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Mike Bloomberg Announces Expansive Agenda for a Thriving Agricultural Economy

February 28, 2020

Mike’s plan makes trade work for American farmers, enhances equal opportunity in the agricultural workforce, invests in conservation and innovation, and supports rural areas

NEW YORK — Today, Mike Bloomberg announced a progressive agenda for the next generation of American farms, reversing the Trump administration’s missteps and restoring respect and opportunity to America’s farmers and rural communities. Mike’s plan supports America’s small and family-owned farms by prioritizing free and fair trade policies, building a diverse next-generation agricultural workforce, fostering healthy lands, and investing in rural renewal. President Trump promised to take care of farmers, but in reality, he has undercut America’s farm economy, diminished science and research vital to American agriculture, and done little to meet the needs of rural communities. Mike’s plans will make the market work fairly for America’s farmers. He knows farmers are proud to work hard and don’t want to rely on subsidies and bailouts to survive.

“Donald Trump’s trade war has been devastating for America’s farmers, causing farm debt and farm bankruptcies to reach record highs,” said Mike Bloomberg. “As president, I will support the small and family-owned farms that are the backbone of our rural communities. Our administration will help young people and people of color become the next generation of farmers, make the H-2A agricultural visa program more flexible for farmworkers and farmers, and more than double our investment in agricultural research. I have enormous respect for the men and women who work long, hard days on farms — it is a tough business, and the president’s misguided policies are making it even tougher to survive. Unlike President Trump, who has broken his promises to America’s farmers, I will keep mine.”

This plan builds on previously announced policies to expand rural broadband and health care and is the first of three food, agriculture, and rural development-related plans slated for release. The plan has five major planks: 1) promote fair competition and combat consolidation; 2) pursue fair trade agreements that open markets for U.S. farmers and resolve Trump’s needlessly damaging U.S.-China trade war; 3) harness conservation and regenerative growing practices to lower American agriculture’s carbon footprint; 4) at least double current investment in agricultural research and innovation and develop a diverse new generation of farmers; and 5) bolster the economic, social, and environmental health of America’s rural communities.

Background

Agriculture is a vital part of the American economy. Over two million American farms provide 11% of U.S. employment, cover more than 900 million acres of American land, and contribute more than $1 trillion to GDP. But farmers today face significant challenges. Consolidation and dominance by large companies threatens small and mid-sized farms; increasingly frequent and extreme weather events threaten yields; and the average age of American farmers – nearly 58 – continues to rise. Young people and people of color face particular obstacles to becoming farmers, leading to broad inequities – for example, Black farmers own only 1.5% of American farms and less than 0.5% of American farmland. Worse, Donald Trump’s ill-advised trade war with China has gutted vital international markets for American farm products. The trade war tariffs helped drive farm debt to its highest level since the farm crisis of the 1980s – more than $400 billion – and farm bankruptcies to reach their highest rate in a decade, surging 24% last year alone.

Mike’s Plan to Grow Healthy, Economically Thriving, and Diverse Farms Across America

To support American agriculture, Mike’s plan will:

Promote fair competition for farms of all sizes: Mike’s plan will combat farming monopolies by strengthening smaller farms’ ability to negotiate for fair contracts. He will also evive and enforce USDA and DOJ’s capacity to ensure fair competition, including reinstating the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) as an independent and fully funded agency.

Make U.S. trade policy fair and consistent: As president, Mike will pursue trade policies that unlock fair and open markets for American farmers by holding China accountable and prioritizing cooperation with allies and the WTO, while de-escalating U.S.-China trade tensions which are jeopardizing small and family-owned farms.

Invest in building healthy soils and conserving farmland for generations to come: Mike’s plan will expand programs that prioritize conservation and enhance soil health and explore ways to align crop insurance with conservation incentives. He’ll increase the share of farm acreage managed with regenerative practices that improve farmland and lower adverse environmental effects. Additionally, he’ll empower farmers to improve soils and sequester carbon from the air, leading our country’s efforts to ensure sustainable ecology for future generations.

Expand and improve agricultural research and develop a diverse new generation of the American farming workforce: Mike knows how critical it is to make it easier for young people to enter the farming business and inherit family farms. That’s why he’ll establish an estate planning division at USDA, pilot lease-to-own programs, increase funding to provide legal support to heirs’ property owners, and encourage states to pass the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act. He’ll also modernize the current H-2A visa program so it works better for both farmworkers and farms of all sizes, and expand other farmworker protections like minimum wage, overtime, and other labor rights, including safeguards against harassment. Mike’s plan will double current federal investment in U.S. agricultural research to unlock innovation and enable American farmers to continue leading the world. As president, Mike will address longstanding systemic racism and inequities by appointing USDA leadership committed to supporting farmers of color and fully enforcing civil rights protections. He’ll also update key USDA grant programs to ensure they serve all farms, including small farms, new and beginning operations, and programs specifically investing in both farmers of color and veterans.

Renew rural American communities: Mike’s plan will improve rural health care by upgrading federal programs, increasing innovative telehealth services, and expanding mental health, suicide prevention, and drug addiction prevention to meet rural communities’ unique needs. It will also invest in modernizing rural infrastructure, including expanding broadband access to 10 million more Americans by 2025, investing $100 billion over 10 years in clean drinking water, repairing roads and bridges, and expanding air travel in rural areas. As president, Mike will ensure rural communities remain vibrant by introducing a place-based Earned Income Tax Credit to provide added incentives for businesses to locate and create jobs in distressed communities.

Mike’s Record

Mike has a long history of supporting American farms, especially the 96% which are small or family-owned, and recognizing the important role farmers play in protecting America’s environment:

  • Mike has been critical of large agribusiness’ disproportionate power in American agriculture. He condemned the 2007 federal energy bill, saying “most of the farms things we do don’t benefit most farmers,” especially small farmers “who we should really be helping.”
  • Mike has been highly critical of Trump’s trade policy, he has supported trade agreements that benefit American farmers, and started a group that endorsed legislation to improve farm labor.
  • As Mayor, Mike’s administration made investments to expand farmer’s markets in New York City, providing a critical market for upstate farmers. He also partnered with Governor Cuomo to invest in upgrading the Hunts Point Terminal Market, the world’s second-largest wholesale market and the largest in-state market for New York farmers.
  • Mike’s administration also invested in urban agriculture and innovation, opening the first farm in a public housing complex and a large rooftop farm estimated to grow 20,000 pounds of produce annually while absorbing over one million gallons of rainwater.

Trump’s Record

As a candidate, Trump claimed he was going to “take care of the farmers,” but he has repeatedly put politics before the best interests of America’s agricultural producers.

Reactions to Mike’s plan from Experts, Elected Officials, and Industry Leaders

Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville, Kentucky and Campaign Co-Chair:
“President Trump and his reckless trade wars have been a disaster for American farmers nationwide, who deserve better as they work to innovate and enhance production and distribution. Mike Bloomberg understands that sustainable farming is the key to a brighter future for both consumers and producers, and I look forward to working with him as president to expand economic opportunity for those who contribute so much to our national economy.”

U.S. Representative (IL-1) Bobby Rush and National Campaign Co-Chair:
“As a grandson of a farmer in Southwest Georgia, I know personally how agriculture has a long and painful legacy for Black America, where only 1.5% of farmers are black today. Systemic disparities are still the norm for far too many, as people of color confront considerable barriers to subsidies and other federal resources. It’s high time we take a multifaceted approach that attacks these challenges at their roots and improve equity in such a vital national industry. I am confident that Mike Bloomberg is up to the task, and that he will be a president who ensures agricultural industries offer opportunities to all.”

Dan Glickman, Former Secretary, United States Department of Agriculture:
“Mike Bloomberg has a smart and comprehensive plan to promote U.S. agriculture, invest in rural communities, protect our natural resources and fully fund needed agricultural research. In particular, his plan will work to promote family farm agriculture and enforce fair competition and antitrust laws. By funding conservation programs, he will encourage farmers to improve soil health and sequester carbon in the ground. Mike also understands we need to respect and strengthen the symbiotic relationship between rural and non-rural communities in our country. He will invest in infrastructure, support rural entrepreneurs and expand broadband access to connect millions more Americans in the next few years.”

Jay Nixon, Former Governor of Missouri:
“The Show-Me State has been hit hard by President Trump’s disastrous trade policies, which are hurting our soybean farmers in particular. We need a stable, coherent approach to international trade. Mike Bloomberg will be a steady leader who will develop and carry out trade policies that are fair and that open more markets for American farmers. He will make sure China is held accountable for its unfair trade practices while de-escalating a trade war that threatens small and family-owned farms. And, like me, Mike believes advancing conservation and agricultural interests go hand in hand. He will incentivize farmers to use regenerative practices that boost productivity and reduce harmful impacts on our environment.”

Beverly Perdue, Former Governor of North Carolina:
“North Carolina has a proud agricultural tradition, but our family farmers are struggling. Mike Bloomberg’s plan will help level the playing field for small farmers. He will make sure the USDA and the Justice Department enforce fair competition regulations. He also will invest in efforts to improve soil health and capture carbon on farms, encouraging farmers to lead the way to a more sustainable future.”

Lucy Johnson, Former Mayor of Kyle, Texas:
“As someone who grew up on a family ranch, I’m so glad Mike Bloomberg has a strong plan to support rural communities. He will make high-quality health care more affordable and accessible to Americans living in rural communities by strengthening federal programs, expanding telehealth services and increasing mental health, suicide prevention and drug addiction prevention programs. He also will upgrade rural infrastructure, ensuring 10 million more Americans have access to broadband by 2025. And he will spend $100 billion over 10 years to clean drinking water, fix roads and bridges, and expand air travel to rural destinations. Mike’s plan will improve lives and create much-needed educational and economic opportunities in rural America.”

Muhammad Robabalaa, Mayor of Fort Coffee, Oklahoma:
“I have been speaking about my experience and advocating for Black farmers for decades. In Mike Bloomberg, I’ve found a candidate who has listened to my concerns and developed a thoughtful plan to address the systemic racism that has harmed Black farmers for generations. He will appoint leaders to the USDA who will invest in programs supporting farmers of color and make sure civil rights protections are actually enforced. Mike also has a good plan to help rural communities like Fort Coffee. He will improve health care and invest $100 billion over ten years in infrastructure projects in rural areas so that we have clean drinking water and safe roads and bridges.”

Carolyn Salter, Former Mayor of Palestine, Texas:
“I like to think that I am always on the side of the little guy – the farmworker who needs better workplace protections, the family farm that needs an ally fighting huge agribusinesses, or the rural family who needs better access to healthcare in their community. These things don’t happen by accident, they are created by inclusive and forward thinking policies put forward by leaders who value the contributions of everyone involved in farming and agriculture. Mike Bloomberg is that leader. As a manager and a businessman he knows that farming is crucial to our economy, and that there are things that we can do to make it less risky, more equitable and more humane. I absolutely agree with his proposals to push back against the anti-competitive practices of large scale agriculture – and to level the playing field for small farms by strengthening their ability to negotiate collectively for better prices on seed and equipment. I also agree with Mike’s proposal to review the effect on competition of recent mergers, and to reinstate GIPSA which Trump defunded. And most importantly I support Mike’s emphasis to ensure that the hardworking laborers who make farms run, are afforded ample protections against abuse and exploitation. People are our most important asset, and when we take their wellbeing into account, everyone benefits.”

Steve Williams, Mayor of Huntington, West Virginia:
“Our rural communities are plagued by aging infrastructure that poses a critical threat to clean drinking water. Many of these communities are in crisis, and Mike’s plan will ensure that lead is removed from the water supply in those communities by the end of his first year in office. Mike understands that this requires investment — not just in funding but in data-driven policy and science. I know firsthand that Mike Bloomberg understands what it takes to restore clean, sustainable drinking water to communities across America, and have every confidence that he will get it done as president.”

Melissa McKinlay, Commissioner, Palm Beach County, Florida:
“I’m proud to represent the people of Palm Beach County, which is the largest agricultural county east of the Mississippi and the fifth-largest in the nation. Unfortunately, our farmers, like farmers across the country, are suffering as a result of Trump’s destructive trade policies. We need a calm and rational leader like Mike Bloomberg in the White House to reset trade relations and pursue trade policies that actually are in the best interest of America’s farmers. And I’m encouraged that Mike is taking a comprehensive approach to these issues that’s focused on promoting sustainable agriculture and investing in infrastructure, health care, and economic development for rural communities. Florida is becoming increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events caused by climate change. Mike will help us reduce carbon emissions and build more resilient communities throughout the state.”

Richard Pena Raymond, State Representative, District 42, Texas:
“I’m tired of watching farmers take a hit in Trump’s trade wars. His personal vendettas have no place where the livelihoods of Americans are at stake. And when Texas farmers do so much cross border business, it’s important that we have a president who understands the benefits of trade, and who can put pragmatic policies in place that both make our products competitive, and protect the interests of our producers in any deals. That’s where Mike Bloomberg shines. He understands that business is a two way street and that allowing our farmers to compete on a level playing field is better than offering bailouts on the back end. Mike will rebuild the relationships that Trump has damaged, and help our farmers find more new markets for their commodities, both at home and abroad. We need a president like that on our side, and with Mike in the White House, I trust the future will look a lot brighter for the farmers in my state – and all across the U.S.”

Dean Meyer, Rancher and Former State Senator, North Dakota:
“Consolidation in the agricultural industry is hurting small farmers. For example, four meatpackers own more than 80% of the market. It’s hard for cattle ranchers to negotiate a fair price. Mike Bloomberg knows we need to do more to protect small farms. He will once again make the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration an independent agency and make sure it has the resources to fulfill its mission of promoting fair competition. He also will modernize and fund USDA grant programs that support family farmers, farmers of color and farmers who are military veterans.”

Sarah Vogel, Former Commissioner of Agriculture, North Dakota:
“Research is what built America’s diverse farming system, so I was pleased to see that Mike would double federal funding for research that lead to the agricultural innovations of the future. I’m excited about Mike’s common-sense plan, which will help family farmers keep their farms and pass them on to the next generation of America’s farmers.”

Pastor Roy Duncan of Antioch Church, Palestine, Texas:
“I am blessed to be one of those who inherited land that was first purchased by my great-grandfather upon his emancipation at the age of 18. Yet many African Americans and their families are not so fortunate, having lost their birthright through vicious cycles of neglect and disinvestment. I am truly encouraged to see Mike Bloomberg’s proposals target the systemic wrongs perpetrated against African American farmers. African Americans suffered from systemic practices that affected land ownership. I am grateful that Mike Bloomberg is turning attention toward correcting some of these issues.”

Anthony Myint, Co-Founder of Zero Foodprint, a nonprofit dedicated to building a renewable food system rooted in healthy soil:
“We have a huge opportunity with climate-smart agricultural policy to dramatically alter the trajectory of climate change. I know from my work with Zero Foodprint that with regenerative farming techniques, we can turn agricultural land into a carbon sink rather than a source of carbon emissions, and we can start using that carbon to grow healthier, more nutritious crops. But the responsibility starts with us as consumers to express a preference for responsibly grown food – and with the federal government to incentivize regenerative techniques. For example, we can tie crop insurance subsidies to cleaner farming practices, as Mike Bloomberg has proposed, with the greatest benefits going to farmers engaging in verified conservation practices. This is just good sense and it’s surprising that when there’s so much at stake, that we haven’t done it before. We all have a role to play in solving our planet’s problems.”

For more information about Mike’s agriculture plan, visit here.

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