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The two types of farm organizations

by David Dechant
Colorado wheat, corn and alfalfa grower

(Nov. 29, 2001 – CropChoice guest column) -- Recently, the Senate Ag Committee voted down the proposed Competition Title, which would have been included in the new farm bill. It would have required that corporations deal more fairly with farmers and would have reduced their ability to manipulate the markets farmers buy and sell in. While it was no surprise that the agribusiness corporations opposed the Competition Title, the fact that some farm organizations were also in opposition had many folks wondering why.

Inasmuch as corporate campaign contributions weigh heavily upon our elected officials' judgment, corporate money also affects the judgment of a good many farm organizations. This explains in large part why some organizations opposed the Title. In fact, corporate money is what pretty much divides farm organizations into two distinct types or groups: those that take it and those that don't.

Following this article are two lists of entities. Those in the first list signed on to letters opposing the Competition Title and consist mostly of the agribusiness corporations themselves and the farm groups who take donations from them. Those in the second list signed on to a letter supporting the Title and consist mostly of farm organizations that do not take corporate money, operate on shoestring budgets, and depend on a lot of volunteer work, just as do a lot of and civic and religious organizations that also signed on in support.

The Competition Title isn't the only issue that divides farm organizations into two such groups. Other issues which divide them pretty much along the same lines include the following: country of origin or GMO labeling, holding corporations responsible for the negative effects of GMOs, overcharging for inputs, patenting of seed and animals, mandatory participation in commodity checkoffs, support of the disastrous and notorious "Freedom to Farm" program, etc. In any case, though, the differences usually boil down to just one thing: corporations vs. farmers.

Being nearsighted, corporate friendly farm organizations can't see any farther than the corporate contributions they accept, because without them, they probably couldn't function. In fact, the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association call their corporate benefactors "corporate partners" or "industry partners." Moreover, to make sure their contributions get the most bang for the buck, the corporations also sponsor paid-for "leadership training" sessions for the ASA's and other organizations' state and national leaders. ( http://soygrowers.com/?p=4461)

In addition to sponsoring many farm organizations' numerous state conventions, agribusiness corporations also pay for much of the ASA's and NCGA's joint annual national convention, the "Commodity Classic." For example, DuPont/Pioneer and Dow have already signed on to $40,000 sponsorships for the upcoming 2002 convention, while Bayer and Monsanto signed on to $15,000 sponsorships. (www.commodityclassic.com/sponsorship/opportunities.htm)

The NCGA and ASA hold their respective policy meetings at the Commodity Classic, and it's hard to imagine they would take any positions counter to their donors who forked over so much money. Likewise, it's hard to imagine the donors would donate again if any corporate unfriendly policy came out of these meetings.

Back to the Competition Title, there's one curious and very notable absence from the lists of supporters or opponents: the American Farm Bureau. It's straddling the fence on the Competition issue and must be wondering whom it should really represent. It is often viewed as siding with agribusiness, and for a good many reasons, a disgraceful one being that it takes in the money that Monsanto makes by prosecuting farmers for saving seed.

Entities opposing the Competition title:

  • American Cotton Shippers Association
  • American Soybean Association
  • National Cattlemen's Beef Association
  • National Chicken Council
  • National Corn Growers Association
  • National Cotton Council
  • National Pork Producers Council
  • National Sunflower Association
  • National Turkey Federation
  • United Egg Producers
  • U.S. Canola Association
  • American Cotton Shippers Association
  • American Crop Protection Association
  • American Feed Industry Association
  • American Frozen Food Institute
  • American Meat Institute
  • American Seed Trade
  • Animal Health Institute
  • Cargill, Inc.
  • CGB Enterprises, Inc.
  • Chicago Board of Trade
  • Corn Refiners Association
  • Food Distributors International
  • Food Marketing Institute
  • Grocery Manufacturers of America
  • International Dairy Foods Association
  • Louis Dreyfus Corporation
  • Monsanto Company
  • National Association of Manufacturers
  • National Chicken Council
  • National Food Processors Association
  • National Grain and Feed Association
  • National Grain Trade Council
  • National Meat Association
  • National Renderers Association
  • National Turkey Federation
  • North American Export Grain Association
  • North American Millers' Association
  • Oklahoma Fertilizer and Chemical Association
  • Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association
  • Oklahoma Seed Trade Association
  • Pacific Northwest Grain and Feed Association
  • Pioneer Hi-Bred
  • Seaboard Corporation
  • Smithfield Foods, Inc.
  • Texas Grain and Feed Association
  • Tyson Foods, Inc.
  • United Egg Association
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Entities supporting the Competition Title:

  • American Corn Growers Association
  • Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Region Secular Franciscan Order
  • C.A.S.A. del Llano (Communities Approaching Sustainable Agriculture)
  • California Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
  • Campaign for Contract Ag Reform
  • Campaign for Family Farms
  • Center for Rural Affairs
  • Chemung County Council of Churches
  • Church Women United of Chemung County
  • Consumer Federation Of America
  • Dakota Resource Council
  • Dakota Rural Action
  • Defenders of Wildlife
  • Illinois Stewardship Alliance
  • Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
  • Iowa Farmers Union
  • Iowa State University, Student Organic Farm
  • Kansas Cattlemen's Assn.
  • Kansas Rural Center
  • Ladies of Charity of Chemung County
  • Land Stewardship Project
  • Missouri Farmers Union
  • Missouri Rural Crisis Center
  • Missouri Stockgrowers Assn.
  • National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture
  • National Catholic Rural Life Conference
  • National Family Farm Coalition
  • National Farmers Organization
  • National Farmers Union
  • Nebraska Farmers Union
  • Nevada Livestock Assn.
  • New York State Church Women United
  • New York Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
  • North Carolina Poultry Growers Assn.
  • Oklahoma Farmers Union
  • Organization for Competitive Markets
  • Powder River Basin Resource Council
  • Promised Land Network - Texas
  • Rural Advancement Foundation International, USA
  • Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
  • South Dakota Stockgrowers Assn.
  • St John the Baptist Secular Franciscan Order
  • United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
  • Western Organization of Resource Councils
  • Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group