The antitrust conference for and about farmers scheduled to be held by the USDA and Department of Justice outside Des Moines later this week will now have what was originally absent: multiple voices from agricultural workers. As the Iowa Independent reported last week, the workshops had only one producer on its 23-person panel. After Sen. Tom Harkin weighed in on the issue, which irked farmers into planning their own shadow event, the event’s schedule was changed. But some farm advocates aren’t satisfied.
Now, a 45-minute panel on issues facing farmers has been added; its list of presenters:
- Ken Fawcett, independent crop farmer, eastern Iowa
- Jim Foster, hog producer, Montgomery City, Mo.
- Pam Johnson, farmer, Floyd, Iowa
- Eric Nelson, grain and cattle farmer, Moville, Iowa
- Todd Wiley, hog producer, Walker, Iowa
- Melvin Crum, corn, soybean and cotton farmer, South Carolina (tentative)
But some farm activists call the move “political theater,” and note that the day includes only an hour to hear from local, independent farmers.
“[W]e don’t think his recommendation goes far enough,” David Goodner, from Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, told the Independent. “The way the workshop agenda is set up now is nothing more than political theater. Giving the public only one hour for comments, at the end of the day, after hours of posturing by politicians and corporate interests, is patronizing. The DOJ and USDA need to put people first by moving the public comment period to the beginning of the day and by extending the time-frame for comments from one hour to two.”
While the day’s content should be of interest to Minnesotans, there is one more direct link: Brian Buhr, professor and head of the applied economics department at the University of Minnesota, will be discussing agricultural trends during a panel Friday afternoon.
The daylong event, entitled “Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy,” will be held this Friday, Mar. 12, in Ankeny, Iowa. The previous night, a coalition of farm groups will hold its shadow town hall at a nearby Best Western.