Letter: Task Force report fails to target farm price, consumer choice

Gerald Carlin

On January 8, 2018, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, presented President Trump with Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. This report focused on rural America in general.

Letter to the Editor

To the extent that agriculture was mentioned, the Task Force put forth five main objectives. The first being e-connectivity. US population is estimated to grow to 400 million by 2050.

“To supply this number of people with food, American farms need reliable, real-time internet connectivity to oversee operations in the fields, manage finances, and respond to international market conditions. To match world food demand, innovative technologies such as precision agriculture can insure American farms reach the necessary levels of productivity. Such methods require every part of the farm be connected to the World Wide Web, not just the farmhouse.”

What about traditional, family farms? Are they necessary? Is not “overproduction” the constant excuse for low farm prices?

The Task Force report states that “Precision Agriculture Technologies . . . could mean the difference between success and failure.” It seems like “over production” and rock bottom farm prices are the real goal.

The second Ag related objective is to insure access to lawful agricultural work force, with the goal to implement policy and regulatory change to improve the H-2A visa program to facilitate more H-2A work visas. The Task Force does not value the incredible farm raised talent of both young farmers and older farmers who have been and are being forced off the farm because of low prices.

The third main Task Force objective is to expand technological innovation especially biotechnology.

“On the biotechnology front, better coordination of the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration, regulations on genetic modifications of crop, and livestock, is needed to reduce barriers to commercialization of safe, beneficial, and improved genetically engineered entities.”

Certainly the rails are well greased, with a large revolving door, between the regulatory agencies and biotech firms. The goal of the Task Force is to “increase public acceptance of biotech products” both domestically and world-wide.

Of course, no mention is made of consumer choice, or labeling, on the domestic front. Considerable space is devoted to the advancement of biotechnology. This does not bode well for skeptics and those who want a choice in the food they eat.

The fourth major Ag objective is to expand export markets. This claim, that exports will boost farm income, is at least 45 years old, and the results on farm income have not been all that positive.

The fifth major Ag objective is to increase access to capital. What good is that without a fair price and the ability to pay back loans?

In summary, the Task Force report does not mention farm price or consumer choice, but does promote policies which will likely accelerate the loss of family farms and the consolidation of the control of our food supply.

Gerald Carlin, Meshoppen, PA