John Kinsman Tributes

JohnKinsmanFarmAidKansasCityThose who attended the John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize Award Ceremony last March were able to experience an amazing array of tributes to John from around the world that Ruth Simpson had assembled.  Since then many people have requested to see these remembrances, so we are posting them on our website for all to enjoy.  John’s vision and legacy will inspire many for years to come!

Miriam Brown remembrance

Farm Aid Remembrance

Stephen Bartlett remembrance

John Peck Remembrance

PR Watch Kinsman Interview

Ruth Simpson remembrance

John Nichols remembrance

Andrew Bartlett Remembrance

Grassroots International Remembrance

Jim Goodman remembrance

MST remembrance

Siena Chrisman remembrance

Mark Kastel remembrance

Steve Holt remembrance

US Food Sovereignty Remembrance

Remember John — several people — 1-1

Remembering John — several people — 2

Remembering John — several people — 3

Remembering John — several people — 4

Remembering John — several people — 5


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“Free Trade” Champions Betray Us All

By:  Jim Goodman, dairy farmer from Wonewoc, WI, and FFD board member
Originally published on Wednesday, July 2, 2014 by Common Dreams
Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind has apparently never met a free trade agreement he didn’t like. Note it is always a “free trade” agreement, never a “fair trade” agreement.
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 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.
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.
Environmental protection under fair trade would also trump corporate profit— destructive strip mines, mountain top removal, groundwater pollution, air pollution, all these byproducts of the less restrictive environmental protections, that again, always happen when free trade agreements are ratified, would have to be prohibited.
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.
Another secretly negotiated free trade agreement the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) which deals extensively with financial services, would actually further deregulate financial institutions and scrap much of the re-regulation that followed the world financial meltdown of a few years ago.
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.
Free trade proponents like Rep. Kind who co-chairs the Friends of the TPP Caucus note that the U.S. is running a trade surplus with many of the small countries that it has bilateral trade agreements with. True enough, but it is hardly relevant to use bilateral trade statistics with a small country like Columbia as an argument for joining the TPP, a group that would comprise 40% of the world trade. And considering all the positive spin about trade surpluses from bilateral agreements with small nations, the U.S. still ran a trade deficit of over $470 billion in 2013.
We are told that establishing free trade zones will lower tariffs across the globe while encouraging higher labor and environmental standards. Say what? Tariffs are basically a non-issue having been nearly eliminated by previous trade deals while labor and environmental standards will be pushed to the lowest level possible, not elevated.
The Wisconsin State Journal calls Kind “a strong voice for free trade and the prosperity it brings to Wisconsin”. Think about that, how many manufacturing jobs have left Wisconsin and been offshored due to free trade; Johnson Controls, AT&T, Georgia Pacific and Harley Davidson to name a few.
Farmers are told free trade will increase sales of agricultural commodities worldwide making us more profitable. Generally, farmers do not export, grain companies, food processors and livestock packers export and they import –– it all depends on global prices, but generally they make a hefty profit on both ends.
Agricultural commodities are bought wherever they are the cheapest and sold where they are the most profitable. Free trade pits farmer against farmer to see who will produce the cheapest, just as it pits workers against each other in a race to the bottom.
The Friends of the TPP would do well to look at the history of free trade agreements and decide if they really like this status quo, these agreements that profit corporations at the expense of people and the environment. Or perhaps they might do a better job of serving their constituents by supporting fair trade that brings everyone up rather than always seeking the lowest common denominator.

Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc, Wisconsin.

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Real Milk Stories – Please Spread the Word and Lend Your Support!

We started Family Farm Defenders to help protect and defend small family farmers. But we are losing too many small family farms. Help share the stories of dairy farmers who are losing their farms.

Family dairy farms are closing at an alarming rate. Support me to tell the story of why — and why it matters to everyone who drinks milk or eats ice cream.
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“Farmland” Fables – What the Documentary Gets Wrong

By:  Jim Goodman, FFD board member

Originally posted on Civil Eats, 4/30/14

The promotional website for the new film Farmland invites viewers to “step inside the world of farming for a first-hand glimpse into the lives of young farmers and ranchers.” The film, which opens in some theaters May 1, features six young farmers from across the U.S.

But let’s make this very clear: Farmland is funded by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), a trade association uniting industry representatives from groups such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the United Soybean Board, state farm bureaus, and the agribusiness corporations Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, and John Deere. This fact​ alone​​ suggests that it’s not the straightforward look at today’s farmers that it portrays itself to be.

The Farmers

The film combines interviews with scenes from their day-to-day lives, and it does a very credible job of capturing the trials and aspirations of ​a corn and soy farmer, a hog farmer, a chicken farmer, a cattle rancher, and two vegetable farmers—one large organic producer and one small CSA (community-supported agriculture) farmer. They are all passionate advocates of their farming operation and methods and all six spoke of​ the problems of growing crops, particularly the really tight margins affecting farmers.

I suppose one could say they covered a fair cross section of farming operations across the U.S., but they did, however, miss bringing ​​dairy farming, urban farming, and minority farmers into the picture entirely. From my point of view as a farmer, Farmland also left out a lot of the problems we face and glorified the trend toward larger, more industrialized farms.

When I heard the stirring, almost patriotic music I knew a giant corn planter would soon be rolling across the Nebraska landscape for a moonlit planting run. From there the viewer goes to Georgia, where a group of school children are looking into a barn housing 25,000 chickens, one of 18 such barns on the farm, to which 450,000 chicks are delivered at a time, five times every year.

The Nebraska corn and soy farmer tells the audience that he has irrigated twice as much in 2012 as he does in a normal year, but we never hear him question the sustainability of irrigating what should be dry land farm country.

The hog farmer from Minnesota shows the construction for an expansion of their facilities, but he never questions why the global market he is part of is not providing a fair return for his work, one that would not necessitate constant expansion.

And the rancher from Texas asks, “Is there really any difference between organic and natural?” as a swirling collage of labels filled the screen, enforcing the idea that labels are more confusing than they are helpful.

The commercial organic grower in California seems to rely heavily on his Latino employees and I hope they were fairly paid. While he clearly feels organic is a better way to farm, his choices appear to be lead more by economic factors than ethical ones. His farming plan is to try to stay one step ahead of the market at all times.

Finally, the young CSA farmer from the appropriately named One Woman Farm, in Pennsylvania, shows real joy in growing food, not commodities. She is the only one who directly connects with people who eat what she grows. New to farming, she is the token woman and a token small-scale operator. And, as the film suggests, she may provide food for several households, but she alone (or others like her) will never “feed the world.”

No, for that important work—Farmland tells us—one needs a much larger operation, and new technology: GPS, auto-steer tractors, genetically engineered seeds (commonly referred to as GMOs), confinement-based animal production (or CAFOs). This is a common refrain from USFRA, which was founded in 2011.

“Feeding the World”

The group has hosted events called Food Dialogues and produced media to respond to other food films, such Food, Inc., King Corn, and criticism aimed at revealing what many consumers see as the downsides to heavily consolidated agriculture. (The USFRA receives federal commodity marketing program dollars, or check-offs, paid for by growers of various commodities who contribute through product sales whether they want to or not.)

Indeed, the phrase “feeding the world” has become an opiate that lulls farmers and consumers into accepting the system of commodity production, high-tech farming and the notion that “food is food,” no matter how it’s grown or harvested.

GMOs are a good example. In Farmland, they are described as offering farmers all sorts of benefits that haven’t lived up to their hype: Weed control options, insect resistance, higher yields, drought resistance, and better nutrition. On the other hand, the film’s two organic farmers were never shown criticizing the farmers who use GMO seeds, and, in my opinion, that is how it should be. Industry is the one and only winner when it comes to GMOs.

Like them, my criticism is not of these young farmers. It’s not an easy job and most of us take on huge financial risks while the multinational corporations controlling agriculture will make a profit, no matter what happens to our bottom line. Thanks to climate change, free trade agreements, and consolidation, all our futures are uncertain.

But the system, and the corporate control was never questioned—that is what I found missing from Farmland: Someone seriously asking questions about this “get big or get out” food system. I would have liked to see someone ask why hunger continues to grow as farmers adopt all the technology that industry, government, universities, and media tell them they should.

And finally: Why must small and medium-sized farmers struggle financially while the agribusiness industries see their profit margins climb?

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Family Farmers and Allies to Protest Dairy Price Fixing and Global Carbon Trading Outside the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) – 141 W. Jackson – at 12:00 Noon on April 18th


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

Chicago, Illinois  – To mark Via Campesina’s International Day of Peasant Struggle, family farmers and their allies will converge at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) – 141 W. Jackson – at noon on Friday April 18, 2014 to expose the rampant price fixing by commodity speculators that drives the ongoing global food and climate crisis.

Friday, April 18, 2014

12:00pm – Protest and Leaflet, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, 141 W. Jackson Blvd.

5:30pm – Potluck and Discussion, Institute of Cultural Affairs, 4750 N. Sheridan Rd.

Family Farm Defenders’ annual protest at the CME demands greater social responsibility and transparency from one of Chicago’s most lucrative and secretive corporations, which posts billions of dollars in profits while rural workers and family farmers live in poverty.

Dairy farmers in particular will call upon the Department of Justice (DoJ) to take action against the food giants – including Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) Land O’Lakes, and Dean Foods, which control close to half of all milk production in the country – that defy anti-trust laws and remain silent on price fixing at the expense of working farmer families.

Joel Greeno, family farmer from Kendall, WI and president of Family Farm Defenders, noted, “The CEO of Land O’Lakes may think that farmers only exist to serve the market. But farmers work hard to pay their bills and support their families first, and only serve the market second. As the rest of the world celebrates the U.N. Year of Family Farming, farmers across the U.S. are going bankrupt and being forced off the land by unfair prices.”

John E. Peck, executive director of Family Farm Defenders, said, “Small farmers have the capacity to feed the world and cool the planet, but speculation with commodity crops and carbon credits undermines that possibility.    We hope that traders at the CME and officials at the DoJ will hear our voice and come to realize that there are more responsible ways to run a marketplace than what now occurs in Chicago.”

Marches and rallies are held around the world on Via Campesina’s International Day of Peasant Struggle every year to draw attention to economic, political, and cultural exploitation suffered by rural people and communities. It commemorates the massacre of 19 unarmed farm workers who were demanding agrarian reform in Brazil in 1996.

The same evening at 5:30 pm there will be a potluck and community forum on food sovereignty and climate justice at the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) – 4750 N. Sheridan in Chicago.  Featured panelists will include:  Joel Greeno, WI farmer and president of Family Farm Defenders, Jed Schenkier of Loud Grade Produce and 2014 winner of the John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize, Seva Gandhi of the ICA’s Accelerate 77 which creates collaborative spaces for organizations of work on sustainability, Debar Michaud, organizer wit Tarsands Free Midwest, as well as invited speakers from Food and Water Watch (FWW), Chicago Fair Food,  and the Landless Workers Movement (MST) of Brazil.

Further information about the questionable activities of the CME and how these contribute to global climate change and the ongoing food crisis can be found below.

There is also a link to a dairy specific factsheet here:  Dairy Farm Facts Pamphlet

People are also encouraged to invite others to these April 18th events in Chicago via Facebook:


Despite massive public hearings across the U.S. and dozens of pending legal complaints, the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DoJ) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have yet to take serious anti-trust action against the corporations and their traders that routinely manipulate CME markets for their private profit.  These bad actors include some of the world’s largest food giants and even corrupt farmer co-ops.  In 2008 the CFTC found Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) guilty of price rigging at the CME and levied an unprecedented $12 million fine.  In 2103 DFA paid a $158 million to settle another lawsuit that it conspired with Dean Foods to fix milk prices to the detriment of dairy farmers across 14 states.  Implicated in similar dairy price shenanigans are Kraft Foods, Schreiber Foods, and Land O Lakes.
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, 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 farmgate 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.
In 2010 the CME reported revenues in excess of $3 billion, handling over 12 million contracts per day.  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 CME trading is now also done by speculators, who have no tangible interest in the commodities being traded.  CME remains the most profitable business in Chicago, yet it receives millions in tax breaks each year from the State of Illinois in order to keep it from moving elsewhere.  CME executives are also routinely ranked among the wealthiest people in the U.S.  Outgoing CEO Craig Donohue received over $6 million in 2012, though he only worked for the CME for four months that year.  His successor, Phupinder Gill, received compensation of $3.3 million for the rest of 2012.
For years the CME was also home to the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), North America’s largest pollution market.  At its height, the CCX had over 450 traders including the Farm Bureau, Dupont, Ford, and the University of California.  But in 2010 the market eventually succumbed to an over supply of “hot air” credits that drove down the price of carbon from a high of $7.50 per metric ton to less than 5 cents.  The CME has since moved on to acquire GreenX as its latest global pollution market – with an estimated 450,000 contracts traded in 2011, equivalent to 450 million tons of CO2.  These carbon traders include some of the top names in tar sands, land grabbing, and fossil fuels:  ABN AMRO, British Petroleum, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo to name a few.


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