The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; drakestraw(at)fwwatch(dot)org

Council to Help Rural Communities, or Giveaway to Big Ag and Natural Gas Industries?

Statement from Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch


"Last week's executive order creating a White House Rural Council is concerning for rural residents and sustainable agriculture. Its creation appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to continue ravaging our U.S. farming communities and substitute dirty energy development for policies that would enable farmers to stay above water. It's a win-win for Big Ag and the energy industry--which is intent on developing its natural gas portfolio thanks to a new and risky technology called hydrofracking.

"For decades, bad policies have put farmers out of business, consolidated the food industry, and made our rural communities vulnerable to recent promises made by the natural gas industry to bring jobs and revitalize local economies. The real promise of natural gas fracking appears to be lower air quality, well contamination, and noisy traffic. The jobs? They tend to go to people already in the energy industry, not residents of the communities where the damage is wreaked.

"This Council pays lip service to rural communities but what they really need is for the government to implement long-delayed rules that would make farming fair. There has been continued obstruction of the implementation of the GIPSA rule (named for the branch of the USDA that would oversee the rules, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration), which was first proposed in the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act.

"The rule would make it easier for small livestock farmers to get their products to market by giving them a fair price that would let them stay in business. The rule stops preferential contracts granted to factory farms, allows competitive bidding on livestock, and prohibits retaliation against poultry growers who speak out about abuses.

"The best way the White House can help rural communities is to follow through on President Obama's campaign promise and implement these rules to give farmers a chance to stay on the land if they so choose, instead of feeling forced to lease it out for dirty energy production. Rural America should not be a sacrifice zone where the extractive industries, like gas fracking, can replace traditional agriculture."



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