When mega corporations control our farms, everyone loses

Story submitted by Newstalk103.7 FM

June 25, 2022 – For many of us in south-central Pennsylvania, farms have been a characteristic backdrop all of our lives.

Not only are they part of the scenery, but they are also a major part of our food and dairy consumption.

But with the trend we’ve seen in recent years toward billionaires and corporations getting involved in the rules for the agriculture industry, we could see some rather alarming changes in the future.

Sherry Bunting, a freelance journalist covering agriculture since 1981, joined Political Vibe this weekend to talk about the issues.

The dairy and beef industries have what is called a check off, which is under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and money is taken from their milk check or when they sell beef animals that goes into education and research.

Over the years, especially on the dairy side, they’ve built alliances with huge corporations on the sustainability issue.

Bunting said, “That’s a good thing. Farmers want to be at the table instead of on the menu.”

The alliances with some of the largest global companies that are driving carbon tracking are all in the name of climate neutrality. One of the alliances is with World Wildlife Fund, which is also tied in with World Economic Forum.

Bunting said, “The strategy here is to use the 500 largest food corporations that control 70% of consumer choices rather than working with the 7 billion consumers on the planet and the millions of farmers across the world.”

The alliances have begun working on ESG (Environmental Social Governance) scores. It’s headed not only into the food production and supply, but also access to credit.

One of the buzz words is 30 by 30. That’s trying to get 30% of the world’s surface (including the US) set aside and rewilded, which conserves a lot of land and animals. Right now we’re at 14%. The groups would like to see it hit 30% by 2030 (hence the 30 by 30 moniker) and hit 50% by 2050.

Bunting said, “What has changed for dairy farmers and beef producers over the past 12 years is now they have all of these different programs that they have to be accountable to and start tracking their carbon and basically just falling into this whole thing.”

A panelist at a recent summit called farmers the eco-workforce to be deployed and soil (the land) as an asset class to be traded and invested in.

Bunting said, “We’re getting to the point of who’s going to control the decisions that are made on the land by the farmers who produce our food?”

If what we eat, where we go and how we get there as consumers will all be tracked as well as how farms access capital or credit based on their carbon footprint, then it’s really important to know how these aspects are measured and who will own the resulting data and ultimately, who gets to make the decisions based on that.

Bunting said, “Cattle are I think the biggest target, not because they belch, but because they require land and most of it is land not suitable for vegetable production. A lot of it is grassland, rangeland and if you want to conserve and rewild land, then cattle would be your first target. They have a longer life cycle than a chicken or a pig and that whole lifecycle is part of a natural biogenic carbon cycle, so they’re necessary, but there’s a whole sector of people out there that would like to see the cattle industry, beef and dairy, simply go away and allow wild animals to take that position. I think we have to be vigilant and give our farmers the chance to continue to do good, but not to be ruled by the global elite, basically is what it amounts to.”

Through the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) consistency standards are being set where all the downstream vendors of a publicly traded company would have to give proprietary information and data that would be scored.

Bunting said, “There’s a lot of the science part of it that hasn’t been ironed out yet and critical aspects of who owns the data, how is it used hasn’t been ironed out yet. So you’re putting farmers in a position of having to hire attorneys or whomever to fill out paperwork and do all of this transparency on to meet these ESGs for those that are buying upstream their products.”

While the global round table on sustainability – these large corporations – are trying to keep from having regulatory oversight, there also needs to also be some kind of recourse.

If a farm falls outside of whatever they decide are the parameters in how that farm is operating, farmers might be doing great things for the planet, but it might not be enough to meet the ESGs.

Bunting said, “It’s increasingly the small and mid-sized, more family-operated farms. When you’re talking about your smaller and mid-sized farms, they’re at most risk here because their resources are limited and that’s where some of the concern is. Where do farmers have recourse?”

The east is losing farms and the representation on the boards becomes weighted to where the milk is being produced and where some of the technologies will work.

Some of the new technology is not so easy to do in, say, Lancaster County, on a 100 cow dairy farm.

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “They’re sort of fooling people into thinking you’re being a part of the process and they’re listening to you and maybe they’re not. I’m very worried that they’re giving the façade that they care about our opinions or other people’s opinions, but they’re very dogmatic. They just want to eliminate carbon. They want us to get off fossil fuels and part of that is taking over a lot of land for windmills and they do want to get rid of the use of cattle and sheep because they want that land.”

Another worrisome aspect of this is positioning school children as the agents of change.

Jansen said, “We see the indoctrination of young children and they’re being terrified about climate change. That the world’s going to end in a matter of years if we don’t hurry, panic and do this stuff. How do we change that perception that we can’t work together to find real solutions? We’ve just got to hurry and panic and follow this one path.”

GENYOUth is a program that began in 2009 with a memorandum of understanding between the USDA, the National Dairy Board and the NFL in schools that is all about physical fitness and eating right. It also pledged to advance the dietary guidelines.

Bunting said, “The dietary guidelines have this moratorium on saturated fats. So you can’t even serve or offer whole milk or 2% milk to children in schools. They can only be offered 1% or fat free, even if they’re willing to pay for it themselves. It can’t even be an ala cart item. That’s a whole separate issue, but yet it’s germane because if you start to water down the animal fat that the children are allowed to have and then their taste for milk that they’re getting is basically fat free and 1%, it’s a lot easier to shift them then to these plant-based and look-a-like products.”

It starts to look like the future is headed toward blending the dairy beverage with plant-based products.

Bunting said, “Our children are under-consuming key nutrients of concern that can only be found in basically milk and meat.”

Jansen said, “We’re finding out now you need those whole fats for good brain development so you don’t end up with dementia as you get older.”

Bunting said, “What’s concerning is you have this sort of blank page with children. I call it herding. Basically this World Wildlife Fund strategy developed in 2012 as part of a multi-sectioned document of how to accomplish some of these goals even back then was sort of an hourglass where you have the larger portion at the top and bottom being the consumers and the producers and the middle being the leverage point which are these large corporations that already own so many of the companies producing the brands for food. They’re the leverage point so they’re driving this. They say consumers want this, but they haven’t convinced the consumer.”

For more information on what’s happening in our agricultural communities, click here: https://agmoos.com/

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