Agricultural Commodity
Groups and 'Prolefeed'

In "The Principles of Newspeak," George Orwell's appendix to Nineteen Eighty-four, the narrator notes that "the rubbishy entertainment and spurious news which the Party handed out to the masses" was called "prolefeed". Prolefeed is exactly what the heavily funded state and national commodity groups and the American Farm Bureau Federation are feeding farmers.

Years ago, independent farmers created farm organizations such as the Farm Bureau and the state and national commodity groups in pork, beef, dairy, etc. These independent farmers created these groups to provide a mechanism to advance the interests of independent agriculture. However, each of these farm organizations have become bloated bureaucracies which funnel money away from producers, distribute "prolefeed", and fight for the devastation of independent agriculture by corporate agribusiness.

Examples of "prolefeed" include the "protect agriculture" rhetoric distributed by Farm Bureau and the pork producers groups while they intensely fight to increase the ability of factory farms to multiply, destroy communities, vertically integrate and freeze independent producers out of the marketplace.

While distributing "prolefeed" on distracting topics of efficiency and exports, these bureaucracies have been working feverishly to blunt criticism about horizontal concentration in the packer/processor industry, declining family farm numbers, and closed out market access. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) actively cooperate with the American Meat Institute (controlled by the big three packers) to promote the AMI agenda in Congress and the states with pork and beef producers' money.

The commodity groups, such as the NPPC and the National Cattleman's Association (now NCBA), convinced producers in the mid-1980's to support legislation for mandatory checkoff programs. These checkoff dollars have since been used to promote corporate farming and to fund bigger bureaucracies, not to enhance the livelihood and numbers of family farmers who created and funded them.

The state-level pork producer organizations in states such as Iowa and North Carolina are now primarily controlled by contractors for Iowa Select Farms, Murphy Farms and other corporate farms, not independent producers. The recent meeting of the NCBA resulted in an additional allocation of $4 million from various sources including checkoff dollars to "educate" producers about the checkoff program in light of the current effort to petition for a recall of the referendum. The NPPC is undertaking similar "producer education" activities despite the fact that federal law prohibits grass roots organizing using checkoff funds. Prolefeed.

Independent farmers should either reclaim control of their organizations or create a new entity which is dedicated to family farm based production agriculture. Additionally, producers should seriously consider whether they want their checkoff dollars to fund the commodity groups and the distribution of "prolefeed".

Michael Stumo is a former farmer now practicing law on sustainable food industry issues. He can be reached at P.O. Box 761, Winsted, CT 06098 or email

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