Congratulations to the Winners of the 2023 John Kinsman Food Sovereignty Prize Winners!

Hannah Frank & Justin Thomas – Rue de Bungaloo Farm (WI)

Nia Nyamweya – Beauty Blooms Farm (MD)

Honorable Mention – Bad River Food Sovereignty Initiative (WI)

For those who were not able to join us in person on Sat. Nov. 11th in Spring Green for the award ceremony, the whole event was also recorded and can be watched on YouTube – including the inspiring keynote address “Food, Land, and Justice: Lessons from the Driftless Area to the World” – by Curt Meine, Senior Fellow, Aldo Leopold Foundation and the Center for Humans and Nature:

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2023 John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize Award Ceremony & Family Farm Defenders Annual Meeting – Sat. Nov. 11th 5:00 – 8:00 pm & Sun. Nov. 12th 9:00 am – 12:00 Noon Round Barn Lodge in Spring Green, WI – Save the Date & Spread the Word!

In memory of legendary organic pioneer and food sovereignty advocate, John Kinsman, Family Farm Defenders is proud to celebrate beginning farmers each year with a prize in his honor!

Sat. Nov. 11th Round Barn Lodge in Spring Green, WI (E4830 US-14) 5:00 pm Reception and Socializing; 5:30 pm Welcome and Local Harvest Dinner (catered by Lisa Buttenow & the Branding Iron in Lime Ridge)

6:00 pm Keynote Address: “Food, Land, and Justice: Lessons from the Driftless Area to the World” – with Curt Meine, Senior Fellow, Aldo Leopold Foundation and the Center for Humans and Nature

Followed at 6:45 pm by the John Kinsman Prize Award Ceremony!

Congratulations to this year’s prize winners:

Hannah Frank and Justin Thomas – Rue de Bungaloo Farm (Athens, WI)

Nia Nyamweya – Beauty Blooms Farm (Montgomery County, MD)

Honorable Mention – Bad River Food Sovereignty Initiative (Odanah, WI)

Suggested donation for the award dinner – $35 per person (children are free!)

To RSVP and purchase advance tickets send a check to: FFD, P.O. Box 1772, Madison, WI 53701 or make an online donation through this website. Family Farm Defenders also welcomes sponsors of the John Kinsman Prize! Sponsors will be thanked in the evening program and prize sponsors of $100+ will also receive two free complimentary tickets to the event. More info? #608-260-0900 or email: [email protected]

For those who can’t join us in person, it is possible to participate virtually – via Zoom and GoToMeeting. Here are the details:

John Kinsman Food Sovereignty Prize Event – Sat. 11/11 from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm CST

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 891 3616 9225

One tap mobile

+13126266799,,89136169225# US (Chicago)
+13092053325,,89136169225# US


FFD Annual Meeting – Sun. 11/12 from 9 am – Noon CST

Please join from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

You can also dial in using your phone.

Access Code: 646-585-045

United States:+1 (646) 749-3122

Thanks for your support of food sovereignty and please spread the word!

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Know a Beginning Farmer Who Believes in Food Sovereignty? FFD is Seeking Nominations for the 2023 John Kinsman Prize!

Since 2011, Family Farm Defenders has distributed a total of $36,000 in grants to nearly 20 beginning farmers. The prize is named in honor of John Kinsman, one of the founders and longtime president of Family Farm Defenders who was a tireless champion of civil rights, social justice, and food sovereignty both in the U.S. and around the world.

To be considered for the prize, nominees must meet the following criteria: engaged in own farm for less than five (5) years; engaged in small scale livestock and/or vegetable and/or fruit production; market products locally; practice sustainable management of natural resources; promote healthy soil; conserve biodiversity; and support food sovereignty principles.

Those nominated will be asked to complete a questionnaire as their application, which will then be reviewed by FFD board members.

Winners will then be publicly recognized as part of an award dinner and public ceremony, tentatively scheduled for Sat. Nov. 11th at 5:30 pm at the Round Barn Lodge in Spring Green – stay tuned for more details!

If you would like to nominate someone for the 2023 John Kinsman Prize, please send their name and contact info to: [email protected]

The deadline for nominations is Fri. Oct. 13th!

FFD is also looking for sponsors of this year’s prize – anyone who contributes over $100 as a prize sponsor receives two complimentary tickets to the award banquet and ceremony, as well as mention in the evening’s program. FFD is a 501 c(3) charitable organization, so any donation is tax deductible.

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Ban corporations from farmland purchases, promote food security

By: Anthony Pahnke, FFD vice president and an associate professor of international relations at San Francisco State University.

Originally published in the Hill, 8/6/23

Food security is national security.

That has been one justification used by some legislators, from North Dakota to Florida, who have launched a series of initiatives that seek to curtail foreign purchases of farmland. At the federal level, similar legislation would scrutinize prospective land deals by Chinese interests looking to become involved in U.S. agriculture. And most recently, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed with a limitation placed on purchases by any actor from China, Russia, North Korea and Iran to 320 acres or that has a value of over $5 million.

But there’s a problem — corporations are let off the hook.

For instance, the number of properties in the United States owned by corporations and financial services firms rose three-fold from 2009 to 2022, as the market value of those properties increased from under $2 billion to over $14 billion during that same time. Meanwhile, land values are soaring,  rising by 14 percent from 2021 to 2022 alone. This, as 40 percent of farmland in projected to change hands over the next 20 years as farmers age out of the profession and new farmers struggle to replace them.

According to a 2022 survey of over 10,000 beginning producers conducted by the National Young Farmers Coalition, the principle challenge impeding the next generation of farmers is the high cost of land.

Addressing such dynamics makes the Farmland for Farmers Act, which was recently introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), so critical.

Particularly, this initiative would ban corporations – both foreign and domestic — from acquiring farmland. With respect to promoting food security, in seeking to check corporate power, this legislation would remove one critical, emerging force that is making accessing land next to impossible for our next generation of food producers.

Another concern with respect to food security, besides driving up land prices and making access difficult, is how corporate land purchases tend to favor the development of large-scale monocultural operations. Globally, this has been the trend, with firms around the world not buying land to start diversified operations for local food production, but to focus on planting and then harvesting thousands upon thousands of acres of commodity crops such as corn and soy.

Such investments, according to some investment firms themselves, are wise because they appear inflation-proof and safe with respect to generating returns. After all, people need to eat, and farmland is a finite resource — moreover, one that is disappearing as climate change triggers extreme weather events such as floods, which leads to erosion and removes land from production.

But what may be good for a corporation’s bottom line may not be what’s best for the country’s food system and our nation’s dietary needs.

While corn and soy end up as food, they usually appear in the form of processed foods, such as high fructose corn syrup that is used in soda, candy and fast food. These items end up composing some of the primary sources of nutrition for people who live in food deserts, where in rural and urban areas, access to grocery stores is limited, and many rely on convenient stores and sometimes gas stations for sustenance. Meanwhile, over 75 percent of soy harvested finds its way into animal feed — with approximately half of total U.S. production being exported.

These dynamics contribute to food insecurity, which according to the USDA, is the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways. In 2021, the USDA estimated that over 10 percent of American families were food insecure. More recently, with rising inflation and the end of pandemic benefits, others place that figure closer to 25 percent.

The Farmland for Farmers Act neither establishes a way for farmers to access land, nor directly supports local production. What the bill does, in banning corporations from purchasing farmland, is remove one factor that raises farmland prices and that promotes monoculture. As such, it improves the chances for beginning, small-scale producers to access land and produce food for themselves and their communities. Furthermore, the Act does provide for some flexibility, as some farmers decide to form corporations themselves as a way to mitigate risk among family members and pool resources. These entities are exempt from the proposal, as corporations with only over 25 members are subject to the ban.

Besides land, the Act also prohibits corporate entities from receiving federal assistance, which some large-scale corporations accessed as a result of Trump administration’s trade war with China. Such a stipulation assures that resources go to actual farmers, potentially to support locally focused, sustainable operations, which programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) finance.

In terms of the Farmland for Farmers Act’s path, it could find its way through Congress and become a stand-alone piece of legislation. It is more likely to become part of the Farm Bill, which is currently being drafted.

Corporate farmland investment is not the only driver of food insecurity, but it certainly doesn’t help. Meanwhile, all the attention given to blocking Chinese farmland acquisitions seem more like xenophobic hysterics meant to gin up the public than representing a true concern with promoting agriculture. So, if food security is really a worry, let’s give farmers a chance to produce food for their communities. Let’s ban corporate land investments before they dominate any more of our food and farm system.

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Solutions to Replace the Destructive International Neoliberal Agricultural System

By: George Naylor, FFD board member and IA organic farmer (with his wife Patti)

Originally published by Counterpunch, May 5th, 2023

I dream up new utopias every day. After all, life, harmonious with Mother Nature and our fellow human beings, becomes more precarious day by day because of multinational monopolies’ priorities for cheap labor and raw materials. We farmers see industrial agriculture destroy biodiversity right before our eyes and our rural communities lose so much viability. When we travel, we see metropolitan areas sprawl with traffic gridlock and where more and more of our rural citizens join growing populations of workers with low wages or no jobs at all.

Inevitably, we are all inclined to dream of utopias that would be so much better. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with that. Each one of us probably has a utopia that changes day by day as we learn more and more about the history of humanity and the deadly trajectory we find ourselves in. Sharing our utopias and the wisdom of Indigenous peoples can open new vistas and will be vital education in itself.

But do we have time to agree on an ultimate solution, and won’t change come one step at a time? Given the potential for imminent chaos and growing authoritarianism, maybe preserving our rights to free speech and association to be defended by all our fellow citizens becomes our first priority. After all, widespread debate must be the immune system of our democratic future. If “might makes right” becomes the norm, how much longer will it take before we can no longer live in fear and resume our quest to make our planet a peaceful and safe home for humanity?

I believe to make a difference and concretely get us on track we need to get everybody to see the big picture and to think BIG! Only a BIG movement, a global movement, one that gets bigger and bigger, can begin the march to a better future. As a long time family farmer and activist, I’m very familiar with one such global movement, La Via Campesina (LVC). LVC represents virtually millions of peasants, family farmers, farmworkers, indigenous people, and fishers around the globe intending to end the neoliberal straightjacket that commits all our lives and natural resources to the accumulation of wealth and power by multinational corporations. Members of La Via Campesina grasp the big picture and know intimately how the current international neoliberal economic and political system discounts the beauty of all human beings and cultures and the most basic ecological relationships we must rely on.

So I’ll now offer my proposal for our first steps for everybody on the planet to see the big picture and to think big. Si’ se puede! We must demand an international treaty to immediately end the destruction of pristine land, ecosystems, and homelands of indigenous peoples for any purpose, but especially for conversion to industrial agricultural production. At the same time that members of La Via Campesina suffer from low commodity prices and witness the usurpation of livestock production by corporations, we see on TV the Amazon rainforest being burned and bulldozed to produce more cheap corn and soybeans to feed corporate-owned livestock in inhumane feedlots and confinements (CAFOs). All the citizens of this planet will recognize this has to stop immediately!

We must also end neoliberal free trade and restore universal food sovereignty so countries can democratically design new agroecological farming systems to protect their natural resources, produce healthy culturally appropriate food supplies, restore economic opportunity, and create food security reserves. Progressive movements like La Via Campesina must regain the lead in abolishing free trade enforced by faceless bureaucrats at the WTO, or reactionary movements will co-opt this issue with inauthentic right-wing opportunistic politicians like is happening here in the United States.

Everybody must become familiar with the law of economic gravity. In a market economy, economic gravity is as real as the physical law of gravity. The law of economic gravity dictates that over time, the buying power of wages and commodity prices will fall, fall, fall–unless we establish economic democracy to create laws guaranteeing fair prices for farmers and living wages and safe conditions for workers. These living wages and fair prices must be paid by employers and buyers of commodities, livestock, and fruits and vegetables, rather than letting the government pick up the bill which would only be a subsidy to employers and food processors. The guaranteed prices and living wages must be indexed to inflation, or once again workers and farmers will experience the hardships of declining standards of living.

In the U.S., minimum wages haven’t been increased since 2009 and are the lowest in real dollars since 1945! Prices for commodities in the US were supported and indexed to inflation from 1941 to 1952 because of workable policies established during President Roosevelt’s New Deal. Farmers in the US have suffered under “market oriented policy” ever since, which explains the evolution of US agriculture from diversified farms into mono-cropping of corn and soybeans to furnish cheap feed to corporate livestock operations and cheap feedstocks to biofuels production. The system of fair prices, supply management to avoid wasteful over production, and food security reserves was called Parity. Thousands of Indian farmers protesting in recent years likewise demanded a minimum support price—MSP—which should be the demand of all farmers around the world. This also coincides with La Via Campesina’s Geneva Declaration, June 28, 2022: “We call upon governments to build public food stocks procured from peasants and small-scale food producers at a support price that is just, legally guaranteed and viable for the producers.”

Once food sovereignty and the guarantees of parity prices and parity wages are achieved, other reforms, including land reform, rural resettlement, local food systems, and reparations will be possible. We can make agroecology the holistic basis of all our agriculture. The public will enthusiastically support efforts to bring young people and landless farmworkers back to the land, recreating rural communities with opportunities and meaningful work to be the foundation of our societies.

So the demands of our giant movement will be simple and easily understood:

1) An international treaty requiring that every country stop, by whatever means necessary, the destruction of land, natural ecosystems, and indigenous homelands used to profit extractive industries including industrial agriculture.

2) The immediate end to free trade agreements and the tyranny of the WTO enforcing free trade rules designed to abolish nations’ sovereignty, particularly food, labor, and environmental sovereignty.

3) International commodity agreements to stop the relatively few major exporting countries from exporting commodities at disastrously low prices—disastrous for their own farmers, their environment, and, in fact, their own economies. US history shows how this can be achieved in every one of the major exporting countries by comprehensive parity policy which would include parity price supports (not government payments), marketing agreements, supply management, food security reserves, and import controls. Since Big Data, robotic farm machinery, and land speculators are bringing about the elimination of “big farmers” in these countries, these farmers will support our proposals of transformation so they can see a future that will end the treadmill of growing more and more for less and less.

We can count on the giant movement of La Via Campesina to demand an end to free trade which allows corporations to freely exploit our fellow citizens and the planet. We need to support La Via Campesina to create an even more giant movement keeping in mind the big picture and working for new standards of democratic governance. Today’s utopia might just be joining hands around the world in this vital struggle. Is there any other choice?

As we say in La Via Campesina, Globalize the Struggle! Globalize Hope!

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