April 10th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink
For Immediate Release 4/16/13
John E. Peck, Family Farm Defenders, #608-260-0900
Josh Wise, Illinois Fair Trade Coalition, #952-818-5474
Fri. April 19th 12:00 Noon Protest & Leaflet, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, 141 W. Jackson
Fri. April 19th 5:30 pm Potluck & Forum, Jane Adams Hull House Museum, 800 S. Halsted
To mark Via Campesina’s International Day of Peasant Struggle, family farmers and their allies will once again converge on the doorstep of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) – 141 W. Jackson – at Noon on Fri. April 19th to expose the rampant price fixing by commodity speculators that is behind the ongoing global food crisis. Last year on May 23rd thousands of angry citizens turned up inside and outside the CME annual shareholders meeting to demand greater social responsibility from Chicago’s most lucrative corporation, which posted $1.9 billion in profits in 2011 while receiving millions in local, state, and federal tax cuts.
Dairy farmers in particular will be calling upon the Dept. of Justice (DoJ) to take action against the food giants – including corrupt dairy cooperatives such as Dairy Farmer of America (DFA) and Land of Lakes – that are continuing to defy anti-trust laws and manipulate markets at the CME for their own gain. In March DFA settled out of court, paying $46 million over charges it rigged milk future contracts and cheese spot call contracts at the CME back in 2004. This is the second antitrust settlement DFA has reached this year. In January, DFA payed $158 million to settle a separate price-fixing class action lawsuit accusing the co-op along with Dean Foods and others of fixing fluid milk prices across the Southeast and ripping off dairy farmers.
There will also be a public speak out against the latest round of forced trade deals being pushed by the Obama administration such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that will hurt farmers, workers, and consumers for the sake of greater corporate profits. To visualize the threat posed by the TPP, protesters intend to dump a sack of imported Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC) on a hapless U.S. dairy farmer. MPC is imported into the U.S. as an industrial grade ingredient to make glue and has not been approved or tested by the FDA for use in human food. Nonetheless, U.S. dairy giants are now lobbying to pass the TPP in order to increase unregulated MPC imports from the corrupt co-op, Fronterra, based in New Zealand, to undercut the prices paid for fresh fluid milk to U.S. dairy farmers. Fronterra has also been implicated in the global scandal involving distribution of adulterated dairy byproducts such as infant formula laced with toxic melamine.
Additionally, the global corporate elite seeks to further undermine good paying jobs for US workers. TPP countries include Vietnam and Brunei, where independent unions are illegal and sweatshop labor is rampant. In Vietnam wages are only $2 a day and it is referred to as the low cost labor alternative to China. Not only will the TPP be detrimental to US workers, but it will likely continue in the steps of NAFTA, which dislocated millions of small farmers and workers in devloping countries, and fueled the US immigration crisis. Indeed, the TPP will likely only accelerate the global race to the bottom on wages, environmental and consumer protection.
From 5:30 – 7:30 pm on Fri. April 19th, Family Farm Defenders and allies will also be hosting a local food potluck and open community forum on Reclaiming Our Food Sovereignty! Come learn more about Via Campesina and the struggle for food sovereignty and economic justice at home and abroad with updates on the “Idle No More Campaign” led by Native Peoples against destructive resource extraction such as open pit iron mines and tar sands pipelines in the Great Lakes region; the Farm Labor Reality Tour from Maine to Florida in support of justice for immigrant tomato pickers, as well as the Land O Fakes cooperate accountability campaign to demand a fair milk price for family dairy farmers. This event will be held at the Jane Adams Hull House Museum, 800 S. Halsted St. The public is welcome to attend.
March 11th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink
The Farm Labor Reality Tour has now joined the 175 mile historic march of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida, which will culminate at the headquarters of Publix in Lakeland, FL on Sun. March 17th.
Even if you are not able to join us in person, you can still help support this historic solidarity project by making a donation to Farm Stories:
You can also still sign the online petition to Land O’ Lakes, urging them to be a good co-op by paying dairy farmers a fair price for their hard work:
Stay tuned for further updates!
February 12th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink
For Immediate Release
Wed. Feb. 20th
The Farm Labor Reality Tour, a two-week caravan across 15 states to unite family farmers and farm laborers across the country in their common quest for fairness, justice and dignity, left Brewer, Maine on Sat. Feb. 15th Led by three grassroots organizations representing small farmers, farmworkers, and food justice activists, Family Farm Defenders, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and Food for Maine’s Future, the tour aims to draw attention to the shared struggles of all people who work in America’s fields.
Itinerary of Events:
Thurs. Feb. 21st
2:00 – 3:00 pm Palermo’s Picket Line (3310 Cass St. in Milwaukee, WI) Tour will join Palermo Pizza Workers who have been on strike since June 1st
of last year, demanding an end to abusive conditions on the job. Info? www.sliceofjustice.com
Thurs. Feb. 21st 5:30 – 7:00 pm Prince of Peace/Princip de Paz Church (1138 S. 25th St. in Milwaukee, WI. Tour will participate in a Town Hall meeting with U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, mobilizing support for immigration legislation that includes a path to citizenship. This is also the kickoff event for the Great Lakes Bus Tour for Immigrant Rights. Info? 414-643-1620 Ext. 208
La Crosse, WI:
Fri. Feb. 22nd
All Day La Crosse Center (300 Harbor View Plaza in La Crosse, WI) Tour will participate in workshops, forums, and conversations at the Organic Farming Conference – the largest such conference in North America. Info? http://www.mosesorganic.org/conference.html
Sat. Feb. 23rd 12:00 Noon – 2:00 pm La Crosse Center – Orange Room ( As part of the Organic Farming Conference, the tour will hold a panel discussion titled: Beyond Organic – The Farm Labor Reality Tour. Panelists will include: Bob St. Peter, Food for Maine’s Future; Joel Greeno, Family Farm Defenders; John Peck, Family Farm Defenders; John Kinsman, Family Farm Defenders; Patty Lovera, Food and Water Watch
Sun. Feb. 24th All Day Greeno Family Farm (31863 Lumber Ave, Kendall, WI) Join the farm labor reality tour for a workday on the family farm of Joel and Laura Greeno. Help milk the cows, clean the barn, chop wood, and see what life is all about in Rural America. Info? #608-344-0564
Twin Cities, MN:
Mon. Feb 25th 6:00 pm – Macalester College, Chapel Basement (1600 Grand Avenue, Saint Paul, MN) Tour will host a community forum. Panelists include: Ernesto Velez Bustos- Director of Centro Campesino, Latino-led migrant and immigrant worker organization; Jim Goodman- Wisconsin Organic Dairy Farmer, Member of Scenic Central Cooperative and Family Farm Defenders; Bob St. Peter -Family Farmer and Organizer for Food for Maine’s Future; Michael Chaney – Director and Organizer for Urban farmers in Minneapolis, Project Sweetie Pie. Info? 612-916-9148 Or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/211144129027517/
Tues. Feb. 26th
7:00 – 9:00 am Christ Luther Church on Capitol Hill (105 Univ. Ave. West in St. Paul Tour will join the Land Stewardship Project’s Family Farm Breakfast & Day at the Capitol. Info? http://landstewardshipproject.org/events/item/114
Tues. Feb 26th 6:00 pm – Minnehaha Free Space (3747 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis, MN) Tour will host a community forum: Panelists include: Rebecca Goodman- Wisconsin Organic Dairy Farmer, Member of Scenic Central Cooperative and Family Farm Defenders; Bob St. Peter – Family Farmer and Organizer for Food for Maine’s Future; Jose Luis Villaseñor – Director and Organizer for Tamales y Bicicletas; Chrissy Sierra – Student Farmworker Alliance, Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Info? 612-916-9148 or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/211144129027517/
Wed. Feb. 27th 12:00 noon – Land o’Lakes Annual Meeting, Hilton Hotel (1001 Marquette Ave., Minneapolis, MN) Speak Out Against Agribusiness and Corporate Cooperatives – Help Tell Land o’Lakes It Needs to Pay Dairy Farmers a Living Wage! Informational leaflet and delivery of citizen petitions to Land O Lakes board. To sign the petition online visit:
Thurs. Feb. 28th 5:30 pm Vanderbilt Univ. – exact location TBA (2201 West End Ave. in Nashville, TN) Tour will host a community discussion. Info? #901-270-9814
“The people who grow food for this country – be they independent family farmers or farmworkers – are not getting paid a fair wage for their work. That has to change,” said Wisconsin dairy farmer Joel Greeno of Wisconsin-based Family Farm Defenders. The organization was inspired by the success of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ consumer-oriented “penny more per pound” Fair Food Campaign, which has won agreements for higher wages and improved working conditions from some of the biggest fast food companies in the world.
Family Farm Defenders has launched a similar effort — the Land O’Fakes campaign –which calls on consumers to demand that Land O’Lakes pay its member farmers a living wage for their milk. Land O’ Lakes is a dairy cooperative, but as one of the biggest dairy processors in the nation, it has dramatically driven down the price farmers are paid. Consumers are asked to demand that Land O’ Lakes stop manipulating dairy prices through speculative trading and stop pushing costly genetically modified hormones and seeds on their member farmers.
The Farm Labor Reality Tour will conclude in Immokalee, Florida, on March 2 to begin a two-week, 175-mile March for Rights, Respect, and Fair Food led by the CIW. The march is expected to draw together thousands of people to call on grocery giant Publix to help end farmworker exploitation and support the innovative Fair Food Program – a unique collaboration between Florida’s tomato growers, major retailers, and farmworkers, setting the standard for social accountability in the domestic produce industry by ensuring respect for farmworkers’ rights and dignity.
The Farm Labor Reality Tour is coordinated by a coalition of grassroots farm labor organizations with support from WhyHunger. To get involved or join the tour, contact Bob St. Peter (contact info below). Supportive organizations are also invited to send letters of support for the tour, the Land O’Fakes campaign, and/or the CIW March for Rights, Respect, and Fair Food.
Financial contributions to help with video documentation, travel scholarships for people or groups who want to join the Farm Labor Reality Tour, and the Land O Fakes campaign are also most welcome.
You can make a tax exempt donation to Family Farm Defenders in support of the caravan through Razoo!
Press coverage of the tour so far:
January 2nd, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink
By: Jim Goodman, FFD board member and dairy farmer, Wonewoc, WI
December 13, 2012, Progressive Magazine
“The Farmer Assurance Provision” is the title of a rider, Section 733, inserted into the House’s 2013 agriculture appropriations bill. Somehow, as a farmer, I don’t feel the least bit assured.
The only assurance it provides is that Monsanto and the rest of the agriculture biotech industry will have carte blanche to force the government to allow the planting of their biotech seeds.
In addition, the House Agriculture Committee’s 2012 farm bill draft includes three riders – Sections 1011, 10013 and 10014. These amendments would essentially destroy any oversight of new genetically engineered (GE) crops by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If these riders had been in place during the review of GE alfalfa, Monsanto could have requested — no, they could have compelled — the secretary of agriculture to allow continued planting of GE alfalfa even though a federal court had ruled commercialization was illegal pending completion of an environmental impact study.
Essentially, the riders would prevent the federal courts from restricting, in any way, the planting of a GE crop, regardless of environmental, health or economic concerns. USDA’s mandated review process would be, like court-ordered restrictions, meaningless. A request to USDA to allow planting of a GE crop awaiting approval would have to be granted.
Wow, who’s next to get in on a deal like this, the drug companies?
Not only would the riders eviscerate the power of USDA and the authority of the courts, but they would also permanently dismiss any input from other agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service or Environmental Protection Agency.
Does Congress really believe it has the right to remove the court’s power of congressional oversight? Doesn’t that violate the separation of powers guaranteed in the Constitution?
The trade group behind the riders, Biotechnology Industry Organization, insists that the riders do not, in any way, reduce regulatory requirements for new GE crops. What? They only eliminate any oversight from the judicial branch — that’s sort of a big thing.
The approval process for new GE crops is not without its perceived delays. As limited as it may be, review takes time but getting new GE crops approved is a cakewalk.
StarLink corn and Liberty Link rice slipped through the approval process only to have major contamination and health issues after commercialization. Once a crop is in the USDA pipeline, approval is a near certainty.
BIO insists the riders are necessary to avoid delays in approval. Of course, delays cost them money, which is obviously all they are concerned about. If they were concerned about environmental impacts, or food safety, wouldn’t they request input from EPA and FDA?
So the “Farmer Assurance” thing — using farmers as their poster children — is quite disingenuous. The biotech industry cares about farmers because farmers are their meal ticket.
Farmers are not stupid; we learned that the promises of biotech were short-lived at best and to various degrees simply false. The new GE crops are basically the old GE crops, just redesigned to resist different, more toxic herbicides while having become less effective at killing insect pests.
No, the Farmer Assurance Provision and the farm bill riders are not about farmers, nor are they about speeding needed crops to the waiting public. They’re about getting fast rubber-stamp approval for new, profitable GE crops.
These riders are an effort to end run Congress, the courts and the Constitution.
Corporate collusion with government is not new, but this takes it to a new level. By allowing corporations to subvert the Constitution, Congress is saying that corporate influence and profits are more important than the best interests of the people.
Corporations are not people, my friends, despite the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
November 14th, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink
By: Joel Greeno
Dairy farmer near Kendall, WI and vice president of Family Farm Defenders
Published by Other Words, 11/14/ 2012
My family has raised dairy cows on our farm in Monroe County near Kendall, Wisconsin, for almost 150 years. We’ve weathered the Great Depression, low milk prices, droughts, floods, and snowstorms. Despite difficulties, the dairy and related industries generate $26.5 billion in revenue, 174,000 jobs, and fresh, healthy milk, cheese and butter for the state each year.
Other local families have harvested cranberries for generations. Wild cranberries are native to central Wisconsin’s marshlands, and cranberries have become the state’s largest fruit crop. They contribute $350 million and 7,200 jobs to our state’s economy, while comprising almost 60 percent of the nation’s total harvest.
My farm is just a few miles from the town of Warrens, the center of Wisconsin’s cranberry country and home of the world’s largest cranberry festival, with more than 140,000 visitors this year.
Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same here or anywhere else if our cranberry crop vanished.
Mining Wisconsin’s high-quality sand is another industry that’s been established for some time. However, the recent spike nationwide in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas and oil has boosted demand for the sand the process requires. If all 86 planned facilities for the state are built and mined, they would account for about 2,800 jobs. Those jobs would be helpful but hardly remarkable or sustainable. The sand will eventually be depleted. Then what?
Mining companies are offering farmers in Monroe and neighboring counties millions of dollars for their land, and a number of them have sold. I can’t really blame them — that’s more money than most dreamed of making over a lifetime. But the consequences are horrific.
Extracting sand on a wide scale would convert thousands of acres of our countryside into open pit mines. Each oil or gas fracking well can use as much as 3 million pounds of sand — 1,500 tons — before it’s tapped out. And there are thousands of these wells nationwide.
In addition to the loss of productive farmland, fracking uses huge amounts of water. Cranberry bogs are meticulously designed to take advantage of the water stored in the marshes, which is necessary for harvesting, and growers generally set aside seven acres of land for every acre planted to store this water. Marshes surrounded by sand pits will eventually lose water as it seeps into the pits, leaving berry growers high and dry.
Sand mining also poses a serious risk of groundwater contamination, further threatening the lives and livelihoods within rural communities. In addition, heavy truck traffic leads to congestion, overburdens the roads and amplifies road noise, damaging the overall quality of rural life.
Once farms are destroyed, it’s pretty hard to rebuild them, just as it’s hard to bring farmers back to the land once they leave. Farmers in this region shouldn’t have to choose between diametrically opposed options — continue farming at a loss by incurring more and more debt or selling their farms to be converted into sand pits to relieve debt.
Many of these farmers wouldn’t consider selling their land if they saw a real future in farming, and the future depends on a fair price for their products, whether it’s cranberries, turkeys, or milk. The people who provide our food and beverages for every meal deserve a living wage. The small number of short-term mining jobs that large-scale sand mining might create just doesn’t justify destroying our food supply, farmers’ livelihoods, and rural communities.
Extracting sand, oil, gas, or any other finite resource means that eventually the mined land will be worth nothing. The mining companies will move on, taking the jobs and leaving behind scarred landscapes and empty houses.
On the other hand, if farmers receive a fair price from the buyers of their product, especially renewable, sustainable ones such as cranberries, butter or milk, everyone wins — local businesses thrive, schools and other infrastructure are supported, and future generations of farmers have real opportunities.
If farmers get paid fairly, they’ll keep producing good products. Everyone will be able to enjoy a good meal. And farmland and rural communities won’t be turned into sand pits. We would all be grateful for that.