FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 2018
Farm Groups Call on Missouri Lawmakers to Make Changes Following Report on Struggle of Family Farmers and Rural Communities
Jefferson City, MO – Today at a legislative briefing at the Missouri State Capitol, the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) released a report outlining the dire state of Missouri family farmers and rural communities. Pointing to Missouri’s rural poverty rate which is now 30.9% higher than the urban poverty rate, and a 55% drop in net farm income since 2013, the report paints a picture of rural communities struggling as farming is increasingly industrialized and consolidated. Agribusiness firms that control inputs such as seed and chemicals and meat and poultry processing have seen extreme consolidation, to the point of creating near monopolies. As a result, family farmers, once the economic engine of Missouri’s rural communities, are in rapid decline.
“Growing up in Missouri, I saw the struggles of mine and other farm families,” said Joe Maxwell, a Missouri hog farmer and Executive Director of OCM. “Over the past several decades we have lost a million farmers nationwide and Missouri has felt the impact. Our report is very clear that the vertical and horizontal integration, the monopolization of inputs and buyers, and foreign-owned mega-farms are extracting wealth and squeezing family farmers.”
The pressure of consolidation often hits young and minority farmers the hardest. “Missouri was once home to thousands of African American farmers but as of the 2012 agriculture census only 239 were counted,” said Webster Davis, Chairman of the Missouri NAACP Agriculture Committee. “Having to compete for markets that are predetermined to benefit rich agribusinesses, many African American youth chose not to enter the murky waters many farmers face year after year.”
The report includes a list of policy steps the Missouri legislature could take immediately to help level the playing field for family farmers, including a ban on foreign ownership of farmland, a country of origin requirement for meat, transparency in farm contracts, and a focus on local/regional food systems.
Chelsea Davis, Family Farm Action Communications Director, said “This report puts into black and white what many of us have known for years: rural communities are hurting and much of it is because family farmers don’t have a fair and open market. That is why we are calling on Missouri lawmakers to move quickly to implement the recommendations of this report and begin the process of revitalizing our small towns.”
Family Farm Action is a coalition of family-farmers and advocates building the “political muscle” to fight for farmers and rural communities.
Organization for Competitive Markets is a membership-based research and advocacy organization working for open and competitive markets and fair trade in America’s food and agricultural sectors.