Farmers Challenge Monsanto CEO’s Definition of “Success”


“EPA and USDA must stand up for farmers, their families and rural America. Drift from dicamba is a growing threat to our security and prosperity. Our leaders must act with urgency to take Monsanto’s seeds and pesticides off the market,” said Dena Hoff, a diversified Montana farmer and vice president of National Family Farm Coalition.
According to state departments of agriculture, 2,200 soybean farmers in at least twenty states have already reported crop damage from dicamba drift this season — which scientists have linked to the introduction of Monsanto’s new dicamba-resistant seed line, “Roundup Ready 2 Xtend.” Fruit and vegetable growers neighboring dicamba-treated fields, as well as cotton and soybean growers planting non-resistant seeds, are particularly susceptible to crop damage or loss through dicamba drift. Organic farmers whose products have been contaminated by dicamba risk also losing their certification and markets.
Last week, Monsanto CEO Robb Fraley issued a press release that minimized farmer concerns and painted an inaccurate picture. “We are hearing that the overwhelming majority of farmers using Monsanto’s low-volatility dicamba product, XtendiMax® herbicide with VaporGrip® technology, this year are experiencing tremendous success,” he said.
However, Missouri farmer Wes Shoemyer disagreed. “Robb Fraley’s definition of success is totally different from mine, as he gives no thought to the farmers who are ill-affected. My neighbor whose spray damaged my crops waited to spray until the wind was in the opposite direction, but [the dicamba] moves. It wasn’t his fault, it was the technology’s fault. This is what happens when your seed company is also the chemical company. Monsanto does not listen to voices in the field or allow public testing,” he said.
The letters sent to the agencies, and shared with congressional agriculture committees, specifically call on EPA to cancel its conditional registration of Monsanto’s new dicamba-based herbicide cocktail, Xtendimax, and call on USDA to cancel the registration of Monsanto’s Xtend line of dicamba-resistant soybean and cotton seeds.
“Today’s dicamba drift problem cannot be solved by label restrictions or formulation modification,” farmers wrote in their letter to EPA. “Precisely because Xtendimax is intended to be used on Xtend seeds throughout the higher temperatures of the growing season, this product will continue to volatilize and drift.” Farmers warned the agencies that allowing either Xtendimax or Monsanto’s genetically engineered Xtend seeds to stay on the market essentially guarantees the spread of dicamba drift across the Midwest and South, threatening American farms, livelihoods, and human and environmental health.
Dow’s 2,4-D and Monsanto’s dicamba seeds and pesticide products were introduced to combat the spread of weeds resistant to glyphosate (Roundup). Without adequate scrutiny by federal officials, and with Monsanto’s denial of researchers’ requests to investigate its product’s volatility, new genetically engineered seeds and herbicides were rushed to market and into farm fields. Prone to volatilize and drift for miles, particularly in warmer weather, even small amounts of dicamba can be extremely harmful to most broadleaf plants.
Responding to the crisis, a handful of states have taken action to restrict use of dicamba, albeit temporary or limited. Arkansas, which has taken some of the most protective action, instituted a 120-day ban on the chemical, starting in August.
Denise O’Brien, an Iowa farmer and chair of the board of Pesticide Action Network, said, “States can and should take action to protect farmers and their communities from harmful pesticide drift, but we need consistent and comprehensive federal protections as well. The federal response to date has been reckless and inadequate. And the damage was preventable. We expect more.”
The letters submitted today come years after farmers and farm groups warned of the harmful impacts of dicamba drift. As early as 2010, farm businesses warned federal agencies about the threat to farmers’ livelihoods posed by dicamba drifting from dicamba-resistant crops. National Family Farm Coalition and allies also sued EPA earlier this year for approving the use of dicamba on genetically engineered soybean and cotton, citing the propensity for the chemical to volatilize, drift and damage many other crops.
###
Contacts:
Quinton Robinson, National Family Farm Coalition, 202-543-5675 or QuintonNRobinson@nffc.net
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network, 916-216-1082 or ptowers@panna.org

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A Word from Heather About Maine’s Food Sovereignty Law

As some of you may have heard the FSIS of the USDA is threatening Maine’s landmark food sovereignty law.   The Governor has called a special session of the legislature to deal with this threat.   Heather Retberg, one of the leaders of this movement in Maine, has written the following.   I would just like to add: don’t despair we have been in darker places before this, we will move forward and protect the people’s right to local, healthy, culturally appropriate food.

“Dear friends of food sovereignty,
The USDA (FSIS) has sent a letter to the governor stating that our food sovereignty law is ‘non-compliant’ and they will take over Maine’s Meat and Poultry Inspection (MMPI) making us a ‘Designated state’. There are a series of letters that have already been sent between FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection System) and the Quality Assurance & Regulation division of our Dep’t. Of Ag outlining details. We don’t yet have access to those letters.

This is the exact scenario that first led us to local governance and the necessity of asserting our food sovereignty at the local level for traditional foodways & exchanges between individuals. The USDA-FSIS was claiming jurisdiction over our lowest risk, direct-to-patron food exchanges, and we said ‘no’. 

We carved out the legal space to protect what had traditionally belonged to people, not governmental agencies run by corporate food entities. Now that farm patrons and small farmers have stood up together in communities all across Maine, and now that the state of Maine has recognized municipal authority to regulate those food exchanges, the USDA is threatening our state’s fragile meat processing infrastructure.
What can be said about it?  
I see it this way right now: when a bully threatens you if you don’t hand over your milk money, what do you do? Fight back.   

When the rules changed around poultry in 2009 and so soon afterward the policy changed toward small dairy farmers selling milk directly to customers from our farms, we fought back. We went on the offensive and kept the rule of law behind the work of our small farms and dairies and our customers’ access to foods our their choosing. The state re-instated our legitimacy by recognizing food sovereignty in June of this year.  

What do you do when the bully threatens to beat up your friend if you don’t hand over your milk money? That is more difficult. First and foremost, we need to find out if ‘Designated’ status WOULD harm our fragile meat processing infrastructure here in the state. And…just what the impact of a USDA takeover would be. Along with VT, we are the only 2 states in New England that still retain a state level meat and poultry inspection. It isn’t super clear right now, when states must make rules “equal to” the federal rules, how much different the practice of having a USDA trained state inspector would actually be. Under the steps outlined in the USDA guidance on becoming a Designated state, the USDA offers to train existing state inspectors. So…”equal to” federal rules are required, same person would potentially be inspecting, but different badge. It is likely, however, that the small processors would be required to add additional building infrastructure to be compliant which would pose additional expense. The USDA has thus shifted the pressure from small farms and farm patrons directly to the meat processors.

So…we’re learning fast and furious, working closely with our legislative allies and reaching out to legal resources within our food sovereignty/food freedom circles.

It is a tight, small place between a rock and a hard spot. That is where we are right now.
What can you do?
~Contact your legislator and let them know you want them to stand up for food sovereignty without harming our processing infrastructure. Encourage them to find creative ways to maintain our hard-won victory for small farms, while supporting our small meat processing infrastructure.  

~Why the rush? It is highly unusual to call a special session to amend a law right before it goes into effect. None of this information was brought to bear during the public hearings, work sessions, floor debates or the rest of the regular legislative process. Encourage your legislator to urge that this motion be defeated in the special session, but taken up under the regular session when a more careful, deliberative process can be undertaken by committee.  

~Write the governor urging him to do all in his power to not cede local jurisdiction of our food supply. We are the first state in the nation to recognize local rules for local food and other states are looking to Maine now to do the same. Thank him for his original support of the law ensuring the state recognition of local control of our food system and urge him to stay the course.

~Think about what you are willing to do as a movement to protect food sovereignty. If the USDA/Big Ag prevails, what are you willing to do to protect your access to farm-raised foods from farmers in your community?  
Stay tuned. We’ll need all of us reaching out, pooling our resources and networks, standing together for local rules for local food as this proceeds.

We need to line the halls on the day of the special session (not yet scheduled) to demand a balanced approach to this process.

The state of Maine has officially recognized local control of local food.  

The senate voted unanimously in favor, the house voted by a super majority in favor. Governor LePage signed the bill on June 16, 2017.  
Our entire legislative process is now under threat by a federal agency inhabited by the meat monopolies and Big Ag corporations. They stand to lose the most as more Maine communities (up until now ‘their’ market) ensure greater food security by growing and processing our own chickens, sheep, goats, beef, and pork. We know more states are looking to Maine to enact this in their states. The USDA is threatening our small meat processing infrastructure in Maine to put a stop to the spread of food sovereignty across the country as more people learn and re-learn how to pick up and use the tools of democracy and local governance to grow our own food security right in our back yards and farms.
yours, as ever,

Heather”

NOFA and NAFTA and Dicamba, oh my!

So it’s been a while. Not that we are that busy in the office right now, what with Congress being out of town and all…. but we do manage to find things to do: 

I have been on the road a fair amount lately. To the NFFC summer meeting in Gloucester (see photo below) and then to NOFA Summer Conference to meet with the US Food Sovereignty Alliance northeast regional group and participate on a panel about food sovereignty in action. So here are some stories and some links about that and some other things on which we have been working.


One of the main concerns at NOFA were the increasing threats to organic standards. From some in Congress who would like to see the NOSB “reformed” or scrapped to this who think that hydroponics should be allowed to be certified as organic. A ridiculous notion that demonstrates that there are some in Congress who completely lack an understanding of true organics. There is a whole movement “Keep the Soil in Organics” to push back against this non-sustainable form of growing veggies. 

The sad news from NOFA is that I have to give up eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. At least for the time being. They have refuse to sign onto the pledge to protect their migrant dairy workers and so no more Chunky Monkey for me until they sign on. Boo-hoo. 
And, of course, there was the ongoing lament about there not being enough young people going into farming. Although I have to say the crowd was not all white hairs, which was encouraging, there were a bunch of young farmer activists at the conference. We realize that in Maine we are fortunate. Our average of farmers is actually dropping. Thanks to support for organic and small scale agriculture in our state. Here’s an interesting article about what California is doing to make their numbers better. 

On the NAFTA front there is lots of movement. Our press release (see my last post) garnered a fair amount of media attention. My friend and office mate Karen Hansen-Kuhn from IATP was interviewed on NPR’s The Takeaway. We also were quite happy to read the speech by the Canadian trade negotiator. It gave us hope that there will be at least on reasonable person at the table although I do take exception to her calling local government procurement laws “junk food politics.” Buying local is exactly the opposite of junk food. Anyhow read her speech here, it may let you sleep better at night. 

Another issue that we have been working on here is the whole Dicamba herbicide drift mess. Read about it here. And here.
 

And Monsanto has been putting out fake news. What a surprise. 

Here is an interesting take on the new farm bill. Or you can go read a white-paper written by one of my new congressional heroes Earl Blumenauer from Oregon. It starts out with this premise: “Not only is the Farm Bill costly and expensive, its resources are misdirected. The legislation gives too much to the wrong people to grow the wrong food in the wrong places.” Can you tell why I like this guy already?

And here is an interesting article about how all these new ways of eating (vegan, raw, paleo, etc. etc.) may just be eating disorders in disguise. 

And finally for this week here’s an article about a new 501 C (4) dedicated to helping rural candidates get elected. I think they really mean rural Democrats but I’ll wait and see. On a side note, when the researcher from The Nation called the office for quotes and pictures and she said the article was about helping the DNC win the rural vote…..well let’s just say it was my best laugh of the week. 

Family Farm Groups from Three Countries Slam NAFTA Reboot Based on TPP

As the formal talks to renegotiate NAFTA begin in Washington, DC this week, family farm organizations from Canada, the United States and Mexico denounce the direction of the talks. Despite repeated demands by civil society organizations in all three countries, the governments have refused to open the talks to the public or to publish proposed negotiating texts. All signs point to negotiations designed to increase agribusiness exports and corporate control over the food system rather than to support fair and sustainable trade and farming systems.

 
The Trump administration has stated its clear intention to continue its trend of putting multinational corporations’ narrow interests first by using the same blueprint that shaped the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A review of submissions on the talks includes proposals to dismantle Canada’s successful dairy supply management program and eliminate restrictions on trade in GMOs and other agricultural biotechnology.
 
“Under NAFTA and its forerunner, the Canada-US FTA, farm input costs have gone up and inflation-adjusted commodity prices have dropped, yet the farmer’s share of the grocery dollar is smaller. We export more, but imports have increased faster, which means our share of our own domestic market is actually shrinking,” said Jan Slomp, President of Canada’s National Farmers Union. “NAFTA and the FTA have not helped farmers. Since 1988 we have seen one in every five of our farms disappear and we’ve lost over 70% of our young farmers, even though Canada’s population has increased.”
 
“The USA cannot solve its dairy crisis by taking over the Canadian dairy market and putting our farmers out of business,” said Slomp. “We need Canada to stand firm against any temptation to negotiate away supply management. Our system ensures farmers are paid the cost of production, processing plants are able to run at full capacity and consumers have a reliable, wholesome and affordable supply of dairy, poultry and eggs – all without any government subsidies.”
 
Jim Goodman, a Wisconsin dairy farmer and member of the National Family Farm Coalition, agreed. “Federal and State Governments and Land Grant Universities, at the behest of the dairy industry, have done all they can to encourage U.S. dairy farmers to produce more milk, never questioning how much milk might be too much or how the subsequent cheap prices affect farmers. We cannot expect Canada, at the expense of their dairy farmers, to bail us out. Farmers – whether U.S. or Canadian – are nothing more than parts of the machine to the industry and NAFTA. That’s the way free trade works.”
 
Ben Burkett, National Family Farm Coalition board president and Mississippi farmer, noted that simply increasing exports will not replace ​the need for ​ fair prices. “U.S. family farmers and ranchers have demanded that the administration restores Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat, which would provide more accurate information to consumers while improving our access to markets.”​
 
Mexican family farmers, who have been devastated by NAFTA’s existing provisions that flooded their markets with cheap grains, will join thousands of labor, environmental and other activists in Mexico City tomorrow to denounce the talks and demand a completely different approach based on complementarity and cooperation. On agriculture, they insist that, “Mexico must guarantee food sovereignty and security and exclude basic grains, especially corn. Transgenic crops should be excluded and the ability of national states to promote sustainable agriculture intact. Likewise, Mexico must maintain its adhesion the UPOV [International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants] Act of 1978 and to reject the commitment to accede to the UPOV Act 1991, as it was intended in the TPP.”
 
Victor Suarez, Executive Director of the Mexican National Association of Rural Producers (ANEC) added that, “This whole process should begin with a thorough, independent evaluation of NAFTA’s economic, social, environmental and governance impacts. The goal should be to restore national sovereignty over food and farm policy, and to support local farming communities.”
 
“For many years, Rural Coalition has advocated for a ‘people-to-peoples NAFTA’ linking rural communities in all three countries to collaborate to improve their local economies and food sovereignty. A renegotiation of NAFTA that further helps transnational corporations while diminishing community self-determination will only hasten rural economic collapse –exactly the wrong way to go,” said John Zippert, Rural Coalition Chairperson and longtime Federation of Southern Cooperatives staff member in Alabama.
 
“NAFTA has woven our economies together in ways that hurt family farmers, workers and our environments,” said Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Director of International Strategies at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “We need a new approach to trade that promotes local and regional food systems, including providing for mechanisms in all three countries to shelter food crops from volatile markets and dumping. Simplistic calls to expand exports won’t get us to the fair and sustainable food and farm system we need.”
 
As an ongoing tool for understanding NAFTA, IATP has released a primer paper, “NAFTA Renegotiation: What’s at stake for food, farmers and the land?” as well as collecting 25 years’ worth of research in a NAFTA portal accessible at http://www.iatp.org/collection/nafta-portal.

Contacts:

Josh Wise, 952-818-5474, jwise@iatp.org

Quinton Robinson, 703-975-4466, quintonnrobinson@nffc.net

Jan Slomp, 403-704-4364, marian.jan@gmail.com

Victor Suarez Carrera, victor.suarez@anec.org.mx

 

My little slices of the swamp

This week some vignettes from my time here in DC:

Socks
: I notice people’s socks, being a bit of a sock connoisseur myself. Back when I was in practice there was a Psychiatrist in our practice group who shared my passion for interesting socks. She had a pair of bright yellow socks that had little socks on them.  They were always my favorite!   Anyhow, I have noticed that the men here in DC are really stuck because of the need to always dress in suits. I mean if you’re not a bow tie or bolero type guy you have very few options for  expressing individuality. One way they do it is with socks. And there are some great ones out there.  I notice them walking downt the street, in hearing rooms and on the Metro.  I am not the only person in my family obsessed with socks. Check out my daughter-in-law’s podcast

The Frying Pan
: As the summer heat ramps up walking across in front of the Capitol has started to more and more resemble a trip across a frying pan. No shade and at noon the heat gets close to unbearable. However, there are always entertaining things occurring to keep your mind off the blaze. There’s the guy with the bullhorn. He pops up at various places around the plaza. I first heard him extorting the visitors in line for the Capitol Visitors Center. But have since seen him up on the lawn both on the House and Senate side. His ramblings are not always coherent. But sometimes they cut right to the chase and call out the hypocrisy and corruption of our government institutions. This week he has been supporting the disability rights groups who have camped out in front of the Russell Senate building in an attempt to save their access to healthcare and thereby their very lives. It is refreshing to hear someone one speaking real truth to power.    
On the frying pan this Tuesday the DNC contingent in the Senate had a pep rally after the disasterous vote on the Senate floor to open up the ACA for amendments from the floor. This floor debate will be a painful and shameful spectacle for us all. And for those of you who watched the vote I just have to tell you that the nurse in me wanted to run over there with a dressing to put over McCain’s wound. Talk about spectacles.  Maybe this is what was meant by “out of the frying pan…..”

Dogs
: Speaking of the frying pan I was walking across one day recently and noticed a very happy police dog running up to folks and sniffing their bags and backpacks. At the same time I saw a woman pulling a rolling suitcase across the plaza. When the dog alerted to this suitcase the woman stopped and took a tennis ball out of her pocket and tossed it for the dog. The pooch and his handler ran off to the grass for some play time. I was about to move off when I noticed another equally happy dog coming across the mall. And the scene was repeated. I stood on the lawn for several minutes watching this training exercise. My, oh my, they were happy dogs once they got their tennis ball. A few weeks later our intern, Allison, and I were walking back from a particularly horrendous hearing on “guest workers” for farms. We had noted a lot of dogs on The Hill that day but couldn’t figure out what was going on until we met Albie and his trainer. They were on The Hill, along with several other service organizations, lobbying service dogs for veterans with PTSD. So Allison and I got a little Albie time at a time that we both really needed a therapy dog. He rolled over and let us scratch his belly. It was soothing and nice for us all.

#rollingjesus
: So, not every day, most days, as you walk across the plaza sitting in the scant shade by the door to the House side of the capitol is an elderly couple and standing next to them is their rolling Jesus statute. Evidently this woman,Rita Warren, has been carrying this life-size statue of her lord and savior to the steps of the capitol for years. Trying to save the souls of the soul-less. Since her heart attack last year she has help and a dolly to carrying him on. Allison has a brief clip of them rolling the statue up the hill with the caption “another day on the hill.” I will try to embed it for you at a later date as soon as I figure out how. 



Explosions/Thunder
: The thunder bumpers have been fierce at times this month. I was standing out waiting for the circulator bus one afternoon and there was such a loud crack of thunder right over us that everyone jumped and speculated about explosions. On the way back from market two employees of the Library of Congress got on the bus and started talking about the truck that the police had “disrupted” that afternoon in front of the library and what they had done while they were sheltering in place. I checked with them and the bang that I experienced was not at the same time as the supposed “bang” of the truck explosion. I went home and watched the news thinking that surely it would make the evening broadcast if the capitol police had blown up a truck. Nothing. Then next morning in the Post Express was a small paragraph about a truck that had deliberately run over an officer injuring him. Here’s a news clip about it. Evidently they did “disrupt” the car’s trunk. And that is how the rumor mill works in the swamp. 

My House
: I found it. The house I will buy when I get elected to Congress. Here’s a picture (the one on the far left, where else?). Right on the hill. I’m sure it’s very affordable.



The Farm Bill
: And finally the Farm Bill, or as Michael Pollan suggest calling it the Food Bill, staggers along thru the multiple committee hearings that are required. We did see the final mark-ups on the House and Senate versions of the 2018 agriculture appropriations bills this week. Some funding has been saved. Senator Tester of Montana has made an attempt to save the Under Secretary for Rural Development position in the USDA. We are watching all the machinations and offering input where we can. We really, really need more people to realize how much this bill effects them every day, more than healthcare, more than defense spending. As I often say “We all eat, the lucky of us eat three times a day. And the people who produce that food are called farmers.” They need our support! Which makes me so happy that every podcast Marta does ends with a talk about food and farms. On a knitting podcast. How’s that for cross pollination?

Why the Democrats are Losing All the Time

So much has happened since my last post that I have decided to make this one a “themed” essay. No day by day telling of my time in The Swamp. More of an overview of what I see happening.

My theme is “Why the Democrats are Losing All the Time.” By Betsy Garrold

Here are some of the reasons that the tone deaf DNC will continue to lose to the dysfunctional, horrible, racist, sexist RNC.

#1: They are tone deaf to issues they even claim to champion like LGBTQ rights. Here is my evidence. I was at a famous DC hotel a couple of weeks ago attending a dinner/training for a legislative fly-in I was participating in. Also in the hotel were the DNC. It was not a huge group and seemed to be mostly young people so I am guessing some sort of youth caucus event. Anyhow I went to use the public restrooms in the corridor we were sharing with this group and this is what I saw:

 Not a great picture but you get the idea.   Yep, it’s okay for the “girls” to share their (Gender Neutral) restrooms but don’t you dare ask the “men” to do it. Tone deaf much?

#2 My next encounter with the DNC was at the big Planned Parenthood rally on the front lawn of the Capitol building. PP had done a great job of building up to this rally against the proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act. There were thousands of people there in their pink buttons and t-shirts. The speakers began……all Democrats. Which was marginally tolerable but then Nancy Pelosi introduced the head of the DNC What’s-his-name Perez and I had to walk away. I scouted the perimeters hoping to run into my own party (the Greens) but instead found this group advocating for a single party payer system:

And then, several days later, I read this interesting article which explained a lot. 

So no surprise that the PP rally turned into a DNC pep rally. Only sadness at the co-opting of an organization I used to respect. It looks like this cartoon may have some truth to it…even considering the source.


And finally #3. This meme from the book of the face.   


How terrifying is that thought? Yes, if Clinton, with her smarts and her savvy and her social graces had been elected we all could have gone back to sleep and let the oligarchs continue to run our lives. She would have been so soothing and PC as she lead us into more wars and more $$$ being funneled to the wealthiest few and more of everything that Wall Street and Big Pharma and Big Argo-business etc etc wants. As I said to many of my friends on 11/9/16 “Well, at least he will be a good organizing tool for progressives.” And he has been (tool, of course, being the operative word) his blatant racism, sexism, elitism is easy to rally against. So, yes, you could have had neo-liberal, con-artist Clinton as your President. But in many, many ways this is better.

So why has the DNC lost all the special elections since 45’s inauguration?  Because they think that being Republican-lite is the way to go. They are so far up the behinds of their moneyed masters that they cannot even see the light of day and they certainly can not see, or figure out why, the masses anger at the status quo. No justice, no peace. Know justice, know peace. Figure it out DNC. Or don’t, all the better for the truly progressive parties out there who will keep growing and fighting the good fight and winning.

My Testimony to the US International Trade Commission This Week

[Comment on proposed renegotiation of NAFTA]
My name is Betsy Garrold, and I am speaking on behalf of the National Family Farm Coalition and the Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural, which are both based in Washington, DC. Thank you for the opportunity to present our comments today.
The National Family Farm Coalition represents 25 family farm and rural groups in 40 states whose members face ongoing economic recession in rural communities. The Rural Coalition is an alliance of some 50 farmers, farmworkers, indigenous and migrant organizations working together toward a new society valuing unity, hope, people and land. 

U.S. trade policy has long promoted the interests of agribusinesses and other multinational corporations over the economic and social stability of U.S. family farmers, rural small businesses and rural communities. Overproducing U.S. agricultural products for trade has resulted in a pattern of low farm-gate prices and ignored the very real problems of farmers’ ability to stay on the land, as well as the environmental unsustainability of and competition from U.S. agribusiness.

Additionally, imports of lower priced agricultural products, including many fruits and vegetables, has hurt the livelihoods of thousands of U.S. farmers. Ben Burkett, NFFC’s board president and Mississippi farmer, stated that his family had grown cucumbers and chili peppers since the 1940s, which they sold under contract. “This all changed in 1995 when NAFTA was signed. We lost the contract – the contractor started sourcing from Mexico.”  Of the 800 farmers who had benefited from this contract, only 200 were left in 2015.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has dumped grain, meat and dairy products in trading partner nations, devastating farmers who cannot compete with these items sold at prices below their cost of production. When these farmers lost their farms they took essentially all they had left – their agricultural skills – and migrated to the U.S. for farm work. Any new trade agreement must establish binding accords to address immigration and to protect farmworkers’ labor and other human rights, including transnational collective bargaining efforts. 

The current export-oriented model of production enshrined in NAFTA and other trade agreements needs to be reversed, not intensified. This point is more integral given the recently proposed reorganization of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which adds an Undersecretary for Trade. With the additional deep cuts proposed in U.S. rural development and nutrition programs and the Farm Bill debate ahead, trade agreements must promote policies that ensure farmers and ranchers receive prices meeting their costs of production to restore agriculture as the economic base of the rural sector. 

We assert that the U.S. request Canada and Mexico to withdraw their Country of Origin Labeling, or COOL, complaint under the World Trade Organization and agree to withdraw any action to implement the WTO award. COOL enables consumers to know the origins of their food and producers to receive a fair price. 

We would also ask the U.S. reject any proposals from the Trans Pacific Partnership that expedite rules for approving agricultural biotechnology products in ways that bypass national efforts to assess their safety, effectiveness and impacts on workers, rural communities and ecosystems. A renegotiated NAFTA simply must not allow trade in untested and potentially dangerous food and agricultural products derived from novel, unregulated technologies. 

We support Canada’s dairy supply management program, which helps to maintain dairy prices at a level high enough to cover their cost of milk production and keep Canadian family dairy farmers in business. Undermining this program will NOT bring a large increase in U.S. dairy exports; in fact, the U.S. should emulate this dairy supply management to regulate milk production and consequently the milk price for dairy farmers. In addition, the U.S. should export high quality dairy products instead of low quality products enhanced with imported milk protein concentrate.  

Lastly, under a new tri-national trade agreement, each country, state and local government should retain their sovereignty to enact and implement policies that are designed to reach their commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. NAFTA should be replaced with an agreement that encourages and ensures environmental sustainability, economic viability and longevity for the people growing and harvesting our food, as well as their communities, in all three NAFTA countries.

Here is video of me at the trade commission. You can’t see me because of the camera position but you can hear my comments.  My testimony starts at 24:30. And the commissioner’s question and my answer is at 44:35.