If You Eat, You're Involved in Agriculture: Report from the Rural and Farm Committee


Tim Wheeler, Editor of The People's Weekly World 

Karl Marx tells us that the ability to abstract from the minutia of concrete facts is 
key to understanding the "laws of motion" of society. But it is very hard for 
reporters like me to think that way because our minds are so fixed on the next big 
breaking story: Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, for example, and his decision to bolt 
the Republican Party. But everything is connected and the farm question is a factor 
here. Vermont is a major dairy state and all those dairymen up there are plenty 
P.O.'ed at George W. Bush's arrogant greed for profit, and more specifically, Dubya's 
threat to pull the plug on the Northeast Dairy Compact. The fact that a Republican 
Senator from a rural state inflicted such a huge blow on the ultra right is a very 
good reason for the Communist Party USA to be paying more attention to the farm 
question. 

Karl Marx, Frederick Engels and V.I. Lenin devoted much study to the "agrarian 
question." To prepare this report, I read for the first time parts of Volume III of 
Capital. "This natural productivity of agricultural labor (which implies here the 
labor of gathering, hunting, fishing, cattle raising) is the basis of all surplus 
labor," Marx writes. "So is all labor primarily and originally directed toward the 
appropriation and production of food. Originally, agricultural and industrial labor 
are not separated. The second joins the first." For Lenin, the strategy that underlay 
the Russian Revolution was the alliance of workers and the poor and landless 
peasantry. In the U.S., for much of the past century, the strategic goal of left and 
progressive movements was the creation of a Farmer-Labor party.

So, as a farm boy, I think we are on safe ground in asserting that farmers and the 
farm question are a major concern. I have the warmest memories of growing up in 
Clallam County, Washington with the Olympic Mountains looming every time I looked up 
from pitching hay. I invite everyone to come and see for yourself how beautiful the 
Dungeness Valley is. Our farm is not as near as Wally Kaufman's spread in Ashtabula, 
County, Ohio but we will welcome you with just as much down-home hospitality. 
I still preserve strong feelings of affection and solidarity with family and 
independent farmers. I know their dawn to dusk toil producing a life-sustaining 
commodity for very little in return. We mourned when so many of our neighbors couldn't 
make it and were forced to sell their places. 

My mother saved records from our twenty years on the farm. The 1967 annual report of 
the Clallam County Dairy Herd Improvement Association featured a photo of our cow, 
Maybe, on the front cover. I'll tell you how she got her name. We sold our bull calves 
to the local mink farmer. One day he arrived in his pickup with this darling little 
Jersey heifer he had acquired from one of our neighbors. "I'll trade you my bull calf 
for that heifer," said my dad. "O.K.," he replied. "Maybe she'll turn out to be a good 
producer." A few years later there was no maybe about it. She was the Clallam County 
butterfat queen producing 13,203 pounds of milk, about 6 tons, and 801 pounds of 
butterfat in one 305 day lactation. 

Our favorite, Tizzy, was the offspring of our Brown-Swiss bull, Cocoa, and a little 
Jersey named Daisy. In six years Tizzy produced 70,000 pounds of milk, 35 tons. She 
also produced more than 4,000 pounds of butterfat. That's a lot of ice cream. 
In our years on the farm, milk and butterfat production per cow nearly doubled through 
artificial insemination and selective breeding. But these cows were more than "milk 
factories" to us. My sisters belonged to 4-H and showed them at the Clallam County 
Fair and at the annual Irrigation Festival in Sequim. Many were so tame and so 
beautiful they were like family pets.

Every year my dad wrote an annual report of Far Pastures Farm. Here is what he 
reported for 1958: That year we produced 320,000 pounds of milk or 160 tons. Our gross 
income was just under $26,000 for 7,000 hours of labor. The bottom line is that after 
subtracting expenses, we were just breaking even. 

Now flash ten years into the future, 1968. Our acreage had tripled. We were now 
milking more than 100 cows. Every day a tanker truck arrived and hauled away 300 
gallons of milk, 2,400 pounds. That's more than a ton of milk each day or about 438 
tons that year. And yet we were still just breaking even.

Why? The answer given by the apologists of monopoly capitalism is that we were 
"inefficient." Our cows didn't produce enough. If we couldn't do better, we deserved 
to go broke. These lies really infuriate family farmers who are so incredibly 
productive that each one produces enough to feed several hundred people. We produced 
enough milk on our farm to supply a small town. Family farmers and hundreds of 
thousands of farm workers have been the engine that has made U.S. agriculture so 
phenomenally productive. The lies told about family farmers are exactly the same as 
those told about steelworkers in the U.S. Today at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrow's point 
mill, 5,000 steelworkers produce as much steel as 30,000 workers produced in 1965 and 
the corporations are still screaming that these workers are "non-competitive." 

The real reason for our plight was that we bought all our "inputs," from giant 
corporations like Chevron, DuPont, and International Harvester. It included feed, 
fertilizer, fuel, tractors, trucks, farm implements, our machine shop, our 300 gallon 
refrigerated milk tank, our state-of-the-art herring-bone milking parlor, milking 
machines, and loafing sheds. These monopolies dictated inflated take-it-or-leave-it 
prices to us. Our one point of relief was electricity, which we bought very cheap from 
the PUD, a publicly owned utility with power generated at federally-owned Grand Coulee 
dam. 

We sold our milk to Darigold, a marketing coop. They gave us a price well below the 
actual cost of production and then retailed the milk in Seattle supermarkets at 
inflated monopoly prices. Today, consumers pay about $2.87 for a gallon jug of milk. 
The dairy farmer's share is less than a dollar. A grain farmer's share of a loaf of 
bread that sells for $1.39 at the supermarket is five cents. A hog farmer's share of a 
pound of bacon that sells for about $3.29 a pound is 40 cents. This systematic robbery 
flows from the farmers' total lack of power over the monopolized food production and 
distribution system. 

We were caught in a brutal cost-price squeeze with our profit margin shrinking. The 
only way we could stay afloat was to double and redouble our production. Our situation 
was hardly different from a worker facing speedup on a GM assembly line. We were being 
fleeced both as buyers and sellers. In fact, I would argue that we were generating 
surplus value that was stolen by the capitalists in a way hardly different from the 
exploitation inflicted on industrial workers. We fought back with our co-ops based on 
New Deal measures intended to give farmers at least the cost of production for their 
commodities. We call it "parity." Yet one by one the farmers in our valley went broke. 
Only a handful of the 150 farms in the Dungeness Valley that were operating when I was 
a kid survive today. 

The same process was going on across the country, larger farms gobbling up smaller 
farms and those who couldn't make it were forced to sell out, find jobs in the paper 
mills or saw mills. It is called "proletarianization" and it has been going on for a 
long, long time. Karl Marx devotes much space in Capital to this process of forced 
eviction of peasants and the rural population from the countryside. The system of 
tenant farming in England is different than here in the U.S. where most farmers own 
their land. Yet the underlying process of forced removal of the rural population is 
very similar. 

It was the heart of the process of accumulation that gave rise to capitalism. Feudal 
agriculture had been mostly subsistence agriculture. But as London developed into a 
huge metropolis, a stable market emerged for farm produce. Food then became a 
commodity like other commodities to be bought and sold in the marketplace, its value 
determined by the socially necessary labor power to produce it. This in turn created 
an incentive for increased farm production. Innovations like the wheeled plow and the 
development of more productive grain crops and selective breeding of livestock 
followed. 

Increased productivity on the farm meant that the rural population was also "surplus." 
Tens of thousands were forced off the landed estates. Parliament enacted "enclosure" 
laws, turning over to wealthy landlords for a pittance, millions of acres of feudal 
lands that had been held in common. Denied the right to graze their cattle and sheep 
or cultivate on these commons, hundreds of thousands of these farmers were driven into 
destitution. Armies of dispossessed people migrated to the cities to join the ranks of 
the urban working class. Others remained in the countryside as farm laborers, men, 
women and children, trekking from farm to farm during harvest, paid starvation wages, 
sleeping homeless in the open. He could have been describing the migrant farm workers 
here in the U.S. today, among the most super-exploited workers anywhere. 
In the U.S., "primitive accumulation" took the form of the plantation economy based on 
tobacco and cotton production with enormous profits generated by the unpaid labor of 
slaves. This was the engine that powered the development of capitalism in the U.S. and 
Marx's observation that "labor in the white skin can never free itself as long as 
labor in the black skin is branded." Marx also devotes a chapter to the ruination of 
Irish farmers by British colonialism with millions forced to flee to the U.S.during 
the potato famine. 

It is remarkable that 134 years after Marx wrote Capital, the same system of 
"primitive accumulation" based on the ruination of peasants and the rural community, 
is raging on as ruthlessly as ever. Look at Mexico, for example, where one of NAFTA's 
main results was the acceleration of the forced removal of Mexican campesinos from the 
land. They now live in huge sprawling slums without running water or sewerage outside 
Mexico City and other urban centers. This is a reserve army of labor that drives down 
wages and provides an enormous pool of cheap labor. Millions have been forced to flee 
for survival across the border, seeking sub-minimum wage in the factories and farms of 
the U.S. A general amnesty is essential for these workers, permitting them to join 
unions and enjoy the same rights of public education for their children and public 
health care. After all, they pay taxes. Amnesty is the essential first step to 
breaking this system of cheap labor.

Cuba provides a startling contrast. One of the great achievements of the Cuban 
revolution was the protection of the rights and interests of Cuba's rural population, 
organized sugar cane workers first of all. You find no slums surrounding Cuban cities. 
It proves that socialism is a system that provides a solution to the rural crisis by 
protecting the basic needs of the family farmers and the rural working class while 
providing safe and nutritious food for the population. Many U.S. farmers see Cuba as a 
potential market and advocate the lifting of the blockade. A delegation of Black 
farmers recently visited Cuba and met with Fidel about exporting to Cuba.

Nowhere in the world has the forced removal of the rural population been as thorough 
or as ruthless as here in the U.S. According to the 1930 U.S. Census, just under 56 
percent of the U.S. population lived in urban areas and just under 44 percent lived in 
rural areas - a nearly even balance. Sixty years later in the 1990 census, the rural 
population had shrunk to only 25 percent. The number of farms shrank from more than 
seven million in the 1930 census to only 1.8 million today. From a high of 14 percent 
of farms being owned by Black farmers in the 1930s, we are down to less than one 
percent Black-owned farms today. 

The ruination of family farming is not the result of the "invisible hand of the 
market." It is the result of deliberate policies enforced by Republican and Democratic 
administrations since the 1950s. Mark Ritchie and Kevin Ristau wrote a pamphlet back 
in 1987 titled "Crisis By Design: A Brief Review of U.S. Farm Policy." They had 
uncovered a report produced in the 1950s by a big business think tank, the Committee 
for Economic Development (CED). Dominated by agribusiness corporations, the report was 
titled "An Adaptive Program for Agriculture." The report called for a program that 
"would involve moving off the farm about two million of the present farm labor 
forces." Key to this strategy would be destroying measures enacted during the New Deal 
to save family farmers from the effects of the Great Depression. The report states, 
"The price supports for wheat, cotton, rice, feed grains and related crops now under 
price supports (should) be reduced immediately." 

The CED report argued that displacing the farmers would force those that survived to 
submit to "greater capital investment in agriculture, more mechanization and greater 
reliance on petroleum-based products such as pesticides and fertilizers." Driving down 
farm commodity prices, the CED argued, "would induce some increased sales of these 
products both at home and abroad. Some of these crops are heavily dependent on export 
markets." Thus, the CED report anticipated by decades the global strategy of the 
agribusiness corporations in dominating agricultural export markets. The aim of U.S. 
imperialism is to use food as a weapon of worldwide domination. The result has been 
the destruction of sustainable food production in Africa, Asia and Latin America in 
favor of cash crops for the export market. The result has been hunger and famine in 
many parts of the world. 

Corporate America has followed the proposals in this CED report like a script. They 
are on schedule. About two million farmers have been forced off the land in the U.S. 
Mergers in agribusiness are like a runaway train with no anti-trust enforcement to 
apply the brakes. It has created what has been called the "Food Industrial Complex." 
Cargill, the number one grain corporatio, swallowed number two, Continental, giving 
them control of more than 50 percent of the grain market in the U.S. The soybean 
market is dominated by Archer Daniels Midland and ConAgra. Beefpacking is dominated by 
Iowa Beef now called IBP, which just merged with Tyson, the biggest poultry producer. 
Pork is dominated by Smithfield, IBP, ConAgra and Cargill. Smithfield also operates 
huge hog feedlots and Cargill and ConAgra operate similar cattle feedlots with 
hundreds of thousands of head of livestock. Notice that these goliaths are 
consolidating their grip over the food production system both vertically and 
horizontally. 

Tyson, Perdue, and ConAgra have contrived a system of "contract farming" in which they 
supply the chicks, the mash, and all other "inputs" and when the chicks have matured 
in seven weeks they pick the broilers up and deliver them to their non-union poultry 
processing plants. Contract farmers refer to themselves as "sharecroppers" in a 
modern-day system of peonage or serfdom. The average annual income of these farmers is 
$12,000. In fact, they have become sub-minimum wage-earners in everything but name. 

No sector of the economy has changed more dramatically in the past 15 years than 
agriculture. A whole new vocabulary has been added to our language: monoculture, 
biotechnology, industrial agriculture, factory farming, and "frankenfood." A handful 
of agribusiness conglomerates are driving hard to gain total control of food 
production from the farm to the dining room table. They see biotechnology as the 
silver bullet to enable them for the first time to consolidate total control.

Monsanto is now selling genetically-engineered seeds that germinate when planted but 
produce only sterile crops. Thus the farmer cannot save "seed corn" to be planted next 
season as farmers have done since agriculture began in the Nile Valley. He or she must 
buy the next batch of seed from Monsanto, which holds the patents on these so-called 
"super-grains." Other Monsanto seeds are genetically engineered with immunity to 
herbicides. Farmers are then instructed to saturate their fields with Monsanto's 
"Roundup," a highly toxic organophosphate herbicide that kills everything but 
Monsanto's corn. Environmentalists are up in arms that the collateral damage of this 
Monsanto chemical warfare may include the extinction of Monarch butterflies, perhaps 
our modern day "canary in the mine." 

Monsanto uses genetic engineering to produce these varieties of so-called 
"super-grains" while thousands of other varieties are threatened with extinction. This 
monoculture is a deadly assault on bio-diversity. Monsanto tries to make this appear a 
benign search for super-grains to feed a hungry world. Monsanto's real motive is to 
gain total worldwide control of grain production to insure maximum profits. The moral 
issues raised by corporate control of the food chain are stirring a powerful backlash 
of mass anger and alarm literally among billions of people on this planet. 
Agribusiness is enforcing intensive methods of agriculture that farmers and scientists 
warn are non-sustainable. The Ogalalla aquifer which provides water for a huge region 
of the Midwest is being depleted to irrigate land better suited to dry farming. 
Farmers are pressured to apply chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides even 
though it is creating a major environmental crisis. The Colorado River is a sewer of 
toxic soup by the time it flows out of the Imperial Valley into Mexico laden with 
chemical fertilizer runoff. Every year we are losing three billion tons of topsoil due 
to wind and water erosion caused by fencerow to fencerow cultivation. We are facing 
the danger of a new "dust bowl." Factory farming with huge hog and cattle feedlots is 
poisoning the air, soil, and water, and also producing beef, pork and poultry of 
dubious nutrition and safety. 

No wonder Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation is on the bestseller list. He points 
out that ten years ago, 75 cents of every food dollar was spent on food prepared at 
home. Now it is down to 50 percent with the other 50 percent spent on highly processed 
and prepared foods or restaurant meals. The lion's share of this "eating out" is at 
fast food restaurants. This diet is creating a major public health crisis, obesity in 
the first place, an epidemic of heart disease, and other ailments caused by a diet 
rich in red meats, fats, and carbohydrates. While McDonald's and other fast food 
giants reap enormous profits, the potato farmers in Idaho who supply McDonald's french 
fries have been decimated so that only about 1,000 remain. The price these farmers 
receive for potatoes is so low, Schlosser reports, that potato farmers would actually 
save money by leaving the potatoes to rot in the fields. But they cannot because 
rotting potatoes can poison the soil. 

There is also a growing fear of food borne illnesses such as e-coli and salmonella 
from tainted foods produced in centralized meatpacking and poultry processing 
factories. We read with horror of hoof-and-mouth disease in England with entire herds 
slaughtered and burned in huge funeral pyres. Scientists believe that the integrated 
monopoly system of food production is a factor in spreading this highly contagious 
disease. Mad cow disease is the result of using ground up animal parts in cattle feed, 
a grotesque agribusiness scheme to turn these herbivores into carnivores. Prions from 
sheep infected with this disease were then transmitted to cows. And when humans 
consumed meat of these infected cows, they too caught the disease. The British 
government halted the sale of these contaminated feeds in England, so these criminal 
grain corporations began exporting it to other countries. 

A major factor in agribusiness's stranglehold on the food chain is the policies of the 
Reagan-Bush and now the Bush-Cheney Administration. Agribusiness has been among the 
most aggressive corporate bankrollers and promoters of ultra-right, fascist-like 
political domination of all levels of government for the past 20 years. They are among 
the most hard-line corporate unionbusters, with the aim of making the Food Industrial 
Complex a union-free environment from field to supermarket. Their aim is to nullify 
anti-trust enforcement, giving agribusiness free rein to eliminate all competition. 
They are moving to terminate enforcement of safe food laws by the Food and Drug 
Administration (FDA), to repeal all the New Deal programs aimed at protecting family 
farms and insuring sustainable family farming and a safe and nutritious food supply. 
This is a diabolical scheme to roll back all the gains in agriculture and food 
production won as a result of the public outrage following Upton Sinclair's 1906 
exposť, The Jungle. It exposed the brutal exploitation and filthy food handling in the 
trustified meatpacking industry. The FDA was established as a result. It also spurred 
the packinghouse workers under William Z. Foster's leadership to launch a militant 
union organizing drive. Under Bush-Cheney, expect the fake system of "self-inspection" 
and "self-policing" to spread right along with more outbreaks of food poisoning. There 
will also be pressure to accept the use of irradiation to sterilize meats. We are 
witnessing a return of "the jungle." 

Like the current steel crisis, family farmers face the possibility of a total collapse 
of the agricultural economy. The current desperate crisis is the result of farm 
commodity prices plunging to the lowest levels in 25 years. Steve Linder, a Minnesota 
wheat farmer, told me at the Rally for Rural America a little over a year ago that he 
is receiving about the same price per bushel for his wheat today as he received when 
he went into grain farming in the early 1970s. The only thing keeping him afloat is 
emergency federal loans. For many farmers half, three-quarters or even all of their 
income is derived from these emergency federal programs. 

This crisis was aggravated by the agribusiness-sponsored "Freedom to Farm" act pushed 
through the ultra-right dominated House and Senate by Newt Gingrich as part of his 
"Contract on America." President Clinton signed it. In the name of U.S. farmers 
getting rich quick by exporting grain to Asia, it repealed the system of New Deal farm 
commodity price supports. A year after it was enacted, the Asian meltdown destroyed 
the grain export market. The price of grain collapsed. Only emergency bailouts to the 
tune of $28 billion each year in the past three years or so has kept farmers from 
going bankrupt. 

Agribusiness prefers this setup. For one thing, the biggest farms receive the hogs' 
share of these federal subsidies. It forces taxpayers to, in effect, subsidize the 
rock bottom low prices the food processing monopolies pay for their "raw material." 
The ultra-right has concentrated on infiltrating rural America, taking advantage of 
the despair of many farmers who, in their isolated dawn-to-dusk toil, see no way out 
of the deepening rural crisis. Thus the armed militias, the John Birch Society, Aryan 
Nation, Posse Comitatus, and the U.S. Farm Bureau have been able to make inroads in 
rural America. The ideology of "rugged individualism," of "being your own boss" is 
actively promoted by the ruling class to keep farmers from seeing the need for 
organization, cooperation, and solidarity. Tragically, this "individualism" means that 
farmers blame themselves when they begin to go broke. Suicide is a major killer in 
rural America today. 

The rural crisis, of course, is not limited to farmers. Sections of the Midwest are 
losing population at such a rate that the U.S. Census now classifies them as 
"frontier" regions with fewer than six people per square mile. Many rural towns are 
becoming ghost towns, their main street businesses boarded up, schools and churches 
closed, houses abandoned. At the heart off this crisis is the destruction of family 
farming, the economic bedrock for these once thriving communities. On the other hand, 
in some states, North Carolina, for example, manufacturing had been shifted to the 
rural areas as part of monopoly's unionbusting strategy. Even now, North Carolina has 
the highest per capita concentration of manufacturing of any state in the union, much 
of it textile plants located in rural communities. Yet the factories too are now 
closing down in rural America as the transnational corporations follow NAFTA's cheap 
labor out of the U.S. 

While the progressive coalition of labor and family farmers defeated the ultra-right 
in several farm states such as California, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Washington and 
Michigan, Bush-Cheney were successful in winning both the popular vote and the 
electoral college count in most of the farm and rural states. It reflected a weakness 
in the program of the Democrats and Al Gore in addressing the grave crisis of rural 
America. Gore called for repeal of the Freedom to Farm Act but that was about it. It 
is now crystal clear that there can be no decisive defeat of the ultra-right without a 
progressive program to save rural America. 

Bush-Cheney have given farmers a sharp slap in the face since they stole the election. 
Bush's budget conspicuously left out any of the emergency funding that has kept so 
many farmers afloat. When the Mississippi flooded, the Bush-Cheney gang sent in agents 
who told the farmers and the people of Davenport, Iowa, "Its your own fault." The New 
York Times featured a front page article May 14 headlined, "Far From Dead, Subsidies 
Fuel Big Farms." It was based on a report from farmers in the Texas Panhandle who are 
receiving major emergency bailouts. The Times reports that ten percent of the biggest 
American farmers receive 61 percent of the billions in federal payments. "The data 
shows that government subsidies are tilting the playing field in favor of the largest 
farms," says Clark Williams-Derry, spokesperson for the Environmental Working Group. 

There was another Times article, May 19 headlined, "Rising Fuel Costs Join Growing 
List of Troubles for Struggling Farmers." It reports on the plight of Nebraska farmers 
who are being wiped out by the skyrocketing cost of gasoline and diesel fuel as 
Bush-Cheney deliver billions in payoffs to their oil corporation cronies 
Agribusiness is playing a major role in packing the U.S. Supreme Court with justices 
friendly to corporate America and hostile to farmers. Clarence Thomas is a product of 
Monsanto, serving in their legal department. When his nomination to the Supreme Court 
ran into trouble, Sen. John Danforth, heir to the Ralston Purina fortune, rushed to 
his rescue. So did Monsanto legal eagle, Larry Thompson, who orchestrated the smear 
job that Anita Hill was suffering from "erotomania." Bush recently named Thompson as 
Assistant Attorney General. 

John Ashcroft received $50,000 from Monsanto for his unsuccessful campaign for a 
Senate seat in Missouri. Now he is Attorney General. Secretary of Agriculture Ann 
Veneman was on the Board of Directors of Monsanto-owned Calgene Pharmaceuticals. She 
chose as her Chief of Staff a top executive of the National Pork Growers Association, 
an agribusiness front group that is working to destroy hog farmers while promoting 
factory farming. Tommy Thompson received $50,000 in biotech campaign contributions, 
helping him become Wisconsin governor. He paid them back by making Wisconsin a testing 
ground for Monsanto's Bovine Growth Hormone even though dairy farmers opposed it by a 
9-1 margin. Thompson, as Secretary of Health and Human Services, hands out press 
releases on the dangers of cigarette smoking. He received $53,000 in campaign 
contributions from another agribusiness giant, Phillip Morris. 

Bush-Cheney's arrogant slap in the face of rural America is one reason Vermont's 
Republican Senator, Jim Jeffords, decided he couldn't take it anymore and resigned 
from the GOP. The word is that the Bush-Cheney gang are out to sabotage the 
Vermont-initiated dairy compact aimed at protecting hard-hit New England and New York 
dairy farmers. 

Most farmers understand that they are no longer strong enough to resist the onslaught 
of agribusiness by themselves. They are actively looking for allies to fight the 
agribusiness common enemy. The National Farmers Union is actively recruiting farmers 
with the concept that only with union solidarity can they hope to win in the struggle 
against the monopolies. The NFU has developed a close working alliance with the 
AFL-CIO. Several thousand farmers traveled to Seattle in Nov. 1999 to join organized 
labor, environmentalists, youth and other progressive groups to shut down the World 
Trade Organization. A few months later, these same forces brought about 3,000 farmers 
and their allies for a "Rally for Rural America" in Washington, D.C. It was 
co-sponsored by the NFU, the AFL-CIO, the National Coalition of Family Farmers, the 
Corn Growers Association, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and a dozen other 
rural organizations and movements. It was an impressive outpouring of Bl!
ack, Latino, and white farmers from every region of the country. 

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), now the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture 
and Forestry, and Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn) delivered powerful speeches in which 
both zeroed in on the key questions: a fair price to the farmers for the commodities 
they produce; tough enforcement of antitrust laws to break up the agribusiness 
conglomerates; a ban on feedlot factory farms that are polluting the air, land and 
water across the country. Gerald McEntee, President of the American Federation of 
State, County and Municipal Employees, delivered a strong blast at the agribusiness 
profiteers and appealed for farmer-labor-environmental unity. 

We have reestablished a commission that we propose now to name the Farm and Rural Life 
Commission, which has met three times in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Bill Gudex, a dairy 
farmer from Wisconsin, is the chair of the Commission. Lem Harris, at age 96, is still 
going strong, traveling to Minnesota in the dead of winter to interview leaders of the 
farm movement and getting the stories into the PWW. Lem is a living link to the 
Party's pioneering work in rural America, the "farmer holiday" movement, the "penny 
auctions," the struggles to defend family farmers faced by ruin during the Great 
Depression. We were part of the struggle that won enactment of the Agricultural 
Adjustment Act and other New Deal legislation for farmers and farm workers. 

Our goal is to build up our ties and connections with the coalition of farmer 
organizations including the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the NFU, 
Coalition of Family Farmers, and so on. Obviously, the goal is to recruit farmers and 
farm workers, Black, Latino and white to our Party. We will have a workshop on the 
crisis of farming and rural America at the Convention to be held in "America's 
Dairyland." 

The Convention should develop a CPUSA program to meet the crisis of rural America. It 
should include measures to defend family farming, starting with repeal of the infamous 
"Freedom to Farm" Act which farmers call "Freedom to Fail." It repealed all the farm 
price support programs enacted during the New Deal. Farmers need a farm bill that 
provides fair prices for the commodities they produce. We join in the call that the 
Agriculture Department deliver on the $2 billion compensation to Black farmers for 
decades of racist discrimination by the U.S.D.A. Native American Indian farmers are 
preparing a similar lawsuit. 

Our Party's farm and rural life program should also encompass the many related issues 
that I have spoken of in this report. We greet the victory for farm workers in 
California in winning a holiday celebrating the birth of Cesar Chavez, founder and 
president of the United Farm Workers. Chavez is a symbol of the struggle of farm 
workers for union rights, a living wage, and dignity. Agribusiness is working night 
and day to keep the food production sector of the economy "union free." Our answer 
must be union organization at every stage of food production from field to factory to 
supermarket. Rural cooperatives and other forms of mass organization must also be 
organized in rural America - including of course, the Communist Party U.S.A. A mass 
party organization in the countryside such as we had in the 1930s and 1940s would 
dramatically alter the political landscape and advance the goal of labor-farmer unity.

This program should reject the notion that the depopulation of the countryside and 
control of the food chain by corporate agribusiness is inevitable or irreversible. A 
strong worldwide movement is now demanding policies that promote sustainable 
agriculture both here at home and for countries all around the world. Preservation of 
family farms is at the heart of this movement.

We say that no model exists for the socialist future. Without negating the past, we 
need to visualize the future. Will a socialist U.S.A. establish a system of collective 
and state farms as existed in the Soviet Union? We should not dismiss the achievements 
of socialized agriculture in the former Soviet Union and China. Both these huge 
countries were notorious for massive rural poverty. Millions starved in famines before 
their socialist revolutions. The rural populations were abjectly poor and illiterate. 
Socialism ended the famines and the Soviet and Chinese people enjoyed a steady 
improvement in their diets and their overall standard of living. 

As for the future in the United States, I believe self determination for farmers and 
the rural population will be a determining factor in what path we take. The size of 
farms will be determined by what is best for the farmers and rural communities while 
producing a safe, nutritious, affordable diet for the people. Production cooperatives 
in which farmers voluntarily join together yet retain title to their land, a system 
used in the socialist German Democratic Republic, is one possible solution. We believe 
that family farming will remain an important form of agricultural production under 
socialism.

In decades past, the Non-Partisan League and the Farmer-Labor Party blazed the way for 
progressive change in the U.S. A state-owned system of grain elevators and a 
publicly-owned state bank were established in North Dakota, and they still exist to 
this day. Socialist Elmer Benson was elected Governor of Minnesota. In the current 
struggle to break the grip of the ultra-right in the U.S. we are seeing the beginnings 
of the same coalition today broadened to encompass many other movements and 
organizations that are alarmed and outraged by agribusiness's drive to enforce 
corporate control of food production, forcing on us a diet that is neither nutritious 
nor good tasting. The potential for this movement is limited only by the number of 
people who eat.

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