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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

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Agricultural Reform: A 21st Century Renaissance for American Farms and Ranches

The Cunningham Administration’s agricultural agenda will address every aspect of the agricultural process. It approaches every link in the agricultural chain — from the planting of the seed to the commodities market — with logic and consideration for sustainable practices. The Cunningham Administration proposes the modernization of America’s agriculture sector, which will be achieved through programs that bolster efficiency and sustainability. The following initiatives are integral to the success of America’s future agricultural innovation and growth:

NAFTA: Re-Engineered to Match Today’s U.S. Farming Competitiveness

The Cunningham Administration will review the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A free trade agreement signed by Canada, Mexico and America, NAFTA tends to favor U.S. agricultural interests, and therefore the interests of U.S. farmers. While the current administration seems determined to nullify the country’s involvement in NAFTA, The Cunningham Administration recognizes that this would put many U.S. farmers out of business. American farms export approximately 50% of our country’s wheat with the NAFTA deal. While termination is unwise, the contract should be restructured to meet today’s agricultural standards and practices. In order to guarantee that NAFTA is restructured to meet present-day goals, we must amend it to improve technology, (to allow for a faster and higher volume of trade), encourage entrepreneurship, empower unions and worker rights, promote a better diplomatic relationship with Canada and Mexico, and increase employment opportunities for Americans.

Fostering R&D: Sustainable Farms and Special Programs for Vertical and Organic Farming

The Cunningham Administration will reinstitute the 2017 Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Proposed (OLPP) measure. The USDA believes the OLPP exceeded the USDA’s statutory authority beyond the intent of the Organic Foods Production Act.[2] The law repealed by the current administration championed necessary biosecurity measures. Safe and humanely raised livestock, while potentially more costly, is critical to the health of Americans in the long run. The Cunningham Administration will fund grants for organic farms and invest in research focused on sustainable, eco-friendly, large-scale farming. We already have the technology, but we must also make it scalable for vertical and tiered farming methods. We will provide R&D grant funding to agricultural universities and sponsor the creation of programs that partner those universities with farmers, in addition to providing startup and equipment packages.

Legislative Protection for Independent Farms from Large Corporate Agra Control

The Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA) vs. Monsanto was a landmark case which attempted to protect family farmers from Monsanto’s aggressive patent infringement lawsuits and unwanted genetic contamination. Monsanto’s patented GMO pollen has the ability to become airborne and contaminate crops on non-Monsanto properties without the knowledge of the land owner. To conduct their continued research in genetically modified produce, Monsanto regularly sends company representatives to family farms in rural America in order to illegally obtain plants for further lab testing. One year after the approval of Monsanto’s GMO Roundup Ready Soybeans, the world’s leading chemical and biotech seed company admitted to filing 150 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts.

Still engaged in aggressive lawsuits and investigations, agricultural corporations have driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy. The Cunningham Administration will stand firm with the American farmer, protecting them from the predatory practices of corporate sabotage and takeover.

Restore the Government-Farm Business Partnership: Halt Draconian Bureaucratic Penalties Driving Farms Out of Business

The influence wielded by U.S. Department of Agriculture is significant, affecting the health of our nation, nations worldwide, and the world commodities markets. There was a time when there was a functioning working relationship between farmers and the USDA, but with increasingly restrictive regulations, many farmers and ranchers are being penalized by draconian fines for minor or antiquated infractions.

The USDA has suffocated the farms and ranches of America, driving many farmers out of business. Additionally, the current administration has tightened controls and regulations even further. Families that have farmed or ranched the same land for generations cope with conflicting and overly complicated oversight are enforced by massive multi-million dollar fines.[3]

Contrary to the current agency policies and administrative oversight, the Cunningham Administration pledges to support farmers. We will implement an open forum so that farmers can voice their concerns without penalty, and collaborate with the administration and other farmers on best practices to maintain business growth and America’s food supply. Simultaneously, we will investigate the latest sustainability technology. Ultimately, Cunningham will halt the bureaucratic micromanagement of farms and ranches.

Infrastructure: New Roads, Bridges, and Networks

Our roads and bridges are crumbling, our trains need modernizing, and our trucking industry needs infrastructure that provides secure means of transport. The Cunningham Administration plans on making significant investments to improve the freeways, roads, networks and systems vital to agricultural transport.

Immigration Reform: Merit-Based Employment for Farm Workers

Productive farms and ranches are primarily reliant on immigrant workers year-round. In spite of their integral role in the agricultural industry, the current administration would like to prevent Mexican immigrant day laborers from entering the United States. In a battle against “illegals,” the anti-immigrant right has unleashed an ugly wave of prejudiced hostility in the form of “cowboy justice” along the U.S.-Mexico border.[1] Groups like Save Our State, The Federation for American Immigration Reform, and The Minutemen have unjustly targeted these day laborers (jornaleros).

While there are many people who enter the U.S. illegally, the current administration has incorrectly and unfairly classified day laborers as “illegals,” creating an unnecessary and detrimental divide amongst Americans and foreigners alike. Not only do these laborers suffer from false representation by the government and hostility from a large American population, they do not earn more than  $15,000 per annum — a sum well below the poverty line — and many have reported abusive working conditions.

The Cunningham Administration Immigration Task Force will introduce new legislative initiatives that promote and protect merit-based citizenship and work permits that protect both farmers and day laborers. The demand for immigrant day laborer has not abated; a workable and unbiased solution will increase productivity, conserve law enforcement resources, and make American farms and ranches competitive.

Increase and Secure Broadband Internet for Better Farm Production

Many of America’s farms are underserved in terms of internet connectivity and broadband access. The Cunningham Administration will invest in infrastructure to provide farming communities greater access to broadband. The FCC estimates that in urban areas, 97% of Americans have access to high-speed fixed service, but in rural areas, this figure drops to 65%, and to 60% on tribal lands; addressing the issue of internet access is key to improving agricultural prosperity. Without access to high quality, affordable broadband service, workers have fewer opportunities for well-paying jobs, and farmers and business owners become isolated from new markets. [4] Measures to increase broadband access have stalled with the current administration. The Cunningham Administration will accelerate the delivery of access to high-speed internet to rural areas.

Agricultural Policy & The Commodities Market

In today’s globalized world, U.S. agricultural policy (or lack thereof) affects the world commodities market immensely. Legislative corruption, climate change and powerful industry leaders are just a few factors that create opportunities for chaos in the commodities market. Having a strong set of agricultural policies with increased regulation and innovation will have a positive effect and make it more difficult for exploitative actors to gain any sort of control over the markets.

In Summary

The Cunningham Administration stands for a modernized and prosperous United States Agricultural Program.  American farmers and ranchers deserve an administration that promotes and protects their interests. We will introduce a renaissance of sustainable practices and innovative technology to our agricultural chain, from seed to table.

[1] nacla.org

[2] ams.usda.gov

[3] agweb.com

[4] farmpolicynews.illinois.edu

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