Diverse Coalition Calls for Systemic Policy Changes to Ensure Equity Across Our Food System
National Family Farm Coalition Press Release; Contact: Lisa Griffith, [email protected], 773-319-5838
December 14, 2020 – Calling for an end to more than 50 years of unjust farm policies and economic disparity, a diverse coalition of family farmers, grassroots advocates, and food system researchers announced today a project featuring policy reforms needed to build an equitable food system. The Disparity to Parity project advocates substantive policy solutions to ensure living wages for all food producers; access to arable land, especially for Black, Indigenous, migrant, and other historically disadvantaged farmers; protected rights for farm and food workers; and a secure national food supply available to everyone.
The policy platforms are outlined in a series of essays, four of which are released with two powerful videos featuring the voices of family farmers and farm workers describing the disparities they endure and the parity solutions. More essays will be released early 2021 for presentation to the new Congress and Biden-Harris administration.
“This project builds on the parity solutions we outlined in the Food From Family Farm Act of 2007. It offers the new administration and Congress recommendations to help them live up to their promise to prioritize economic recovery, racial equity, climate change, and COVID-19 relief,” said Jim Goodman, board president of the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) and retired Wisconsin dairy farmer. “It’s imperative that they listen to common-sense solutions for tackling these crucial issues while defining parity, the means to achieve it, and the broader goal of achieving social peace.”
Asserting that existing farm policies incentivize a treadmill of commodity crop overproduction; corporate consolidation; increased debt, foreclosures, and land loss; farm, fish, and food workers facing abuse, ruthless working conditions, and deportation; and a wide range of ecological and climate impacts, the coalition outlines parity solutions much broader than its oft-quoted definition as “fair farm prices”.
“Parity should not be interpreted as just ‘fair prices for farmers,” says George Naylor, Iowa organic corn and soybean farmer and advocate whose essay is among the first featured. “A society dedicated to parity for our people and our environment will inspire healthy human and ecological relationships for generations to come.”
The coalition’s recommendations center access to land as a critical tool for achieving parity. Land access is essential to serving economic dignity, racial and gender equity, climate, and environmental justice, and agroecological resilience proactively.
“Parity is important to keeping Black farmers on their farm,” said Cornelius Blanding, Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund’s executive director, “but there’s so much pain in the Black farming community, starting with land loss, that you must begin with that.”
The project also describes the need for parity in farmers’ own voices through a series of powerful videos produced by ActionAid USA and NFFC. Two videos were released today: Farmers Need Fair Prices Now! highlights pricing reform and commodity supply management to reinvigorate rural producers and businesses; Equity and Land Access for All! focuses on Black, Indigenous, immigrant, and other socially disadvantaged communities who have been denied the rights to own land, produce foods of their choice, and build family wealth.
“Communities are facing skyrocketing hunger, poverty, and joblessness due to this catastrophic economic crisis and climate change. We hope these videos illustrate why it is so critical that our farm policies require agribusinesses – which have profited from underpaying farmers and workers for decades – to finally pay fair prices and livable wages, protect the environment, and ensure that everyone who wants to farm can access land,” said Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau, campaigner at ActionAid USA, an international development and human rights organization.
The Disparity to Parity project, initiated by American University professor Garrett Graddy-Lovelace, comprises more than 20 essays. Esteemed farmers, advocates, and analysts from NFFC member organizations, including the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund; the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy; Farm Aid; the Campaign for Food, Farm and the Environment; Food & Water Watch; Dairy Together; and interdisciplinary researchers contributed their time and intellect. Essays and contributor information are featured on the project’s website disparitytoparity.org.
“Wiser agricultural governance could transform disparities into parities by foregrounding and updating the concept of parity itself. Farm justice lays the groundwork for food, environmental, and labor justice,” said Graddy-Lovelace. “We gathered a team of experts to ask and answer the questions of how to coordinate agricultural supply, support racially diverse food producers and land stewards, and nourish communities.”
The project will release additional policy recommendations and videos in early 2021, culminating in a virtual briefing for Members of Congress in late spring. Posted essays highlight parity-based solutions to redress the failures in our food system that were magnified during a year of COVID-19 and extreme weather events.
“The original New Deal programs helped end the Dust Bowl and Great Depression by rewarding farmers who practiced soil conservation,” said organic farmer and project contributor Elizabeth Henderson, of Northeast Organic Farming Association-New York. “Our policy recommendations can bring about parity in the 21st century that can, in turn, lead to healthier soils, greater climate resilience, and revitalized rural communities.”