Shifting our food system to benefit farmers and eaters–not corporate monopolies

Joe Maxwell is President of the Family Farm Action Alliance, formerly a state legislator Lieutenant Governor of Missouri, and is retired from the Army National Guard. He’s also a family farmer, and has witnessed the shift from a functional capitalism to one that favors large monopolies at the expense of farmers, consumers, and the earth itself. He knows—from multiple perspectives—that consumer demand alone is not enough to make the shift toward a healthy food system. He lays out the problems—and some ways forward—as we look to a new presidential administration.

Show Notes:


1’10 Joe Maxwell family farmer
2’58 monopolies have a stranglehold on the food/agriculture system–and this is what it looks like
5’53 “the Feed-Meat Complex”
6’23 the ag system is based on feed grains and livestock–at the expense of the people and their health and wealth
7’25 most of the food we eat in the USA–70%–comes from other countries
10’21 how the credit/debt treadmill cripples farmers–within a skewed system of government subsidies and risk management
11’57 the many advantages of converting to a more diversified food/ag system–that prioritize farmers over conglomerates
13’15 deception and duplicity in marketing
13’51 filed legal action against Cargill for false advertising and mis branding
14’27 trying to open up market opportunity for genuine independent farmers
14’47 the big myth: independent/regenerative/organic agriculture is unaffordable. The problem is corporate monopolies
15’49 it’s possible to build an affordable, local/ regional food system
16’32 monopolies make deals with giant retailers to buy shelf space so nobody else can have it.
16’58 monopolies use predatory pricing to undercut independent producers and drive them to bankruptcy
17’19 these companies are denying people healthy safe food and denying wealth to everyone but themselves
18’01 companies making record profits AND getting taxpayer subsidies
18’10 our government bought corporate pork, but not sustainably raised pork
19’35 government could make better choices in their contracts
20’28 all this contributes to building the wealth of a single family at the expense of everyone else
21’12 strategies for busting monopolies
21’22 1. raising awareness of the problem for consumers
21’31 2. raising awareness of problem among our elected offials and leaders
21’44 toolkit with policies to push back against monopolies, see
22’11 3. build the local/regional resilient food system that will displace monopolies
23’59 regenerative agriculture goes back to indigenous practices and we should always acknowledge this
24’29 regional food systems existed until recently
24’48 need investment in infrastructure to have a regional system
27’01 resilience vs. efficiency?
27’39 efficiency doesn’t actually benefit consumers
28’39 effiency is overstated
29’21 resiliency has a longer time frame
30’53 if you break up monopolies and have lots of smaller farmers, is there a way for them to share resources? well, yes
33’35 problems of greenwashing
33’53 consumers are demanding healthy food even from chain restaurants
34’45 indigenous food systems building in resilience
37’01 ensuring that the food system is transparent
38’15 looking toward the Biden administration, and linking agriculture with climate change
40’23 how to overcome political polarization–don’t pre-judge each other, but get down to work to help farmers
42’24 how to get involved in the Family Farm Action Alliance

Joe-Maxwell Photo credit: Michael Cali

How to Listen

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