Sep 15, 2023
Anti-corporate farming group pushes lessening ag trade deficit with specialty crops

Domestic production of high-value, nutrient-dense crops has long been on the decline in the U.S., with the majority of acreage shifting to livestock feed and fuel production, according to Farm Action, an activist organization working against corporate agriculture.

Despite nearly 1 billion acres of farmland and a population of 330 million, the U.S. is increasingly dependent on imports for its supplies of produce, legumes and whole grains, driving an agricultural trade deficit, according to a news release and Sept. 11 webinar.

During the webinar, Farm Action leaders discussed how the 2023 and 2028 Farm Bill policies should support the shift towards food instead of feed. The organization released a briefing paper: Balancing the U.S. Agricultural Trade Deficit with Higher-Value Food Crops.

Farm Action Fund “Farm Action released new research revealing the United States could balance its agricultural trade deficit by converting less than just 0.5 percent of current farm acreage to the production of higher-value food crops such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes, instead of feed grains largely used in rations for industrial livestock operations,” the organization said in the release and webinar.

The briefing paper’s findings come a week after U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers released data forecasting a 45% increase in the U.S. agricultural trade deficit for the upcoming year. This will mark the fourth time the U.S. has run an agricultural trade deficit since 2019, leaving the U.S. food system increasingly reliant on other nations, according to the release.

Farm Action’s political affiliate Farm Action Fund issued a set of policy recommendations it is urging Congress to include in the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill to support this shift in agricultural production.

“To me, what is so important about this work is that in taking a step back to reassess the scale of food crop production relative to farmland footprint, the data reveals a critical and widening disconnect between what we produce and what we need,” Alison Grantham, principal and founder of Grow Well Consulting and paper author said in the release. “For example, in 2022, the U.S. harvested the fewest wheat acres since 1888, and the combined footprint of all harvested rice, pulse, fruit, nut, peanut, vegetable, and melon acreage amounted to just 1% of our total national farmland acreage. This and other disconnects will require reckoning in the next farm bill.”

Farm Action Fund’s policy recommendations for the 2023 Farm Bill highlight how expanding access to markets and making improvements to crop insurance and risk management programs would incentivize farmers in the production of higher-value food crops to balance the trade deficit.

“Today’s agriculture policy is failing the United States and its citizens,” Joe Maxwell, a Missouri livestock producer and Farm Action Fund’s president, said in the release and webinar. “The escalating ag trade deficit is an alarm bell to our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and consumers, and it should be a wake up call for every politician in Washington. Today’s report and our policy recommendations provide a clear path forward to mitigate this national security crisis, and Congress must act on this issue in this year’s farm bill.”

Based in Mexico, Missouri, Farm Action is an advocacy group of farmers, ranchers, rural communities, food system workers and policymakers that works to stop corporate monopolies and build fair competition in rural America by promoting fair, sustainable and healthy food systems.

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