To Fight the Pandemic, Potable Water Access, Fair Farm Prices, and Healthcare Protections & Public Support for Essential Farm/Food Workers Are A MUST!!


For Immediate Release

April, 17, 2020

Contacts:

Family Farm Defenders: John E. Peck 608- 345-3918 or Amy Mall: 224-764-1230

On April 17, Via Campesina’s International Day of Peasant Struggle, the US Food Sovereignty Alliance Midwest Region Declares:

To Fight the Pandemic, Potable Water Access, Fair Farm Prices, and Healthcare Protections & Public Support for Essential Farm/Food Workers Are A MUST!!

On April 17th grassroots activists around the globe celebrate the International Day of Peasant Struggle, originally launched by La Via Campesina, the world’s largest umbrella organization for family farmers, food service/farm workers, fishers, hunters, gatherers, herders, foresters, and indigenous peoples.

This April 17th Midwest members of the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) call upon all people to express their solidarity with those who are now providing essential sustenance to our communities in this time of global crisis, and to elevate our solidarity demands for a just transition to food sovereignty.

Access to clean water is a human right and even more crucial now with COVID-19 as we are told to shelter in place and practice good hygiene. Yet, this vital public good is being denied many people across the U.S. including thousands of families in Detroit, MI who are now struggling to survive WITHOUT running water! A nationwide pandemic is not the time to be imposing austerity measures that deny lower income people their basic survival needs. Many people are calling for a nationwide moratorium on utility shutoffs, and you can take action to support grassroots community activists demanding the same of Detroit Mayor, Mike Duggan. Their simple demand, turn the taps back on NOW! Detroit Mayor’s office: #313-224-3400 For more info, visit: https://frontlinedetroit.org

The COVID-19 pandemic has also sent shock waves through the nation’s food supply and is poised to trigger a fresh wave of pandemic outbreaks and farm bankruptcies as prices collapse and markets disappear. Dairy farmers are especially suffering – Wisconsin lost over 800 dairy farmers – one in ten – just last year! Farmers are being forced to DUMP MILK even as consumers find shortages of dairy products at the store. Some food banks are stepping up to purchase this milk on their own as they struggle to meet skyrocketing demand, but this is not a task that should be left to charity organizations alone. What farmers really need are fair prices, anti-trust action against the food giants, and supply management. Please contact your elected officials to demand that dairy farmers get an immediate emergency floor price for their milk ($20/100#), and that the USDA purchase surplus milk to redistribute through low income food assistance programs to those who are facing hunger. Congressional switchboard #202-224-3121 For more info, visit:

We express our solidarity with the Little Village Environmental Organization LVEJO and other residents of Chicago, who were victims of an unnecessary demolition of a power plant with state approval on Sun. April 12th which blanketed their community with toxic dust. We encourage allies to sign this petition:

https://www.change.org/p/state-of-illinois-implosion-devast…

We also express our solidarity with efforts in Chicago, IL and elsewhere to decarcerate those held behind bars in the interest of public health. The Cook County Jail has become the national prison epicenter for the Coranavirus outbreak, and that is not surprising, given that prisons are disease incubators and militate against social distancing. Non-violent offenders and others being held for lack of cash bail should be immediately released to reduce the spread of this pandemic. For more info:

https://chicagobond.org/…/statement-on-the-solidarity-cara…/

Migrant farm workers, meat packing and food service workers have been deemed ESSENTIAL in this crisis, but the vast majority of these mostly immigrant workers will be receiving NO stimulus checks from the COVID-19 outbreak. Yet, being on the frontline – harvesting vegetables, processing livestock, restocking shelves – they are among the most at risk of getting sick during this pandemic. The latest Midwest epicenter of Coranavirus cases is a now shuttered Smithfield pork processor in Sioux Falls, SD and outbreaks are anticipated in plants from North Carolina to Missouri to Colorado, as well as on farms with migrant workers across the Midwest, both H2A and undocumented. All those employed in the food/farm system should receive the same protective equipment and government assistance – regardless of citizenship status – and this includes being eligible for paid sick leave, SNAP, COVID-19 testing and health coverage, and workers compensation. Solidarity support for ongoing and anticipated Coronavirus outbreaks among these workers will be desperately needed, and can come through member USFSA organizations. To support these efforts, contact: estebanbartlett@gmail.com or call or text 502-415-1080.

The COVID-19 crisis has clearly shown the inherent weaknesses and fundamental injustices of our corporatized, globalized, industrialized food/farm system. But it has also revealed the path we need to take towards a more equitable and sustainable economic and social system. To make this happen, we will need to re-discover and re-invigorate the mutual aid ties and solidarity relationships that are already found and can be further fostered within our diverse communities.

As we embark on this journey together to build a better new world, the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance would also like to encourage everyone to reflect upon and share your own empowering stories of food sovereignty in action. To mark April 17th, the USFSA has just released the latest installment in its video series, featuring Jesús Vásquez and Dalma Cartagena Colón of La Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecología de Puerto Rico. You can watch it here:

http://usfoodsovereigntyalliance.org/food-sovereignty-stories-video/

We may be staying at home, but we are not silent! #StayHomeButNotSilent

Globalize the struggle, globalize hope!

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FAMILY FOOD PRODUCERS AND ANTI-HUNGER ADVOCATES URGE SUPPORT FOR LOCAL SUPPLY CHAINS IN NEXT STIMULUS BILL

Call for funds to directly invest in communities to build out critical infrastructure between local and regional food producers and families in need of healthy food

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 20, 2020

Communication Contact:

Jennifer Fahy (Farm Aid), jennifer@farmaid.org, (617) 320-9587,

Debbie DePoala (WhyHunger), debbie@whyhunger.org, (212) 629-8850

Heidi Anne Rogers (NAMA), heidi@namanet.org, (615) 900-6504

Siena Chrisman (NFFC), siena@nffc.net, phone: (917) 821-9631

Policy Contact: Rosanna Marie Neil (NAMA) rosanna@namanet.org, (202) 258-8656

Jordan Treakle (NFFC) jordan@nffc.net, (202) 543-5675

Alison Cohen (WhyHunger) alison@whyhunger.org, (718) 510-4989

Alicia Harvie (Farm Aid), alicia@farmaid.org, (484) 716-9502

Navina Khanna (HEAL), navina@healfoodalliance.org, (510) 393-4905

Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA), National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), Farm Aid, WhyHunger, HEAL Food Alliance, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) commended Congress for quick passage of an initial COVID-19 pandemic relief bill and called on legislators to take an additional step to not only address the current crisis but invest in a future that minimizes food insecurity and ensures the continuity of the essential services that farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and related food businesses provide. The organizations–made up of family farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food workers across rural, urban, and indigenous communities advocating for sustainable agriculture and fisheries, and food security–pointed to many recent innovations in regional farm, ranching, and fishing infrastructure that enable producers to provide healthy food to their local communities, especially those experiencing food insecurity, in the midst of this crisis and into the future by using their existing infrastructure to deliver local and minimally processed food to a growing number of individuals facing food insecurity.

Noreen Springstead, Executive Director of WhyHunger: “As the COVID-19 crisis reshapes life in America, it is essential that we protect everyone’s most basic human right to nutritious food. This crisis has exposed major weaknesses in the current consolidated supply chain, and the need to support community-scale production and distribution. In addition, it demonstrates the stark inequities that leave tens of millions in persistent hunger and poverty, and small-scale producers on the sidelines. Even before the pandemic, 37 million people were struggling to get food on the table for their families, while 4 out of 5 U.S. workers were living paycheck to paycheck. Millions of low-income people face chronic illness and health disparities making them even more susceptible to COVID-19. Lack of access has never been about a yield gap, it is a problem of distribution: Now is the time to more directly connect food producers who are losing income as local markets close to food access organizations who are in need of fresh nutritious food for current patrons and the growing numbers of those who may be facing food insecurity in the near future.”

While the current administration has provided more than $23 billion to food producers for the loss of export markets since 2018, the majority of small and medium-scale farmers, fishers, and ranchers have seen little of this relief. Many family farmers, ranchers, and fishermen have already been struggling through six years of farm prices below average costs of production. For producers reliant on local markets, the closure this week of thousands of school districts, restaurants, and farmers markets across the country has been another blow. NAMA, NFFC, Farm Aid, WhyHunger, HEAL Food Alliance, and IATP are proposing the following set of policies to support these and similar initiatives to ensure food access in communities around the country and economic security for workers across the food chain, now and in the coming uncertain economic times:

IMMEDIATE MEASURES TO SUPPORT ALL PRODUCERS

  • Ensure all farmers, ranchers, and fisherpeople are included in any broader stimulus or farm relief package, with specific prioritization of small and mid-sized operations, limited resource producers, and farms operated by farmers of color and tribal nations who are currently not well served by existing crop insurance, revenue programs, and Market Facilitation Program payments. 
  • The President and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture should declare a national disaster to unlock existing federal emergency and disaster funding and services for the farm sector.
  • Direct USDA to utilize the authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act related to income stabilization to make emergency disaster payments to family-scale farmers/ranchers/fishermen and independent agriculture and seafood businesses (that can demonstrate revenue losses attributable to coronavirus emergency measures) to donate and distribute fresh and minimally processed foods, at market rates, directly to individuals, families, food hubs, and schools
  • Provide unemployment benefits to farm, food and fish workers through small- and medium-scale businesses that can demonstrate inability to pay their workers because of coronavirus emergency measures.
  • Adapt all USDA credit, financing, funding and other program implementation requirements to meet the evolving demands of farmers, ranchers, and fishermen through measures such as extending deadlines, waiving cost-share requirements, ensuring effective outreach to producers, or other actions.

CREDIT, LOAN SERVICING, AND DEBT RELIEF FOR FARMERS AND RANCHERS

  • Local FSA and NRCS offices should aggressively use every tool available to keep farm families in their homes and on the land under current regulations.
  • Increase funding for direct and guaranteed loan programs and implement zero-interest operating loans for all existing family-scale farmers, fishermen, and ranchers, while ensuring that borrower rights for FSA direct loans are extended to all guaranteed borrowers.
  • Declare a two year national moratorium on farm foreclosures and require agriculture mediation for all future farm foreclosure proceedings after that point.
  • Forgive all federal direct and guaranteed loan debt and suspend debt payments (both principal and interest) for two years for all producers.
  • Direct USDA to utilize the authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act to shift $50 million in funding to ag mediation programs, as it did with trade assistance, including funding to prepare farmer borrowers for mediation.

BOLSTER EMERGENCY AND LOCAL & REGIONAL FOOD SYSTEMS POISED TO FEED COMMUNITIES

  • Exempt farmers’ markets from definitions of “public places” and categorize them as essential services in order to continue feeding local communities.
  • Expand funding for the Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks and allow program funds to cover direct sales from participating family-scale farms and boats.
  • Increase funding for USDA Local Agriculture Marketing Program to strengthen local food system resilience.
  • Provide additional funding of at least $100 million for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) to ensure tribes can adequately respond to food insecurity among their citizens.
  • Establish an Emergency Tribal Food Assistance Fund and enhance FDPIR for food, administration, and infrastructure, along with providing administrative flexibility.
  • Direct USDA to consider ways to allow dual participation in SNAP and FDPIR simultaneously for all those eligible.
  • Support small and very small meat and poultry processors by waiving all USDA inspector overtime costs for this fiscal year for plants with a USDA Grant of Inspection with less than 50 employees.

SYSTEM REFORM FOR AGRICULTURAL RESILIENCE

  • Institutionalize strategic public national food reserves for future crises.
  • Pass systemic fair pricing legislation, coupled with supply management, for food producers to strengthen rural economic resilience.
  • Support fair agricultural contracts, farmer/grower/rancher rights, and competitive markets by reissuing and finalizing the USDA Farmer Fair Practice Rules.
  • Increase transparency in the food system and allow eaters to support American farmers, ranchers, and fishermen by reinstating and expanding Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).
  • Prohibit crisis profiteering and corporate consolidation by enacting an immediate moratorium on acquisitions and mergers in the food and agriculture sector and enforce antitrust laws.

Shannon Eldredge, NAMA board president, said, “We need a disaster relief package that addresses the work local and regional food producers are doing during this crisis both to stay afloat and to secure food access for those in need. We ask Congress to include funding for fishermen that are donating seafood in HR 6201 that was just passed to mitigate the loss of product that would have otherwise occurred if we were restricted to selling to institutions like schools and universities or direct market channels. Local and regional seafood producers and seafood donation should have been considered by Congress in HR 6201, so we’re asking Congress not to forget about us and what we can offer in this time of crisis. We are poised to take these losses and turn them into gains for those facing food insecurity.”

Jim Goodman, Wisconsin dairy farmer and NFFC board president, said, “In this uncertain time, Congress can provide some certainty to food producers, the families they feed, and rural communities across the country for the days to come. To recover from a five-year farm crisis and cope with the coming market loss from the coronavirus, farmers need fair prices and farm and food workers need living wages, sick leave, and fair immigration policies. To shore up our communities for the future, we must invest in small producers and short supply chains.”

Jared Auerbach, Chief Executive Officer of Red’s Best, said, “We don’t have to rebuild the food system to look exactly like it did before it fell apart this week. We have a unique opportunity to recreate the world the way it should be, not necessarily the way it was. We have the people in place to create a sustainable, health conscious, food secure world for all of our people, but the system will need immediate liquidity to get rolling again.” Red’s Best represents the kind of food businesses and producers who are ready and willing to begin a course of action that would feed communities at no cost to consumers, but this plan will require assistance from the government. 

Alicia Harvie, Farm Aid’s Advocacy and Farmer Services Director, stated, “Family farmers and ranchers provide essential services we all need to navigate this disaster caused by COVID19. We call on Congress to provide immediate and bold action that ensures farmers and ranchers can feed their communities. Many family farmers, ranchers, and fishermen have already been struggling through six years of farm prices below their cost of production. Now, more than ever, we cannot afford to lose them from the land. Strengthening our farmers and ranchers is an investment in the essential infrastructure we need now, and an investment in the resiliency we need to face future challenges.”

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Fore even more specific policy proposals continue reading below:

COVID-19 STIMULUS PACKAGE FOR THE FOOD SYSTEM

Through no fault of their own, farmers, ranchers, fishermen and all food producers are facing a crisis unlike any they have ever seen, encountering new threats to their production and markets sparked by COVID-19 while they endure a multi-year slump in prices for their goods, volatile trade disputes, frequent natural disasters, and climate disruption. What’s clear is that no farmer should lose their farm and no fisherman should lose their boat because of the crisis sparked by COVID-19, and farm, fish and food workers should likewise not lose their livelihoods.

In stark contrast to the Administration’s approach to a “trade bailout” through the Market Facilitation Program, Congress and the federal government need to act decisively to ensure that all farmers, ranchers, and fishermen are included in any broader stimulus package related to COVID-19, particularly small and midsized operations, limited resource producers, farms operated by farmers of color, and tribal nations who have often fallen through the cracks of federal farm policy. This will require a multi-faceted approach that invests in the innovative potential of food producers, ensures fair livelihoods for all who have a hand in bringing food to American families, offers meaningful debt relief and appropriate credit to meet the demands of the moment, and ensures a more resilient food system for producers, workers and consumers alike.

Time is of the essence.

We call on the President, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and the Secretary of Commerce to declare a national disaster in both the agriculture and seafood sectors to unlock existing federal emergency and disaster funding and services, and enable Congress to appropriate further relief funds for the farm and seafood sector.1 In addition, federal agencies must aggressively use every tool available to keep families in their homes, on the land, and on the water.

Congress must do the following in any stimulus package enacted to address the COVID-19 crisis:

ENSURE A FAIR LIVELIHOOD FOR FARMERS, RANCHERS, FISHERMEN AND ALL FARM, FISH AND FOOD WORKERS.

● Establish an emergency payment program for farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food producers who can demonstrate revenue losses due to COVID-19 emergency measures, including producers who are sourcing local and regional markets and sourcing directly to individuals, schools, local institutions, and food hubs.

● Forgive all federal direct and guaranteed loan debt and suspend debt payments (both principal and interest) for two years for all producers.

● Suspend vessel loan payments (both principal and interest) to private lenders for two years.

● Increase funding for direct and guaranteed loans, maintaining existing loan limits.

● Waive the eligibility restriction for new FSA loans based on past debt write-down or other loss to the agency.

● Waive the prohibition on refinancing of other debt with FSA direct loans.

● Implement zero-interest for all FSA direct loans and utilize the Interest Assist program to buy-down guaranteed loan interest to zero percent.

● Require that all borrower rights provided for FSA direct borrowers be extended to all guaranteed loan borrowers.

● Adapt all USDA and DOC credit, funding and program implementation requirements to meet the evolving needs of food producers through measures such as extending deadlines, waiving cost-share requirements, ensuring effective outreach, or other actions.

● Provide unemployment benefits to farm, food and fish workers through businesses that can demonstrate inability to pay their workers and contractors because of COVID-19 emergency measures.

● Provide emergency funding for businesses that can demonstrate revenue losses to offer paid sick days to farm, fish and food workers who provide essential services during the COVID-19 crisis.

● Establish an immediate moratorium on work permit restrictions for guest workers and migrant workers who have been laid off or terminated.

● Provide access to free COVID-19 testing and medical care to all farm, fish and food workers, regardless of immigration status and size of workplace, including workers on H-2A or migrant worker visas, and eliminate penalties for all workers who become ill for inability to complete a contract due to the illness.

BOLSTER LOCAL & REGIONAL FOOD SYSTEMS POISED TO FEED COMMUNITIES

● Quadruple the budget, loosen barriers to application, and abandon all eligibility and access restrictions to SNAP and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs.

● Establish an immediate moratorium on the Public Charge Rule which would disqualify immigrants who receive public assistance from obtaining permanent residency status or U.S. citizenship.

● Exempt farmers’ and seafood markets and local food hubs from definitions of “public places” and categorize them as essential services, eligible for emergency assistance funding for operations and food safety training and materials, to continue feeding local communities.

● Double funding for the Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks and allow program funds to cover direct sales from participating family-scale farms and boats.

● Increase funding for USDA Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP) by $200,000,000 and temporarily waive cost-share requirements to strengthen local food system resilience.

● Bolster food security for tribal nations by: 1) Providing additional funding of at least $100 million for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) and enhancing FDPIR for food, administration, and infrastructure, along with providing administrative flexibility; 2) Establishing an Emergency Tribal Food Assistance Fund; and 3) Directing USDA to consider ways to allow dual participation in SNAP and FDPIR simultaneously.

ENACT SYSTEMIC REFORM TO BUILD RESILIENCE FOR ALL FOOD PRODUCERS, WORKERS AND EATERS

● Strengthen rural economic resilience and prevent food shortages by establishing supply management programs, a parity pricing system, and strategic food reserves that ensure producers and workers receive a living wage and consumers have access to high-quality and stable agricultural goods and seafood.

● Prohibit crisis profiteering and corporate consolidation by enacting an immediate moratorium on mergers and acquisitions in the seafood and food & agriculture sectors and enforce antitrust laws.

● Support fair agricultural contracts, producers’ rights, and competitive markets by reissuing and finalizing the USDA Farmer Fair Practice Rules.

● Increase transparency in the food system and allow eaters to support American farmers, ranchers, and fishermen by reinstating and expanding mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat, dairy, and seafood.

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Save Our Great Lakes – New T-Shirt Available!

Thanks to artist, Susan Simensky Bietila, and in solidarity with our many native allies fighting corporate resource extraction across the Great Lakes including the proposed Back Forty Mine on the Menominee River between Northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Family Farm Defenders is proud to make available this t-shirt featuring our beloved sturgeon – an ancient indigenous fish whose future is now in doubt. These Made in USA light blue T-shirts are $20 each (+5 for postage) and come in S, M, L, XL, XXL sizes. Portion of the proceeds will go towards the No Back Forty Mine struggle. If you wish to order more than five t-shirts, please check with us about a wholesale discount. You can pay by check or purchase by making the appropriate donation amount via credit card on our website. Thanks for protecting the Great Lakes!

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Twenty Years Later the “Spirit of Seattle” Lives On! – How the Food Sovereignty Movement Helped Bring Down the World Trade Organization (WTO)

By: John E. Peck, executive director, Family Farm Defenders

La Via Campesina contingent in Seattle to take on the WTO!

“This is what democracy looks like!” – that was but one of the many chants heard on the streets of numerous cities during the recent Global Climate Change Strike – a slogan that originated on the streets of Seattle almost two decades ago. When the images and voices of 50,000+ people shutting down a global convergence of wealthy elites rippled across media outlets in late Nov. 1999, the “Battle of Seattle” caught many by surprise. Corporate free trade apologists were quick to disparage the protesters as part of a misguided “anti-globalization” movement, apparently unaware that the forces behind the direct action had been cultivating north-south solidarity for quite awhile – a new more powerful form of globalized resistance from below. Family farmers/fishers, migrant farm/food workers, and indigenous communities were critical to this grassroots victory – in particular, La Via Campesina (LVC) and its many U.S. allies such as Family Farm Defenders (FFD) and the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC). It was in such epic struggle that the seeds of food sovereignty found fertile ground.

I was among many who helped organize this historic encounter that brought together a vast array of radical environmentalists, labor unions, anarchists, global justice advocates, and – of course, family farmers, farm/food workers, and other supporters of global food sovereignty. In fact, my very first night in Seattle – Mon. Nov. 29th – I was able to link arms with Vandana Shiva outside the corporate-sponsored WTO welcome celebration. This action was in part organized by Jubilee 2000, a largely faith-based grassroots campaign to expose and eliminate odious debts that had come onto the scene at the huge protest surrounding the G8 Summit in Birmingham, Scotland in 1998. In Seattle, the citizen blockade meant many elites were not able to get to the kick-off “cocktail party”, and all those uneaten hors d’ouevres were later dumpster dived to feed hungry protesters at the convergence space.

Family Farm Defenders in Seattle to Challenge the WTO!


Earlier in the day I had caught up with John Kinsman and Francis Goodman of Family Farm Defenders, Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, Ronnie Cummins of the Pure Food Campaign (later the Organic Consumers Association), Dr. Ridgely A. Mumin Muhammed of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, and other food sovereignty activists outside the downtown McDonalds for a slow food protest picnic. This was the first time I met José Bové, the iconic farmer activist with Confédération Paysanne who had recently used his tractor to “dismantle” another McDonalds in France.   Bové had somehow managed to smuggle several blocks of his own Rocquefort cheese through U.S. Customs and shared it with the crowd – a wholesome alternative to the junk food or “la malbouffe” as Bové described what was being served inside. Activists with LVC and NFFC had met earlier to plant trees in a Seattle park, and farmer delegates from over 30 countries would continue to build cross border solidarity at various teach-ins and protest actions throughout the rest of the week. At each such event the pungent smell of smuggled Rocquefort was detectable – some folks had saved their souvenir cheese!  Within an hour of the protest picnic, the Black Bloc came through, and this McDonalds was also promptly “dismantled.”  The Black Bloc would take out many other corporate targets – Bank of America, Starbucks, Warner Bros, Niketown, Gap, Old Navy to name but a few – over the course of the next few days.

Long before many of us arrived in Seattle, backdoor deals had already been made.  Most notably, the AFL-CIO had promised government officials that their Tues. Nov. 30th post labor rally parade through Seattle’s downtown would be used to siphon off protesters from participating in the actions to physically shutdown the WTO meeting that were already planned by the Direct Action Network (DAN).  But this co-optation strategy soon unraveled as labor activists broke through the “peace police” to join their comrades that had been clogging the streets around the Convention Center since 6:00 am that morning. Among the many militant unions that defied the “labor bosses” in Seattle were the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), the Steelworkers, and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). By 10:00 am Seattle police had already launched their first unprovoked attacks against peaceful protesters occupying 6th Avenue, including myself. Word quickly spread through indymedia that the “Battle for Seattle” had begun.

Judi Bari was not in Seattle (she had passed away in 1997 from a long struggle with cancer), but the fruits of her organizing work with the Redwoods Summer Campaign was evident among many of the Earth First! and the IWW activists who did show up for the protest.  I was lucky enough to have met Judi Bari while I was a student organizer at Reed College in Portland, OR back in the late 1980s, along with another inspiration ecofeminist, Starhawk, who was in the streets of Seattle.  Many of the young activists who traveled with me from the Midwest to Seattle had been inspired by EF! direct action protests against the Crandon Mine in northern WI in 1997, as well as the Minnehaha Free State resistance to the Highway 55 bypass in Minneapolis, MN in 1998. The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) – with lots of heavy lifting from Tom Goldtooth – convened a whole series of solidarity events between native activists and their allies in Seattle. Among the indigenous participants were members of the U’Wa from Colombia, resisting ecocide at the hands of Occdental Petroleum and the rest of the violent fossil fuel industrial complex.

The mutual enemy that brought so many family farmers, farm/food workers, fisher folk, and indigenous activists to the Battle of Seattle was industrial agribusiness and neoliberal capitalism. Thankfully, the grassroots resistance inheritance we brought with us had even deeper historic roots, like the tallgrass prairies and old growth forests that pre-dated settler colonialism. The 1970s farm crisis that swept across the Heartland had convinced many rural folks to “raise less corn and more hell” – as did their populist ancestors a century before – and prompted the American Agriculture Movement (AAM) to organize a massive tractorcade demanding an end to farm foreclosures and a return to parity pricing that shut down Washington DC for weeks. In MN in the 1980s the “Bolt Weevils” inflicted millions of dollars in damage to unwanted high voltage powerlines, inspiring Dana Lyons’ EF! folksong classic, “Turn of the Wrench.”  Flagrant price rigging and anti-trust violations by the dairy giants in the 1990s prompted WI farmers to again dump milk – as their grandparents did back in 1933 – and stomp on blocks of Kraft Velveeta outside Gov. Tommy Thompson’s office in the State Capitol.

Back on the streets of Seattle the tide had already turned by noon on Tues. Nov. 29th with official cancellation of the WTO’s opening session – not enough delegates could reach the venue. Authorities had exhausted their cache of pepper spray and tear gas and scrambled to dispatch a captain by plane to a military weapons depot in Casper, WY to resupply. Seattle firefighters had refused to turn fire hoses on their union brothers and sisters.  Hundreds of protesters and bystanders had been arrested and soon clogged detention centers (often for absurd reasons such as speaking to media or driving a taxi), but more activists simply took their place in blockading streets and impeding WTO delegates. Radical cheerleaders kept morale high, while Food Not Bombs delivered sustenance. Hip Hop artists from South Central LA were among those reclaiming public space, blasting “TKO the WTO” from a mobile sound vehicle courtesy of Alli Chaggi-Starr with Art and Revolution. By 3 pm Seattle’s mayor had thrown in the towel, declaring a state of emergency, a blanket curfew, as well as a fifty block wide “no protest” zone.  Pres. Clinton’s arrival on Wed. Dec. 1st to address the WTO meeting, along with a couple hundred National Guard troops, could hardly extinguish the raging dumpster fire.

Famous Protest Image from the Battle of Seattle!

More importantly, this “street heat” was being acutely felt inside the residual WTO negotiations. Delegates from the Global South looked outside the convention center windows and could see for themselves that public opinion in the U.S. was not as monolithic in favor of the “free market” as they had been told by corporate apologists. Thinly veiled threats of economic retaliation from US Sec. of State, Madeline Albright, and US Trade Rep., Charlene Barshefsky, hardly helped, and ultimately many delegates simply walked out. As a post WTO collapse press release from the Organization of African Unity (OAU) stated, they were fed up with “being marginalized and generally excluded on issues of vital importance for our peoples and their future.”

On Thurs. Dec. 2nd food sovereignty and anti-biotech groups took to the streets again in one of the more tranquil marches of the “Battle of Seattle” with nary a police officer in sight. Protesters gathered at a farmers market to distribute organic apples and then marched to a rally outside the Seattle headquarters of Cargill. A new “solidarity in struggle” identity was emerging, and I will never forget being with John Kinsman as he proudly proclaimed he was a peasant, too, as we marched together with LVC colleagues from Mexico, South Korea, South Africa, and India.

The fundamental demand of protesters in Seattle was a moratorium to WTO negotiations. Some went further, calling for abolition of the WTO itself, along with the other two post WWII  “Horsemen of the Apocalypse” – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.  Premised upon neoliberal capitalism, they were beyond any reform. Their mere existence violates food sovereignty in so many ways – from forcing countries to trade food against their will, privatizing the commons (water, seeds, land), and denying people the right to know where their food came from and how it was produced, as well as weaponizing hunger as a tool of state terrorism. As one LVC protester in Seattle remarked, “you cannot put sugar coating on a rotten pie.” After the meeting collapse, LVC sent a tongue and cheek “thank you” to the WTO for helping to unify small farmers worldwide: “During the weeklong work in Seattle, we have now succeeded in globalizing the struggle and globalizing our hopes.” Thanks to the “Spirit of Seattle” the concept of food sovereignty was also popularized among grassroots activists and has now “trickled up” to radically transform future U.S. debates about food/farm issues.

Speaking before the American Sociological Society Meeting in DC in 2016, Filipino academic and activist, Walden Bello, reflected back on those historic days in late 1999: “In Seattle, ordinary women and men made truth real with collective action that discredited an intellectual paradigm that had served as the ideological warden of corporate control.” The Battle of Seattle was a critical inflection point in a growing global grassroots movement, bridging generations of seasoned activists and weaving together diverse resistance struggles. When West Coast longshore workers arrived in Madison, WI in March 2011 to support the “Cheddar Revolution” against Gov. Walker’s union busting austerity budget this was no accident – such solidarity was crafted in Seattle back in Nov. 1999. When Midwestern family farmers traveled to Standing Rock, ND in 2016 to support indigenous water protectors in their struggle against tar sands pipelines and extreme fossil fuel extraction this was no accident– such solidarity was nurtured in Seattle back in Nov. 1999. Twenty years on, the “Spirit of Seattle” continues to inform and inspire many activists today, and clearly points the way to another world being possible.

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Family Farm Defenders 2019 Fair Trade Holiday Giftboxes Now Available!

Just “Say Cheese” Holiday Gift Boxes!

Family Farm Defenders is proud to once again offer many giftboxes you can send to your family and friends over the holiday season. We are excited to offer award-winning Cedar Grove Cheeses along with other delicious products – artisanal Potters crackers, NorthStar bison sausage, organic Just Coffee, Native Harvest White Earth wild rice, Honey Acres mustard, Tietz Family heirloom popcorn, and Driftless Organic sunflower oil – all of which are “fairly traded” and guarantee their small scale producers a living wage. By choosing Family Farm Defenders Holiday Gift Boxes, you can help insure family farmers receive a parity price for their hardwork. This holiday season why not just “say cheese” and help support Family Farm Defenders!

FFD-1 Cream Puff Special:

Three pounds of “creamy” Cedar Grove cheeses that will melt in your mouth: Farmers, Monterey Jack and Butterkäse. We’ve also included some Tietz Family heirloom popcorn, as well as Driftless Organic sunflower oil. Yummy! $50 total – includes shipping and handling.

FFD-2 Spicy Cheese Special:

Three pounds of “spicy” Cedar Grove cheeses that will tingle your tongue: tomato basil; pepper jack; and garlic dill. We’ve also included some Honey Acres hot mustard, as well as Potters artisanal crackers. Delicious! $50 total – includes shipping and handling.

FFD-3 Something Wild Special

Three pounds of pepper jack, swiss, and smoked cheddar from Cedar Grove Cheese, along with Native Harvest White Earth wild rice, NorthStar Bison Sausage and Potter’s artisanal crackers. A real crowd pleaser! $75 total – includes shipping and handling.

FFD-4 Holiday Festival Special

We’ve put all sorts of good stuff in this box to kick off your holidays! Three pounds of mild, medium, and sharp cheddar from Cedar Grove Cheese, NorthStar bison sausage, Potter’s artisanal crackers, organic french roast Just Coffee, Native Harvest White Earth wild rice, Tietz Family heirloom popcorn, as well as Driftless Organic sunflower oil. MMM super good! $100 total – includes shipping and handling.

Make Your Very Own Box!

Just give us a call (#608-260-0900) or send an email: familyfarmdefenders@yahoo.com if you would to customize your own box by mixing and matching whatever combination of items mentioned above. We are more than happy to accommodate your holiday gift giving!

Here is an order form you can download: 2019FFDHolidayGiftBoxOrderForm

Here is another version of the order form, as well:

2019 Family Farm Defenders Fair Trade Holiday Giftbox Order Form:

Order #1 Send the following giftbox:_________________________________

To: Name: __________________

Address: ______________________________________________________

City: ____________________ State: ____ Zipcode: _____________

Holiday message to include in giftbox:

Order #2 Send the following giftbox:_________________________________

To: Name: __________________

Address: ______________________________________________________

City: ____________________ State: ____ Zipcode: _____________

Holiday message to include in giftbox:

Order #1 Send the following giftbox:_________________________________

To: Name: __________________

Address: ______________________________________________________

City: ____________________ State: ____ Zipcode: _____________

Holiday message to include in giftbox:

Please send a check with this order form (made out to “Family Farm Defenders”) to: Family Farm Defenders, P.O. Box 1772, Madison, WI 53701

You can also send giftbox orders to: familyfarmdefenders@yahoo.com and pay via credit card through Mighty Cause on our website: www.familyfarmdefenders.org

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