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Leader of group representing small farms wants government to look at the "near-monopolies" in the food supply chain

President of the National Farmers Union Rob Larew, speaking to small farm owners in Michigan.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
President of the National Farmers Union Rob Larew, speaking to small farm owners in Michigan.

The President of the National Farmers Union says the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed weaknesses in the nation’s food supply chain.

Rob Larew spoke to members of the Michigan Farmers Union at its annual convention in Saint Johns.

He said small farmers are getting paid less and consumers are paying more when food actually makes it to the grocery shelf.

He blamed “near-monopolies” in food processing and the big corporations that supply seeds, chemicals, and fertilizer.

“What that’s telling me is that there is a lot of money out there in this marketplace. And if it isn’t benefitting farmers and ranchers and if it isn’t benefitting consumers on the other end, we know where that money’s going, right?” Larew said to the small farmers gathered at the convention.

Larew said since the 1980s, mergers and acquisitions have limited competition, giving farmers few choices in selling their products. He said an example is that only four beef processing companies control 85% of the U.S. beef market.

Larew said things have to change for the next big challenge, whether it’s climate change, supply chain problems, or another pandemic.

“If we don’t have a system in place that is able to withstand these challenges, then this lack of resiliency is going to continue to create huge problems for us.”

The group has launched a national campaign called Fairness for Farmers. It indicates it's fighting for a fair market and against corporate monopolies. It's hoping the federal government intervenes.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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