So You Want to Be a Farmer – Keynote Address by Prof. John Ikerd for the John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize Award Ceremony – March 12, 2016 Madison

JohnIkerdKeynoteJKPrize2016When I was growing up, I wanted to be a farmer. I grew up on a small dairy farm in south Missouri before the rural electrification reached that part of the country. We milked cows by hand, twice a day, every day in my early years. So, I knew that farming wasn’t an easy way life. But I still wanted to be a farmer.  I didn’t leave the farm because of the hard work or lack of economic rewards but because there were five kids in my family and only one farm. I had other ideas of things I might also like to do. My younger brother has never wanted to do anything other than be a farmer. In spite of the odds against small farmers at the time, he has been able to make a good living on the “home farm” – and it is still small.

 

When I graduated from high school in 1957, poor kids of modest intelligence could still attend their state universities. I left for college with something like $300 in my pocket and was able to pay my way through college working in university cafeterias. After a three-year stint working with a large meatpacking company, I returned to graduate school and eventually earned my Ph.D. degree in agricultural economics. I ultimately concluded that I really wasn’t meant to be a farmer. I was meant do what I have been doing for the past 40 to 50 years: trying to understand how the world works and where we humans fit within it, so we can decide how best to live our lives. It took me quite a while, but I finally found my purpose.

 

Ironically, much of my 30-year academic career was focused on changing farming from a purposeful way of life to a bottom-line, profit-driven agribusiness. We told farmers to either “get big of get out,” because only large farms could achieve the economies of scale needed to be competitive. However, during the farm financial crisis of the 1980s, I was forced to confront the reality that there was no future in this kind of farming. I eventually understood that in order for some farmers to “get big,” others inevitably had to “get out” – even if they had to be forced out. If this process continued, I could see that eventually there would be no farmers left – just a handful of large corporate agribusinesses. Then, no one would have the choice of being a farmer.

 

Fortunately, the sustainable agriculture movement emerged in the 1980s. It was a response not only to the demise of family farms but also a variety of growing environmental and societal concerns.  Sustainable agriculture is about meeting the basic food needs of all in the present while leaving equal or better opportunities for both farmers and consumers in the future. Sustainable agriculture reflects an understanding that all economic value ultimately must come from the earth, and beyond self-sufficiency, must come by way of society. Sustainable farmers know they must be productive to meet the food needs of today but also must leave their land and their communities as healthy and productive as when it was passed down to them.

 

The sustainable agriculture movement reflects a commitment to continuing opportunities for new generations of farmers as well as new generations of consumers. It is a commitment firmly rooted in sense of purpose – not profits. Profits are necessary to support a desirable quality of farm life. But, profits are only a means of pursuing a purposeful way of life. The sustainable agriculture movement gave a new sense of purpose and direction to my professional and personal life, as it has for many farmers.

 

The sustainability movement has not changed the world, at least not yet, but it has come a long way since the early days of ridicule and marginalization by defenders of the economic status quo. Virtually every agricultural organization now has a sustainable agriculture initiative. Even large agribusiness organizations, such as Monsanto, DuPont, and Con-Agra proclaim their commitment to sustainability. However, such commitments are shallow: nowhere do they address sustainability as a purpose rather than a management strategy. In the absence of an organizational purpose, there is nothing to guide decision makers, other than the pursuit of individual self-interests – typically economic self-interests.

 

Sustainability is commonly defined in terms of its requisites: ecological integrity, social responsibility, and economic viability. In many cases, reduce, reuse, and recycle are accepted as proxies for ecological, social, and economic integrity. Substitution renewable energy for fossil energy is also a popular sustainable strategy. Incidentally, such practices typically are deemed acceptable only if they also are more profitable. Similarly, sustainable farming is often defined in terms of “best management practices” or BMPs. Farmers are called sustainable if they reduce tillage to limit soil erosion, use cover crops to reduce pollution, use crop rotations and organic fertilizers to replace synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, or perhaps put solar panels on their barns. Sustainable BMPs can be profitable – particularly with the aid of government subsidies.

 

However, practices are not purposes, regardless of how innovative, well-meaning, or good they may seem. While business strategies and farming practices can represent steps in the right general direction, sustainability is ultimately about purpose. The ultimate purpose of any sustainable organization, including a sustainable farm, must be to sustain a desirable quality of human life on earth – indefinitely into the future. Sustainability makes sense only if there is some positive purpose for sustaining humanity. If we humans have no purpose, the rest of the earth probably would be far better off without us. So, sustainability accepts as its fundamental premise that our lives individually and collectively have purpose. Furthermore, sustainability accepts that the purposes of our lives, individually and as members of humanity, are intrinsically good, rather than bad. Otherwise, the sooner the earth rids itself of humans, the better.

 

Current concerns about sustainability also reflect an understanding that the well-being of humans is integrally interrelated with all of the other living and non-living things of the earth. We depend on them for our well-being and they depend on us. Thus, sustainability is co-centric, meaning it is both human-centered and earth- or eco-centered. We and the other things of the earth have a common purpose to fulfill. To fulfill that purpose, we must care for each other and care for the earth. If we humans persist in failing to care for the earth, is questionable how long the earth can continue to care for us. People can choose whether or not to believe that life has purpose and whether the purpose of humanity is integral to achieving some greater common good. But without some worthy purpose for being, sustaining humanity make no sense.

 

So what does this have to do with being or not being a farmer? It suggests that sustainable farming must be a purposeful endeavor. It suggest those who choose to farm should have a sense that farming is their means of fulfilling their purpose in life. Farming is a “calling,” not just a job or occupation. Making money is a means of sustaining a farming operation but is certainly not a legitimate purpose for farming. First, there are many easier ways to make money than farming. More important, we now know that farming as a means of making money, or farming for the economic bottom-line, is not sustainable. This kind of farming hasn’t met even the basic food needs of many, if not most, people of current generations and it most certainly is not leaving equal or better opportunities for those of future generations. Simply changing farming practices, while necessary, will not be sufficient to achieve sustainability. Sustainability is a purpose.

 

I recently came across a blog piece on the National Young Farmers Coalition website. It began: “You want to be a farmer? [i]  That’s great news because we need a lot more farmers! But there are some things you should know before diving in:” The author is a young farmer who has been farming with her partner in the Pacific Northwest for more than 10 years. She went on to name five things that anyone who wants to be a farmer should understand:  1. Farming is really, really hard. (Let me stress that one more time….) 2. Farmers are not just farmers (They have to do a lot of other things.)  3. Farming can be dangerous. (You can get hurt farming.) 4. It takes money to make money (particularly to get into farming).

 

She finished with 5. “It’s the best work you’ll ever do.” She went on to explain: Do you want to feel completely satisfied and fulfilled by your work? Lay your head down at night knowing you are doing something that helps the planet and your fellow humans? There is nothing more satisfying than providing a basic need: food. I love what I do, and wouldn’t trade it for anything—sore muscles, financial risks, and all.”

 

I hear similar comments from young farmers who attend sustainable agriculture conferences all across the county. These farmers know they have to find some way to make a living economically, but that’s not why they want to be farmers. They feel they were meant to be farmers – that farming gives purpose and meaning to their lives. To help these young farmers, and anyone else who wants to help create a sustainable future for humanity, I have proposed an Ethic of Sustainability:  A thing is right when it tends to enhance the quality and integrity of life on earth by honoring the unique responsibilities and rewards of humans as members and caretakers of the earth’s integral community. A thing is wrong when it tends otherwise.

 

First, this ethic of sustainability goes beyond the current shallow approaches to practices and management strategies. The ethic suggests that some things farmers do are “right” and others are “wrong”. Questions of right and wrong are moral or ethical in nature and cannot be answered using currently accepted scientific methods. They are accepted or rejected as matters of belief or faith. For this reason, scientists tend to avoid them, and lacking a scientific basis, most sustainability advocates do so as well. Yet, I believe questions of right and wrong must be addressed if we are serious about sustainable agriculture or sustainability in general. Failing to do so has allowed questions of sustainability to be ignored by scientists, trivialized and coopted by corporations, and marginalized by government agencies.

 

As Pope Francis observes in his Encyclical Laudato Si, for Care of our Common Home, “we can note the rise of a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness. Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption.”[ii]  I would add, superficial sustainability today is “bolstering complacency and cheerful recklessness” in American agriculture and is being used as a “license” for blatantly unsustainable farming.

 

Second, the ethic of sustainability focuses on the quality and integrity of life – both human and non-human life on earth. Living things are the only possible means of sequestering the energy necessary to sustaining human life on earth. Our food, our clothes, our houses, and our cars all require energy to make and energy to use. Everything of any use to us ultimately comes from the earth or nature – air, water, soil, minerals. However, it’s the earth’s energy that makes the other elements of nature useful to humans.

 

According to a basic law of physics, the law of entropy, whenever energy is used to do anything useful, some of its usefulness inevitably is lost. Only living things have the capacity to use solar energy to offset the tendency toward entropy by renewing and restoring the usefulness of nature. So humanity, and the agriculture that sustains humanity, ultimately must be sustained “by nature.” The emphasis on life also is important because farmers can’t see the loss of useful energy on their farms, but they can see the diminished quality of biological life in their soils, in their crops and livestock, and in the lives of the people who farm and live in rural communities. Sustainable farming must enhance life.

 

Third, the ethic of sustainability reflects an “integral worldview.” All life on earth, including human life, is viewed as integrally interconnected and interdependent, and all living things are integrally connected with all non-living things on earth.[iii] Ultimately, sustainability is about sustaining the ability of the earth to sustain itself as a living planet. A person’s worldview depends on his or her individual perception of “how the world works.” Since our worldviews determine what we accept as fact or truth, worldviews also are based on beliefs – not facts. Thus, acceptance or rejection of the “integral worldview” of sustainability is inherently a spiritual or philosophical decision.

 

Rudolph Steiner, the founder of Biodynamic farming, understood the earth as an organ within the larger organism of nature. He conceived of the farm – soil, plants, & animals – as an individual organ within the sub-organism of earth. He wrote: “A farm is true to its essential nature… if it is conceived as a kind of individual entity in itself.”[iv]  He considered the farmer to be an integral part of the farm. He wrote: “We, in our farm, are going about in the belly of the farm.” Steiner and other early advocates of organic farming embraced a worldview of the farm, the farmer, humanity, and earth as integral organs within the larger organism or whole of nature.

 

Finally, the ethic of sustainability reflects the purpose of human life on earth. It states that we are to honor our uniquely human responsibilities as both members and caretakers of the earth’s communities. Without purpose, there can be no responsibility. Nowhere is this human responsibility clearer than in farming. As Pope Francis states it: “The biblical texts are to be read in their context, recognizing that they tell us to ‘till and keep’ the garden of the world (Gen 2:15). ‘Tilling’ refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while ‘keeping’ means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.”[v]

 

Farmers’ responsibility as caretakers was clearly understood by the pioneers of sustainable agriculture. J. I. Rodale, wrote, “The organiculturist farmer must realize that in him is placed a sacred trust, the task of producing food that will impart health to the people who consume it. As a patriotic duty, he assumes an obligation to preserve the fertility of the soil, a precious heritage that he must pass on, undefiled and even enriched, to subsequent generations.”[vi] Sir Albert Howard began his classic book, An Agricultural Testament, with the assertion, “The maintenance of the fertility of the soil is the first condition of any permanent system of agriculture,”[vii] as a means of providing a foundation for a permanent society.

 

So, why should anyone want to farm? First, the opportunities for beginning farmers today are far greater than when I was growing up on south Missouri. Back then, the industrialization of agriculture was gaining momentum and there was no means stopping it from running its course. Today, the organic and local food movement reflect a growing rejection of industrial agriculture, creating opportunities for a different kind of agriculture with a different purpose: to produce good food for everyone, not just those with money, and to provide a good way of life for farmers – including a way to make a decent living. I wrote in the foreword of my book, Small Farms are Real Farms, “if I were 25-30 years old today I would choose the life of a farmer.”[viii]

 

I honestly don’t know if farming would ever have been the right choice for me. Only those who feel that farming is their calling or purpose in life should become farmers. That does not include all of us, but it does includes some of us. Those who are truly “called to farm,” must trust they will be able to find a means of sustaining a desirable quality of life – economically and otherwise. A world in which people were unable to fulfill their purpose, or would be miserable doing so, just doesn’t make sense – in farming or elsewhere.

 

Another good reason for being a farmer is that the pursuit of one’s purpose has rewards as well as responsibilities. As Pope Francis puts it: “We are led inexorably to ask other pointed questions: What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What need does the earth have of us? We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity.”[ix] Our sense of self-worth, meaning, and happiness arise from a life of purpose. “Do you want to feel completely satisfied and fulfilled by your work? Lay your head down at night knowing you are doing something that helps the planet and your fellow humans? There is nothing more satisfying than providing a basic need: food.”[x]

 

We all have responsibilities as members and caretakers of the “earth’s integral community.” Farmers are just more directly and critically interconnected with the earth, and other beings that live within and upon the earth, than are most of us. As for the rest of us, we need to support those farmers who are faithful stewards of life with our food purchases and our public policy choices. We also need to find and pursue our unique purpose in life and be thankful that some people among us are “called to be farmers.”

 

 

End Notes

[1] Prepared for presentation at the John Kinsman Award Luncheon, hosted by the Family Farm Defenders, Madison, WI, March 12, 2016.

[2] John Ikerd is Professor Emeritus, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO – USA; Author of, Sustainable Capitalism-a Matter of Common Sense, Essentials of Economic Sustainability, A Return to Common Sense, Small Farms are Real Farms, Crisis and Opportunity-Sustainability in American Agriculture, and A Revolution of the Middle-the Pursuit of Happiness, all books available on Amazon.com: Books and Kindle E-books.

Email: JEIkerd@gmail.com; Website: http://web.missouri.edu/~ikerdj/ or http://www.johnikerd.com .

[i] So You Want To Be A Farmer? First, Know This…. National Young Farmers Coalition, Posted By Chelsey Simpson On Monday, December 14, 2015, http://www.youngfarmers.org/so-you-want-to-be-a-farmer-first-know-this/  .

[ii] Francis “Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ Of The Holy Father Francis On Care For Our Common Home”. . (2015, May 24).  Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html , para. 59.

[iii] For a deeper discussion of worldview and sustainability, see John Ikerd, Lonnie Gamble, and Travis Cox, “Deep Sustainability; The Essentials,” 2015 https://sites.google.com/site/sustainabilitydeep/.

[iv] Rudolph Steiner, “The Agriculture Course Agriculture Course: Lecture 2,” On-line since: 26th June, 2007 http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA327/English/BDA1958/19240610p01.html .

[v] Francis, Laudato Si, para. 67.

[vi] J. I. Rodale, The Organiculturist’s Creed, Chapter 8. The organic front. Rodale press: Emmaus, PA, USA,1948. http://www.soilandhealth.org/copyform.asp?bookcode=010133 .

[vii] Sir Albert Howard, An agricultural testament. Oxford University Press: Oxford, England, 1940. also in Small Farms Library http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library.html#howard

[viii] John Ikerd, Small Farms are Real Farms, Sustaining People through Agriculture, (Austin, TX: Acres U.S.A., 2008).

[ix] Francis, Laudato Si, papa. 160.

[x] So You Want To Be A Farmer? First, Know This…. National Young Farmers Coalition, Posted By Chelsey Simpson On Monday, December 14, 2015, http://www.youngfarmers.org/so-you-want-to-be-a-farmer-first-know-this/  .

Posted in Food Sovereignty | Comments Off

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
Posted in Food Sovereignty | Comments Off

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:

Posted in Food Sovereignty | Comments Off

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
Posted in Food Sovereignty | Comments Off

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

Posted in Food Sovereignty | Leave a comment