The theme of the upcoming 37th annual E.F. Schumacher Lectures, taking place on November 4th, is “Choosing the Path that is Green”, a reference to the prophecy of the Anishinaabe peoples. Winona LaDuke, who is a member of the Anishinaabe is this years keynote speaker. La Duke is an activist, community economist and author and her work has always been in alignment with the work of the Schumacher Center and of Greenhorns. She has been a persistent advocate for community land stewardship, local food sovereignty and sustainable resource use. She has a unique ability to communicate the stories, ideas and wisdom of the Anishinaabe people in ways that are both timely and relevant.
As part of Food Week of Action, today we are celebrating with farmworkers in vermont and as we recognise the huge milestone that was reached in the food and farming world earlier this month.
On Tuesday October 3, farmworker leaders from Migrant Justice and the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s jointly signed the Milk with Dignity agreement. The legally-binding contract establishes Ben & Jerry’s as the first company in the dairy industry to implement the worker-driven human rights program. This momentous occasion marks the beginning of a new day for dairy, one that provides economic relief and support to struggling farm owners, in the form of a premium paid by Ben & Jerry’s, while ensuring dignity and respect for farmworkers.
Migrant Justice spokesperson Enrique “Kike” Balcazar spoke to those assembled before he signed the agreement himself to mark the historic moment:
“This is an historic moment for dairy workers. We have worked tirelessly to get here, and now we move forward towards a new day for the industry. We appreciate Ben & Jerry’s leadership role and look forward to working together to implement a program that ensures dignified housing and fair working conditions on dairy farms across the region. And though this is the first, it won’t be the last agreement of its kind.”
Read the full article by migrant justice HERE.
The EPA has finally announced its decision on dicamba last week. The department, headed by Scott Pruitt has decided to allow farmers to continue to spray the weed killer on Monsanto soybean and cotton crops. With increasingly widespread use of roundup and other weed killers, many invasive weeds have become resistant over time. Dicamba is marketed as a product that can replace these now ineffective weed killers. There is no mention of what is to happen when Dicamba also fails to be an effective weedkiller, although if we keep spraying our food and environments with poison, we may not be around to have to contend with this problem. (After all, there is significant evidence to suggest that the use of pesticides over the last few decades has lead to a rapid increase in colony collapse and pollinator deaths.)
The use of dicamba is not just a problem for the animals and people who end up as the eventual consumers, or for the farmer who chose to employ it on their land. It’s toxicity be confined within the borders of a particular piece of land and there is a huge risk of drift into neighbouring farms. Diamba cannot be contained just the latest EPA regulations are a feeble attempt to do just that. This is the text of their October 13th press release:
EPA has reached an agreement with Monsanto, BASF and DuPont on measures to further minimize the potential for drift to damage neighboring crops from the use of dicamba formulations used to control weeds in genetically modified cotton and soybeans. New requirements for the use of dicamba “over the top” (application to growing plants) will allow farmers to make informed choices for seed purchases for the 2018 growing season.
“Today’s actions are the result of intensive, collaborative efforts, working side by side with the states and university scientists from across the nation who have first-hand knowledge of the problem and workable solutions,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Our collective efforts with our state partners ensure we are relying on the best, on-the-ground, information.”
In a series of discussions, EPA worked cooperatively with states, land-grant universities, and the pesticide manufacturers to examine the underlying causes of recent crop damage in the farm belt and southeast. EPA carefully reviewed the available information and developed tangible changes to be implemented during the 2018 growing season. This is an example of cooperative federalism that leads to workable national-level solutions.
Manufacturers have voluntarily agreed to label changes that impose additional requirements for “over the top” use of these products next year including:
- Classifying products as “restricted use,” permitting only certified applicators with special training, and those under their supervision, to apply them; dicamba-specific training for all certified applicators to reinforce proper use;
- Requiring farmers to maintain specific records regarding the use of these products to improve compliance with label restrictions;
- Limiting applications to when maximum wind speeds are below 10 mph (from 15 mph) to reduce potential spray drift;
- Reducing the times during the day when applications can occur;
- Including tank clean-out language to prevent cross contamination; and
- Enhancing susceptible crop language and record keeping with sensitive crop registries to increase awareness of risk to especially sensitive crops nearby.
Manufacturers have agreed to a process to get the revised labels into the hands of farmers in time for the 2018 use season. EPA will monitor the success of these changes to help inform our decision whether to allow the continued “over the top” use of dicamba beyond the 2018 growing season. When EPA registered these products, it set the registrations to expire in 2 years to allow EPA to change the registration, if necessary.
These new regulations do not address the issues of drift in any substantial way. Farmer David Wildy, who has first hand experience of having his soy crops destroyed by Dicamba drift from a neighbouring farm, in an interview with NPR earlier this month spoke about how Dicamba use is dividing rural communities. The inability for farmers to control the drift in any meaningful sense means that there is no guarantee that neighbours will not have their crops and livelihood destroyed (not to mention the toxic effects that it has on wildlife ecosystems, soil and water health, and human health).
Most worryingly, as the risk from drift increases, more and more farmers in cotton and soy farming regions will be more increasingly likely to adopt Dicamba resistant crops and subsequently adopt Dicamba as a means of weed control. Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president of global strategy unsurprisingly welcomed the new regulations and expects the use of Dicamba to double this coming year as a result.
As part of Food Week of Action, the Presbyterian mission, sponsors of the week, bring us a message of climate justice today.
God created the earth, and it is sacred. As Psalm 24:1 proclaims, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it.” Therefore we are called to stewardship of the earth. When we work to protect creation, we are answering God’s call to till and keep the garden (Genesis 2:15). In the face of deepening ecological crises caused by the earth’s warming, our call to act as earth’s caretakers takes on more meaning. Our efforts will curtail the shrinking of sacred waters, the endangerment of living creatures of every kind, and the vulnerability of our brothers and sisters in developing countries.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has identified food, transportation, and energy as the three key personal areas that need action to help stem climate change. The Presbyterian mission have created a resource to educate the public about the actions that they can take personally to protect against the worst effects of climate change.
The advice given is simple and has an aspect of theological reflection, and if undertaken on a large scale has the potential to affect great change. They include measures such as eating local food, organic or sustainable food, eating less meat, and a reduction in personal consumption. If you want to get more involved in the climate justice movement and take part in the creation of resilient communities that support people and the environment check out Our Power campaign to see what is happening in your area and how you can get involved.
Program Dates: October 2018 – September 2019
Since 2002, The Farm School has offered a practical, real-world agricultural education for aspiring farmers, educators and community leaders. The Learn to Farm program is a full-time, residential immersion in the work and rhythms of sustainable farm life. Everyday, and in every way, student farmers at The Farm School learn to farm by farming, supported by coursework, mentoring and instruction from staff farmers.
The Farm School helps their students establish conceptual understanding and physical competency in a wide range of skills and areas of farm production: forestry, animal husbandry, carpentry, mechanics, business planning, homesteading, marketing, cooking, organic vegetable production and beyond. The program curriculum reaches one hand back into history to pull forward the best of what traditional agriculture has to offer and with the other hand pushes ahead into cutting edge creative and dynamic ways of enriching our stewardship of land.
The Guardian are warning of an ecological armageddon due to the data published in a study released yesterday which shows that insect populations have declined by over 75% in the last quarter century.
“Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth [but] there has been some kind of horrific decline,” said Prof Dave Goulson of Sussex University, UK, and part of the team behind the new study. “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.”
Insects are one of the most crucial elements in the global ecosystem as vital pollinators and as a food source for animals further up the food chain such as bats, birds and amphibians. The research was carried out in Germany which has been a popular location for recent studies on entomology with specific focus on the decline of pollinators. We have written before about the role of widespread pesticide use in the decline of insect population. Although researchers in this most recent study were unable to confirm the exact impact of pesticide use on the mass extinction of insects, other similar and more specific field studies have confirmed that there is a causal link between the two.
It is becoming more and more clear with every passing day that our current agricultural practices that require enormous chemical inputs and the clearing of natural wildlife refuges cannot be continued. Large scale industrial agriculture, rather than feeding the world is killing it. Once we exceed the ecological tipping point of an ecosystem, irreversible collapse is imminent.
You can read the full study on which the Guardian article was based article HERE
As part of today’s Food Week action, support farmworkers by delivering a manager’s letter to a Wendy’s near you.
Dear Wendy’s Manager,
As a Wendy’s consumer and supporter of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) groundbreaking Fair Food Program, I urge Wendy’s to join with the CIW and the Florida tomato industry as they work to eliminate the forced labor, poverty wages and other human rights abuses historically faced by Florida farmworkers who harvest your tomatoes.
For decades, Florida’s farmworkers endured poverty wages and daily violations of their basic rights in order to harvest the food on our plates:
• Stagnant, sub-poverty wages: Florida tomato harvesters are still paid by the piece. The prevailing piece rate today is 50 cents for every 32-lbs of tomatoes a worker picks, a rate that has remained virtually unchanged since 1980. As a result of that stagnation, a worker today must pick nearly 2.5 tons of tomatoes to earn minimum wage in a typical 10-hour workday. Most farmworkers today earn less than $12,000 a year.
• Absence of fundamental labor rights: Florida farmworkers have no right to overtime pay, no benefits and no right to organize in order to improve these conditions.
• Modern-day slavery: In the most extreme cases, workers have been forced to labor against their will through the use or threat of physical violence.
The good news is that a new day has dawned in the fields. The Fair Food Program, an historic partnership among farmworkers, tomato growers, and eleven leading food corporations is building a new tomato industry that advances the human rights and dignity of farmworkers while strengthening the sustainability of the entire industry. By joining the Fair Food Program, corporations require more humane working conditions from their Florida tomato suppliers, pay a small premium to help support those improved conditions, and commit to purchase exclusively from growers who meet the Program’s higher standards. These commitments are monitored and audited by the Fair Food Standards Council, a nonprofit third party organization, to ensure accountability and transparency.
Of the five largest fast food corporations in the country — McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell (Yum! Brands), and Wendy’s — Wendy’s is the only one not participating in the Fair Food Program. Sustainable restaurant leader Chipotle Mexican Grill also participates.
Wendy’s has responded to consumers’ calls to join the Fair Food Program by saying “[W]e pay a premium to our tomato suppliers in Florida, and expect them to take care of their employees. All of our Florida tomato suppliers participate in the Fair Food Program.”
The truth is, whatever premium Wendy’s may be paying is not the Fair Food Premium, it is not being monitored by the Fair Foods Standards Council, and it is not going to address farmworkers’ grinding poverty. Wendy’s statement that its suppliers belong to the Fair Food Program is both unverifiable and meaningless because Wendy’s, unlike its competitors in the Fair Food Program, does not have to, and does not, tell anyone who its tomato suppliers are. Nor does Wendy’s have to suspend its purchases from any participating grower found out of compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct. These are the dual linchpins that give the Program its teeth, and Wendy’s simply is not doing its part.
The Fair Food Program is a proven model, recognized by both the White House and the United Nations, that offers Wendy’s a tremendous opportunity to become, without incurring any competitive disadvantage, part of the human rights advances in Florida’s fields.
As a Wendy’s consumer, I look forward to your company working with the CIW and with Florida’s tomato growers through the Fair Food Program to ensure human rights for Florida farmworkers who harvest the tomatoes used in your restaurants.
For more information, please contact the CIW at 239-657-8311 or email@example.com.
You can download, a copy of this letter to print and mail HERE.