John Peck (608.345.3918),
Anthony Pahnke (612.916.9148)
Lisa Griffith (773.319.5838)
On April 17th each year, members of La Via Campesina – the largest umbrella organization in the world for family farmers, fisher and herder folk, hunters/gatherers/foresters, and indigenous peoples – commemorate the massacre of landless peasants in 1996 in the Amazonian state of Pará, Brazil. Nineteen members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) were attacked and killed while hundreds more peasants were injured by Brazilian military police during their protest for comprehensive agrarian reform. This struggle for justice continues in Brazil today. Events planned for April 17th worldwide may be viewed online (http://bit.ly/ 2GUu8Y0April17th).
For many years Family Farm Defenders, Food & Water Watch, National Family Farm Coalition and other La Via Campesina allies have staged protests outside the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Board of Trade on April 17th to protest lack of federal anti-trust enforcement and global commodity price rigging that hurts farmers and consumers alike.
Instead of a protest this year, U.S. food sovereignty advocates are urging citizens to take the spirit of April 17th directly to the politicians as Congress enters debate on the 2018 Farm Bill and the White House reconsiders forced trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Many farmers, particularly dairy farmers, are finding themselves in worse financial shape now than during the height of the1980s crisis, leading to a wave of bankruptcies and tragic suicides. Unregulated fake “organic” imports and taxpayer subsidized expansion of “organic” factory farms are even hurting the small farms that pioneered the organic food movement in the U.S. Unprecedented agribusiness concentration is destroying access to non-GM and locally adapted seed varieties.
Adding insult to injury, the Farm Bill draft just released by the House Agriculture Committee supports strict work requirements for SNAP recipients, allows the EPA to approve pesticides without analyzing potential harm to endangered species, reduces support for many conservation programs, and slashes funding for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501).
This April 17th please take a stand in favor of food sovereignty by contacting your elected officials in Congress – you can find their contact information by calling the Congressional Switchboard at #202-224-3121 or by visiting http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov.
Among the key issues to discuss with your representative and senators:
Demand #1: Create a farmer-controlled supply management program for commodity grains and for dairy, in particular, which is extremely perishable and costly to store. Canada already has a supply management system which ensures farmers a parity (cost of production) price while keeping food prices more affordable which the U.S. could certainly replicate.
Demand #2: Reinstate COOL – Country of Origin Labeling – for all meat and seafood, as well as dairy products. Citizens in more than 60 other countries have the right to know where their food comes from, and U.S. consumers who wish to support U.S. farmers should have access to the same basic information, since we currently have such a rule for clothing, electronics, and other household products. Having COOL in place would simplify the second part of this ask – imposing tariffs on milk protein concentrate (MPC) entering the US. Our dairy farmers can produce enough milk to meet our domestic requirements, and we should not be allowing dairy processors to import such unsafe alternatives to make the likes of infant formula and cheese.
Demand #3: Place a moratorium on all new and expanding CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), which not only destroy clean air and water, but also abuse animals and exploit workers, while generating surplus milk and meat that drive down market prices and ultimately hurt smaller, more responsible farmers. A CAFO moratorium would facilitate the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) anti-trust enforcement against the food giants, big box retailers, and other agribusiness corporations that are guilty of price-rigging and manipulating markets for their own profit to the detriment of everyone else in our food/farm system.
Demand #4: Require the National Organic Standards Board to employ the Leopold Center’s fluorescence spectroscopy test – using light to measure chlorophyll – to identify milk from grass-fed cows accurately and inexpensively. This step would expose those operations that are violating the organic pasture rule. (Note to everyone: check out the Cornucopia Institute’s organic dairy score card to see just how well each store brand stacks up at https://www.cornucopia.org/ dairysurvey/index.html.)
Demand #5: Support the rights of workers to organize for living wages and better working conditions across our entire food/farm system. In particular, immigrant workers are now under attack even though they are critical to the success of U.S. agriculture and have become a vibrant sector of many rural communities. Food sovereignty is impossible without dignity and respect for ALL those who contribute to sustaining our society.