Posts Tagged ‘politics’

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

 

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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.  

Ms. Garrold Goes to Washington Parts Four and Five

So it has been two busy, busy weeks down here in the swamp. I am going to change formats a bit and just hit the highlights. Believe me that will be enough.

Memorial Day weekend was a madhouse here at the Pink Village. At one point we had eleven people sharing one bathroom. I know, I know “such a first-world problem.” And you’re right.   
We had many Veteran’s for Peace  staying with us for three days of activities around the Memorial Day holiday. I arrived back in DC on Sunday evening to find a dozen or so VFP members singing peace hymns in the living room of the Pink House. The next day we went to the Vietnam War Memorial to place letters from all over the country written for visitors to The Wall to read. I was randomly given one from my friend Phil Worden a, now retired, great civil rights lawyer in Maine. Such a nice coincidence.   
On Tuesday the VFP group had a rally and I went back to the NFFC office. It was a quiet day except for one incident. On my way back from the bank mid-afternoon I walked through the entire staff and all the Senators who had been evacuated from the Hart and Dirksen Senate office buildings. Buildings which are, as I have previously mentioned, right across the street from my office building. Hundreds and hundreds of people standing in Stanton Park. I asked, and was told, that it was just a “drill.” I had to walk around the block to get back to my office as the roads and sidewalks around those two buildings were a no-go zone. So that was the excitement for Tuesday.


I am still keeping an eye on things going on in Maine. FairVote and the League are finally stepping up to protect Ranked Choice Voting. It’s about time. There was a “town hall meeting” call on Tuesday evening with some reassurance that these two groups have figured out that the only way to save RCV is by rallying the troops. It is probably too little too late but I am hoping for the best.
On Wednesday the elderly homeless lady was back in the park but the ducks have moved on. And the new episode of The Handmaid’s Tale dropped. 
Skipping to Thursday of that week I attended a Code Pink demonstration outside the Brazilian Embassy calling for the secession of extra judicial killings of peasant farmers and leaders of MST, the landless farmers movement in Brazil, by that country’s illegal government (hint: they took power in a soft coupe). Go to the Code Pink link for a picture of me at the demo.
But the best part of the day was my adventure being part of the live studio audience for Redacted Tonite. Go here to watch the episode. It was a good one. Be warned, however, if you are thinking about going to a taping it is a tiny studio and you have to sit on the floor. But totally worth it!
On Saturday of that week we had another cannibas edibles event at the Pink House. Not as well organized or attended at the Mamajuana event. But interesting none the less.
On Sunday I did laundry and grocery shopping.
On Monday the new intern for NFFC arrived at the office. And I totally forgot she was coming. My VERY bad. But she is a hard-working, low-key type and was not rattled by it at all.
Then I deserted her for two days to go to NYC for a Friends of the Earth-organized meeting with TIAA about their farmland grabs in the US and Brazil (yep, Brazil again). Here is something from NFFC about the farmgrabs in the US. 
It was two intense days of strategy and meetings. We are banned from saying anything about what went on in the meeting with TIAA staff but here is your challenge for the day: find the interactive map of their farmland holdings on their website….Go! Okay how long did you spend? My friend Tristan from ActionAid and I both spent 45 minutes trying to find it on their website after we were told it was there. We both failed. So much for transparency. In case you are interested here it is. ‘Cause you will never find it on your own!


Two other important things that happened during this trip. #1 was that my lovely daughter-in-law dropped her first podcast. Go and watch it. She is lovely, smart, charming and the podcast is a hoot! And #2 was that I got to visit ParkSlope Co-op. Notequally important   events by any means but both really good things.  


Thursday was Comey Day on Capitol Hill as you are all well aware. I was on The Hill doing serious grown-up business, attending a House Agriculture Sub-committee hearing on SNAP benefits.  But the media circus was in full swing. As one of the folks I was standing in line with said, it is a most interesting time to be in DC. I got back to the office in time to catch the end of the hearing on TV, our suite mates were watching it and we all gathered around. Reminiscent of watching the Watergate hearings. Probably won’t end as well as that episode in our sordid history did. 
Friday ended with a demonstration outside the Whitehouse marking the 50th anniversary of the total Israeli take over in Palestine known as the Six Day War. Can you say US supported apartheid?   I knew you could.
And now you are all caught up on my wild ride in DC.

Update on Baker’s Green Acres

Here is an update on the feral pig story from Michigan.   Mark Baker is running for sheriff in his county.  And he’s made a movie about it.  “Hogwash”  This is a bit of a commercial for the movie but I think it is important so here is the trailer/commercial.  I think I will buy a copy and have it shown at my local co-op.

Baker’s Green Acres and DNR Antics

Latest update from Baker’s Green Acres.

I have to say this guy is doing the right thing in fighting the bureaucrats over this right to farm issue but I have a few problems with his presentation.   I don’t know if the DNR bureaucrat is Jewish or not but his name is Harry not Hymie and the fact that Mark Baker makes that “slip of the tongue” several times in this video does nothing to help his (Mark’s) case as far as I am concerned.

Otherwise this is good news.   Typical of the bureaucrats to back off once they know they have lost.   Anyhow watch it for yourself and see what you think:

The Green Shadow Cabinet Would Veto the Farm Bill

As President Obama signs the Farm Bill into law I am sharing this analysis of why it is not a great bill from the Green Shadow Cabinet.

The Farm Bill is the federal blueprint for the American food system. Due to pass into law as soon as this Friday, the bill does little to address poor nutrition, GMO and other unsustainable practices, and dangerous corporate control over the U.S. and global food supply.

The Green Shadow Cabinet have analysed the bill, and have reached the conclusion that it should be vetoed and replaced by new legislation with the wellbeing of farmers, consumers and the land -rather than corporate interests, at its heart.

The Farm Bill that President Obama signed into law will result in a very high level of hunger in the world’s richest country. It continues to promote a diet of overly processed food (or food substitutes) high in fat, sugar and salt that leads to health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. It provides massive tax subsidies to corporate agribusiness and wealthy investors rather than supporting family farmers. It promotes promote unhealthy food, monoculture and genetically engineered crops as well as confined animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) rather than sustainable agriculture. It slashes funding for conservation measures needed to reduce the pollution of our waters from these large scale, factory farming operations.

The power of corporate interest in Washington is evident throughout this legislation. For example, Dow has successfully lobbied to have a one-paragraph provision added to the Farm Bill that will reverse the EPA’s proposed decision to prohibit the use of sulfuryl fluoride. This is despite the 2011 EPA proposal to phase-out the use of sulfuryl fluoride as a food fumigant which was based on the science – and agreed with all of the objections brought forward in the complaint.

The push to level the playing field for smaller livestock processors and farmers slid backwards. There are only a handful of beef packers, hog processors and poultry integrators. Farmers and ranchers often have little alternative but to accept the terms and prices offered by the few, large firms that dominate the industry – terms that are often unfair and abusive (to both the farmers and animals).

SNAP (food stamp) benefits were cut to an estimated 850,000 households – mainly public housing residents – by an average of $90 a month ($8.6 billion over 10 years). This was on top of the $5 billion SNAP cuts agreed to three years ago (when the Democrats were in the majority in both houses) but which took effect on Nov. 1. More than half of those receiving food stamps have a job but their pay is too low to feed their families. Anti-hunger advocates had wanted to increase food stamp benefits by at least 30%; right now they provide less than $1.40 per meal per person.

Demand at emergency food providers around the country has skyrocketed since the Great Recession started in 2007, more than doubling in many communities. Much of the rise in hunger has been due to the sharp spike in unemployment – and under the meager so-called recovery, middle class jobs have been replaced by those paying less than a poverty wage. The Republican response to joblessness has been to cut food benefits (they will be more desperate for work if they are starving) and to cut unemployment benefits.

Many groups have expressed relief in the passage of the farm bill, noting that it could have been far worse. There are some modest reforms in the present bill. The Farm Bill does relink conservation requirements to the receipt of crop insurance premium subsidies. A number of good programs that were cut out a year ago when the farm bill was extended were restored – Beginning and Disadvantaged farmers, farmers markets, community food projects, support for local food systems, etc. But they amount to a few million dollars here and there in a bill that spends around $100 billion annually. Pocket change, not game changers.

The last time the Farm Bill passed in 2008, House Speaker leader Nancy Pelosi publicly promised the American people that Congress would never pass such a bad farm bill again, after a spirited struggle to reign in corporate subsidies failed. Pass it now, we’ll do better next time, she said. That promise was not kept.

President Bush vetoed that 2008 Farm Bill because it “continues subsidies for the wealthy.” President Obama lacks the courage to do so. This time around, the minor reforms to curb such subsidies were jettisoned in the closing hours of negotiations.  Instead of a $50,000 annual limit on the primary payments (or double that for married couples), Congress approved a $125,000 limit (again, doubled for married couples).  They also decided not to adopt the House and Senate-passed provisions to close the loopholes that currently allow large, wealthy farms to collect many multiples of the nominal payment limit.

Yes, the system of direct payments for commodities was largely eliminated (largely due to record high prices) but environmental and taxpayer groups claim that the new insurance “reforms” are largely a bait-and-switch effort that will continue giveaways to agribusiness and wealthy investors. Though there were some limited reforms to aid both organic and diversified farm operations, the crop insurance program is designed to protect, at taxpayer expense, the profits of large farms that produce commodity crops. It does little to protect small integrated farmers that actually grow food,

A proposal to cap (not eliminate) the profits of the ten largest farm insurance providers in order to free up funds to eliminate the cuts to the SNAP program was defeated 2 to 1 in the Senate – which meant that 2 dozen Democrats voted against it. Taxpayers take the risk under the farm insurance program while the insurance companies pocket the profits.

This Farm Bill highlights all that is wrong with our political and economic system. It continues the destructive and inequitable status quo. The debate was not over what was good for America, but between the needs of plain farmers in the mid-West (corn, soy, wheat) vs. Southern farmers (rice, cotton, peanuts). The well-being of the vast majority of Americans wasn’t a factor. Campaign contributions and special interests determined the decisions.

For all of these reasons, the Green Shadow Cabinet cannot support the Farm Bill, and maintain our call for full restoration of SNAP, A global moratorium on genetically engineered foods and crops, organic production targets and a fair-trade model for the U.S. food supply.

~ The Green Shadow Cabinet includes nearly 100 prominent scientists, community and labor leaders, physicians, cultural workers, veterans, and more, and provides an ongoing opposition and alternative voice to the dysfunctional government in Washington D.C..