PRESIDENT, IOWA FARMERS UNION
BEFORE THE U.S. SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE
2002 FARM BILL
JULY 24, 2006
Thank you, Chairman Chambliss and Senator Harkin for holding this field hearing and providing me the opportunity to testify before your committee regarding the 2002 farm bill and future agriculture policy. My name is Chris Petersen; I serve as the president of Iowa Farmers Union, in addition to my family farm operation in Clear Lake, Iowa. I have been involved in production agriculture in varying degrees for 35 years including commodity crops; presently my wife and I maintain a 30-sow Berkshire herd; produce 400 pigs a year, all of which are sold locally or to niche pork companies. Also, we raise and sell beef to local consumers, raise vegetables for area restaurants, and produce and sell hay commercially.
Over the years I have participated in many farm bills and their components, including the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act. I am part of a shrinking pool of independent family farmers across America and speak with the interests of independent family farm food producers in mind. Corporate American agriculture seems to be doing quite well in terms of its economic stability; my goal today is to address the economic interests of independent family farm food producers, who founded this great country.
Every politician, voter, taxpayer, environmentalist, consumer, and the list goes on…need to realize independent family farmers are by far the best stewards of the land and animals. The independent, localized family farm structure has a proven track record of success in America. Straying from this proven structure jeopardizes the United States’ national strategic security, homeland security, anti-terrorism protection, the environment, rural economic development, food safety and food quality, and now energy independence. Federal agricultural policy that prioritizes the interests of independent family farm food producers is vital to not just us as producers, but to our country. It is my hope the committee will keep that in mind as it works to prepare future policy.
As a hog producer, I witness the challenges of an anti-competitive marketplace. I went through the 1998 price collapse of hog markets as a 3000 head farrow-to-finish producer and paid severe economic consequences. Since that market collapse, I have asked elected officials and others why our government has failed to step up to the plate and take action to prevent future tragedies. It was very disappointing the final version of the 2002 Farm Bill did not include a competition title, which was part of the Senate’s farm bill. I believe addressing anti-trust issues, restoring competitive markets and including a competition title in the next farm bill is a must to addressing what I see as one of the biggest problems in agriculture.
Without competitive markets, independent producers like me will continue to be pushed off the land or be turned into low-wage employees by corporate industrialized animal agriculture. I encourage the committee to include a strong competition title in the next farm bill, which should include but not limited to, a ban on packer feeding, reauthorization of an improved mandatory price reporting program and require USDA to start doing its job by enforcing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the Packers and Stockyards Act. I would go further in asking the committee to re-vamp and update anti trust and competition laws to the 21st century, in century, in order to reflect today’s current practices. However, the laws will be of no use if Congress does not mandate that USDA enforce them. In addition to anti-competitive markets, most contract producers are bound by clauses in their contracts that prevent them from pursuing legal redress. In the best interests of contract growers, a ban on mandatory binding arbitration should be included in a competition title…(to be continued)
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