Monday, September 27, 2021

Farm roundup: Bankruptcy map; anti-consolidation campaign; trafficking in farmworkers; suit targeting paraquat

Total Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings by county, 2013-2020
(Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting map; click on the image to enlarge it)

Here's a six-pack of farm news:

The nation's second-largest farm group, the National Farmers Union, is launching a campaign to expose how consolidation in agriculture hurts family farms and rural towns. "The campaign, which it said will include a public relations blitz and lobbying, is part of an effort to push Washington to crack down on monopolistic behavior in the industry as lawmakers propose legislation to bring more price and market transparency to highly consolidated farm markets," Reuters reports. Read more here.

Farm bankruptcies have been on the rise over the past decade, Sky Chadde reports for The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. Many factors contribute: climate change, increasing production costs, decreasing income, the trade war, high debt levels and suicide. Chapter 12 of the bankruptcy law is used to reorganize debts and save family farms through debt reorganization, but research shows it may be harder to reorganize debts under Chapter 12 than under other bankruptcy types. Read more here.

Farmworker and environmental groups have sued the Environmental Protection Agency for reapproving the weed killer paraquat, which they say puts farmworkers at an increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease. Read more here.

Farmworkers are trafficked by employers using the H-2A program, which "provides scaffolding for the agricultural system, allowing farms to bring in enough labor to pick fruits and vegetables Americans rely on," according to experts and activists, Amanda Perez Pintado reports for the Midwest Center. They "fear the Covid-19 pandemic has allowed the situation to grow."  Read more here.

A newly published study showed farmworkers in California's Salinas Valley had coronavirus infection rates four times higher than the rest of the local population. Read more here.

The Agriculture Department is launching an Equity Commission to address racial discrimination within the USDA and its programs. Read more here.

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