U.S. cannot and must not depend on an agricultural system dominated by giant agribusiness and food conglomerates. The profit-driven push of agribusiness for the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) poses a serious environmental threat to America’s land and water. It also further limits the market for the products from U.S. farmers due to the understandable reluctance of other countries to accept GMOs.
The jobs of tens of thousands of workers in the agricultural implement industry, some of whom are UE members, depend on a healthy farm economy. The survival of America’s small rural towns where many UE members work and live are threatened by the crisis in American agriculture. In farm belt states like Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, corporations are using the depressed family farm economy as leverage to extract concessions from organized workers and to continue the exploitation of the unorganized.
Congress has failed to act on a farm bill that addresses not only the needs of the family farmer but also those in need of assistance. Republican congressmen frequently attack the food stamp program with the false claim that it is rife with corruption. In reality the farm bill tends to be a give-away to Big Ag after they have supplied campaign funds to their supporters.
Solidarity among trade unionists, family farmers, and farmworkers is crucial to forging an agricultural policy based on justice and prosperity. Agricultural policy should emphasize support for the family farm, decent wages for farmworkers, restrictions on the growth of corporate farming, and an end to trade policies that do not protect the farmer and the consumer.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 76th UE CONVENTION:
- Supports an agricultural policy that will allow farmworkers and farm families a fair return for their efforts and a decent standard of living;
- Demands that Congress:
- Pass a farm bill that deals with the problems faced by family farmers and the poor;
- End the president’s ability to impose tariffs without congressional approval;
- Demands that Congress and the President end their giveaways to large agricultural corporations;
- Calls upon UE locals and regions to work with farmer and farmworker organizations in activities that promote justice for America’s farmers and workers.