2020 Democrat Bernie Sanders unveiled a multi-faceted, comprehensive plan to help revitalize rural farming communities and break up big agriculture corporations like Bayer-Monsanto and John Deere by enacting “Roosevelt style trust-busting laws.”
“Agriculture today is not working for the majority of Americans. It is not working economically for farmers, it is not working for rural communities, and it is not working for the environment. But it is working for big agribusiness corporations that are extracting our rural resources for profit.
For far too long, government farm policies have incentivized a “get big or get out” approach to agriculture. This approach has consolidated the entire food system, reducing farm net income, and driving farmers off the land in droves. As farms disappear, so do the businesses, jobs, and communities they support. …”
There’s a lot of good stuff in Bernie’s Revitalizing Rural America plan that I agree with as a disaffected White populist like bringing high-speed broadband internet to rural areas, expanding and rebuilding rural health care infrastructure, enforcing country-of-origin labeling, leveling the playing field for domestic meat producers, expanding addiction recovery services in rural areas, etc.
At the same time, there is a lot of stuff in Bernie’s plan that I am skeptical of like trying to stop vertical integration of agriculture and breaking up large agribusiness corporations. I think it is natural for capitalism to evolve this way and trying to break up the large conglomerates in order to take us back to a bygone era is motivated by nostalgia and political opportunism.
As with everything about Bernie’s policies, the overarching theme is looking backwards to 20th century lefty solutions – trust busting, unions, solidarity with farmworkers, etc. – instead of looking ahead to how deep learning AI, robotics and automation will impact our agricultural system. 95% of farmers in America are White and only a tiny fraction of the population works in agriculture. The long term trend is likely more automation and consolidation and eliminating more people from the workforce in agriculture. The same thing will happen in manufacturing and services for the same reasons.
Personally, I believe it is a good thing that sharecropping ended here, and we now have the opportunity to live in a world of supermarkets and even organic supermarkets like Whole Foods. No one who is familiar with the old system of agriculture and how bad it got wants to go back to it. These are just my instincts though and I would like to study these issues more before taking a firm position on the merits of a lot of these policy proposals. I’m looking forward to seeing the exchanges in the debates.