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This Thanksgiving, consider the well-being of family farmers 

by Tommy Enright, Wisconsin Examiner
November 22, 2023

On Thanksgiving, families across America are gathering around tables to enjoy the season’s bounty. Yet, behind the scenes, a complex web of challenges threatens the agricultural foundation of this tradition. The recent one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill by Congress has brought temporary relief, but the call for a new, comprehensive five-year farm bill echoes loudly. Wisconsin Farmers Union is raising its voice, emphasizing the urgent need to address issues plaguing family farmers and the agricultural sector as a whole.

Gratitude for the bipartisan support in extending the 2018 Farm Bill is tempered by a pressing reality: the long-term stability of family farmers still hinges on a new, five-year farm bill. WFU’s commitment to modernizing the farm bill reflects a keen awareness of the challenges faced by farmers in today’s rapidly evolving agricultural landscape. Growing concentration in the agricultural sector, dairy oversupply, the decline of small and mid-sized farms, soil and water health concerns, and the looming threats of climate change demand a comprehensive legislative approach.

Discussions surrounding the farm bill have encountered obstacles, particularly concerning proposals for increased spending on crop subsidies. There have been suggestions to offset these costs by diverting funds from the nearly $20 billion in Inflation Reduction Act money for conservation and climate-smart agriculture. There is also the looming prospect of House conservatives aiming to cut spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Senate Agriculture chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, a staunch advocate for SNAP and conservation efforts, expressed early last week that there was a lack of motivation to reach an agreement on the terms of a new farm bill. This highlights the serious challenge in navigating  sharply divergent priorities  when it comes to U.S.  agricultural policy.

For a frozen 11 lb turkey, priced at $21.89, the farmer’s share is a mere $0.66. Even the stuffing, a quintessential Thanksgiving dish, yields just $0.09 out of every $3.99 spent at retail back to the growers.

One key aspect of the problem is unveiled in the recently released Farmer’s Share data by the National Farmers Union. As consumers brace for increased costs at the checkout lines, it’s disheartening to learn that little of this additional expenditure is finding its way back to the hardworking family farmers. The figures for Thanksgiving staples paint a stark picture of the meager share of your  food dollar that actually reaches those who toil the fields.

Consider some of the Thanksgiving essentials: turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, stuffing, boneless ham, pumpkin pie filling, and cranberries. For a frozen 11 lb turkey, priced at $21.89, the farmer’s share is a mere $0.66. Even the stuffing, a quintessential Thanksgiving dish, yields  just $0.09 out of every $3.99 spent at retail back to the growers. These numbers underscore a deep-seated issue in the food supply chain – a lack of fairness for the farmers who play an indispensable role in bringing food to our tables.

In the face of this disparity, Wisconsin Farmers Union, in collaboration with NFU’s Fairness for Farmers campaign, is actively addressing monopoly power in food and ag. The key to resolving this issue lies in stronger antitrust enforcement and greater transparency (such as truth in labeling) throughout the supply chain. By dismantling the barriers that impede fair compensation for farmers, we can increase the farmer’s share of the food dollar and foster a more equitable relationship between producers and consumers.

Thanksgiving serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of our lives with the land and those who cultivate it. As we express gratitude for the abundance before us, it is incumbent upon us to advocate for policies that sustain our food system. The call for a new, comprehensive Farm Bill is an opportunity for lawmakers to acknowledge the challenges faced by family farmers and chart a course toward a more resilient, sustainable, and just agricultural future.

This Thanksgiving, let’s not only savor the meal on our plate but also reflect on bolstering the farmers that produced it. By supporting initiatives that prioritize the well-being of family farmers, we can ensure that future generations continue to enjoy the rich harvests that have come to define this quintessential American holiday.

Wisconsin Farmers Union, a member-driven organization, is committed to enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, rural communities, and all people through educational opportunities, cooperative endeavors, and civic engagement. For more information, visit www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com.

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Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

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