the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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gipsa decision favors big ag, harms family farmers

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photo credit: USDA/flickr

The USDA recently made their final decision on GIPSA – to pull the pending Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rules designed to level the playing field for poultry and livestock producers. These rules have been languishing since the 2008 farm bill, and today’s action firmly places this administration on the side of large meatpackers and poultry processors, not family farmers.

After years of negotiation and analysis, the rule would have protected contract livestock growers from the retaliation they have suffered after exposing financial hardship and ruin caused by large-scale poultry companies and meatpackers. If there was any hope that Secretary Perdue and this administration would stand up for small- and medium-sized family farmers and the rural communities they support, that has been dashed now.

Click HERE to read GIPSA’s full statement.


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monsanto sues arkansas over dicamba ban

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credit: flickr/Alternative Heat

In the most recent development in the dicamba scandal Monsanto have filed a lawsuit in Arkansas’ Pulaski County Circuit Court, suing state regulators for blocking dicamba for the 2018 growing season. The herbicide is controversial to say the least, increasing yields in resistant crops but simultaneously killing all other life in the region through drift which subsequently caused serious conflict between neighbours. Monsanto’s argument basically claims that the states ban is depriving Arkansas’ farmers. However many farmers are compelled to use the weedkiller only in a bid to keep up with their neighbours. It’s a race to the toxic bottom.

“The weeds have become so difficult to manage that some farmers don’t see any way that they control them without this,” says Bob Hartzler, a weed specialist at Iowa State University. “If you feel that way then you’re probably willing to take on some higher-level risk.”

Dicamba was introduced to the market because Monsanto’s previous money maker RoundUp has become ineffective against many weeds as they have adapted over decades of exposure. This line of argumentation in favour of adoption of the even more toxic dicamba isn’t particularly convincing as far as I am concerned irrespective of Monsanto’s safety claims.

Unlike glyphosate… dicamba comes with a major liability: it tends to combust in conditions of high heat. That’s why no one has really used it, even though the chemical has been around for years—until Monsanto’s low-volatility version promised to change that. But some evidence suggests that XtendiMax may be more unstable than Monsanto acknowledges. There have been widespread reports of crop damage—as many as 1,000 in Arkansas this year so far, according to the Associated Press. Conventional (non-modified) soybeans are extremely sensitive to dicamba, and farmers are alleging that their fields are being damaged by their neighbors’ applications.

To read the full article click HERE.


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lessons from a culinary workforce development program

credit: Berkely Food Institute

Berkeley Food Institute Community Engagement and Leadership Fellow and Sociology PhD student Carmen Brick, writes about her experience with workforce development programs for the BFI blog. From the outset, Carmen was aware of the perceived issues with workforce development programmes which are often criticized on the basis that they teach soft rather than hard skills and that they take financial advantage of those without access to other options. Yet Carmen observed another side of the situation from her work with those in the Kitchen of Champions program.

what I observed was that soft skills “training”—ranging from employment services such as crafting a resume to discussing short- and long-term goals and strategies to overcome barriers—was welcomed by many program participants who wanted more support in remaking their lives.

Carmen’s perspective on these programs is interesting and considered but most significantly she recognises that they are not perfect and that there is much room for improvement, but also potential for transforming these programs into resource that can encourage local community empowerment and food justice saying:

Given this potential, advocates and researchers focus upon food justice must learn more about the outcomes of these programs and their ability to contribute to fair employment in the food system.

To read the full article, click HERE


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yikes! ‘human pet food’ scandal in brazil

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credit: User Carioca/wikimedia commons

The Guardian wrote an article recently about the ‘human pet food’ scandal that is currently unfolding in Brazil.

“Prosecutors in Brazil’s biggest city have opened an inquiry into a controversial plan to feed poorer citizens and schoolchildren with a flour made out of food close to its sell-by date that critics have described as “human pet food”.

The food product (if you can truly even call it that) is call farinata (flour in Portuguese) and is suggested as a way to feed the poor at no cost to the government. The primary concern in this case is the nutritional content of what the government is planning on feeding to people. João Doria a multimillionaire businessman who is touted as a possible candidate for next year’s presidential elections has described farinata as “solidarity food” and said it was “made to combat hunger and also supplement people’s alimentation”.

“Poverty, homelessness and unemployment have risen in recent years as Brazil struggled with a debilitating recession. But nutritionists attacked the plan, arguing that nobody knows exactly what farinata is made of – nor even whether it is safe.

“It is not food, it is an ultra-processed product,” said Marly Cardoso, a professor of public health and nutrition at the Federal University of São Paulo. “You don’t know what is in it.”

To read the full article click HERE.


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celebrate with farmworkers in vermont

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migrantjustice.net

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.


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support farmworkers – boycott wendy’s

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credit: coalition of immokalee workers/vimeo

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 workers@ciw-online.org.

Sincerely

You can download, a copy of this letter to print and mail HERE.


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book: land justice: re-imagining land, food, and the commons

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credit: Friedrich-Karl Mohr

“Hunger and poverty are perpetuated by undemocratic systems of power. Now, this great new resource lifts the veil hiding the history of dispossession and unequal land access in the US.” – Frances Moore Lappé

Land access is the primary barrier for young farmers today. Ensuring access for young farmers who are passionate about the production of healthy food that helps rather than harms the planet is critical in order to address and resolve the injustices in the food system that are at the root of so many of the problems in society.

The authors of this new book Justine M. Williams and Eric Holt-Giménez begins with the history of colonialism in the southwestern US. It includes information from the important leaders within the food system With prefaces from leaders in the food justice and family farming movements, the book opens with a look at the legacies of white-settler colonialism in the southwestern United State which can be largely characterised by widespread enclosure  – and often subsequent depletion – of the rural commons through a process of privatization, that has endured until today. The history of this agricultural system is marred by racism, industrialization and destruction of ecosystems, and has concentrated much of the prosperity to be found in the food system in the hands of the few and powerful.

This book recognises what we have known for a long time: In order to move forward and achieve an equitable, sovereign and sustainable agricultural system for all, all of the players in the food movement must come together to demand land justice.

You can buy the book HERE.