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Outline of a Call to Action ...
Family Farms, not Factory Farms

Family farms ... are the only hope
for a sustainable agriculture system

by Rhonda Perry,
Chicago, Illinois

Rhonda Perry at work on the family farm. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.Rhonda Perry is the program director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. This speech was delivered October 3, 1998 at the annual Farm Aid gathering of U.S. farmers and supporters.

What we've heard loud and clear here today - from citizens all over the country is: Family Farms, not Factory Farms.

Why are people demanding family farms, not factory farms?

Factory farms:

  • pollute our air and land
  • send dollars out of our rural communities
  • create food safety concerns over food safety
  • raise animals inhumanely, and we all know that corporations always put profits before people.

Family farms ... are the only hope for a sustainable agriculture system.

  • We care about the land. For generations, we have sustained our families, our rural communities and the economy of our states.
  • Family farmers should be the ones making decisions about their operations - not be simply becoming laborers for corporations.
  • And finally, family farmers producing food in this country is in our best interest.

Although we know we want family farmers producing food, there are a few obstacles standing in the way:

  • Corporations write federal family policy that ensures that Corporations go to the banks while farmers are going to bankruptcy.
  • Family farmers are being denied market access and see pure discrimination a daily basis.
  • Mandatory check off programs that use family farmers' dollars to further the corporation agenda.
  • Government discrimination against minority and small farmers.
  • Corporations have deep pockets - and don't have to pay the true cost of doing business.

Corporations know that we would choose family farmers every time we're given a choice. That's why they are corporations when they want millions of dollars in agri-business / corporate welfare, but when they appeal to communities and consumers, they know we want to hear: "Straight from the independent family farmer." The power we have is that we know that they know -- and we're using that power.

Farmers and rural residents and consumers are

  • standing up
  • speaking out
  • fighting back

1. Farmers and rural citizens are taking on hog factories all across the country by every means possible.

  • Minnesota - stopped Hancock pork in their tracks
  • Iowa - citizens stopped Heartland pork from getting a $700,000 tax break
  • Missouri - citizens stopped Cargil bringing in 50,000 hogs
  • Illinois - stopped Land of Lakes -52,000 hogs

2. Thousands of hog and cattle farmers have signed a petition to end the mandatory pork check off.

3. Black farmers have sued USDA to bring an end to discrimination.

4. Farmers are fighting to change the rules and enforce current anti-trust laws to stop the sweetheart deals between meat packers and factory farms and to ensure true competition in agriculture.

Agribusiness corporations and their political allies like the National Pork Producers Council say nothing will stand in their way in their attempt over the food system.

Nothing will stand in their way

  • not independent livestock farmers
  • not anti-trust laws
  • not minority farmers
  • not federal farm policy
  • not even consumers

But we're saying that we are going to stand in their way.

  • learn where your food comes from
  • join organizations like the ones here today
  • join Farm Aid in supporting organizations who are demanding family farms, not factory farms.
  • donate to Farm Aid.

Published in In Motion Magazine December 15, 1998.