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Missouri Farmers Join in
Calling for Investigation into Farm Bureau

Bryce Oates
Columbia, Missouri

soy harvest
Harvesting soybeans in central Missouri. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.
The Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) joined with more than 180 organizations on Tuesday, April 11, in calling for a congressional investigation of the American Farm Bureau Federation. The Farm Bureau, despite its self-proclaimed status as the "voice of agriculture," actively promotes vertical integration and concentration of the food system.

The declaration issued today "calls for a congressional investigation into charges that American Farm Bureau Federation national leadership has harmed the American farmer and their own members by posing as an organization representing farmer interests when, in fact, Farm Bureau’s widespread commercial activities -- which include the operation of businesses that sell to the farmer and buy from the farmer -- puts them in a position of representing a point of view antagonistic to the interests of the farmer. We further call for investigation into charges that Farm Bureau leadership also misrepresents its motivations to Congress and the American taxpayer -- exploiting the farmer image to win, from Congress, non-profit "privileges" that shield them from an estimated $61.75 million annually in federal income tax. We urge Congress to complete the process started a generation ago (by the current Chief of the National Security Council Sandy Berger) and protect rural America and its heritage."

MRCC President and Missouri farmer Bill Christison spoke at the press conference announcing the coalition of organizations calling for a congressional investigation. "The Farm Bureau thwarts economic and social justice in this country by supporting legislation like the Freedom to Farm Act and unfair trade policies like GATT and fast track trade authority. This policy position has underwritten unprecedented corporate profits and solidified a system that allows corporate greed to run unbridled."

Roger Allison, Howard County farmer and MRCC member, explains his with the Farm Bureau. "If there is one thing I’ve learned in all my years in fighting for family farms, it’s that the Farm Bureau comes down on the wrong side of almost every issue. When farmers out here in the countryside are demanding legislation that would end agribusiness mergers or ban packers from owning livestock, the Farm Bureau aligns itself with corporate agribusiness to beat back the farmer message."

Missouri farmers question other Farm Bureau policies including investment in corporations like Premium Standard Farms. PSF is a corporate factory farm hog producer that has never made a profit since its inception, while driving family farmers out of business through overproduction. Farm Bureau is opposed to the Voting Rights Act, one of the cornerstones of legislation passed during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Farm Bureau lobbies for increased corporate subsidies to crop insurance companies, of which Farm Bureau makes millions of dollars every year.

MRCC member and farmer Rhonda Perry opposes the Farm Bureau’s package of policies. "If the Farm Bureau wants to go to Washington, D.C., and state capitals and lobby for an agenda like this, they need to do it as the corporate-driven insurance company that they are, not as the voice of the American family farmer. They don’t represent us."

This call for investigation is being released on the heels of Sunday’s "60 Minutes" investigation and expose of the Farm Bureau, bringing attention to the Farm Bureau’s lack of accountability to its members and the American public in general.

Published in In Motion Magazine - April 17, 2000