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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Wisconsin’s Dairyland Disaster

forsaleBy:  Joel Greeno, farmer and president of Family Farm Defenders

CapTimes (Madison, WI), 5/23/15

Last month the Agricultural Census made it official: Wisconsin now has less than 10,000 dairy farmers. The exodus of dairy farmers continues unabated as the price paid to dairy farmers drops — to about $15 a hundredweight or $1.50 a gallon, a near record low. Dairy farmers are now being paid 40 percent less for their milk than a year ago.
Deans, one of the largest and most powerful milk processors in the U.S., even told their buyers in a recent memo that despite paying farmers less, the retail price for milk in stores would not change for consumers.
Imagine losing 40 percent of your income while the bills continue to pile up for land, seeds, fertilizers, utilities, machinery and fuel? I am one of the thousands of dairy farmers who no longer milk cows. In late 2013, I sold my dairy cows. It was not an easy decision. But the ups and downs of dairy prices just made it too hard to continue. It makes me angry that nothing is being done to fix this “pricing” problem that has been the scourge of the dairy industry for three decades. Citizens need to act now if we want to have any dairy farmers left in Wisconsin in the next decade.
We need solutions, not more rhetoric. Here are some things we need to do to save those dairy farmers who are left:
1. Get dairy out of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Each day an elite group of commodity traders gathers at the CME to swap cheddar cheese. Very little cheddar cheese is actually sold, but within seconds this “thin” market reverberates around the globe, affecting farm gate prices and grocery bills for billions of people. Among these bad actors are many of the world’s largest food giants and even corrupt farmer co-ops. For instance, in 2008 the Commodity Futures Trading Commission found Dairy Farmers of America guilty of rigging milk prices at the CME and levied an unprecedented $12 million fine. But this type of manipulative speculation continues today. The U.S. Justice Department needs to stop this criminal activity once and for all and guarantee that farmers get a fair price for their milk from a truly competitive market.
2. Stop fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Congress is now considering giving President Obama fast track authority to approve another round of trade deals that would be disastrous for farmers, workers and consumers. Among the worst of these trade deals is the TPP, which would open U.S. floodgates to unsafe milk powder imports, driving down domestic prices even further. Of course, if you are a giant food processor and there is no COOL (country of origin labeling) required for dairy products, you could care less about buying fresh milk from U.S. farmers when you can use imported milk protein concentrate instead. One of the major players now lobbying U.S. politicians to railroad through fast track and the TPP is Fonterra of New Zealand, which controls about 30 percent of the world’s dairy trade. Congress needs to say no to fast track and impose a moratorium on more bad trade deals. Didn’t we learn our lesson from NAFTA?
3. Change how dairy farmers are paid. Imagine working in a business where you don’t know your wage until one month after you finished a job. The wage could be $15 an hour or it could be the minimum wage. It all depends on what the company wants to pay you. In essence this is how dairy farmers are paid. It is an archaic system that is even a mystery to most dairy farmers. We need a 21st century pricing structure so farmers actually know the price they will receive for their milk the day it leaves the farm. The price should reflect the cost of production and fair wages for dairy farmers — in other words a living wage — just like what other workers in our food system are now demanding. The U.S. already imports over 20 percent of our food. Can we really afford to continue to bankrupt our family farmers and drive them and their families off the land and out of our already struggling rural communities?
Unless we take action, Wisconsin will no longer be able to call itself “America’s Dairyland.” Wisconsin will be stuck with some other less flattering nickname — like the Frac Sand Mining Playground of the U.S. or the Midwest’s Largest Manure-Tainted Water Park.
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Stop Fast Track! Farmers and Allies Speak Out at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) to Demand Fair Trade, Not Forced Trade

chicagowebFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 4/2/15:

Contact: John E. Peck, Executive Director, Family Farm Defenders, (608) 260-0900

Chicago, Illinois – In conjunction with a series of actions around the world against unfair trade ( and to mark La Via Campesina’s International Day of Peasant Struggle (, farmers and their allies will be holding a speak out at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) – 141 W. Jackson – at noon on Friday April 17th to expose the price fixing by commodity speculators that profit from the globalization of hunger, poverty, oppression, and pollution. This educational leaflet will urge passerbys to contact Congress to oppose Fast Track and to also apply pressure on the Dept. of Justice to enforce anti-trust laws at the world’s largest private trading platform where markets are routinely rigged to the detriment of farmers and consumers alike.

The evening before the CME speak out – Thurs. April 16th at 6:00 pm at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum (800 S. Halsted in Chicago) – family farmers from across the Midwest will be joining indigenous activists, consumer advocates, and other key allies for a Community Forum on Food Sovereignty. Panelists include: John Ikerd, agricultural economist and sustainable agriculture advocate (MO); Ben Burkett, farmer with the Southern Federation of Cooperatives (MS); Joel Greeno, farmer with Family Farm Defenders (WI); Lisa Griffith of the National Family Farm Coalition (MO); Nikos Pastos, activist with the Alaska Big Village Network (AK); John E. Peck with Family Farm Defenders (WI); Jessica Fujan with Food and Water Watch (IL), Seva Gandhi of the Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network (IL), Orrin Williams of the Center for Urban Transformation (IL); as well as representatives from the Friends of the MST, the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil.

For more info on the food sovereignty forum, visit Facebook:

From its humble beginning in 1898 as the non-profit Chicago Butter and Egg Board, the CME has since grown into the world’s largest private trading clearinghouse. Each day an elite group of commodity traders gathers at the CME to swap such products as natural gas, carbon credits, soybeans, cheddar cheese, fertilizer, and feather meal (ground up dead chickens and chicken manure used to feed livestock). Within seconds this “thin” market reverberates around the globe, affecting farm gate prices and grocery bills for billions of people. In 2002 the CME began issuing its own stock, and in 2007 acquired the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) for $8 billion as one of its designated contract markets (DCMs). In 2008 the CME Group bought out another rival, the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) for $8.9 billion, and in 2009 also acquired the Dow Jones Indexes. At the close of 2014 the CME reported handling over 15 million contracts per day and had paid out over $1.3 billion in dividends to its shareholders.

While some human shouting still occurs in the “pit,” over 70% of CME trading now happens quietly behind the scenes through its Globex electronic platform. The majority of this trading is now also done by speculators, who have no tangible interest in the commodities they buy and sell. CME remains the most profitable business in Chicago, yet it insists upon millions in tax breaks each year from the State of Illinois in order to keep it from relocating. The revolving door cadre of CME executives are also among the wealthiest people in the country. The U.S. Dept. of Justice (DoJ) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) supposedly watchdog the CME but seldom take action against criminal activity. Among these bad actors are many of the world’s largest food giants and even corrupt farmer co-ops. For instance, in 2008 the CFTC found Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) guilty of rigging milk prices through dairy trading at the CME and levied an unprecedented $12 million fine. In late March 2015 the CFTC also charged Kraft Foods with rigging global wheat prices at the CME.

“The real solution to feeding the world, cooling the planet, and sharing prosperity is found in fair trade, sustainable agriculture, and democratic sovereignty – that is the message behind La Via Campesina’s International Peasants Day,” noted John E. Peck, executive director of Family Farm Defenders. “We are calling upon our elected officials in Washington DC to reject Fast Track and other forced trade deals that are now being railroaded through Congress. We also insist that speculators obey the law and that the Dept. of Justice bring an end to the illegal racketeering now underway at the CME so that consumers, workers, and farmers benefit from agriculture – not just agribusiness executives and corporate shareholders.”

You can help spread the word about the Stop Fast Track speak out at the CME through sharing our Facebook event:

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John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize Award Dinner & Ceremony! Sat. March 14th 5-9 pm UW-Madison Pyle Center


Family Farm Defenders is pleased to announce the two winners of this year’s John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize.  They are Carsten Thomas from Moorhead, MN and Emmet Fisher and Cella Langer from Mt. Horeb, WI.  Carsten operates a diverse organic farm in the Red River Valley, honoring Native food heritage, and also offers many hands-on environmental education programs.  Cella and Emmet own Oxheart Farm producing food for farmers markets and a community supported agriculture (CSA) program.  Cella & Emmet also manage the Farley Center’s Farm Incubator and Land Link program outside Verona, WI.  Each prize winner will be receiving a $2000 cash prize at the award dinner

With Keynote Speaker: Marty Strange,co-founder of the Center for  Rural Affairs and author of Family Farming: a New Economic Vision

Introduced by UW-Madison Prof. Jack Kloppenburg, coordinator of the Opne Source Seed Initiative (OSSI)

Sat. March 14th 5:00 – 9:00 pm

UW-Madison’s Pyle Center

(702 Langdon St., Madison WI)

Among the current sponsors of this year’s John Kinsman prize which FFD is especially proud to recognize are:  Jean Kinsman, Food and Water Watch, Hiroshi and Arlene Kanno, Willy St. Co-op, John Adamowski, Cornucopia Institute, Jim and Rebecca Goodman (Northwood Farms), Midwest Environmental Advocates, John and Mary Ann Kinsman, Viroqua Food Co-op, Tony Schultz and Kat Becker (Stoney Acres Farm), Farley Center for Peace Justice and Sustainability, M. Grace Grzanek, Pete Hardin (the Milkweed), Krueger Printing, and Bill Anderson (Creme de la Coulee).

Preceded from 12:00 Noon – 4:00 pm by the

Family Farm Defenders Annual Meeting

With updates on such issues as the dairy crisis, frack

sand mining, climate justice, genetically modified

organisms, and factory farm struggles, as well as board

elections. The public is most welcome to attend!

Award Dinner tickets are $50 per person

($35 for low income or student)

You can purchase your ticket online here JK Prize Dinner Tickets!

For more info, contact FFD: tel. 608-260-0900 email:

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Fall 2014 Issue of the Defender Newsletter is now Available!

The latest issue of the Defender newsletter has been published with great articles on this year’s Food Sovereignty Prize event in Des Moines, the Loss of African American Farmers, Oregon’s Right to Farm Law, the Corporate Takeover of Grocery Stores, Wisconsin’s Failure to Enforce Factory Farm Rules, the recent Climate Justice march in NYC, and much more!

You can find an electronic version here:   Defender Newsletter Fall 2014

But if you would like to join FFD as a member you can also receive a paper copy of the Defender in the mail to share with neighbors and friends!  Please support our work with an end of the year tax deductible donation – we depend upon YOU to sustain our grassroots work.  Best wishes and happy holidays!

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