Letter from Langdon: Biden Takes Farmers’ Side Against Corporate Ag Monopolies — We Hope

The administration has announced efforts to help ease the choke hold that seed, meat, and equipment corporations have on American farmers. Congress, courts, and well funded lawyers are likely to start slugging it out before the issues are resolved.


by Richard Oswald, The Daily Yonder

July 15, 2021


Oswald is membership and policy director for the Missouri Farmers Union.


Competition in agriculture is way more intense among farmers than it is among our consumers and the suppliers we rely on for the stuff to do our jobs. That’s because year in and year out, farm profitability relies on fewer and bigger farms at the expense of small farms and rural communities. We are expected to mirror the get-big-or-get-out mentality of corporate agriculture.


Or else.


For the past 12 years, we’ve seen a doubling down of monopoly and monopsony in every aspect of agriculture from livestock to seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides. Even the machines we use are examples of overt corporate power over farmers and ranchers like me.


We’ve been talking about it for years. The Obama administration gave us hope in 2009 that things might change. Two years later hope was replaced with the same familiar reality we’d known before. The Trump administration gave us lip service in 2017. Then silence.


Same old same old.


Now the Biden administration has initiated proposals for real change.


What could possibly go wrong?


Well, for one thing, in the last 12 years corporations like Cargill, Tyson, National Beef, and JBS have continued to expand their hold on power over meat and poultry. Monsanto and Bayer have been living in wedded bliss for nearly five years. This “new” Bayer exercises huge, unprecedented control over seeds and pesticides along with DuPont’s spin-off Corteva, Syngenta, and BASF. Farm equipment manufacturers have adopted the winning strategy used by Bill Gates and Microsoft, to capture not just the market for their machines, but to pay unlock fees, which farmers must now pay to get their machines to run.


In a bit of irony, I can repair my home computer but not the computer that makes my tractor go. Biden wants that changed as well.


It’s all about the markets, the patents, and the ability of a few to control everything to do with agriculture and food. That extends to perhaps the greatest wrong of all, the legality of livestock producers to label their products...