Down in the policy trenches, Elizabeth Warren rolls out a new plan for protecting family farms
As fellow Democratic contenders continue to pile into the race to unseat the great orange buffoon in the White House, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has continued to churn out policy proposal after policy proposal, fleshing out a program of ambitious government reforms to stem corporate corruption and government ineptitude. This now includes a plan to “un-rig” agricultural polices that favor corporate megafirms like Bayer-Monsanto over smaller, family-owned farms.
She’s not beating around the bush, either. She is presenting her plan only days before traveling to a rural issues forum in Iowa, ground zero for many of the corporate consolidation trends impacting small-town farming communities, and is naming the powerful corporations she believes are tipping the scales of agricultural policy too far in their own favor: Tyson. Bayer-Monsanto. Dow-DuPont.
Warren’s policy prescription is primarily focused on the market-bending impacts of consolidation, and specifically calls for the breakup of agribusiness firms such as Tyson that have gained near-monopoly power in their chosen markets. It also demands a reversal of the Bayer-Monsanto merger, a merger that turned two of the largest seed providers in the world into a behemoth that, as Warren notes, controls more than a third of the total U.S. vegetable seed market and over half the market for some vegetable crops.
And Warren demands an end to so-called “contract farming,” in which agricultural megacompanies contract with smaller farms to grow or raise their products—but only if farmers incur steep debts to follow a long list of corporate requirements that have the effect of locking them into dependency on that specific company and product. The controlling companies thus gain tremendous leverage in future contract negotiations: Either agree to our new terms, they are able to demand of farmers, or abandon the market entirely.
This is on-brand for Warren: She has made a name for herself in Washington as a consummate policy expert in an era when wonk has too often become an abused and meaningless term, and has been a relentless promoter of specific reforms to rein in corporate abuses that have upended markets and created larger structural dangers for the economy as a whole. She’s likely brought upon herself a few million dollars’ worth of negative advertisements sponsored by Tyson and Bayer-Monsanto alone with these proposals, but down in actual farming communities, these proposals are likely to spark some keen interest. Corporations don’t have votes, and instead must scramble to purchase them. Small-town farmers do.