Agricultural Politics, GIPSA, and the Difficulties and Ambiguities of Administering a Pro-Farmer Blog
Here at beginningfarmers.org we try to tread lightly when it comes to specific issues regarding farm politics. I have always advocated the development and funding of programs that support beginning farmers, small farmers, and resource limited farmers. But I never take overtly partisan positions on issues, nor have I ever criticized the practices of individual farmers or tried to demonize the choices that any particular farmer or group of farmers has made.
LIkewise, I have been careful in my criticism of farm industry and specific agricultural corporations simply because these issues tend to be divisive, and I have always tried to make beginningfarmers.org as inclusive and positive as possible. There are plenty of places one can go on the web to find scathing critiques and strong opinions, and I have participated in them freely. Yet I have made a conscious choice not to do that here.
The website is first and foremost PRO-FARMER. It’s main goal is and always has been promoting new farmer development, and the advancement of economically, ecologically, and socially sustainable farms of all types, while recognizing that sustainability is not a condition to be met, but a goal toward which we strive. I recognize that there are many ways of striving toward this goal, just as there are many different kinds of farms.
While I have always placed special emphasis on the small, diversified farming systems that a great many new farmers embrace, I have also focused on farm succession and the many challenges faced by beginning farmers who do not fit into this category.
When I have discussed political issues, I have always tried to do so in a way that is PRO-FARMER.
One political issue that I have provided advocacy on is the implementation of the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Act (GIPSA) rules proposed by the USDA in 2010 as mandated by the 2008 farm bill (Title XI). To me they seemed to advance the to promote independence, autonomy, financial security, and fairness for farmers.
The short story regarding the fate of the USDA’s proposed rules is that after a protracted political battle, strong pushback from industry resulted in the enactment of final GIPSA rules (in December of 2011) that were substantially weaker than those originally proposed by the USDA.
A new comprehensive article by Lina Khan of Washington Monthly provides a critical investigation of the political process through which this took place. And whatever your own position on GIPSA, I believe the article is worth a read. It is both well researched and thought provoking.
The article – Obama’s Game of Chicken: The untold story of how the administration tried to stand up to big agricultural companies on behalf of independent farmers, and lost provides an in-depth critique of how the whole affair was handled from a political point of view.
I urge you all to read it, and to share your opinions using the “click to comment” feature above. The article is available at: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/november_december_2012/features/obamas_game_of_chicken041108.php
– Taylor Reid