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Survey Shows Family Farmers
Want New Direction for Federal Farm Policy

Farmers and Ranchers differ from Capital Hill
on farm prices, food security

Rhonda Perry
Columbia, Missouri

As Congress searches for answers to the lagging rural economy, farm groups released the results of a comprehensive farm policy survey. “As farmers, we know what it will take to preserve family farms and maintain a secure and independent food supply for America. This survey should help Congress lay the groundwork for an effective farm program that works for family farmers, rural communities and our nation’s current security needs,“ said Bill Christison, a crop and livestock farmer from Missouri.

Over the last year, 1,453 farmers and rural citizens responded to a comprehensive questionnaire and gave their view on key issues facing rural America. These surveys were distributed at public meetings, through direct mail and general postal route mailings, on-line and at county and state fairs. Survey respondents answered questions in five categories: farm bill, trade, concentration, food safety/genetic engineering and food security. Citizens from 46 states participated in the survey, with most coming from the Midwest and Great Plains states.

The vast majority of farmers and rural people surveyed indicated their support for a federal farm bill that:

  • Does not force farmers to rely on the government to make payments. Farmers favor national policy that levels the playing field with agribusiness, and allows family farmers to earn a fair price from the marketplace for their commodities.
  • Takes grain and feed storage out of the hands of agribusiness monopolies operated by companies like Cargill, Con Agra and ADM. Farmers seek laws supporting a farmer-owned grain reserve to provide price stability for consumers and protect against food shortages during poor production years.
  • Ends predatory and monopolistic behavior in the beef and pork industries. Family farmers and ranchers want national laws that establish fair and open markets through a comprehensive competition title that bans packer ownership of livestock, stops unjust price discrimination and mandates country-of-origin labeling for all meats and produce.
  • Makes corporate livestock factories accountable for their pollution. Family farmers seek a Farm bill that enhances long-term conservation measures and promotes environmentally sustainable farming practices.

“If you take a look at what’s on the table so far, whether it’s the House farm bill or from Senators Harkin and Lugar, we’re still going to be suffering from low prices and increased corporate concentration out here in the countryside,” said Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member and Iowa farmer George Naylor. “They need a wake-up call out in Washington, DC.”

“Congress needs to rethink its approach to federal farm policy,” said Missouri farmer and Missouri Rural Crisis Center member Rhonda Perry. “Cargill, Tyson, ConAgra, and Continental Grain are currently being subsidized by taxpayers because they can steal corn, beans, and wheat at rock-bottom prices. They can buy low and sell high, they can use that cheap grain to fuel their corporate livestock factories, and they keep expanding their global network of monopolistic control over our food and fiber supply.”

Helen Waller, a Montana farmer and Northern Plains Resource Council member, believes that the survey clearly lets Congress know what farmers want in a farm bill. “We need a farm bill that works for farmers, ensures a stable and affordable food supply, revitalizes rural communities and saves taxpayers billions of dollars. One proposal, the Food From Family Farms Act, will replace taxpayer bailouts with fair market prices, food security, and open and competitive markets. Real farmers, not corporate lobbyists, developed the Food From Family Farms Act proposal -- it’s time farmers had a say in the policies that affect them.”

Highlights of the National Farm Action Campaign Farm Bill survey

Of the 1,453 farmers and rural people surveyed:

  • 80.2% favor raising commodity loan-rates to cover farmers’ cost-of-production.
  • 86.4% of farmers and rural people surveyed believe that a farmer-owned and controlled grain reserve should be part of any federal farm program.
  • 82.7% believe that current cheap grain policies lead to corporate factory livestock production.
  • 86.8% believe that long-term conservation programs should be included in any federal farm program.
  • 95.8% support country-of-origin labeling for all foods, including meats, that are imported into the United States.
  • 88.8% support a moratorium on corporate agribusiness mergers.
  • 81.7% support banning packer ownership of livestock.
  • 92.8% support strong measures banning price discrimination in any federal farm program.
  • 83.2% support reforming government procurement policies to require that some food purchases be made from independent family farmers.
  • 57% favor supply management provisions in exchange for fair market prices, with only 30.1% disagreeing (12.8% have no opinion).

The National Farm Action Campaign will release a full report of the survey results and analysis later in the year. For a copy of the preliminary survey results, contact the Missouri Rural Crisis Center at (573) 449-1336 or by e-mail at or go to

The National Farm Action Campaign (NFAC) is a national organizing initiative led by farm and rural organizations to fight for fair farm prices and progressive farm policy, and against the growing corporate control of U.S. food production. NFAC Member Organizations include: American Corn Growers Association, FARM AID, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Indiana Citizens Action Coalition, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, National Family Farm Coalition, Nebraska Farmers Union, Western Organization of Resource Councils.

Published in In Motion Magazine, November 6, 2001

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