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New Farm Coalition Formed

  • Family farmers, ranchers and others who share common beliefs about the chronic agricultural crisis in the United States are building a proactive coalition to forge new solutions to old problems.
Exclusive to The Spotlight
By Margo Turner

Concerned with the failure of U.S. agricultural pol icies over the last two decades and the failure of elected officials to safeguard the constitutional rights of their rural constituents, many American farmers and ranchers are developing strategies that focus national attention on the devastating results of free trade and the massive importation of cheap labor-produced farm products.

This effort has resulted in the development of a nationwide movement, known as AG ACTION 2000 initiative.

Family farmers and ranchers select and coordinate their own AG ACTION 2000 initiatives. They provide public forums to focus on the economic and social injustice inherent in the current agricultural system, according to Betty Cochran, a Westfield, Pa., farm wife who supports the AG ACTION 2000 initiative.

The most recent initiative, Dairy Action 2000, was held Feb. 1. Dairy farm ers and consumers staged peaceful demonstrations at milk processing and cheese plants in New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to draw public attention to the injustice of a pricing system that has no relationship to a farmer's costs and reflects a drop from 51 percent to 30 percent in the farmer's share of the consumer's dairy dollar.

The protesters targeted Crowly Foods in Binghampton and La Fargeville, N.Y.; Laprino Cheese, Waverly, N.Y.; Meadowbrook Dairy, Sharpsville, Pa.; Schneider Valley Farms, Williamsport, Pa.; Foremost Farms, USA, Baraboo and Richland Center, Wis.; Land O' Lakes/Madison Dairy, Madison, Wis.; and Land O' Lakes, Richland Lakes, Wis.

"We are not getting a fair milk price at all. The federal government is letting this happen to us," said Tom Krieg of Orwell, Ohio, a Dairy Action 2000 supporter and a dairy farmer.

"I see imports as a major problem facing America," Krieg noted, expressing the feeling of fellow dairyman, as well as other agricultural producers.

AG ACTION 2000 participants believe that many of the serious problems facing family farmers and ranchers are the direct consequence of government policy. Many Americans have not been adequately informed about this fact, they claim.

"We expect our government officials to acknowledge the failure of the 'Great American Free Trade Experiment,' which has advanced and protected the special interests of expansive transnational corporations over the safeguarding of private property rights of sovereign American citizens, but they're not interested in listening to the people whose lives are being ruined by their failure to endorse ag policies that put the farmers' and consumers' best interests first," Cochran said.

Spartansburg, Pa., dairy farmer Bonita Davis, another initiative supporter, predicts that the worsening economic depression facing American farmers will eventually create food supply problems for the United States.

Cochran said farmers and ranchers are motivated by a strong sense of concern for neighbors -- the bedrock trait of rural American culture. They also are determined to advance protection of the rural Americans' constitutional rights.

Farmers and ranchers are dismantling the artifice of "regionalism" and "commodity envy" that in the past have been used by special interest groups to keep agricultural producers separated and distant from each other.

"The sweatshop conditions of life on America's modern farms are rooted in a system that stubbornly refuses to address the most basic need of the American farmer for a consideration of realistic costs of production," Cochran said. "Using a strategy of devaluation of the farmers' raw products, the current policy is effectively implementing an economic program the consequence of which is the elimination of the American agrarian class. In loyalty and defense of this great nation, supporters of the AG ACTION 2000 initiative are determined to change the direction of this country's agricultural policy."

For more information about the AG ACTION 2000 initiative, contact Brenda Cochran of Westfield, Pa., (814) 367-2788; Bonita Davis of Spar tansburg, Pa., (814) 654-7420; Francis Goodman of Wonewoe, Wisc., (608) 489-3104; or Joel Greeno of Kendall, Wisc., (608) 463-76334.