Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Hogs are raised on Duncan Farms on June 6, 2018 near Polo, Illinois. (Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images)

Hogs are raised on Duncan Farms on June 6, 2018 near Polo, Illinois. (Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images)

Family Farm Action Alliance Releases Report to 'Counter Big Ag's Deception'

"The current consolidated food system is nothing more than the result of policy choices that prioritized a large, concentrated industry."

Kenny Stancil

In an effort to inform policymakers, advocates, and the public about the impacts of agrifood corporations on the U.S. food system and build support for transforming the nation's agricultural practices, the Family Farm Action Alliance released a new report on Wednesday that details how Big Ag's survival depends on externalizing costs and perpetuating myths about the supposed lack of more just and sustainable alternatives.

"If we come together to make different choices, we can have a competitive and democratized system that serves the needs of all Americans."
—Emily Miller, Family Farm Action Alliance

"Time and time again family farmers, rural communities, and good food movement advocates have pushed to shift government support away from industrial agriculture and toward a more resilient and equitable system," Joe Maxwell, president of Family Farm Action Alliance, said in a statement. "Time and time again, we have failed—because Big Ag controls the narrative. Our report offers a playbook to counter Big Ag's deception and finally break their stranglehold on our food system."

Titled The Truth About Industrial Agriculture: A Fragile System Propped Up by Myths and Hidden Costs, the report (pdf) documents how corporations involved in the "economically flawed" agribusiness model "intentionally evade costs all along their supply chains."

The costs that agrifood corporations avoid paying don't simply disappear, however. Instead, the bill is passed along to "poorly paid and badly treated" agricultural workers, rural communities, and consumers who are forced to contend with "unequal access to affordable, healthy food," the report says. These costs "eventually surface in the form of taxpayer-funded subsidies, a degraded environment, and poor public health outcomes."

If actors in the corporate food regime were required to internalize the true costs of production, the report notes, "their businesses would no longer be economically viable and they would not be competitive with independent farmers and ranchers."

The report identifies several "costs of doing business that industrial agrifood corporations simply don't pay," including:

  • worker safety, healthcare, and liveable wages;
  • farm debt and adequate income for producers;
  • increased local infrastructure maintenance taxes and utility maintenance;
  • producer's share of the retail price;
  • rising crop insurance premiums;
  • weather-related yield decreases; and
  • drinking and recreational water contamination.

According to the report, the negative consequences of industrial agriculture that powerful entities shift onto farmers, consumers, and taxpayers hit low-income communities hardest of all.

"Control of agricultural markets and concentration of power has proven to be a lucrative business for industrial agrifood corporations," wrote Emily M. Miller, research and policy manager for Family Farm Action Alliance and author of the report. "The erosion of antitrust enforcement, unbridled mergers and acquisitions, and monopolistic control of the agrifood system from local to global markets have yielded highly concentrated markets and corporations with unprecedented political and economic power."

Miller added that:

There is no more compelling evidence for the artificiality of agricultural markets than the feed-meat complex. The feed-meat complex is a cycle of constant feed-grain monocultures and concentrated animal feeding operaton-raised livestock. Over decades of farm market erosion and political influence, industrial agrifood corporations have created the demand in domestic and foreign markets for commodities, trapped farmers into constrained production practices and contracts, and created taxpayer subsidies and mandatory producer fees to fund the entire system—all while targeting links of exploitation and profit extraction within the supply chain.

agrifood-corporations-decide-who-eats

Rather than "alter their wealth-extracting supply chains... industrial agriculture interests would rather spend billions of dollars on lobbyists and myth-based marketing campaigns," the report states. "The falsehoods they perpetuate persuade consumers and policymakers alike that there is no other option."

One of the key contributions the report makes is to dismantle "some of the well-funded falsehoods that multinational agrifood corporations use to defend their destructive business model and defeat any meaningful reforms to the food system."

For each "myth" propagated by Big Ag about hunger, food prices, public health, economic development, environmental degradation, and lack of alternatives, the report provides a "truth" to challenge it.

According to the report:

  • Smaller farms meet 70% to 80% of the world's food needs, and they could double or triple production without adopting industrial farming methods;
  • Efficiency limits of Big Ag's large-scale, centralized production were reached years ago—yet not only are food prices high relative to inflation, more Americans are classified as food insecure than ever before;
  • The economic benefits industrial agriculture claims to offer rural communities are short-lived and vastly outnumbered by the damages they inflict on communities' economic, civic, physical, and environmental well-being;
  • Public health issues—including antibiotic resistance, asthma, cancer, hypertension, and respiratory complications—are widely recognized by the scientific community as being linked to nearby industrial agriculture operations;
  • Industrial agriculture causes a host of environmental ills: degraded soil runs into waterways, rendering both drinking and recreation water unsafe; synthetic inputs rely heavily on fossil fuels; pesticide and herbicide use lead to decreased plant and animal biodiversity;
  • Industrial agriculture is the product of intentional policy decisions on the part of federal agencies and other decision-makers who promoted it as the future of agriculture; and
  • The U.S. already boasts alternatives that offer built-in resilience and redundancy—collective food aggregation, cooperative groceries, farmers' markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares with local farmers, and roadside stands, to name a few—that could be prioritized in our policies and subsidies.

"This report reveals that the current consolidated food system is nothing more than the result of policy choices that prioritized a large, concentrated industry," Miller said in a statement.

"If we come together to make different choices," she added, "we can have a competitive and democratized system that serves the needs of all Americans."

If not, the report warns, "the long-term viability of the agrifood system will be threatened, guaranteeing that higher costs, both financial and human, will be paid in the future."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Infuriating Disappointment': Biden DHS Ramping Up Deportations to Haiti

"It is unconscionable for the Biden administration to resume deportation flights to Haiti, despite the country's ongoing political, economic, and environmental disasters."

Jessica Corbett ·


Architect of Texas Abortion Ban Takes Aim at LGBTQ+ Rights While Urging Reversal of Roe

"Make no mistake, the goal is to force extreme, outdated, religious-driven values on all of us through the courts."

Jessica Corbett ·


Ahead of Canadian Election, Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib Endorse NDP

"Bernie, you have fought courageously for public healthcare, affordable medication, making the rich pay their fair share, and tackling the climate crisis," said party leader Jagmeet Singh. "We're doing the same here."

Jessica Corbett ·


US Urged to End Drone Strikes After Pentagon Says Killing 10 Afghan Civilians Was 'Horrible Mistake'

"That was not a 'mistake,'" said journalist Anand Giridharadas. "War crimes are not oopsies."

Brett Wilkins ·


40+ NYC Activists Arrested for Protests Against Banks Fueling Climate Emergency

"We're sending a message loud and clear that the little action that politicians and greenwashing CEOs have taken so far does not begin to deal with the magnitude of this crisis."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo