During the last week of March, DRA members participated in a virtual fly-in with our national representatives as a coordinated effort with other member organizations of The Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment (CFFE). CFFE is a coalition of state and national organizations, including Dakota Rural Action (SD), Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Land Stewardship Project (MN), Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Food & Water Watch and Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. We work together to support family farmers, rural communities and a vibrant, sustainable food system. Through this work, we oppose national, state and local policies propping up corporate factory farms that are putting independent livestock producers out of business, and extracting wealth from our rural communities, polluting our land, water and air.

While our allies in Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri met with their representatives, DRA members Joel Gindo, Kristianna Gehant-Siddens, Lisa Muth, Aaron Svec and Tanya Svec met with the Agricultural policy advisors from each one of our national representatives and USDA special advisor on competition, Andy Green who is working to write the Packers and Stockyard rules. These meetings are a great opportunity for member’s voices to be heard in Washington D.C. As small independent farmers, they spoke out against market consolidation and industrial agriculture that is hurting our rural communities. 

One main topic of conversation was support for small processing facilities in South Dakota. While many of the representatives have been working to ensure funding for these projects, our members pointed out that, not only do we need support for smaller processing facilities, but proper siting for those facilities, fair wages for the workers, and mechanisms to ensure that local independent producers will actually be able to access these facilities. Without also addressing consolidation in the packing industry–4 packers control most of the meat packing facilities–simply supporting new or expanded small plants will not help independent producers. 

Representatives were frequently eager to voice their support for breaking up monopolies, addressing consolidation in the packing industry, and increasing competition through legislation like mandatory country of origin labeling. Senator Thune’s advisor even went so far as to say they would take a look at Senator Warren’s recently introduced Prohibiting Anticompetitive Mergers Act. Now, it is our job to hold them accountable to these promises, and we hope to see them all at farm tours in the Spring!