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: 

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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Black Farmers Lives Matter – Defending African American Land and Agriculture in the Deep South

By Beverly Bell, Other Worlds, Oct. 5th, 2015

The 2015 US Food Sovereignty Prize goes to two organizations that are demonstrating just how much Black lives matter, as they defend their ancestral lands for community-controlled food production. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives, primarily African-American farmers across the deep South, shares the prize with the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, Afro-indigenous farmers and fisher-people. The prize will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015.

Food sovereignty goes beyond ensuring that people have enough food to meet their physical needs. It asserts that citizens everywhere must reclaim their power in food systems by rebuilding the relationships between people and the land, and between food providers and those who eat. 
The US Food Sovereignty Alliance upholds the right to food as a basic human right and works to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.


The Federation of Southern Cooperatives strengthens a vital piece of food sovereignty: helping keep lands in the hands of family farmers. Its members are farmers in 13 Southern states, approximately 90 percent of them African-American, but also Native American, Latino, and White.


The Federation’s work is today more important than ever, given that African-American-owned farms in the US have fallen from 14 percent to 1 percent in fewer than 100 years. To help keep farms Black- and family-owned, the Federation promotes land-based cooperatives; provides training in sustainable agriculture and forestry, management, and marketing; and speaks truth to power in local courthouses, state legislatures, and the halls of the U.S. Congress.


Below are excerpts from an interview with Ben Burkett, an active member of the Federation. Burkett is also a farmer, director of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, president of the National Family Farm Coalition board of directors, and a member of La Via Campesina’s international board

Our view is local production for local consumption. It’s just supporting mankind as family farmers. Everything we’re about is food sovereignty, the right of every individual on earth to wholesome food, clean water, air and land, and the self-determination of a community to grow and eat what they want.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives grew out of the civil rights movement [in 1967]. Racism is still here in the marketplace and in credit, but we have learned to deal with it and not give up on changing the system. We struggle every day to bring about a change.

We recognize the natural flow of life. It’s just what we’ve always done. We want to go back to the way things were. It’s supporting mankind as small farmers and family farmers. It’s not so much a matter of making money, it’s a matter of carrying on so your farm will continue on. But you have to make some profit off it in order to keep it going.

Myself, I’m a fourth-generation farmer on a farm that my great-grandfather homesteaded in 1889. That wasn’t but about 20 years after the end of slavery. He got 164 acres from the United States government. I still have the title – they called it a patent – signed by Grover Cleveland. And we’re still farming that same land.

Some say the system is working. It appears to be working fine, but corporate agriculture is not sustainable. Our system of growing food is heavy, heavy, heavy dependent on petro-chemicals, on inorganic compounds, mostly petroleum-based. And then it takes too much control out of the local community. Now, it might last for several decades, but in the end it can’t last.

You’ve got a few companies that want to control all the seed stock of the world, and they’ve just about got a handle on marketing three of the main commodities: corn, soybean, and cotton. [For us,] it’s hard to find seeds that aren’t treated with the Monsanto-manufactured Roundup Ready. I’ve tried to find cotton that wasn’t treated, but I couldn’t. Now they’re working on controlling wheat and rice.

And they make those seeds so most of them don’t regenerate the next year anyway. But if you do save any of the seeds, Monsanto and the other companies are going to prosecute you for saving their property. Those seeds are patented, the property of the seed company, so they reserve the right to keep them. They’ll take you to court and make you pay back their money. Basically you’re just sharecropping for them, you’re leasing their seeds.

I don’t think that’s fair. Once you’ve bought the seeds and planted them on your own land, it looks to me like they ought to be your own seeds. That’s the essence of life. Where did Monsanto and the other companies get their first seed from? Someone gave them to them. Those seeds didn’t fall out of the sky.

We’ve been – I don’t want to use the word co-opted – trained by the institutions of agriculture, the companies, the university system, and technology, to give our rights over to the company, which I think is absolutely wrong. We have to be more proactive than reactive as small farmers, family farmers. We can’t wait for the government and large corporations to dictate to us what we can do in our region.

They’ve got a unique way of buying you off to not fight here. The American consumer doesn’t care as long as it’s cheap. But no matter what farmers plant, the consumer’s got to change the system. People buying the end product have to complain. As long as they don’t complain, there’s no need even talking about it.”

The prize is given by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which is comprised of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based, and food producer groups. To learn more about the work of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, please visit

Copyleft Other Worlds. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.

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Black US Farmers, Honduran Afro-Indigenous Share Food Sovereignty Prize – Award Ceremony to be held in Des Moines, IA on Oct. 14th

Adam Mason, State Policy Organizing Director
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
(515) 314-2655,
Lisa Griffith, National Family Farm Coalition
US Food Sovereignty Alliance
(773) 319-5838,
Black US Farmers, Honduran Afro-Indigenous Share Food Sovereignty Prize – Award Ceremony to be hled in Des Moines, IA on Oct. 14th
In this moment when it is vital to assert that Black lives matter, the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance honors Black and Afro-Indigenous farmers, fishermen, and stewards of ancestral lands and water. We especially commemorate them as a vital part of our food and agriculture system – growers and workers who are creating food sovereignty, meaning a world with healthy, ecologically produced food, and democratic control over food systems.
In 2015, the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance’s two prize winners are:  the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in the U.S., and the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras. The prizes will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015.
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives strengthens a vital piece of food sovereignty:  helping keep lands in the hands of family farmers, in this case primarily African-American farmers. The Federation was born in 1967 out of the civil rights movement. Its members are farmers in 10 Southern states, approximately 90 percent of them African-American, but also Native American, Latino, and White.
The Federation’s work is today more important than ever, given that African-American-owned farms in the US have fallen from 14 percent to 1 percent in fewer than 100 years. To help keep farms Black- and family-owned, the Federation promotes land-based cooperatives; provides training in sustainable agriculture and forestry, management, and marketing; and speaks truth to power in local courthouses, state legislatures, and the halls of the U.S. Congress.
Ben Burkett, farmer, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives director and National Family Farm Coalition board president, said, “Our view is local production for local consumption. It’s just supporting mankind as family farmers. Everything we’re about is food sovereignty, the right of every individual on earth to wholesome food, clean water, air and land, and the self-determination of a community to grow and eat what they want. We just recognize the natural flow of life. It’s what we’ve always done.”
The grassroots organization OFRANEH was created in 1979 to protect the economic, social, and cultural rights of 46 Garifuna communities along the Atlantic coast of Honduras. At once Afro-descendent and indigenous, the Garifuna people are connected to both the land and the sea, and sustain themselves through farming and fishing. Land grabs for agrofuels (African palm plantations), tourist-resort development, and narco-trafficking seriously threaten their way of life, as do rising sea levels and the increased frequency and severity of storms due to climate change. The Garifuna, who have already survived slavery and colonialism, are now defending and strengthening their land security and their sustainable, small-scale farming and fishing. OFRANEH brings together communities to meet these challenges head-on through direct-action community organizing, national and international legal action, promotion of Garifuna culture, and movement-building. In its work, OFRANEH especially prioritizes the leadership development of women and youth.
Miriam Miranda, Coordinator: “Our liberation starts because we can plant what we eat. This is food sovereignty. There is a big job to do in Honduras and everywhere, because people have to know that they need to produce to bring the autonomy and the sovereignty of our peoples. If we continue to consume [only], it doesn’t matter how much we shout and protest. We need to become producers. It’s about touching the pocketbook, the surest way to overcome our enemies. It’s also about recovering and reaffirming our connections to the soil, to our communities, to our land.” 
The Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded on the evening of October 14 in Des Moines, Iowa. The Food Sovereignty Prize challenges the view that simply producing more food through industrial agriculture and aquaculture will end hunger or reduce suffering. The world currently produces more than enough food, but unbalanced access to wealth means the inadequate access to food. Real solutions protect the rights to land, seeds and water of family farmers and indigenous communities worldwide and promote sustainable agriculture through agroecology. The communities around the world who struggle to grow their food and take care of their land have long known that destructive political, economic, and social policies, as well as militarization.

The USFSA represents a network of food producers and labor, environmental, faith-based, social justice and anti-hunger advocacy organizations. Additional supporters of the 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize include Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-Des Moines chapter and the Small Planet Fund.

For event updates and background on food sovereignty and the prize winners, visit Also, visit the Food Sovereignty Prize on Facebook ( and join the conversation on Twitter (#foodsovprize).
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