African American farmers sitting outside on their farm in North Carolina

They’ve Been Farming for 40 Years. But the Deck Is Stacked Against Them.

October 3, 2019 | Katherine Paul

Organic Consumers Association

This week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue threw small and mid-sized independent family farmers under the bus when he said:

“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out. I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.”

Yet we sure as heck do have guaranteed income and guaranteed profitability for Big Ag and Big Food and Big Farms—in the form of billions of dollars in subsidies for the wealthiest farmers whose GMO monocultures degrade our soil, pollute our waterways and provide contaminated ingredients for junk food.

Who doesn’t Perdue and his U.S. Department of Agriculture want to support? Farmers like Phillip and Dorathy Barker, who farmed for 40 years in North Carolina.

In this video, Phillip Barker says:

“Forty years. We’ve been in dairy for 40 years. Not everybody wants to be big, big, big . . . We tried to sell into school systems, but we couldn’t because of the way the system is locked in.”

The “system” Barker refers to is the institutional food system dominated by three giant corporations—Aramark, Compass Group and Sodexo—which locks out independent farmers like the Barkers in favor of exclusive relationships with Big Food companies like Tyson (the No.1 water polluter in the U.S.), Cargill (recently dubbed the worst company in the world) and Coca-Cola.

And of course, whether it’s here in the states like North Carolina, or anywhere else in the world, farmers of color are the ones hit first and worst by the destructive business practices of Big Ag and Big Food.

Watch the Real Meals Campaign video

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Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.