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A Plea to Speak Out

Mar 17, 2010
After visiting Ankeny, Iowa, for the U.S. Departments of Justice and Agriculture workshop on antitrust issues, it is clear that farmers have an opportunity and obligation to speak up about monopoly power in agriculture.
 
In a lot of ways the meeting was a dog and pony show. More time was given to academics and politicians than farmers.
 
When it was time for farmers to speak, most panelists had left the event, including elected officials. Farmers traveled from North Carolina, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, and across Iowa, but the agenda only gave us an hour at the end of the day to speak our mind. We deserve more time at the microphone. This is especially true for issues related to seed, which was only a small part of the discussion, even though concentration in seed is getting worse and has led to much higher prices and less choice.
 
But there is still time to weigh in. I encourage farmers to come forth and push for fairness in agriculture. Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust with the U.S. Department of Justice, asked us to give information for battling these monopolies. We need to do our part and provide solutions. (You can email comments to agriculturalworkshops@usdoj.gov.)
 
For example, the government should reinvest in public cultivar development so we have alternatives to expensive seed varieties and technologies dominating the marketplace. And as a number of farmers expressed at the meeting, utility patents should be revoked on plants to better support innovation and restore farmers’ rights.
 
We the farmers are stewards of the land. We wrote the first laws of this country and are now asking for help from Washington. Do we want a future where we ask, “Will the last farmer please turn the light off in the barn?”
 
David Runyon, Geneva, IN
 
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