January 1, 2015
We’re in an epic battle for control of our food supply and we need your support.
After sixteen years of fighting for a fair marketplace, we find our food system more concentrated and consolidated than ever before. Walmart is now the biggest food retailer, while Walton family members control more wealth than the bottom 42% of Americans. Sysco, already a virtual robber baron with monopoly power in wholesale food distribution, is awaiting Federal Trade Commission permission to purchase their next largest competitor U.S. Foods. Walmart and Sysco are both the largest in the world in their sectors, crushing small competitors with their predatory practices and using their market muscle to dictate prices to suppliers and customers.
Despite our many lawsuits and legislative efforts to restore fair markets, today a handful of global corporations hold the power to control where food dollars go. Powerless family farmers and ranchers are last on the list.
In spite of constant warnings from OCM, a kind of feudalism has returned. Food monarchs, like Walmart and Sysco, dictate to middlemen processors like Tyson, Cargill, JBS and Smithfield, who then lord over downstream suppliers, workers and contract growers. The best land is increasingly going to non-farmer wealthy investors, many of whom are looking for places to park ill-gotten gains — anywhere other than Wall Street. They leverage landless tenant farmers-turned-tractor-drivers against each other, demanding the highest possible rents.
Family farmers everywhere continue to fail; laborers throughout the food system, including more and more economic and war refugees, continue to be exploited; absent husbandry, abuse of animals is concealed in large factory production units; absent stewardship, life is extracted from valuable soils, precious waters are mined and polluted, and the environment has become a convenient place to dispose of toxic waste; all for the highest short-term profits, without regard for future generations.
Our faith in democracy, free enterprise and justice has been betrayed. We have a lawless, biggest-cheater-wins economy. Money power has assumed control over our justice and political system. Restoring a fair economy and marketplace will require new allies. OCM believes the people who want to eat more responsibly are those allies.
As Wendell Berry says, “Eating is an agricultural act.” It’s also a moral act. Urban eaters, once thoroughly disconnected from nature and agriculture, are seeking a new understanding of where food comes from. A new ethic of eating, with renewed concern for the biology of the soil, not just the science, continues to evolve. People are recognizing the impact their food choices have on their health, other people, the way animals are raised, the environment, and struggling farm communities.
Rather than change their destructive practices in response to the increasing consumer backlash, corporations are hiding behind the friendly images of farm families and false marketing slogans like “Food with integrity.” Global food companies, in their promotional efforts to maintain market share and confuse consumers, have co-opted words like natural, sustainable, responsible and local. To top it off, they are using farmer and rancher commodity checkoff money to finance these deceptive marketing campaigns.
In the coming year, OCM will continue fighting to reform the beef checkoff and keep mandatory country of origin labeling in place. However, the problems in the food system are bigger than the farm and ranch community can handle alone. OCM has successfully led a campaign to connect urban consumers to our work. With your support, we will significantly expand those efforts and work to build new markets that really work for family farm agriculture, while reconstructing local and regional food systems.