In his bid for the presidency in 2004 as an independent, Ralph Nader has remarked, "I think this may be the only candidacy in our memory that is opposed overwhelmingly by people who agree with us on the issues."
Progressive rural populists, in marking your ballots on November 2, consider the following:
Much has been said by the political pundits in general terms about the importance of the "swing states" to each of the two major candidates and the fact that several of those states are in America's heartland. However, little has been said about the issues that drive the economic engine the voters in those states and their communities depend upon for their survival -- namely farm policy and the survival of family farm agriculture.
As my valued colleague and farm columnist Alan Guebert has rightfully noted, "the entire Republican farm platform is but three paragraphs of the party's 93-page, 48,000-word tome. The Democratic counterpart is brevity itself, one paragraph of the party's 41-page snore.
"Since the GOP farm plan is lengthier, it holds more soft soap. US farm and ranch families, according to the Republicans, embody 'the best values of our nation: hard work, love of the land and love of our country ...' The Democratic platform writers, however, turn schmoozing into losing in just eight words: "Small towns are at the heart of America, but today, they are often losing people, jobs and hope."
Guebert also notes, "nowhere in the platform will anyone find one lofty idea, one clear plan or one reason for rural Americans to believe that John Kerry and John Edwards can make it happen. While neither candidate is an empty suit, their farm overalls are threadbare."
The Republican platform crows that George Bush "put his words into action when he signed the 2002 Farm Bill, passed with strong support from Republicans in Congress," while ignoring the fact his administration, including Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, remained conspicuously silent during the bill's debate.
As for the Democrats, we know from press reports that its platform was basically written by the Kerry campaign and while Kerry in the course of his campaign, which concludes in a few short days, has mentioned on some forced occasions the problems faced by family farmers today, basically he has dealt with the symptoms of those problems, not the fundamental sickness that plagues our farm economy.
So while Democrats would erroneously argue the difference between their candidate John Kerry and George Bush is clearly delineated when it comes to agriculture and farm policy, it has been clearly Nader, as he did in 2000, who has succulently addressed both the symptoms and the underlying problem facing family farm agriculture today.
Available in many supermarkets and book stores, a recent publication titled "Every Vote Counts: A Practical Guide to Choosing the Next President" by Chris Katsaropoulos has contrasted the positions of Bush, Kerry and Nader on a variety of those issues that form the basis of the 2004 campaign.
In going to the polls on November 2 family farmers and their concerned rural neighbors should keep in mind Nader's positions, as outlined by Katsaropoulos on those issues fundamental to their survival.
NADER believes we must challenge growing concentration of wealth by agriculture, chemical, biotech and financial corporations, which gives them control over farming and causes misallocation of resources. In addition he wants to shift current government policy to a policy that ensures open and competitive markets, promotes sustainable farming practices, and prevents pollution of natural resources.
KERRY supports increased funding for agricultural conservation programs, rural community development programs, and nutritional market development programs. He believes renewable energy such as ethanol, biomass, wind and biodiesel produced on farms will reduce foreign energy dependence and pollution. He also supports a ban on packer ownership of livestock, which drives small farmers out of business.
NADER wants to replace NAFTA and the WTO with fair trade agreements that pull up labor, environmental and consumer standards in addition to exchanging corporate-managed, profit, driven trade for fair trade.
KERRY plans to order a 120-day review of all trade agreements to ensure that trading partners adhere to their labor and environment obligations and make sure the agreements are enforceable and balanced for American workers. He also supports NAFTA and PNTR for China.
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
NADER wants to make environmental protection a priority for all government policies, including energy, trade, agriculture, transportation, development and land use and believes we should raise standards for toxicity levels in our air and water and charge agribusiness for water use. Also believes we need to eliminate highway projects that lead to urban sprawl, air pollution and global warming, control bioengineered products that can have unintended and dangerous consequences, and stop all commercial logging in commercial forests.
KERRY says we should invent our way out of foreign oil dependency instead of drilling our way out, meaning the development of alternative energy sources such as hydrogen and improving energy efficiency in homes, schools and businesses and developing renewable sources of electricity. He proposes a "Conservation Covenant" requiring energy and mineral royalties from public lands to be reinvested into protecting the land. He promotes "Clean and Green Communities" by coordinating efforts to reduce urban sprawl and traffic congestion.
It was A. Whitney Griswold, a political scientist and former president of Yale University, who wrote in 1948 in Farming and Democracy that "we can expect no democratic miracles from agriculture or any other particular part of our economy. We can expect them only from democracy itself ... The only sure source of democracy in any of these is a national well-spring that feeds all of them, not just a source among farmers, or, as we should say, among democracy. Only democracy can save the family farm ..."
A.V. Krebs is director of the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project, PO Box 2201, Everett, WA 98203. He publishes a free email newsletter, The Agribusiness Examiner; email firstname.lastname@example.org; website www.electricarrow.com/CARP/