"Whose Side Is the American Farm Bureau On?"

"The American Farm Bureau, with its 6 million 'member families' and carefully cultivated grassroots image, talks a good game. In the pitched battle over US farm policy—with agribusiness giants on one side, and small family farmers, organic and local food advocates and environmentalists on the other—the Farm Bureau positions itself as the voice of the farmer."

"'If you know agriculture in this country, it is dominated by family farms, and those are the people who come to our meetings, those are the people who set our policies,' claims Mark Maslyn, executive director of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s public policy department, a team of twenty-two registered federal lobbyists that spend more than $2 million annually on a variety of agriculture issues.

But Rolf Christen, a cattle farmer in Missouri who was at one time an enthusiastic member of his local farm bureau’s board, tells a different story.

Christen realized that the bureau’s 'family farmer' talk was cheap when he sought its help battling an industrial scale hog operation with 80,000 animals just up the road from his farm in northern Missouri beginning in 1993. The waste from the facility created a sickening, eye-watering stench that seeped across the land and into the homes of Christen and his neighbors, starting what would be an epic battle against Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) that continues to this day."

Ian T. Shearn reports for The Nation in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network July 16, 2012.

Source: Nation/FERN, 07/19/2012