A perfect storm for sky-high prices

by Vivian Diep in March 4th, 2022
farm

Illinois is tackling the decline of the Black farmer

Tue Feb 22

The percentage of Black farmers within the agriculture industry has been dropping since 1920, when 14% of Black farmers accounted for all farmers in the U.S.. That number is now 1.4%. What’s behind this decline?

  • First, the USDA has a history of discriminating against Black farmers. Reports have shown that when a Black producer submits an application for approval to farm a plot of land, they’re rejected either immediately or after being put through challenges that other farmers do not face.
  • This discrimination extends to funding as well as farmers of color — especially Black farmers — are denied USDA loans at a higher rate than white farmers. These rejections increased during Trump’s final year in office and have continued through Biden’s first year.
  • And when opportunities arise to level the playing field, opposition quickly forms and dismantles them. For example last year, the USDA announced $4B in debt relief payments for socially disadvantaged farmers. White farmers then sued to prevent the payments, saying the program discriminates on the basis of race.

Now, a new bill from Illinois seeks to tackle the issue head-on through the Black Farmer Restoration Program Act. The bill would require the state’s department of agriculture to prioritize disadvantaged farmers, create a fund dedicated to purchasing farmland, and offer land grants of up to 100 acres to eligible farmers. And to encourage future farmers, the bill would also establish training for Illinois residents aged 18 to 29 to pursue careers in agriculture.

Efforts are underway on the federal level as well, with a bill aimed at credit assistance, land grant programs, and a better understanding of existing discrimination by forming an equity commission. Overall, many Black farmers are still skeptical of all efforts, especially in light of past efforts — like this one we reported on in June — that sound better than they actually are.

Inflation is inflating corporate greed

Sun Feb 20

Turns out the pandemic isn’t the sole driver behind everything costing way more than it used to. Yes, prices are rising due to delivery delays. And yes, wage increases and stimulus benefits have increased consumer purchasing power, making them less sensitive to price hikes. But, these factors do not add up to explain the magnitude of the price increases. For context, inflation has reached a 40-year high with 60% of Americans saying it has caused them hardship.

Instead, experts claim the price hikes are a combination of corporate greed and an uncompetitive market. Some economists and politicians say that corporations are using inflation as an excuse to raise prices higher than necessary, especially given the large profits reported. Others say the consolidation of U.S. companies has resulted in uncompetitive markets, meaning customers have few alternatives for goods and services and so must pay the high prices . This is the same argument for breaking up Big Tech companies into separate entities.

But breaking up companies is not a total solution to inflation. Companies have to hold or lower prices, which can be triggered by consumer demand and cost. So how will that happen?

  • Biden’s recent State of the Union address details plans to reduce costs but keep wages or even increase them. His administration is calling for more American manufacturing, better infrastructure, lower everyday expenses such as healthcare and childcare, and initiatives that will increase competition in heavily consolidated markets.
  • Earlier this year, his administration announced plans to inject small, independent meat processors with $1B to create meaningful competition within the meat industry— which is in the hot seat for rapidly growing prices and profits soaring 120% over the course of the pandemic.
  • The Federal Reserve plans on raising interest rates in March, which should decrease demand for loans thereby decreasing purchasing power and demand. There’s worry over how this will happen though with potential negative effects like lay-offs.

Of course, all these initiatives will take time to reach our budgets. The only other solution in the meantime? Stop buying. If people continue to pay high prices, corporations will maintain them — or worse, push the limit by raising even further.

Below the Fold Bytes

China’s war against free speech

A number of China’s ethnic minority journalists have been disappearing. Some have quit after severe threats to them and their families. Others have been kidnapped by Chinese officials — and it goes beyond borders. Journalists from Tibet, Xinjian, and Inner Mongolia have all faced threats from China’s regime, preventing them from obtaining and sharing information on China and her actions in their home regions. China is even buying media outlets abroad for more control. >> Read More

California tackles labor trafficking

A California bill has been introduced to establish a labor trafficking unit within the state to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of labor trafficking. We’ve previously covered how the agriculture industry has been exploiting the rules to traffic labor workers. This new law would be the first California one focused specifically on labor trafficking in a state that continues to have the highest number of victims of human trafficking in the U.S. over the last two decades. >> Read More

Resources

  • Vox: Corporate price boosting 12 days old | 15 minutes long
  • Yahoo Finance!: Plans to fight inflation 4 days old | 9 minutes long
  • The Counter: Illinois bill in detail 10 days old | 17 minutes long
  • Midwest Center: White farmers sue 6 months old | 10 minutes long

ASCII-ing About the News

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Valentine’s Day has passed but a heart-shaped balloon is by far my favorite kind of $ inflation to share.


Art Credit: Steven Maddison

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