Willie Wants to "Occupy the Food System"

Willie Nelson pens a column for the Huffington Post, stumping for the family farm. 
Tue December 20, 2011 11:04 pm
Ed Reinke | Associated Press

In his role as president of Farm Aid, Wille Nelson has taken to the pages of the Huffington Post to argue that the rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street applies to family farms and food as much as it does banks.

Nelson explains that "Big Agriculture is just as one-percenty as the banks," quips Grist's Jess Zimmerman. "Willie Nelson's an old hand at these issues — he's been fighting for small family farms since 1985. He's like the Bono of farms."

Writes Nelson, "corporate control of our farm system has exploded" since that first Farm Aid in 1985.

From seed to plate, our food system is now even more concentrated than our banking system. Most economic sectors have concentration ratios hovering around 40 percent, meaning that the top four firms in the industry control 40 percent of the market. Anything beyond this level is considered "highly concentrated," where experts believe competition is severely threatened and market abuses are likely to occur . . .

Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of beef in the U.S.; four companies dominate close to 60 percent of the pork and chicken markets.

Like Occupy itself, Nelson also has a beef (yeah, yeah) with President Obama. 

In November, the Obama administration delivered a crushing blow to a crucial rule proposed by the USDA (known as the GIPSA rule), which was meant to level the playing field for independent cattle ranchers. The large meatpackers, who would have lost some of their power, lobbied hard and won to leave the beef market as it is — ruled by corporate giants.

Our food system belongs in the hands of many family farmers, not under the control of a handful of corporations.

Of course, not everybody's a big fan of the "Occupy" rhetoric. Sniffed Noel Sheppard at the conservative site Newsbusters, "Count millionaire country singer and tax cheat Willie Nelson among the growing list of extremely wealthy entertainers supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement."

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