farming issues

How the US Military Can Save Money, Help Iraqi and US Farmers, AND Bypass Halliburton Food Services in One Swell Foop
farming issues

They're already doing it at college campuses across the US, and the concept is transferrable to the US military: Sustainable food programs in which food is purchased directly from local farmers, cutting out the corporate middle man The US government could set up a similar program - one that would buy nonperishable food directly from US farmers and perishable produce from Iraqi and Afghan farmers. US farmers could even get a farmer-to-farmer exchange program going in which they could help Afghan/Iraqi farmers reconstruct and expand their operations. US farmers would get a boost, reconstruction in Iraq/AFghanistan aided, the government would save millions of dollars, soldier nutrition would be improved, Halliburton would be sent packing, and a very real and immediate cultural exchange would occur between the US and its host countries. Course, we can't imagine the Bush administration doing anything THAT constructive!

Over 2 Million US Farmworkers Have Been Turned into Slaves By Corporate Food Giants
farming issues

Oxfam released a new report on 3/15 on the plight of US farmworkers: "Nearly two million farmworkers, mainly immigrants, toil without rights, earn sub-living wages and exist in dehumanizing conditions. The piece rate paid to tomato pickers in Florida, for example, has dropped by 65% over the past twenty five years. In the fields of Florida, California, North Carolina and other states, one million farmworkers earn less than $7,500 per year. Farmworkers are excluded from most federal labor law protections, including the right to organize and bargain collectively. As a result, poor sanitation, sub-poverty wages, no overtime pay, no health benefits, insufficient water, and violence and abuse of workers are frequently part of farmworkers' daily reality." Bush's solution: grant temporary work permits to illegal immigrants to keep the supply of slave laborers steady for his corporate pals and trap these workers in these jobs indefinitely.

Fabulous Farm Aid Rocks Corporate Ag While Bush Babbles
farming issues

Harvey Wasserman writes: "Now in its eighteenth year, Farm Aid has become a national institution, working to save the family farm. Originating with the ageless Willie Nelson, and with [Neil] Young and John Mellencamp---'our little band of outlaws,' says Nelson---the annual day-long show has become a treasured icon of vibrant culture and progressive politics for an age in desperate need. It has not mellowed with age. As George W. Bush babbled on national television, demanding billions more to 'rebuild' Iraq, Mellencamp delivered a blistering indictment of an administration defined by death and pillage. Why are we spending all this money over there, he wondered, when our own farms are in such tough shape here. Dressed in his signature blue jeans and a plain white t-shirt, the Indiana-based Mellencamp mixed a ballad to peace and justice into a strong set built around vintage rock classics."

Free Soil: The Aggressive Progressive Answer to the Problem of Family Farms and the Estate Tax
farming issues

"What's the solution? How do we protect a way of life - while not allowing it to become a Trojan horse for necronomic policy? There is a simple way to do this, which is legal, easy to put into effect, and is an extension of programs already being tried. The simple way is to create a trust for development rights. The estate would deed its development rights to a government trust, similar to the way agricultural quotas are used today. The trust would have to pay for development value for the land to the heirs if the government used eminent domain to build on the land, or any other project that would render the land unfit for farming. The heirs would then get - a family farm. If they wanted to buy the development rights back from the trust, they could - at fair market value. The right to buy the development rights would 'run with the land'." So writes Stirling S Newberry.

Bush's Agriculture Secretary May Sell Out Organic Food Standards to Poultry Pressure
farming issues

Georgia chicken company Fieldale Farms Corp wants to be allowed to label its meat organic even if they haven't followed the rules to get an organic label. If Ann Veneman grants the waiver, federal organic food standards won't mean squat. Katherine DiMatteo, a representive from the organic industry said, "USDA responded to [consumer demand with a federal organic rule] but is now being lobbied to break consumers' trust," she said. The lesson is that we can't trust USDA to protect us under Shrub. Just like any other Bush agency, they're obviously for sale. How much money did Fieldale Farms Corp give Bush's campaign in order to buy Veneman's consideration of its request to weaken organic meat standards?

Pennsylvania's Factory Hog Farms Destroy Democracy
farming issues

John Garn writes in TomPaine, "because a handful of rural townships intentionally passed new laws banning factory farms in general - and hog farms in particular - the agri-business lobby, led by the powerful Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, has pushed state legislators to [usurp local control]. 'The factory-farm barbarians are at the gate again' [says attorney Thomas Linzey]. Rural Pennsylvania is getting a crash course in 21st century economics and politics, where corporate business interests trump whatever remains of... rural self-reliance and self-determination. Unless a political miracle occurs... the big hog farms - and their related woes - will come. For readers who don't know about factory hog farms, or might be skeptical of this 'Darth Vader' characterization, these animal factories... have established records of transforming rural communities - and not for the better."

GOP Sells out the Farm Bill to their AgriBusiness Corporate Paymasters
farming issues

Dan Morgan writes in the Washington Post that House and Senate negotiators "approved a high-priced farm bill that would expand payments to producers of basic agricultural commodities by nearly $50 billion over the next decade. The bulk of the extra money would go to some of the largest and wealthiest wheat, corn, cotton and rice growers in 10 central and southern states. The measure would also sharply increase funding for environmental and land conservation programs and extend food stamp benefits to adult legal immigrants who have been in the United States for at least five years and to all children of legal immigrants... To limit the benefits going to the most affluent farmers or corporations, Senate Democrats fought to cap payments at $275,000 annually. But that effort failed when House GOP conferees resisted, even though the House had passed a nonbinding resolution backing the Senate position."

Here's Some Good News from Florida
farming issues

Florida has the potential to be far more than the feudal estate of the Bush Organized Crime Family. Two Floridians have an inspired vision, which they have translated into reality. "Richard and Florence Nogaj (nojay) founded Harvest for Humanity, a 501 (c)(3) organization in Immokalee, Florida in June 1998 to create innovative solutions to the social and economic challenges faced by seasonal farmworkers families, and to empower farmworker families and the surrounding community to help bring about necessary changes and improvement. Later in November, 2000 they formed Jubilation Development Corporation, another not-for-profit, to build Jubilation, a Traditional Neighborhood Development with emphasis on individual participation and interaction between homeowners."

House Republicans Set to Decimate Critical Technical Assistance for Farmland Conservation Programs
farming issues

Boy, the GOP handouts to the fat cats never end, do they? Now House Republicans are leading a move to "revise" the current highly effective federal-state-local program that helps farmers efficiently preserve land and create viable habitat. An estimated 90% of all farmers stand to lose most or all of the conservation assistance they receive from the USDA under the House Agriculture Committee's Farm Bill proposal H.R. 2646. Meanwhile, an obscene amount of cash is getting funneled to corporate farm barons and absentee landowners as "assistance," while in exchange these "farmers" do nothing - much less work to improve the environment. Worse yet, some of the recipients of these pork payments are the very men who preside over the House Agricultural Committee. Guess where the conservation funds will be redirected? Not exactly a trick question!

Huge Chunk of Farm Aid Channeled to Factory Farm Barons and Absentee Landowners, Not Farmers Most in Need
farming issues

It's no wonder real farmers (not the corporate execs who call themselves farmers) are hurting these days. A growing chunk of the aid meant to help them through tough times is being funneled into the pockets of those with the most political clout, not the folks out in the fields who need it most. For example, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), top GOPer on the Senate Finance Committee has his subsidy checks - $110,936 since 1996 - mailed right to his D.C. city home. Dems aren't innocent, either. Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark) receives payments and vigorously lobbies for more. But such subsidies to big farm holdings encourages corporatized farming and helps drive the small farmer out of business. Meanwhile, Bush pulled the plug on subsidies aimed at protecting habitat on farmland - another move making it easier for the corporate farmers and developers to snap up and trash more dwindling greenspace.

Why Has Klamath Lake Become a Political Hotspot? You Can Be Sure the Bush Administration and Its Agents are Behind It!
farming issues

In Maryland a few years back, farmers were hit with the WORST drought since the Depression years. At the height of the crisis, however, there was no clamoring by angry farmers to drain the reservoirs and lakes, no demonstrations, no daily press releases from the Interior Dept., no screaming about endangered species ruining their lives. Instead, the farmers accepted the drought as part of what farming is all about: These things happen. There was some aid distributed and some farmers survived, others failed. Why do the farmers of Klamath Lake think they are more special than other farmers facing a natural disaster? Because something else is going on behind the scenes, you may be sure. Maybe the reason MD farmers were so heroic is that there were no government provocateurs here throwing gas on the fire, convincing them that the world owed them a living, in the form of precious water.

Tom Harkin Puts Up Valiant Fight to Save Farmland Preservation Funding, But Loses as GOP Gives $37 Billion to Oil and Coal Barons
farming issues

The Senate really put it to US farmers this week. While the House voted to shower the fossil fuel barons with over $37 billion, the Senate voted to withdraw the $2 billion farmers needed to conserve their land and keep it from becoming yet another series of minimalls or factories. Instead, the farmers are being given "scrape by money" - just enough aid to keep them afloat a few months at a time, but not enough to preserve the one thing they have poured their hearts, souls, sweat and tears into: their land. The discrepancy between the treatment the GOP gave the farmers, and the treatment the party gave Big Oil is outrageous. "It symbolizes the president's environmental philosophy in a nutshell," said Defenders of Wildlife Pres. Prodger Schlickeisen. However, we want to honor Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) for his heroic efforts to try to save the farmland preservation money. Our hearts go out to him and the farmers he tried to help.

Bush Steals from Farmers, then Wants Them to Promote His Fast-Track (i.e., Blank Check) Trade Negotiation Plan
farming issues

Bush must think farmers are a bunch of stupid rednecks just like him. Well, he's wrong - farmers can see through his deceitful song and dance quicker than he can change his tune. First he trims millions from traditional farm aid, then he gives ZERO funding to programs aimed at letting farmers keep their land open and unspoiled even when they aren't able to actively farm it. Now, he wants them to believe that if they endorse giving him fast-track deal cutting power, he's REALLY gonna help 'em out. Yeah, right. And I bet he has a bridge to nowhere he wants to sell us, too. He's only after the farmers' support now because organized labor has already seen through his pathetic scam. We call on American farmers - the backbone of America - to tell Bush (the spineless wonder) to kiss off! He had his chance to prove his good faith and blew it, big time!

Bush Tries to Grab Farmland on the Cheap for Greedy Developers by Yanking Critical Conservation Funding
farming issues

Hundreds of responsible farmers across the nation have held onto their land, resisting relentless bids by developers to wrest it away from them and turn it into McMansions or strip malls. With the help of three key programs, these farmers -- thinking of the planet's future and that of their grandchildren -- have preserved habitats for wildlife and kept land open for the enjoyment of all. Now, in an underhanded ploy, Bush has given these programs ZERO funding, since this might dump cheap land into the laps of his developer buddies. The three axed programs: Wetlands Reserve Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives, and Farmland Protection. Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation have taken up the cause. Call 800-989-8981 ext. 237 and ask how you can help today!!

Bush Tramples on Hog Farmers' Rights, Passes Out the Pork to Middlemen
farming issues

After waging a vigorous two-year campaign against paying a mandatory $500 per farmer "research, education and PR" fee ("checkoff") to the National Pork Producers Council, hog farmers convinced Clinton a national referendum was in order. After all, some struggling farmers hardly have $5 to spare at the close of a year, let alone $500. They resented paying it to the NPPC, which many believe has become little more than a lobbyist for fat cat middlemen. NPCC hired lawyers (no doubt with farmer dollars) to challenge the referendum results. In steps the NPCC's new best friend Bush, who has rejected the referendum and ordered the checkoff to stand for two more years (the same transparent stalling tactic he always uses when trying to fool all of the people some of the time). Bush's bought and paid for Supremes will no doubt make sure that this travesty against democracy is upheld.

Bush Thwarts Farmers' Struggle to Save Land for Future Generations
farming issues

"When given the option, most communities would rather leave an orchard than a parking lot as a legacy for future generations," says American Farmland Trust Pres. Ralph Gossi. But with land prices soaring and developers circling like piranhas, farmers need help keeping land open. Even though most states are eager to help with funding, Bush has slashed the federal Farmland Protection Program to zero for next year. Quite an effective way to help out his developer buddies, eh? What a sleazy trick! Call or write and demand that FPP funding be restored and RAISED!