Our current food system is broken, and it did nothappen by accident. Many people do not have accessto safe, nutritious, a
ordable food; many farmers can’tmake a living; many regions of the country no longerproduce the food they consume; and large-scale indus-trial agriculture pollutes our soil and water. Decadesof misguided farm policy designed by agribusiness,combined with unchecked corporate consolidation, havewreaked havoc on family farmers, public health andrural communities.Independent farmers have been sold out by anagricultural policy that favors the overproduction of commodity crops like corn and soybeans, often drivingdown their price. Deregulation has left farmers vulner-able to wild swings in the price of corn, soybeans andwheat, lowering farmers’ earnings for most of the last15 years. Meanwhile, agribusiness buyers — grain-trading companies, meatpackers and food manufac-turers that use soybeans and corn in processed foods —reap huge pro
ts from this system that promotes cheapcommodity crops. Farm policy has continued to rely onexports to absorb excess supplies of bargain basement-priced crops, while failing to address the real problemsat home, including high land prices, high debt andweakened safety nets for farmers.Small and midsized farms are at the mercy of market
uctuations, and a wave of agribusiness, food manu-facturing and supermarket mergers has made theproblem worse. Consolidation has allowed a handful of companies that buy crops and livestock to dictate theprices that farmers receive. The four largest companiesin each industry slaughter nearly all the beef, processtwo-thirds of the pork, sell half the groceries andmanufacture about half the milk in the United States.This means that the low prices paid to farmers are notpassed on to consumers as savings at the grocery store.There is a growing movement of farmers andconsumers working to rebuild local food systems andput more of the consumer food dollar directly in thehands of farmers. But unfortunately, shopping wellis not enough. While we work to restore links in ourlocal food systems that bring farmers and consumerstogether, we must
x broken food policy at the federallevel. The Farm Bill, which is rewritten every
ers a critical opportunity to change federalfarm and food policy. Instead of catering to agribusi-ness’s desire for cheap raw materials, our next FarmBill should ensure functional, fair markets so thatfarmers and farmworkers who grow our food can earn adecent living, promote environmental stewardship andrebuild the infrastructure we need for consumers toaccess sustainably grown, regionally produced food.