Letter to U.S. Sec. of State Kerry Condemning the Honduran Assassination of Berta Caceras

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 10, 2016Berta-Caceres-03_3588244b
For more information, contact:
Lisa Haugaard, Executive Director, Latin America Working Group
lisah@lawg.org
Over 200 Organizations Call on Secretary Kerry to Support Independent Investigation into Murder of Honduran Environmental and Indigenous Rights Activist Berta Caceras

Over 200 human rights, faith, indigenous rights, environmental, labor, and nongovernmental groups sent an open letter to Secretary of State Kerry expressing “shock and deep sorrow regarding the murder of Honduran human rights and environmental defender Berta Cáceres,” the founder and general secretary of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). The organizations urged “a response from the State Department that is not business as usual but a profound change of direction towards improving the abysmal situation of human rights in Honduras.”

Berta Cáceres, winner of the prestigious 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, was a visionary indigenous and environmental rights leader. She championed efforts to protect indigenous peoples from large-scale development projects that are being advanced in Honduras without consultation of communities and without concern for the environment. She was killed on March 3, 2016 by armed men who broke into her home in La Esperanza, department of Intibucá, Honduras. Mexican environmentalist and journalist Gustavo Castro Soto of Otros Mundos Chiapas/Friends of the Earth Mexico and the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Movement was also wounded in the attack. 

The organizations urged Secretary of State Kerry to support an independent international investigation led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights into Ms. Cáceres’ murder and to urge that the Honduran government invite and fully cooperate with such an investigation. They also urged the Secretary to press the Honduran government to comply with the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR on March 5 and provide immediate, effective, and carefully consulted protection to members of COPINH, members of Ms. Cáceres’ family, Mr. Castro and all witnesses in the case.
The organizations support the call by Senator Patrick Leahy to abandon the Agua Zarca dam project and to protect the territory that Berta Cáceres devoted her life to protecting. They ask the Honduran government to recognize that “the pace and process by which it is facilitating the extraction and trade of natural resources by national and international investors is contributing to social conflict and human rights violations.” They urge the Honduran government to meet its obligation to provide prior, free, and informed consultation of indigenous communities. In addition, the organizations call on the U.S. government to ensure that no U.S. assistance and support for multilateral bank projects promote or permit development projects without meeting the obligation for prior, free and informed consultation with indigenous communities, nor without ensuring meaningful consultation of all affected communities and that strong human rights, labor rights and environmental safeguards are in place.

Finally, the organizations urge the State Department “to suspend all assistance and training to Honduran security forces, with the exception of investigatory and forensic assistance to the police, so long as the murders of Berta Cáceres and scores of other Honduran activists remain in impunity.” 


An Open Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry regarding the Murder of Honduran Indigenous and Environmental Activist Berta Cáceres

March 10, 2016
Dear Secretary of State Kerry,

We write in shock and deep sorrow regarding the murder of Honduran human rights and environmental defender Berta Cáceres, founder and general secretary of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). We urge a response from the State Department that is not business as usual but a profound change of direction towards improving the abysmal situation of human rights in Honduras.

Berta Cáceres, winner of the prestigious 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, was a visionary indigenous and environmental rights leader. She championed efforts to protect indigenous peoples from large-scale development projects that are being advanced in Honduras without consultation of communities and without concern for the environment. She organized communities in Honduras and across the world against the unconsented extraction of natural resources and in defense of the Gualcarque River, a sacred site of the Lenca people and an essential water source, against the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam. Berta Cáceres was a much-loved leader of the diverse social movements in her country. Members of Honduran civil society are united in sorrow and anger about her death—as are so many in the international community.

Berta Cáceres was killed on March 3, 2016 by armed men who broke into her home in La Esperanza, department of Intibucá, Honduras. Mexican environmentalist and journalist Gustavo Castro Soto of Otros Mundos Chiapas/Friends of the Earth Mexico and the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Movement was also wounded in the attack. We urge that Mr. Castro immediately be permitted to return safely to his country.

In the course of her work, Berta Cáceres suffered constant death threats against herself and her family, threats of sexual violence and assault, attacks and harassment. She was also the subject of continual legal harassment by judicial authorities and intimidation by security forces and local government officials for her work. In the six months before her murder, according to COPINH, the threats against her escalated and included shots fired at her car and verbal threats and messages, by members of the military, police, local authorities and representatives of the hydroelectric company. 

Ms. Cáceres had precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) since 2009 but never received the full protection she needed. We are outraged by statements from Security Minister Julián Pacheco that in effect blame Cáceres for the failure of the Honduran government to comply with its obligation to protect her. She is one of 15 human rights defenders who have been killed in Honduras while beneficiaries of IACHR precautionary measures, as reported by the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH). On March 5, 2016, the IACHR granted precautionary measures for COPINH, Berta Cáceres’ family and Gustavo Castro Soto, given the risk to their safety.

Berta Cáceres’ death confirms what a 2015 report by Global Witness has shown: Honduras is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for environmental activists. At least 109 environmental activists were murdered between 2010 and 2015. Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has become one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a human rights defender of any kind. Indigenous and Garifuna leaders, LGBTI activists, union leaders, women’s rights activists, human rights activists, justice operators, and journalists reporting on human rights and corruption issues are among those who, like environmental activists, are at risk. The murder of Berta Cáceres sends a devastating message to all Hondurans trying to exercise their rights.

We urge you:
  • To support an independent international investigation led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights into Ms. Cáceres’ murder and to urge that the Honduran government invite and fully cooperate with such an investigation. Such an independent investigation is essential given the lack of confidence in the judicial system; reigning impunity, including for cases involving human rights defenders; and the emblematic nature of this case.
  • To insist that Honduran judicial authorities carry out their duties to effectively and promptly investigate Cáceres’ murder, in cooperation with the international investigation, and following lines of inquiry that take into account the context of Cáceres’ work and situation of risk and pursue the intellectual as well as material authors, guaranteeing due process and access to justice.
  • To press the Honduran government to comply with the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR on March 5 and provide immediate, effective, and carefully consulted protection to members of COPINH, members of Ms. Cáceres’ family, Mr. Castro and all witnesses in the case.
With this tragic loss, we join together to call for more systemic change. We ask that the State Department make clear to the Honduran government that future partnership and funding depends on demonstrating the political will to investigate and prosecute this crime and all crimes against human rights defenders. The Honduran government must make the mechanism for protection of human rights defenders, journalists, media workers and justice operators fully operational and adequately funded, with protection measures consulted with beneficiaries. It must guarantee freedom of expression, including by ending harsh, constant repression of social protests, ensuring an immediate end to intimidating public statements by government officials and members of the military and police that place human rights defenders and journalists in danger, and ending specious prosecution of human rights defenders. 

It is crucial that the Honduran government meet, as the IACHR has said, its “obligation of carrying out the prior, free, and informed consultation of indigenous people regarding projects underway on their land and territories and that affect their natural resources.” We support Senator Patrick Leahy’s call to abandon the Agua Zarca dam project and to protect the territory that Berta devoted her life to defending. The Honduran government should recognize that the pace and process by which it is facilitating the extraction and trade of natural resources by national and international investors is contributing to social conflict and human rights violations. 

We ask the U.S. government to:
  • urge the Honduran government to meet its obligation to ensure prior, free, and informed consent of indigenous communities and to greatly improve transparency regarding existing and proposed concessions of natural resources. This should include making public project information regarding the nearly 50 hydropower concessions granted since the start of 2010.
  • ensure that no U.S. assistance and support for multilateral bank projects promote or permit development projects without meeting the obligation for ensuring prior, free and informed consent of indigenous communities, nor without ensuring meaningful consultation of all affected communities and that strong human rights, labor rights and environmental safeguards are in place.
Finally, we urge the State Department to suspend all assistance and training to Honduran security forces, with the exception of investigatory and forensic assistance to the police, so long as the murders of Berta Cáceres and scores of other Honduran activists remain in impunity. In addition, we urge the State Department to implement transparently and fully the conditions in the FY2016 State, Foreign Operations bill which link 50 percent of aid to the central government of Honduras to progress on addressing human rights abuses and corruption. 

The U.S. government must stand with those who are putting their lives on the line for the protection of human rights and the environment in Honduras. 

Signed by:

Accountability Counsel
ActionAid USA 
Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise
Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ)
Alianza Americas
Alliance Against Mining – Philippines (Alyansa Tigil Mina)
Alliance for Global Justice (AfGJ)
Alliance for Justice
Amazon Watch
AMERICA PARA TODOS
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
American Jewish World Service (AJWS)
Amigos de la Tierra España
ART NOT WAR
Azul
Baurkot & Baurkot
Beautiful Trouble 
Beautiful Rising 
Beyond Extreme Energy
Brooklyn For Peace
Casa de Maryland
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary
Center for Human Rights and Environment 
Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA)
Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Rutgers University
Center of Concern
Center on Conscience & War, Washington DC
Central American Resource Center (CRECEN)
Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), Washington DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco
Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.” (CSMM)
Centro de Estudios para la Justicia Social TIERRA DIGNA, Colombia
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Refugee and Immigration Ministries
Church World Service
Climate Parents
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU)
CODEPINK
Colombia Support Network
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Columbia Divest for Climate Justice
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)
Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL), Montreal, Canada
Committee on U.S.-Latin American Relations, Cornell University
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ)
Community Justice Project, Inc. of Miami, FL
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Corporate Accountability International
The Cross Border Network for Justice & Solidarity, Kansas City, Missouri
Denver Justice & Peace Committee
Disciples Justice Action Network 
Divest Middlebury
Dominican Friars, Irving, TEXAS
Donella Meadows Institute
Due Process of Law Foundation
EcoEquity
EarthAction International
Earth Day Network
Earthjustice
Environmental Defender Law Center (EDLC)
Environmental Defenders Project, USA
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Faith in Public Life
Family Farm Defenders
Farmworker Association of Florida
The Fellowship of Reconciliation
FERN
Florida Immigrant Coalition
France Amérique Latine/Francia América Latina
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Friends of the Earth-United States
Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees
Food First
Food Voices
Fund for Democratic Communities, Greensboro, NC
Georgia Detention Watch
Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature
Global Campaign for Peace Education
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Global Witness
Goldman Environmental Foundation
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Grassroots International
Green America
Green Cross International
GreenLatinos
Greenpeace USA
GreenWood
Grupo Belga ‘Solidair met Guatemala’
Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC)
The Guatemalan-Maya Center
Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy
Honduran Conservation Coalition
Honduras Accompaniment Project 
Hondurasdelegation, Germany
Honor the Earth
Hope Community Center
IBIS
Ignatian Solidarity Network
Indigenous Environmental Network
The Ingrid Washinawatok Flying Eagle Woman Fund for Peace, Justice and Sovereignty
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
Institute for Policy Studies, Climate Policy Program, Global Economy Project and New Economy Maryland Project
Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA)
Interfaith Coalition on Immigration, MN
Interfaith Power & Light
International Federation of Settlements
International Forum on Globalization
International Institute on Peace Education
International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)
International Platform against Impunity
International Rivers
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)
JA!FOE Moçambique
JASS (Just Associates)
Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States
Jesuit Social Research Institute/Loyola University New Orleans
Just Foreign Policy
KyotoUSA
La Asamblea Veracruzana de Iniciativas y Defensa Ambiental (LAVIDA), Mexico
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, AFL-CIO (LCLAA)
Latin America Solidarity Committee-Milwaukee
Latin America Task Force of Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice – Ann Arbor, Michigan
Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
LEPOCO Peace Center, Bethlehem, PA
Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Medical Mission Sisters
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate-U.S Province (OMI)
Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project
Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo extractivo Minero -M4
MN350
Mundo Maya Foundation
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Family Farm Coalition
National Immigration Law Center
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Nicaragua Network
Nicaragua-US Friendship Office of the Americas
NOAH Friends of the Earth-Denmark
Nonviolence International
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
The Oakland Institute
Oil Change International
Other Worlds
Oxfam America
Pax Christi International
Pax Christi USA
Peace Action
Peace Action Montgomery
Peace Brigades International (PBI)
Peace Development Fund, Amherst, MA and San Francisco, CA
Peace Education Initiative, The University of Toledo
Pesticide Action Network North America
Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD Regional)
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Progressive Congress
Project South
Public Citizen
Public Services International
Radios Populares, Chicago IL
Rainforest Action Network
Red Europea de Comites Oscar Romero
Red Mexicana de Lideres y Organizaciones Migrantes
Rights Action (USA)
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
RootsAction.org
The Rural Coalition
Sansristi India
The Second Chance Foundation
SEIU Florida Public Services Union
Servicios Internacionales Cristianos de Solidaridad con los Pueblos de America Latina — Oscar Romero (SICSAL)
Sierra Club
Sister Parish, Inc.
Sisters of Mercy, Institute Justice Team
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Justice and Peace Office
Sojourners
The Solidarity Center
SomeOfUs
SOMO (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations), Netherlands
Soulardarity
Southeast Immigrant Rights Network (SEIRN)
South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice
Student Power Networks
SustainUS
Syracuse Peace Council
Tamales y Bicicletas
Task Force on the Americas
Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA)
Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
Trócaire
Unión de Afectados por Texaco, Ecuador (UDAPT)
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)
United Auto Workers Union (UAW)
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
UPROSE
Voces de la Frontera
Washington Defender Association Immigration Project (WDAIP), Seattle, WA
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
WE ACT
Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN)
Women’s Environment and Development Organization
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
Zo Indigenous Forum, Mizoram, India
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East – Florida
2020 Action
350.org

Desmond D’Sa, Goldman Environmental Prize Winner 2014, Africa
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5th Annual John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize Award Ceremony and FFD Annual Meeting – Sat. March 12th at Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison WI!

Please Spread the Word!

The Fifth Annual  John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize Award Ceremony will be taking place on Sat. March 12th at 12:00 Noon at Bethel Lutheran Church (312 Wisconsin Ave.) in Madison, WI with a 12:00 noon luncheon keynote address “So You Want to Be a Farmer?” by acclaimed food sovereignty advocate and author, John Ikerd, emeritus professor, Dept. of Agric. Economics – Univ. of MO-Columbia!

John Ikerd - 2009Events being at 8:00 am with registration and a welcome address by Joel Greeno, Family Farm Defenders president, followed by a series of simultaneous breakout strategy workshops at 9:00 am:  Coalition Building with Faith Communities (facilitated by Carolyn Kennedy, director of the Food Faith Farm Network and Rev. Jeff Wild, retired ELCA pastor with Madison Christian Community), Working with the Media (faciliated by Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch) and Fighting Factory Farms (facilitated by Kriss Marion of Wisconsin Farmers Union South Central Chapter and Jen Reimer of Green County Defending Our Farmland).

Then at 10:30 am there will be a community discussion on “Reclaiming Food Sovereignty Through Local Democratic Control” with panelists:  Tressie Kamp, staff attorney with Midwest Environmental Advocates; Jim Goodman, organic farmer with Family Farm Defenders, Patty Lovera, assisant director with Food and Water Watch, and John Ikerd, Prof of Agric. Economics at the Univ. of MO-Colombia.

At 12:00 Noon there will be a local food luncheon in conjunction with the keynote address ‘So You Want to Be Farmer?” by Prof. John Ikerd, introduced by FFD board member, Jim Goodman, followed by the Fifth Annual John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize Awards!  This award celebrates the legacy of FFD founder and longtime president, John Kinsman, who passed away at age 87 on Martin Luther King Jr. day in 2014.  This year’s winners are Donald (Jahi) Ellis who farms near Vidalia, GA and Oren Jakobson and Polly Dalton of Field Notes Farm near Custer, WI.JohnsPhotosApril10-045-1400x600

You can read more about Donald Ellis’s struggle to reclaim his family’s black farming heritage thanks to a Civil Eats article

You can also find out more about Polly Dalton and Oren Jakobson successful graduation from Lawrence University into organic farming on their Field Notes Farm website

The Family Farm Defenders annual membership meeting and board elections will then follow from 2:30 – 4:30 pm.

The public is most welcome to attend!  A $25 donation is requested (to help cover the luncheon) but no one will be turned away for lack of means.  Sponsorships of the John Kinsman Prize at the $100 level or greater are also still being accepted – any gift over $100 includes two complimentary luncheon tickets, as well as a mention in the program).

For more info, please call the FFD office:  #608-260-0900

or email: familyfarmdefenders@yahoo.com

You can also download a brochure with a registration form for the event here:

FFD Registration Form 2016

You can listen to John Ikerd’s talk from last year’s Food Sovereignty Forum at Chicago’s Jane Addams’ Hull House here:

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Congress Must Kill The Trans Pacific Partnership

dairy-farmers-protest-ottawaBy: Jim Goodman, dairy farmer from Wonewoc, WI and a member of Family Farm Defenders
Trade is good, but “free trade” doesn’t work for farmers or workers or most everyone else. Free trade does, however, work spectacularly well for corporations who have over 600 advisers to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations — we have no access to the negotiations, corporations have plenty.
From a practical point of view it would make more sense if we made our own shoes and computers. We should grow less grain for European (and American) livestock and more food for ourselves. We could actually pay workers here a fair wage and US workers could afford to buy US goods and perhaps own a home and send their kids to college.
In farm country we are told these trade deals will allow us to export more goods and in so doing, increase our profits. I have farmed for a good many years and I have, over the course of that time, known many farmers, most of them who farm on a much larger scale than I do. I have yet to meet a farmer who directly exports abroad, or even one who has the volume of product or operational infrastructure to do so.
Farmers products ultimately end up in the hands of some corporate entity, a Multi-national Corporation which handles the exporting/importing and generally takes most of the profit.
Free trade defines an agreement that has as a first (and sometimes only) priority, the best interests of corporations; namely, their profits. At what expense those profits are taken is apparently of little concern to the trade negotiators and in particular the corporate representatives that are active participants in the otherwise secretive TPP negotiations, or the other trade deals Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TISA).
Fair trade, on the other hand, would put the interests of people and the environment ahead of corporate profit. Fair trade would protect jobs rather than off-shoring them as has historically happened after passage of all free trade agreements.
Free trade has no consideration for cultural preferences because it has no consideration for people. Japanese farmers and consumers prefer to grow and eat their traditional varieties of rice, not imported rice — that should be their right, not so under the TPP.
Food safety standards under free trade would, by design, fall to the lowest common denominator. Lower safety standards on food imports, like lower labor safety standards, reduce operating costs and thus increase corporate profit.
Pharmaceutical companies would be granted extended monopoly patents, thus increasing health care costs and access to generic medications.
Banking interests insist on and will get, Financial Service Agreements that would severely limit the ability of governments to restrict the trade of risky financial products or in general their ability to regulate “too big to fail” banks.
Perhaps most distressing to the U.S. economy, free trade agreements have always forced workers into a downward wage spiral. Jobs tend to flow to wherever wages are the lowest. The TPP would set the stage for member countries like Vietnam with its $2.75 daily wage to become an even lower cost labor alternative than China.
I have watched and opposed these “free trade agreements” for decades — they keep getting worse. In summary they have:
  • moved living wage jobs to economies where they have become slave labor jobs.
  • busted unions and fired union organizers
  • devalued the place of women in agriculture
  • moved food production to wherever food can be produced at the lowest cost
  • increased food imports to the extent that food safety inspections are nearly non-existent
  • aggressively promoted GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) and the corporations that produce them
  • pushed US agriculture into a system of commodity cropping and CAFO’s (confined animal feeding operations)
  • pushed indigenous farmers worldwide off the land and into urban slums
  • made farm workers and livestock expendable commodities
Each trade agreement gets worse, each trade agreement takes away our control, each trade agreement shifts wealth upward and leaves the world more impoverished.
————-
Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc, WI and a member of Family Farm Defenders
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Seeking Farmer Nominations for the 2016 John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize!

Please Spread the Word – Deadline for Nominations is Jan. 15th!

Family Farm Defenders is urgently seeking nominations and sponsors for the 2016 John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize!JohnsPhotosApril10-045-1400x600

The criteria to be nominated include:

Engaged in own farm for less than 5 years       

Small scale livestock and/or vegetable and/or fruit production

Market products locally

Practice sustainable management of natural resources

Promote healthy soil

Conserve biodiversity

Support food sovereignty principles

Winners of the prize will be honored at a luncheon banquet in Madison on Sat. March 12th with keynote speaker, John Ikerd, and receive a cash award, as well as travel/lodging expenses to attend the event. 

Please send name(s) and complete contact information of your nominee(s) by Jan. 15th 2016 to:  Family Farm Defenders PO Box 1772 Madison, WI 53701  Fax. 608-260-0900 or email:  familyfarmdefenders@yahoo.com 

Nominees will be contacted separately to fill out a more detailed application.

Sponsors of this year’s prize are also most welcome!  

Sponsors will be acknowledged in the award program, and any sponsorship at the $100 level or more will receive two (2) complimentary tickets to the award banquet.

For more details, please download the JKPrize2016SponsorLetterFarmerPoster

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‘‍Stink In’ protest brings visibility to CAFO concerns

By Jim Massey, Country Today, 11/16/2015KidvsCAFO
MADISON — Peo­ple op­posed to the ex­pan­sion of con­cen­trated an­i­mal feed­ing op­er­a­tions in Wis­con­sin brought their mes­sage to the state Capi­tol steps Nov. 7 with what they called a “Stink In” protest.
About 100 peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing more than 20 or­ga­ni­za­tions gath­ered for the event, some dressed in cow and tur­key cos­tumes, to ad­dress what they de­scribed as the state’s “CAFO cri­sis and its dam­ag­ing im­pact on pub­lic health, wa­ter and air qual­ity, nat­u­ral re­sources, busi­nesses, prop­erty val­ues and ru­ral com­mu­nity life.”
Mary Dougherty, co-founder of Farms Not Fac­to­ries and one of the event or­ga­niz­ers, said it was fit­ting that the protest be held on the Capi­tol steps, since “the pro­lif­er­a­tion of CAFOs started in Madi­son with ATCP 51.”
Wis­con­sin’s live­stock-fa­cil­ity-sit­ing law, passed by the state Leg­is­la­ture in 2003, di­rected the Wis­con­sin Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, Trade and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion to cre­ate rules re­gard­ing the sit­ing of live­stock fa­cil­i­ties in the state. Those rules be­came known as ATCP 51 and took ef­fect in 2006. They set stan­dards for sit­ing new and ex­pand­ing fa­cil­i­ties in ar­eas of the state zoned for agri­cul­tural uses and on live­stock op­er­a­tions ex­pected to house more than 500 an­i­mal units.
Dougherty, who has been ac­tive in op­pos­ing the sit­ing of a pro­posed 26,000-hog farm in Bay­field County, said the sit­ing law caused an “ex­plo­sion” of CAFOs that has reached about 300 farms in Wis­con­sin in 2015.
“Th­ese large farms are not some­thing the cit­i­zens of Wis­con­sin are nec­es­sar­ily ben­e­fit­ing from,” Dougherty said. “Th­ese farms have been granted reg­u­la­tory cer­tainty at the ex­pense of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. We would like our elected of­fi­cials to lis­ten to us — we need them to help us fig­ure this thing out.”
Dougherty said with an is­sue such as CAFOs, no one per­son can come up with a so­lu­tion on his or her own.
“But a group of peo­ple in­vested in the com­mu­nity, with the en­vi­ron­ment and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in mind, we can come up with some­thing re­ally solid that ev­ery­one can live with,” she said. “That’s all we’re ask­ing.”
Or­ga­niz­ers de­vel­oped a five-point re­quest to law­mak­ers: raise their aware­ness on the com­mu­nity im­pacts of CAFOs; sup­port en­force­ment of health and en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards al­legedly vi­o­lated by some of the state’s CAFOs; cham­pion up­grades in the Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources’ ca­pac­ity to en­force the law; en­sure that reg­u­la­tions and safe­guards are in place to pro­tect Wis­con­sin com­mu­ni­ties from CAFO con­tam­i­na­tion threats; and en­gage in “open, im­par­tial and sen­si­ble di­a­logue with im­pacted Wis­con­sin com­mu­ni­ties to seek work­able so­lu­tions for CAFO-cre­ated pub­lic risks.”
Scott Dye, re­gional co­or­di­na­tor for So­cially Re­spon­si­ble Agri­cul­tural Pro­jects, be­came ac­tive in the large-farm de­bate af­ter an 80,000-hog farm lo­cated next to his fam­ily’s farm in Mis­souri.
“The live­stock-fa­cil­ity-sit­ing law has been an abysmal, atro­cious act for these lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in Wis­con­sin,” Dye said. “One size does not fit all, cer­tainly when you’re look­ing at the karst to­pog­ra­phy in Green County, where a farmer wants to build a 5,000-cow dairy, or that god-aw­ful mess in Ke­waunee County. Lit­er­ally 30 per­cent of the pri­vate wells in the county are pol­luted. It makes you won­der how things could go so hor­ri­bly wrong.”
The Tuls fam­ily is propos­ing to build a large dairy farm in Green County, which would be the fourth for the fam­ily. The fam­ily al­ready has two large dairies in Ne­braska and a farm near Janesville.
About 300 peo­ple at­tended a Nov. 3 meet­ing in Mon­roe to learn more about the Green County pro­posal.
“The av­er­age-sized dairy herd in Green County is some­thing like 67 cows, so how many of those herds is a 5,000-cow dairy go­ing to put out of busi­ness?” Dye said. “What does Wis­con­sin want to see in the fu­ture in the coun­try­side? Do peo­ple want to be serfs push­ing but­tons and putting ma­nure into a hole in the ground, or do they want to be a strong agri­cul­tural state, as Wis­con­sin has tra­di­tion­ally been?”
Sev­eral or­ga­niz­ers were crit­i­cal of the Dairy Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion, a Wis­con­sin-based or­ga­ni­za­tion of dairy farm­ers, which they said has helped fa­cil­i­tate the move­ment to larger farms.
Tim Trot­ter, DBA’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion has never changed its po­si­tion of sup­port­ing fam­ily farms in any way pos­si­ble.
“Farm­ers make their de­ci­sions based on fam­ily and the land base they have, and they make eco­nomic and agro­nomic de­ci­sions that best suit the mis­sion of their fam­ily,” Trot­ter said. “We rep­re­sent small and large farms alike — they are all vi­tal to the Wis­con­sin dairy in­dus­try. It is short-sighted to judge a fam­ily farm based on its size. CAFOs have more strin­gent reg­u­la­tions (than small farms), and they are some of the most en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly op­er­a­tions there are.”
The ar­gu­ment that the size of an op­er­a­tion de­ter­mines a farm’s en­vi­ron­men­tal sen­si­tiv­ity “doesn’t hold up,” Trot­ter said.
“It comes back to the sci­ence,” he said. “When you get a site per­mit, you have to ad­here to the law de­vel­oped by our state Leg­is­la­ture.
“To me it’s all about com­mu­ni­ca­tions and un­der­stand­ing. There’s a com­mu­ni­ca­tion gap be­tween agri­cul­ture and con­sumers in gen­eral. What we’re see­ing is a symp­tom of that. A lot of peo­ple don’t un­der­stand what goes on on a farm to­day. In ab­sence of knowl­edge, peo­ple of­ten make as­sump­tions, and some­times as­sump­tions can be dan­ger­ous.”
John Peck, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Madi­son-based Fam­ily Farm De­fend­ers, said the live­stock-sit­ing law stream­lined the process for farm­ers to get per­mits to ex­pand or site new CAFOs.
“The hear­ings (for sit­ing per­mits) are a joke,” Peck said. “A per­mit­ting process where no one gets re­jected is not re­ally a per­mit­ting process.”
Peck said farm groups such as his have been look­ing for a leg­is­la­tor or leg­is­la­tors to chal­lenge the live­stock-sit­ing law.
“It seems to be re­ally dif­fi­cult to find any­one,” Peck said. “The rally was re­ally en­cour­ag­ing. I’m glad to see peo­ple are start­ing to ques­tion the law. We’re hop­ing the (En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency) will do some­thing if the DNR won’t.”
Dougherty said al­though rally or­ga­niz­ers haven’t been suc­cess­ful in get­ting a leg­is­la­tor to cham­pion the cause, they haven’t given up on the pos­si­bil­ity.
“(Tak­ing the is­sue to the Leg­is­la­ture) is prob­a­bly two or three steps down the road,” Dougherty said. “We’re look­ing for that one cham­pion who will have the courage to do what needs to be done.”
Dougherty said the move­ment hasn’t gained the groundswell nec­es­sary to show leg­is­la­tors who might step up on the is­sue that their con­stituents “have their back.”
“It’s David vs. Go­liath — it’s go­ing to take a lot of work,” Dougherty said. “We are peo­ple who just want to pro­tect our homes from an in­dus­try that is poi­son­ing our homes. If it can hap­pen any­where, I do be­lieve it is in the state of Wis­con­sin. I think we can pull it off.”
Dougherty said she an­tic­i­pates hav­ing an­other “Stink In” in Green Bay, per­haps in the spring, and other events to try to gain more vis­i­bil­ity for the is­sue.

 

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