Monsanto Holds Farmers In Bondage

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A decade ago I could purchase a 50-pound bag of soybean seeds for $11.00. That same fifty pounds of seed has risen to $56.00 dollars because there is no choice or competition in the market.

[Comment: National]


Black farmers in the United States are disappearing. Their numbers shrank from approximately 900,000 in the 1920s down to about 43,000 in the last U.S. Census -- down to less than 1 percent of America's farmers.

But the staggering 98 percent decline in Black farm ownership does not tell the whole story. With each farm closure, those farmers, their families and their employees all lost a way of life that had existed for generations. Despite the horror stories behind Black Americans' link to the land throughout our national history, these losses represent an erosion of cultural, geographic and heritage bonds far greater larger than the Black farmers' small presence in American agriculture.

When I started the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) in 1995, I, like quite a few farmers in my community, was on the brink of losing my farm. As a fourth-generation Black farmer, I wanted to save my own farm and preserve my heritage, but I also wanted to protect the first and oldest occupation for Black Americans.

Today's Black farms primarily are small enterprises with particular needs for the crops we grow. Our productivity comes from our enterprise and hard work, aided by biotechnology innovations that help our crops tolerate certain herbicides and protect them against insects.

Biotechnology helps reduce labor costs by eliminating the need to use more labor-intensive farming methods, reducing pesticide use and insect problems and increasing crop yields. Because no two crops are alike, having access to the best choice of biotechnology innovations is critical to meeting the challenge of feeding an ever-increasing world population.

For most of the NBFA's history, racial discrimination was the biggest threat to Black farm ownership. More recently, however, anti-competitive conduct by monopolists and reduced competition for the biotechnology that we need has emerged as a major obstacle. Our strenuous efforts to sound the alarm on this very important issue continue to fall on deaf ears. I recently read an article on how Monsanto has used the image of Black farmers on billboards to promote its products. Ironically the image was spotted in Iowa, a state where I know firsthand that Black farmers barely number above the single digits.

Seed production is one crucial area of biotechnology that we have identified as desperately needing more competition because it currently is controlled by one company: Monsanto. Monsanto is the Microsoft of agriculture -- the dominant company that controls the key biotechnology that all farmers need.

A seed is as old and ubiquitous as the Bible itself and absolutely essential to farming. How can one company control the world's seed supply? When one gigantic corporate entity is allowed to block farmers from planting a seed without compensating that monopoly, the farmers are held in bondage to uncontrolled price increases. A decade ago I could purchase a 50-pound bag of soybean seeds for $11.00. That same fifty pounds of seed has risen to $56.00 dollars because there is no choice or competition in the market. I see no end in sight for higher costs which in the long run will pass on to the consumer.

(For the rest of column please see www.huffingtonpost.com)

Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association , fought for years to secure a settlement for Black farmers who were discriminated against by the federal government.

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