Posts Tagged ‘government’

Black Farmers Matter

This just in from the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association

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NC FARMER EDDIE WISE

For the last 40 years American Black farmers have lived a hellish nightmare deliberately orchestrated by the USDA and its local Farmers Home Administration (FmHA – now the Farm Service Agency, FSA) offices to confiscate Black owned land and homes. A review of the now historic Pigford v. Glickman Class Action by Black farmers will help one to understand the extremely vicious attack against black farmers. (For details on the Black Farmers Class Action, See https://www.blackfarmercase.com/Background.aspx or http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/pigfordmonitor/index.htm).

The story of this 67 year old military veteran and farmer Eddie Wise and his wife, Dorothy (to whom Eddie refers lovingly as (“my Brown Sugar”), is the latest example of the outrageous action by the U.S. government against a black farmer.
On Wednesday, January 20, 2015, around 7:30 a.m., at least fourteen (14) Federal Marshals in full military gear with full scale military guns drawn, along with several county sheriff officers, descended on the 106 acre farm in Nash County, N C, and forcibly escorted Eddie Wise and his wife, who was still in bed and suffers from a debilitating medical condition, out of their home and off the land that they have owned for more than 20 years.
Not only did the Federal Marshals render Eddie and Dorothy immediately homeless and landless, but did not allow them to take any of their belongings except the clothes on their backs. They also insisted on “securing” every firearm legally owned by Mr. Wise.

A Duke University Adjunct Professor, a friend of the Wises, took pictures (shown here) and acquired some sound, but was summarily put off the property also.
For the last few weeks media coverage has consistently covered visibly armed White militants who have illegally occupied federal land in Oregon. The response by the federal government and local law enforcement officers was a kindly appeal for the White militia to peacefully end their illegal occupation and leave, but until recently to no avail.
Yet, Mr. Wise and his wife have suffered the height of indignity and racist degradation. Which leads to the question, “Don’t Black farmer’s lives and possessions matter?”
Mr. Wise is in fear of his life and the life of his wife. “I believe if I had shown one ounce of resistance, the Federal Marshals would have killed me. I actually believe that’s what they came to do. I may as well live in Russia or Syria or North Korea,” said Mr. Wise, his eyes moist with tears.
Saving their land has been a long and exhaustive process for the Wise family. The ugliness of the one dimensional unfairness, racial characterization, and mental traps set for this family and thousands of other black farmers by USDA, and a corrupt legal system, defy reason and logic.
Black farmers are a racial minority and do not represent a large political power block, and therefore are unfairly treated like terrorized slave captives in their own country, a country they were vital in building.
The farm organization, Black Farmers and Agriculturist Association (BFAA) was organized in 1997 to protect, protest, raise much needed funds, and bring national attention to the plight of Black farmers. At the time Black farmers were losing 2,000 acres of farm land per day. BFAA has come to the aid of Black farmers with such needs as groceries, to pay light bills and tax bills, travel expenses, lawyer fees, and helped buy books for college students of farmers.

How can you help? We ask you to join with us in support of Eddie and Dorothy Wise by sharing this tragic story on Face Book, Twitter, and by Email. Help us get Eddie and Dorothy out of a motel which is costing too much per week just for bed and bath; and support the fundraising to help us get their home and farm back. Please contribute at gofundme.com/jgaaq4.

S O M E B A C K G R O U N D ON THE WISE CASE

1. “In 1993 Wise and his wife applied for a loan to purchase a 106-acre hog farm. Wise said that at first the FmHA County Loan Officer didn’t let him know that the farm had been “earmarked for minority farmers.” Then officials tried to reappraise the farm to increase the value, but the value actually dropped. Lastly, a White farmer who wanted the farm paid a Black woman to apply for him. She was one of the final two applicants whose names were drawn from a hat. “We won the draw,” Wise said with a smile.

Wise continued to face resistance from the county loan office, which is now demanding that he provide a production history going back five years and a production plan for the new farm.”

2. “Eddie and Dorothy Wise raise hogs on 106 acres near Whitakers, in east-central North Carolina. Eddie is a fourth-generation hog farmer but the first to own a farm; his father and grandfather were sharecroppers. During a 20 plus career in the military, and as an ROTC instructor at Howard and Georgetown Universities, Eddie raised hogs in his spare time. It was his dream to return home to North Carolina and farm full-time. When he retired from the Army in 1991 at the age of 48, that’s what he set out to do. Dorothy Wise grew up in Washington, D.C., but she too hoped to one day live on a farm. When she and Eddie met at Howard University in the 1980s and she discovered he was a farmer, it seemed that her wish had come true.

Still, it took the Wises five years, until 1996, to secure the loans they needed to buy their farm. They were repeatedly turned down by local government loan officers who, the Wises are convinced, did not want African American farmers to succeed. It was only through determined effort and much research and legwork that the Wises were able to receive the financial help for which they qualified.
Today the Wises have 250 hogs, which they raise from birth and sell to a black-owned pork processor in the area. Eddie’s lean pork, raised without hormones or antibiotics, is sold at a premium in area supermarkets. Finding such a market niche is the only way the Wises can compete with the much-larger farms that mass-produce hogs for the large meatpacking companies.”

New Farm Bill, Can You Say “Finally”

A pie about the Farm Bill circa 2014.

The House-Senate Conference Committee has approved the new farm bill.   This synopsis was obviously written by a Republican but read it anyhow.   This one’s good for five years.   We’ll see what it does and doesn’t do for us.  After two years of wrangling about it you would think it would be a monument to statesmanship, compromise and progress.   It most likely is not.   And no matter what it actually contains the proof of what it will actually do for us will be in the rule making and enforcement.

Here is the Associated Press synopsis, I have highlighted the parts I like:

— Test programs in 10 states that would allow new work requirements for food stamp recipients.

— A prohibition on lottery winners, convicted sex offenders and murderers from receiving food stamps.

— The end of so-called direct payments, government subsidies paid to farmers whether they farm or not. The payments now cost around $4.5 billion a year.

— A new revenue insurance subsidy that would pay farmers in the event of “shallow losses,” or revenue losses incurred before their paid crop insurance kicks in. That program might kick in sooner than previously thought as some crop prices have dropped in recent months.

— A separate subsidy program would trigger payments when crop prices drop. This is similar to current subsidies, though the new programs would kick in sooner, especially for rice and peanut producers. Producers would have to choose between these subsidies or the revenue insurance.

Stricter limits on how much money an individual farmer can receive — $125,000 annually on all payments and loans, when some were previously unrestricted. The agreement is less strict than either the House or Senate bills, which had put limits on how much a farmer could receive from individual programs. Language that would limit how many people in a farm operation may receive such payments was also passed by both chambers but taken out of the compromise bill, which would kick the issue to the Agriculture Department.

— An additional $5.7 billion for government-subsidized crop insurance programs. A Senate amendment that would have lowered crop insurance payouts for the wealthiest farmers was struck from the final version.

— A new dairy program that would do away with current price supports and allow farmers to purchase a new kind of insurance that pays out when the gap between the price they receive for milk and their feed costs narrows. The program is designed to help dairy farmers survive price collapses like they have seen in recent years. But it would not include a so-called stabilization program that would have dictated production cuts when oversupply drives down prices. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called that “Soviet-style” and pressured negotiators to take it out. He was backed by large food companies which said the program could raise the price they pay for milk.  (ed. note: but they didn’t, hurrah for them!)

— A new insurance program for cotton growers designed to bring the U.S. industry into compliance with the World Trade Organization. The WTO said in 2009 that Brazil could raise the tariffs on American goods because the United States had failed to get rid of subsidies the WTO said are illegal.

A test program that would allow 10 states to grow industrial hemp. Those 10 states have legalized cultivation but are unable to produce because of current federal law.

— Land payments to Western states. The bill gives the government authority to make payments of $425 million to states which lose tax money because of federal lands, mostly in the West. That funding had expired at the end of last year.

And then there were the real “down in the weeds” bits.  According to the WaPo “Page 881 of the farm bill outlines “Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling of Beef, Pork, Lamb, Chicken, Goat Meat, Wild and Farm-raised Fish and Shellfish, Perishable Agricultural Commodities, Peanuts, Pecans, Ginseng and Macadamia Nuts.”   You really will get to know where your food is coming from.   And that is a good thing.  And “A big deal for the Whole Foods crowd. According to the bill, “The term ‘farm-raised fish’ means any aquatic species that is propagated and reared in a controlled environment.”

But if you just want to read the whole 1000 pages for yourself.   Go for it.

Sleepwalking to Extinction

Finally a cogent argument for the “c” word….. conservation that is.   Please folks consider this article from Adbusters.    Oh, and send in your comments to the FDA on the Food Safety Modernization Act.   They extended the deadline for a week because (imagine that) they were having problems with the website.    But now a bit of the article from Adbusters.   Go to the link and read the whole thing if you want to get really depressed.   This is the cheery bit:

This doesn’t mean we would have to de-industrialize and go back to riding horses and living in log cabins. But it does mean that we would have to abandon the “consumer economy” — shut down all kinds of unnecessary, wasteful and polluting industries from junkfood to cruise ships, disposable Pampers to disposable H&M clothes, disposable IKEA furniture, endless new model cars, phones, electronic games, the lot. Plus all the banking, advertising, junk mail, most retail, etc. We would have completely redesign production to replace “fast junk food” with healthy, nutritious, fresh “slow food,” replace “fast fashion” with “slow fashion,” bring back mending, alterations and local tailors and shoe repairmen. We would have to completely redesign production of appliances, electronics, housewares, furniture and so on to be as durable and long-lived as possible. Bring back appliance repairmen and such. We would have to abolish the throwaway disposables industries, the packaging and plastic bag industrial complex, bring back refillable bottles and the like. We would have to design and build housing to last for centuries, to be as energy efficient as possible, to be reconfigurable, and shareable. We would have to vastly expand public transportation to curb vehicle use but also build those we do need to last and be shareable like Zipcar or Paris’ municipally-owned “Autolib” shared electric cars.

These are the sorts of things we would have to do if we really want to stop overconsumption and save the world. All these changes are simple, self-evident, no great technical challenge. They just require a completely different kind of economy, an economy geared to producing what we need while conserving resources for future generations of humans and for other species with which we share this planet.

 

The spectre of eco-democratic revolution 

Economic systems come and go. Capitalism has had a 300 year run. The question is: will humanity stand by and let the world be destroyed to save the profit system?

The FSMA is Coming, the FSMA is coming!!!!

The deadline for commenting on the Food Safety and Modernization act is fast approaching (November 15th) and a lot of people on the interwebs telling you why you should care.    One of the best, most cogent arguments is made by Brian Snyder on his blog Write to Farm.    Here is the link.   Brian is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and the FoodRoutes Network, with my home and office in Centre County, PA. I am also current president of the Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations, which represents the entire agricultural community in the state.

But the main reason for this post is to remind folks to send in their comments to the FDA about the proposed rule making.   Do it!

 

Let’s have some real news, PLEASE!!!

 

From RealFarmacy.com:

“Though the controlled corporate media apparatus is suppressing the story, 40 tons of GMO crops were torched, prompting an FBI investigation. There has been a complete media blackout.  It was only reported locally live on KXL Radio and echoed by the Oregonian, where the ONLY web mention exists, hard to find because the headline wording carefully avoids the most likely keywords for a search.

 

Here’s what happened — 40 Tons of GMO Sugar Beets were set ablaze in Eastern Oregon. FORTY TONS — the entire acreage of two full fields of crops in the ground were set ablaze over a three night period of time. That means arson.

Evidence is that 6,500 plants were destroyed by hand, one plant at a time. That, in turn, implies a lot of people were involved. Would you want to stick around once a fire was going and wait to be discovered? No, someone (many someones) probably wanted to move as quickly as possible. We are talking about a movement — and this is exactly the kind of retribution that many have warned was coming; when lawmakers and corporations refuse to honor the Constitution and instead engage in ‘legalized’ criminal acts such as enabled by the ‘Monsanto Protection Act.’

More than a decade ago, environmental saboteurs vandalized experimental crops across the country in a revolt against high-tech agriculture. Foes of genetic engineering also struck in 2000, when members of the Earth Liberation Front, with roots in Oregon, set fire to agriculture offices at Michigan State University. ELF’s position was that genetic engineering was “one of the many threats to the natural world as we know it.”

 

But ELF cells normally come forward immediately to claim responsibility, because to them, its all about publicity to educate the public. Since there has been no statement about the recent arson this may have simply been Oregon farmers who have said, ‘Enough!’ Another clue that this may be the case is that this comes on the heels (two weeks) of Japan’s rejection of the entire Oregon wheat crop for the year (a tremendous financial blow because over 80% of Oregon Wheat is exported) because one report said one field was contaminated with at least ONE GMO plant.”

Am I advocating these kinds of acts?  What do you think?   Am I pissed off at the lamestream media for not picking this up?  You bet I am.   Let’s have some real news, PLEASE!!!

 

Farm Bill, What Farm Bill?

 

So, as I’m sure you’ve already heard, Congress failed to pass the Farm Bill yesterday.    No surprise from this “Do Nothing” legislative body.    The Grumpy Old Plutocrats have issued press releases claiming that their only reason for failing to vote for this, usual slam-dunk, bill is to save the American people from the spendthrift ways of the government.    Here are just a few quotes from Rep. Steve King’s  (boy it must really piss Stephen King, the famous left-wing author, off to share a name with this right-wing dweeb)  press release:

 

‘A major point that is seldom highlighted is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or what is known as food stamps, operates like an entitlement program.  This means it continues on unless Congress acts to change it or improve it. “  and this is a bad thing, why????   And, can I say, I hate the phrase “entitlement program”  it activates the frame of lazy people (read:  Welfare Queens) feeling like the world owes them a living, or feeling “entitled.”

“Although some argue that SNAP should be removed from the farm bill and considered separately, the more compelling argument is that the farm bill, which has an expiration date, allows lawmakers to implement reforms to SNAP every five years.  Otherwise, SNAP functions like other entitlement programs where there are many complaints about their cost and drag on the budget, but action is left to academics and pundits to study and discuss on cable news shows.”   In my blog post “The 1949 Farm Bill Has No SNAP”  I explain why it is important to keep SNAP in the Farm Bill.   There really are a lot of urban people out there who do not get the truth of “No Farms, No Food.”   They see the farm bill as just a handout to rich farmers, which it is in many ways, but it is also the safety net a lot of small farmers need to keep farming.  The “specialty” farmers that produce the fruits and vegetables we all love to eat.

Here is an explanation of the differences between the original Senate and House bills.    Good luck figuring this all out.    I think about all this a fair amount and still find myself confused at times.

And in honor of “World War Z” being released to coincide with this continuing fiasco I refer you to an article in Grist that tries to explain this mess.   He talks about the SNAP cuts that the Repugnants want and the Demobrat’s issues with the majority of subsidies go to already wealthy farmers.

Here in Maine food pantries and dairy farmers are concerned with the continued delays of this bill.   If SNAP gets cut then the food pantries, already strained, will be faced with trying to feed even more people.   The Maine dairy industry may be in a slightly better place because they are making plans to go around the farm bill to help dairy farmers have a more stable pricing structure.

All in all this bill is a cluster f*ck and everyone knows it.    But we also, sadly, have come to expect and accept nothing less from our elected officials in DC.

Home rule is seeming more and more to me to be the only way to go.   Walk away, do our own thing, feed our own people and expect very little from our government, bureaucrats or elected officials.

Hurrah for Connecticut!

Our "Label GMOs" Crowd at the Maine State House

Our “Label GMOs” Crowd at the Maine State House

 

Connecticut, today, became the first state to pass the GMO labeling bill.  Check out the whole story here.

 

And congress finally started considering the 2012 Farm Bill today.   More about that later.