A rural political issue Democrats have so far ignored — ag consolidation

As ag companies become bigger and more consolidated, it limits farmers’ ability to negotiate in the marketplace.

From meat packers to seed companies, farm equipment to agrochemicals, the agriculture industry has become increasingly concentrated, leaving farmers with few options when it comes to buying inputs or selling their commodities. This has also become a potent political issue in rural areas, but one that Democrats have failed to capitalize on in the current election cycle.

“As the companies become bigger and more consolidated, it limits our ability to negotiate in the marketplace,” a Wisconsin farmer explains, “which shows up in higher prices for our inputs” — seed, feed, fertilizer, tractor equipment, and so on. “It’s squeezing producers on all sides and making it difficult to stay afloat. We’re like little ants compared with these companies.”

These farmers have also questioned trade deals, which they believe exert downward pressure on prices and give big companies more market power. “In the current climate, some disaffected Republican farmers are starting to jump ship,” Barth writes, and are considering the Democratic party for the first time. But so far, the party has failed to take on the issue and instead focused on the costs of President Trump’s trade war with China.

“The president has authorized a record $46 billion in subsidy payments this year to keep farmers afloat,” Barth writes. But he quotes Ohio farmer and Trump critic Chris Gibbs: “Farmers have become trapped. They’re in a situation where they can’t get away from Trump, because he’s got the keys to their financial survival.” Yet, he warns of a revolt on the horizon. “Agriculture is like a sleeping giant. It’s slow to awaken, but when it does, the ground shakes.”

You can read the full story here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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