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National Farmers Union Says 'Race to the Bottom' Must Stop

(May 12, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a new release.

Contact: Laura Johnston, 202-314-3104, ljohnston@nfudc.org

Kristy Berger, 202-314-3191, kberger@nfudc.org  

  PRETORIA, South Africa (May 12, 2003) - During an International Federation of Agricultural Producers conference in South Africa last week, U.S. National Farmers Union President Dave Frederickson pitched a plan to improve economic returns for family farmers worldwide. IFAP, which represents farm families in 71 countries through a general consultative status with the United Nations, adopted several of NFU's proposals over the weekend.

Specifically, the body endorsed NFU's plan to attack industrial concentration in the agricultural sector. IFAP members agreed to have two noted industrial concentration researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia facilitate a global study of concentration and its effects on farmers and consumers. Drs. Bill Heffernan and Mary Hendrickson have done exhaustive studies on U.S. agricultural concentration, but the new analysis will represent the first time concentration has been explored worldwide.  Aca demics from each continent have been identified to conduct the research.

Frederickson, who co-chairs an IFAP committee studying ways in which farmers can regain a competitive marketplace, has recommended other approaches to give farmers more control over the food chain including anti-trust enforcement and development of farmer-owned cooperatives.

Secondly, Frederickson encouraged IFAP to adopt initiatives to address economic problems facing farmers around the globe.  Frederickson said that ongoing trade negotiations are forcing nations to seek out the lowest common denominator when it comes to farm prices, government support and food safety.  "It is our concern that the race to the bottom, in which we are all unfortunately engaged, does not serve the best interests of consumers, taxpayers or producers in either developing or developed nations," he said.

Frederickson proposed that IFAP develop initiatives that would shift supply and demand fundamentals to improve producers' market power; reduce world hunger; enhance global food security; and address the impacts of concentration in the food chain. The NFU leader said this approach would be a far better one for farmers than the traditional trade liberalization schemes that "generally ignore the underlying cause of production agriculture's economic insecurity."  

IFAP unanimously encouraged the represented governments to seek meaningful progress at the 5th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Cancun in September so that farmers are able to secure a reasonable income from their work.

NFU is a 300,000-member organization of farmers and ranchers that is now in its 101st year. NFU is a founding member and the only U.S. member of IFAP, which today represents 500 million farmers and includes about 100 organizations.