The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it exists to do things like "help rural America to thrive” and “promote agriculture production that better nourishes Americans” and “preserve our Nation's natural resources through conservation, restored forests, improved watersheds, and healthy private working lands.” Let’s see what their mission actually means to them!
On October 10, more than 84,000 were delivered to the agency following the USDA’s Spring announcement that it intended to weaken anti-trust laws and rights that family farms have over the livestock and poultry industries. Said Joe Maxwell, Executive Director of the Organization for Competitive Markets:
“USDA has a responsibility to work with America’s farmers and ranchers and not the monopoly corporations. USDA is the regulator over monopolies. [Agriculture] Secretary Perdue needs to keep with USDA’s long held position and stand with farm families. Farmers need the ability to bring an action against monopolies under the Packers and Stockyards Act when they have been financially harmed without having to show the whole sector was harmed."
Coincidently, this was just as Perdue was waxing poetic in Wisconsin about family dairy farms, “that he doesn’t know if the family dairy farm can survive as the industry moves toward a factory farm model. ‘In America, the big get bigger and the small go out.’”
But hey, why stop at demoralizing just family dairy farmers? According to a in Politico today, climate catastrophe for farmers is just around the corner and the USDA is doing nothing about it:
American farmers are reeling after extreme rains followed by a “bomb cyclone”— an explosive storm that brought high winds and severe blizzard conditions — ravaged the heartland, turning once productive fields into lakes, killing livestock and destroying grain stores. The barrage of wet weather across the country this spring left a record-shattering 20 million acres unable to be planted — an area nearly the size of South Carolina. Other weather-related disasters, from fires in the West to hurricanes in the Southeast, have converged to make the past year one of the worst for agriculture in decades.
But the Agriculture Department is doing little to help farmers adapt to what experts predict is the new norm: increasingly extreme weather across much of the U.S. The department, which has a hand in just about every aspect of the industry, from doling out loans to subsidizing crop insurance, spends just 0.3 percent of its $144 billion budget helping farmers adapt to climate change, whether it’s identifying the unique risks each region faces or helping producers rethink their practices so they’re better able to withstand extreme rain and periods of drought.
Even these limited efforts, however, have been severely hampered by the Trump administration’s hostility to even discussing climate change, according to interviews with dozens of current and former officials, farmers and scientists.
last month, the USDA “published a final regulation that privatizes and deregulates swine slaughter inspection, ignoring repeated calls by food safety, labor and animal welfare groups to include better safeguards for consumers, workers, and animals.” In addition, “the agency is also pressing forward without a commitment to issue new federal testing standards for monitoring Salmonella or other pathogens in meat.” And as if this couldn’t get worse, the Office of the Inspector General is also investigating whether agency “concealed worker safety data during the rulemaking.” We should all be concerned about this because the Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than half a million get sick - and 82 die each year – “from foodborne illness attributable to pork.”
, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), has now sued over this rule “on behalf of 30,000 pork plant workers nationwide, not[ing] that meatpacking workers are injured more than twice the average for all private industries.”
“Thousands of our members work hard every day in America’s pork plants to help families across the country put food on the table. Increasing pork plant line speeds not only is a reckless giveaway to giant corporations, it will put thousands of workers in harm’s way,” said Marc Perrone, president of UFCW. “This new rule also would dramatically weaken critical protections that Americans depend on to be able to select safe, healthy food to feed their families every day.”
So how’s the USDA doing? For helping rural America to thrive, better nourish Americans and preserve our Nation's natural resources? Grade “F” (for Fox) seems about right.