markets and governments, OCM fights on
From seed to plate, a handful of global corporations have combined their power to extract unprecedented amounts of resources and wealth. Even Upton Sinclair* couldn’t have predicted that today our nation’s four largest meat packers would control over 85% of the market. Surely even he would be surprised to find the biggest companies in all three major meat categories— beef, pork, and poultry—now foreign owned! After experiencing the Robber Baron era of the early 1900s, who could have imagined that a government of the people would allow such concentrated control of any industry, let alone our most critical industry—food?
This administration held five public hearings nationally to learn the devastating social and economic consequences of concentration of the food system for farmers, consumers, communities and the environment. Unbelievably, they seem to see no problem with the biggest food service company in America, Sysco, buying the second largest company, U.S. Foods (United Signature Foods, Inc.) or that one company, Monsanto, would be allowed to essentially gain monopoly control over essential seeds. Who could have predicted that Walmart (the largest food retailer) family members would control more wealth in the U.S. than the bottom 40% of Americans? Thirty-five years ago, we boasted, “U.S. farmers will feed the world!” Today, facing unprecedented U.S. and global hunger, we find ourselves at the mercy of a few global food companies and unable to feed ourselves.
Corrupt courts, a bought Congress, and multiple administrations captured by industry have refused to protect our farming and food system from the predators we call Big Food. Divided by their differences and prejudices, farmers and ranchers have been easy prey in the no-rules-biggest-cheater-wins fool’s game we call a marketplace. Land grant universities have betrayed their mission of supporting land stewardship and animal husbandry, instead selling out to corporate interests. Once considered the voice of producers, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and National Pork Producers have been fully captured, putting meat packers’ interests over producers. Today’s industrial profit-over-people food system is wrecking the infrastructure that fed us, selling food that makes us sick, while degrading our land, consuming and wasting our valuable resources, exploiting workers and abusing our food animals. What can be done?
OCM continues its 15-year history of working on important issues concerning competition and fair markets. Our tools continue to be litigation and legislation, while we parallel these efforts in supporting alternatives to Big Food. We are seeing much success in collaborating with other well-organized and respected groups, particularly in litigation to reform the Beef Tax (checkoff). As a trusted source for information, we have been instrumental in raising public awareness around our broken food system. We believe well-informed people are more open to working with family farmers and ranchers in supporting a healthier, more just and humane food system.
OCM remains a small group of dedicated, passionate and persistent volunteers who are focusing on core problems and workable solutions. We will not compromise our mission. We will never accept the philosophy that a corporate-controlled food system is inevitable, or the misguided idea that industrial agriculture is the only way to feed the world.
Thank you for your past and continued support. Please help spread the word and consider a small donation – When we lose our markets, we lose our freedom!
* See The Jungle by Sinclair, published in 1906.
By Mike Callicrate | Organization for Competitive Markets | February 10, 2014