gipsa decision favors big ag, harms family farmers

posted October 31, 2017

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photo credit: USDA/flickr

The USDA recently made their final decision on GIPSA – to pull the pending Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rules designed to level the playing field for poultry and livestock producers. These rules have been languishing since the 2008 farm bill, and today’s action firmly places this administration on the side of large meatpackers and poultry processors, not family farmers.

After years of negotiation and analysis, the rule would have protected contract livestock growers from the retaliation they have suffered after exposing financial hardship and ruin caused by large-scale poultry companies and meatpackers. If there was any hope that Secretary Perdue and this administration would stand up for small- and medium-sized family farmers and the rural communities they support, that has been dashed now.

Click HERE to read GIPSA’s full statement.


monsanto sues arkansas over dicamba ban

posted October 28, 2017

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credit: flickr/Alternative Heat

In the most recent development in the dicamba scandal Monsanto have filed a lawsuit in Arkansas’ Pulaski County Circuit Court, suing state regulators for blocking dicamba for the 2018 growing season. The herbicide is controversial to say the least, increasing yields in resistant crops but simultaneously killing all other life in the region through drift which subsequently caused serious conflict between neighbours. Monsanto’s argument basically claims that the states ban is depriving Arkansas’ farmers. However many farmers are compelled to use the weedkiller only in a bid to keep up with their neighbours. It’s a race to the toxic bottom.

“The weeds have become so difficult to manage that some farmers don’t see any way that they control them without this,” says Bob Hartzler, a weed specialist at Iowa State University. “If you feel that way then you’re probably willing to take on some higher-level risk.”

Dicamba was introduced to the market because Monsanto’s previous money maker RoundUp has become ineffective against many weeds as they have adapted over decades of exposure. This line of argumentation in favour of adoption of the even more toxic dicamba isn’t particularly convincing as far as I am concerned irrespective of Monsanto’s safety claims.

Unlike glyphosate… dicamba comes with a major liability: it tends to combust in conditions of high heat. That’s why no one has really used it, even though the chemical has been around for years—until Monsanto’s low-volatility version promised to change that. But some evidence suggests that XtendiMax may be more unstable than Monsanto acknowledges. There have been widespread reports of crop damage—as many as 1,000 in Arkansas this year so far, according to the Associated Press. Conventional (non-modified) soybeans are extremely sensitive to dicamba, and farmers are alleging that their fields are being damaged by their neighbors’ applications.

To read the full article click HERE.


lessons from a culinary workforce development program

posted October 27, 2017

credit: Berkely Food Institute

Berkeley Food Institute Community Engagement and Leadership Fellow and Sociology PhD student Carmen Brick, writes about her experience with workforce development programs for the BFI blog. From the outset, Carmen was aware of the perceived issues with workforce development programmes which are often criticized on the basis that they teach soft rather than hard skills and that they take financial advantage of those without access to other options. Yet Carmen observed another side of the situation from her work with those in the Kitchen of Champions program.

what I observed was that soft skills “training”—ranging from employment services such as crafting a resume to discussing short- and long-term goals and strategies to overcome barriers—was welcomed by many program participants who wanted more support in remaking their lives.

Carmen’s perspective on these programs is interesting and considered but most significantly she recognises that they are not perfect and that there is much room for improvement, but also potential for transforming these programs into resource that can encourage local community empowerment and food justice saying:

Given this potential, advocates and researchers focus upon food justice must learn more about the outcomes of these programs and their ability to contribute to fair employment in the food system.

To read the full article, click HERE


support farmworkers – boycott wendy’s

posted October 18, 2017

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credit: coalition of immokalee workers/vimeo

As part of today’s Food Week action, support farmworkers by delivering a manager’s letter to a Wendy’s near you.

Dear Wendy’s Manager,

As a Wendy’s consumer and supporter of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) groundbreaking Fair Food Program, I urge Wendy’s to join with the CIW and the Florida tomato industry as they work to eliminate the forced labor, poverty wages and other human rights abuses historically faced by Florida farmworkers who harvest your tomatoes.

For decades, Florida’s farmworkers endured poverty wages and daily violations of their basic rights in order to harvest the food on our plates:

• Stagnant, sub-poverty wages: Florida tomato harvesters are still paid by the piece. The prevailing piece rate today is 50 cents for every 32-lbs of tomatoes a worker picks, a rate that has remained virtually unchanged since 1980. As a result of that stagnation, a worker today must pick nearly 2.5 tons of tomatoes to earn minimum wage in a typical 10-hour workday. Most farmworkers today earn less than $12,000 a year.

• Absence of fundamental labor rights: Florida farmworkers have no right to overtime pay, no benefits and no right to organize in order to improve these conditions.

• Modern-day slavery: In the most extreme cases, workers have been forced to labor against their will through the use or threat of physical violence.

The good news is that a new day has dawned in the fields. The Fair Food Program, an historic partnership among farmworkers, tomato growers, and eleven leading food corporations is building a new tomato industry that advances the human rights and dignity of farmworkers while strengthening the sustainability of the entire industry. By joining the Fair Food Program, corporations require more humane working conditions from their Florida tomato suppliers, pay a small premium to help support those improved conditions, and commit to purchase exclusively from growers who meet the Program’s higher standards. These commitments are monitored and audited by the Fair Food Standards Council, a nonprofit third party organization, to ensure accountability and transparency.

Of the five largest fast food corporations in the country — McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell (Yum! Brands), and Wendy’s — Wendy’s is the only one not participating in the Fair Food Program. Sustainable restaurant leader Chipotle Mexican Grill also participates.

Wendy’s has responded to consumers’ calls to join the Fair Food Program by saying “[W]e pay a premium to our tomato suppliers in Florida, and expect them to take care of their employees. All of our Florida tomato suppliers participate in the Fair Food Program.”

The truth is, whatever premium Wendy’s may be paying is not the Fair Food Premium, it is not being monitored by the Fair Foods Standards Council, and it is not going to address farmworkers’ grinding poverty. Wendy’s statement that its suppliers belong to the Fair Food Program is both unverifiable and meaningless because Wendy’s, unlike its competitors in the Fair Food Program, does not have to, and does not, tell anyone who its tomato suppliers are. Nor does Wendy’s have to suspend its purchases from any participating grower found out of compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct. These are the dual linchpins that give the Program its teeth, and Wendy’s simply is not doing its part.

The Fair Food Program is a proven model, recognized by both the White House and the United Nations, that offers Wendy’s a tremendous opportunity to become, without incurring any competitive disadvantage, part of the human rights advances in Florida’s fields.

As a Wendy’s consumer, I look forward to your company working with the CIW and with Florida’s tomato growers through the Fair Food Program to ensure human rights for Florida farmworkers who harvest the tomatoes used in your restaurants.

For more information, please contact the CIW at 239-657-8311 or workers@ciw-online.org.

Sincerely

You can download, a copy of this letter to print and mail HERE.


book: land justice: re-imagining land, food, and the commons

posted October 17, 2017

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credit: Friedrich-Karl Mohr

“Hunger and poverty are perpetuated by undemocratic systems of power. Now, this great new resource lifts the veil hiding the history of dispossession and unequal land access in the US.” – Frances Moore Lappé

Land access is the primary barrier for young farmers today. Ensuring access for young farmers who are passionate about the production of healthy food that helps rather than harms the planet is critical in order to address and resolve the injustices in the food system that are at the root of so many of the problems in society.

The authors of this new book Justine M. Williams and Eric Holt-Giménez begins with the history of colonialism in the southwestern US. It includes information from the important leaders within the food system With prefaces from leaders in the food justice and family farming movements, the book opens with a look at the legacies of white-settler colonialism in the southwestern United State which can be largely characterised by widespread enclosure  – and often subsequent depletion – of the rural commons through a process of privatization, that has endured until today. The history of this agricultural system is marred by racism, industrialization and destruction of ecosystems, and has concentrated much of the prosperity to be found in the food system in the hands of the few and powerful.

This book recognises what we have known for a long time: In order to move forward and achieve an equitable, sovereign and sustainable agricultural system for all, all of the players in the food movement must come together to demand land justice.

You can buy the book HERE.

 


listen: episode 3 of the just food podcast

posted October 6, 2017

Listen to the latest episode of The Just Food Podcast. The 6-part podcast series covers a range of topics aimed at cultivating justice and health. They are produced by the Berkeley Food Institute in partnership with the UC Berkeley Advanced Media Institute at the Graduate School of Journalism. Episode 3 tells the story of the nation’s first sugar-sweetened beverage tax which came into law in 2014 in Berkeley. It examines how the tax and the revenue it generates are shaping the health of Berkeley residents today.

Listen to the other podcasts in the series HERE 


save the date: october 17th for the 2017 food sovereignty prize.

posted October 4, 2017

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The Food Sovereignty Prize honors grassroots organizations who are challenging corporate control of the food system. This years honorees of the ninth annual Food Sovereignty Prize are Zimbabwe Small Holder Organic Farmers’ Forum (ZIMSOFF) ,and the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA). The prize giving ceremony takes place on October 17, 2017 and is streamed live online at 12PM EDST.

This year’s honorees were selected for their success in promoting food sovereignty, agroecology, and social justice to ensure that all people have access to fresh, nutritious food produced in harmony with the planet. Lauded as an alternative to the World Food Prize, the Food Sovereignty Prize champions real solutions to hunger and is recognized by social movements, activists, and community-based organizations around the world. This year’s honorees are tenacious in their resistance to the corporate control of our food system, including false solutions of biotechnology that damage the planet while exacerbating poverty and hunger.

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watch: island earth

posted July 11, 2017

To feed all the humans on the planet, we are going to have to grow as much food in the next 35 years as we have grown since the beginning of civilization.

Shocked when he found out that chemical companies were using Hawaii as the testing ground for their GMO crops, director Cyrus Sutton decided to take action. This film documents the three year journey that he embarked on. Island Earth tells the stories of Malia Chun, Cliff Kapono, and Dustin Barca – three Hawaiians seeking to make Hawaii a beacon of hope for an uncertain future.  Their journey takes us from GMO corn fields to traditional loi patches in order to uncover the modern truths and ancient values and wisdom that will help us to halt our unsustainable depletion of the earth’s natural resources and to discover how we can feed the world without destroying the planet.

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sowing the seeds of food sovereignty.

posted June 28, 2017

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The mission of A Growing Culture is “supporting farmers to reshape the food system” to ensure that the future of agriculture is just, sustainable  and supportive of farmers. We are very excited about the wide range of resources they have to support farmers, not least their much anticipated Library for Food Sovereignty. The library, due for release in the late summer or early autumn of 2017, will include stories of farmer led innovations from around the world, local knowledge, grassroots farming movements and technical and environmental resources.

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watch: practicing for when peace breaks out on the latest our land

posted April 28, 2017

This latest episode of Our Land takes place at the intersection of farming, faith, and political activism. Take a walk with us through farms formed by the Catholic Workers Association. “A friend calls it practicing for when peace breaks out, because, really, if we were to live in a world filled with peace, we wouldn’t be able to live with the resource extraction that’s happening.”

See the (dare we say charming?) sisters at Sinsinawa Mound in Wisconsin who are sharing land parcels– “we hold the land in common”– with young farmers to grow food for their community.

And be ready to get your goosebumps on and go forth into the world inspired.