Thanks again to the Illinois Farmers Union for letting me give the keynote at their convention this past weekend out in Altamont. 🌽🐷
Austin is the Deputy Director of the Thurman Arnold Project at Yale University (an antitrust initiative), a Fellow at The Harkin Institute at Drake University, and a Senior Fellow at Data for Progress.
Austin is a 7th generation Iowan from Cedar Rapids. His mother Kathy ran a beauty salon before opening her own bakery. His father Scott delivered and merchandised beer at the same family-run company as Austin’s grandfather. Austin’s passion for agriculture came from spending his weekends with his Grandpa Frerick, who Austin calls one of his heroes. Austin attended high school at Jefferson High School where he was active in soccer, cross country, newspaper, and show choir. Austin has held a job since the age of 12, when he started working at the Cedar Rapids Gazette as a paperboy. He then worked at Drugtown and spent a summer detasseling corn, which helped pay for his first car (a Ford ZX2). To the joy of his mom and his Grandma Fiala, Austin volunteered in various Cedar Rapids Czech heritage organizations, even serving for a year as Czech Prince. This role involved lots of dancing the polka, eating kolaches, and waving in parades. After graduating as a class Salutatorian, Austin attended Grinnell College where he received the following merit scholarships in addition to Pell Grants: Grinnell Trustee Honor, Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, the Council of Higher Education, the Czech Heritage Foundation, the Mary J. Boland Endowment Fund, the Czech Women’s Educational Society, and the Komensky Society. Throughout his studies, Austin always kept busy, including juggling four jobs. His favorite was working as a Special Needs Care Provider for the Arc of East Central Iowa, where he coordinated social activities for special needs clients in the county, including a biweekly cooking club, a summer nights program, and monthly overnight trips. In his final year, Austin wrote two college theses related to corporate power in Iowa’s slaughterhouse communities. After being the first in his family to graduate from college, Austin attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a full academic scholarship. While a student, he worked as a Project Assistant at the acclaimed Institute for Research on Poverty, which tasked him with coordinating the administration of a multi-site field survey that explored food security and financial behaviors among low-income households with children. For his thesis, he led a group in providing recommendations to the Wisconsin Children’s Trust Fund to improve their experimental program in reducing child abuse. Once he completed his education, Austin took a job at the Congressional Research Service in the Library of Congress. He provided nonpartisan policy analysis to members of Congress and their staff and focused on income support programs and healthcare finance. He then worked as an Economist at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Tax Policy. While working next to the White House, Austin published research on executive compensation, pharmaceutical corporate charity abuses, and the growth of concentration in the American economy. Following the 2016 election, Austin decided to move back to Iowa to run for public office in Iowa’s Third Congressional District. Focusing on how agribusiness corporations harm farmers, workers, small businesses, and communities, he ran the first modern American trust-busting campaign. In particular, he attacked the then pending merger between the agribusiness giants Monsanto and Bayer. He took his economic populist message to national publications like The Intercept, Bloomberg BNA, SlowFoodsUSA, The Nation, and numerous small-town Iowa papers like the Creston News Advertiser, Guthrie Times, & Earlham Advocate. Austin ended his campaign in March 2018 when he realized that he did not have the financial resources to compete. Austin has continued to highlight the growing economic concentration in the American economy. He worked as the Director of Special Projects at the Open Markets Institute, where he authored the report “America's Concentration Crisis,” that was covered by David Leonhardt in his New York Times column and shared by Sen. Bernie Sanders and David Axelrod. He also created & organized the "Heartland Forum" in Storm Lake, Iowa, the first 2020 Iowa Caucus candidate event, which focused on economic concentration’s impacts on rural America. The event was attended by a number of presidential candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro. Ten Random Tidbits about Austin: 1. His heroes are Jane Addams, Grandpa Frerick, RuPaul, and Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. 2. One of his life goals is to win an Iowa State Fair blue ribbon for one of his pies. 3. He planted his first garden at the age of 5 (sunflowers, carrots, and pumpkins). 4. His wedding song will be “Butterflies” by Kacey Musgraves. 5. His siblings and family dog all have first names that begin with the letter A (Austin, Andrew, Abby, and Abe). 6. He used to run a neighborhood library in his parent’s basement with his book collection (Andy staffed it). 7. He studied abroad in Botswana. 8. He can’t spell to save his life. 9. He still uses Netflix DVD’s. 10. His favorite hashtag is #iowaAF.
Mission: To restore the balance of power in America's food system in favor of farmers, workers, small businesses, and communities.
Thanks again to the Illinois Farmers Union for letting me give the keynote at their convention this past weekend out in Altamont. 🌽🐷
I spoke w/Civil Eats about the American Farm Bureau Federation recently endorsing supply management dairy policies. But this vote is largely symbolic. "They’re at a fork in the road where they have to decide: Are they on the side of farmers, or are they on the side of industry?”
Family dairy farms will keep going out of business so long as factory dairy farms exist in the New Mexico and Arizona deserts.
In an unprecedented move, talk of a supply management system may turn the tide for dairy farmers.
I showed up on the evening news in Kansas last night! 🤗🌾
I had a blast talking at the Kansas Farmers Union convention. We had a really good conversation about how overhauling school meals can be the cornerstone of a progressive farm bill. See more --->>
Thanksgiving Factoid: Turkey is the only meat in 🇺🇸 right now not under investigation for price-fixing. I spoke with Bloomberg News about this epidemic. "Collusion in the industry 'won’t go away until we address the concentration issue here,' said Frerick. Frerick suggested structural fixes, such as a breakup of the largest food producers, as the best way to prevent the continuance of price-fixing."
Here's the article --->> https://news.bloomberglaw.com/mergers-and-antitrust/turkey-remains-rare-meat-not-embroiled-in-antitrust-probes
I'm thrilled to endorse Sen. Warren today! I know that the days of Wall Street driven Farm Bills will be numbered in her Administration. #Warren2020
Nearly two-thirds of Americans, including a majority on both sides of the aisle, want the federal government to ensure that school lunches are fresh, healthy, prepared onsite, and locally grown. --->> Here's my proposal to do so. What do you think?
Check out my new "Data For Progress" report to learn more: https://www.dataforprogress.org/memos/school-meals
Check out my new report. Agricultural production is driving climate change, but it doesn’t have to.
-->> Confronting monopoly power and enforcing rules that protect workers and family farms will be a critical part of a just transition under a Green New Deal. Simply put, Iowa needs more farmers and fewer CAFOs. Better for the climate, better for rural communities.
By - Charlie Mitchell: Research Fellow, Data for Progress; Austin Frerick: Deputy Director of the Thurman Arnold Project at Yale University Executive Producer - Greg Carlock: Green New Deal Research Director, Data for Progress
I spoke with Civil Eats about the 'People's Forum in Iowa' last weekend: “I can’t name another agriculture and food event that has brought together [farmers & foodchain workers]. This is how we balance the power dynamic. No one else is doing that.”
The recent People's Forum in Iowa marked the first of several political events aimed at engaging candidates on a range of progressive issues. Food and agriculture took center stage.
I spoke with The Washington Post about how many of the Democratic candidates have released Ag antitrust plans -- 9 so far (!!)
“This is a hopeful moment. We are seeing all of these candidates talk about the need to restore the balance of power in the 🇺🇸 food system.”
(Special thanks to Art Cullen, The Storm Lake Times, & the Iowa Farmers Union for working with me to host the "Heartland Forum" earlier this year that really put this issue on the map)
They are hoping trustbusting will resonate in Iowa.
Sen. Warren's new plan "expand[s] the “Farm-to-School” program a 100x and turn it into a program in which all federally-supported public institutions — including military bases & hospitals — will partner with local, independent farmers to provide fresh, local food"
💯 % agree 👏 👏 👏
This is such a great idea because
(1) It keeps 💰 in rural America ---> I've heard over and over again from produce farmers that landing a long-term contract from a school is such a get.
(2) Students get a healthy locally sourced meal (instead of square pizza with tomato sauce from exploitative Mexican farm labor conditions and beef from a corrupt Brazil company)
(3) This is the natural next-step in Michelle Obama's efforts to improve the school lunches for 🇺🇸 's schoolchildren that Agribusiness lackeys in USDA have attempted to rollback.
---> The dream here is that every 🇺🇸 student deserves a healthy school meal cooked by someone making a solid-middle class living using ingredients grown in their community.
By Elizabeth Warren
Check out my new website when yah get a chance. I'd love any feedback #iowaAF 🌽❤️👇
I’ve been called a voice for younger environmental and agricultural advocates by Civil Eats. The Intercept also said that my focus on monopolies represents a new school of thought in the Democratic Party. We'll see. I'm gonna try my hardest to blend the two.
Seven years ago today, Mando Montaño was tragically taken from this 🌎. He was a friend/classmate/journalist.
At the time, halfway around the 🌎, a group of us recent Grinnell grads got together in Chiang Mai to hold our own memorial service ❤️
Oh, this is a hoot.
On the front page of the Sunday "Insight & Books" section in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, a reprint of my article ran in juxtaposition to a piece written by the President of the Iowa Farm Bureau.
"I believe the central question in 🇺🇸 today is who government works for... Antitrust cuts right to the heart of that."
--Sen. Elizabeth Warren
The Prospect’s exclusive interview with the senator and presidential candidate, between Senate votes in Washington.
A great, sad story on how Chuck Grassley threw Iowans under the bus to reward a campaign donor.
The roots of the recent TurboTax debacle go back to another bipartisan rip-off.
Research 💎 --- I discovered that my mom was a celebrity judge for a sweet potato pie contest 🤗
Four corporations now control over 60% of the 🌎 seed market. Only 1 is 🇺🇸.
Since 1987, Iowa has lost 84% of its 🐖 farmers. At the same time, the number of 🐖s in Iowa has increased by 37 million (the single largest 🐖 owner in 🇺🇸 is now a Chinese company).
Most shocking thing in this story ---> Iowa Farm Bureau paid its lobbyist $1.2 million in 2017. That's more than both of the Iowa State & University of Iowa President salaries combined.
FAYETTE - Before the March 4 sunrise, Jim and Nina Beeghly rose in the dark, put on their warmest clothes to brace for subzero temperatures and joined about 50 of their northeast Iowa neighbors on a bus ride to Des Moines.
Hmmmm --- Keep an on eye on this. It would be great for water quality and additional farmer income for Iowa's buffer strips to be planted w/Hazelnuts, Pawpaws, etc.
After years of effort, scientists are closing in on the perfect hazelnut to help farmers and protect lakes.
Facebook does not have to pay property taxes for 20 years on this new data center -- And it already hardly pays corporate income taxes. What a leech.
Iowa small businesses don't get this sort of special treatment. Enough is enough.
Facebook is exempt from paying taxes on the new building for 20 years. But it agreed to pay the city $3 per square foot during the 20-year period
Another instance of Sen. Grassley siding w/corporate Agribusiness over Iowa farmers and food workers ---> He support the elimination of federal meat inspectors.
INDEPENDENCE — Iowa’s senior U.S. senator says he supports the Trump administration’s plan to give the pork industry more authority to regulate itself, a plan that includes cutting federal meat inspectors at a time the United States is guarding against a swine virus now hitting China.
Factory farms in Iowa produce as much waste as 134 million people, which would place Iowa as the 10th most populous country in the 🌎, right below 🇷🇺 and right above 🇲🇽.
It's time we treat this waste like human waste. Healthy water for Iowans depends on it.
Chris Jones: Five species of livestock animals raised on many Iowa farms generate waste equivalent to that produced by about 134 million people.
Holy 🐄!!! What an honor just to be on this list -- I'd have so much fun pushing USDA to put farmers, food workers, and healthy food production first compared to the norm of only catering to corporate interest.
Check out my interview on C-Span's Washington Journal from this past weekend! Chuck Grassley has been a politician longer than the Minnesota Vikings have been a team.
• Iowa has lost almost a third of its farms since he was elected to Congress
• In the 1980s, 37 cents out of every dollar went back to the farmer. Today, farmers take home less than 15 cents on every dollar.
The status quo isn't working. It’s time for a new vision.
Open Markets Institute's Austin Frerick discusses his recent article in The American Conservative looking at the U.S. agriculture industry and its impact on rural America.
"Walmart has Walmart-contracted truckers hauling Walmart-contracted milk to a Walmart bottling plant that Walmart will then process and haul to Walmart stores on Walmart trucks to sell directly to Walmart customers."
--- We can have this much power in 1 family or family farms. Not both.
While officials in Washington stare at a federal budget proposal headed nowhere and a federal budget deficit headed to the moon, farm leaders in rural America are closely watching two
I'm so excited to announce the "❤️land Forum" on Saturday, March 30th. The event started with a dream I had last summer to put together an Iowa caucus forum that moves the rural conversation beyond simply talking about broadband. #iowaAF
We’ll be discussing rural issues and corporate power in America’s heartland with Democratic leaders and 2020 presidential candidates.
Become part of the conversation as Former U.S. HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Rep. John Delaney, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tim Ryan, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren answer questions from Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Art Cullen, and HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel and Zach Carter.
The Iowa Farm Bureau wants to restrict local communities from purchasing property for recreational projects and museums. Why is this West Des Moines insurance company trying to tell Iowans what they can and cannot do?
(Des Moines) -- Shenandoah's park and recreation director is among those speaking out on a bill that would change how public land is purchased for future projects.
Check out my new article in The American Conservative -- it's honestly my favorite thing I've ever written. It's time to challenge the agribusiness monopolies that are squeezing 🇺🇸 farmers and food workers. ❤️🌽
America’s agricultural system has become extractive, and more and more of the profits are flowing to a few.
Check out me new piece in Forbes 👉 Congress should create a fund to speed up adoption of sustainable agriculture technologies. Grow more food with fewer resources.
Congress should create a fund to speed up adoption of sustainable agriculture technologies.
"Inequality is a symptom, not the disease. The true disease is industry concentration" 👉 I 💯% agree. We need a new era of trust-busting to end this 2nd Gilded Age.
‘Capitalism without competition is not capitalism.’ — The hidden reason economic inequality is on the rise is right in front our noses
Bravo to the Bangor School District for bucking the Trump Administration by sticking w/higher nutritional standards for school lunches 👉 Ask your school district to do the same.
“I think it’s just food to them at this age. It’s like, ‘I’m hungry, and I want to eat.’”
"Alliance between the Farm Bureau & the fossil fuel industry... flourished because their financial interests are intricately intertwined.
👉 "Iowa Farm Bureau, the 🇺🇸's wealthiest state bureau, owns... $462 million invested in fossil fuel companies"
While big oil and gas companies provided the cash for anti-regulation campaigns, the farm lobby offered up a sympathetic face: the American farmer.
The 🇺🇸 meatpacking industry is now more concentrated than when Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle.” 4 companies, 2 of which are foreign-owned, slaughter 52% of all meat consumed in the 🇺🇸, more than 2x the market share of the 4 largest companies in 2002.
Happy New Years Eve! 🎉 I hope you and your family enjoyed some quality family time this Holiday Season (I missed the memo on dressing festive for a Mannheim Steamroller concert).
Merry Christmas [Eve] ! 🎄
(Papa Frerick doesn't disappoint)
Just in time for Christmas, Sen. Joni Ernst co-sponsored a bill to cut taxes for Scrooge.
Here's a simple solution: Regulate 🐷 waste like human waste. Waste is waste. Treat it as such.
Today, many farmers continue to store the waste in open pits despite the millions of dollars in private investment spent and years of research and political promises. The practice grows more hazardous with each hurricane that pounds the state.
We should be raising our nutritional standards for our school cafeterias. Not lowering them. This is just another example of how 🇺🇸 Agribusiness monopolies and their lackeys put their bottom line ahead of our health.
The Department of Agriculture announced its plans to lower nutritional standards for grains, flavored milks and sodium in school cafeterias.
"[Frerick] noted that in the 80s, farmers got 37 cents of every $1 consumers spent on food. Nowadays, according to USDA data, farmers get less than 15 cents of every food $1." 👉 This farm bill is not for family farmers. It's designed for the Ag Monopolies.
Bigger farms increasingly dominate American agriculture, and they get the most subsidies too.
Democrats poor performance in rural 🇺🇸 will prevent them from retaking the Senate. Sen Nelson got 33% of the vote there & Sen McCaskill got just 27%. But Dems can change that 👉 Trust-busting. Check out my new piece in Buzzfeed.
At the root of rural America’s angst are small towns whose economies have been taken over by a handful of predatory multinationals.
🇺🇸 has a monopoly problem, one that every 🇺🇸 experiences from birth until death 👉 2 companies control more than 2/3 of the market for baby formula & 2 companies sell almost 80% of all coffins.
"The popular telling of the Boston Tea Party gets something wrong.... A major spark for the 🇺🇸 Revolution, then, was a protest against monopoly."
Check out this new David Leonhardt column in today's NYTimes! I've been working on this data for months now 👉 Our modern pro-monopoly era (started under the Reagan Administration) suspended a program that collected data on industry concentration. I sought to fill that void.
In one industry after another, big companies have become more dominant over the past 15 years, new data show.
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