Category Archives: Food System

Make a Resilient, Localized Food System Part of the Next Stimulus

CounterPunch – May 25, 2020 – Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

From wasted food, to the exploitation of farmworkers, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it painfully clear that this country’s food system must be changed. Politicians must pass further stimulus legislation that includes policy to reform our inflexible, consolidated food system to prepare for future crises.

Consider the many problems in the meat industry. Workers ill with COVID caused temporary  processing facility closures, putting our nation’s meat supply in jeopardy.  President Trump forced meatpacking plants to re-open by executive order, yet, further disruptions are likely. Roughly half of those plant workers are immigrants, living at or below the poverty line, forced to return to work, they are still at risk of getting sick.

Because these plants could not shift production to the retail market when restaurants, schools, and hotels closed, product could not move. These supply chain bottlenecks caused farmer prices to fall, even as processor profits rose.

And cattle ranchers were not the only farmers affected, dairy farmers were told to dump milk, and hog and poultry producers, to euthanize their animals and vegetable growers were forced to plow their crops under. Desperately needed food is wasted while grocery costs rise allowing retailers to cash in on supply chain breakdowns.

Before the pandemic hit, close to three million farmworkers who labor on some of the larger operations in this country already struggled.  Most lived in poverty, earning between $15,000 to $18,000 a year and around 75% of farmworkers lacked legal status and lived in fear of deportation.

Now, farmworkers face the risk contracting COVID-19. In California’s Monterey county, around 40% of the people who have contracted the virus are those people who labor in the fields. USDA’s response? Instead of improving working conditions for farmworkers, the USDA  wants to pay them less.

USDA has allocated $16 billion in direct payments to farmers, as well as creating the ‘farm to families box’ program – where suppliers, with larger operations having a seeming advantage, sell their produce to the government for distribution at food banks.  Both initiatives are band-aids, with direct payments mirroring past trade deal mitigation payments, wherein larger operations and multinational agribusiness firms such as JBS  are at the front of the line. This, as farm bankruptcies hit an eight-year high.

To really address the failures of the food system – and to position ourselves to adequately face the next crisis, we must reform our food system, ensure fair farm prices, empower agricultural workers and invest in rural infrastructure.

Farmworkers, in addition to citizenship, must be allowed to organize without fear of reprisal from their employer.  Currently, only California guarantees this right because the National Labor Relations Act excludes rural workers from the right to unionize. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act includes citizenship for farmworkers, still, efforts should go further by allowing workers the right to organize.

Farmworkers should also have the chance to become farmers. Since 2008, through the Farm Service Agency’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) over $162 billion has been provided to former farmworkers, including women, veterans and Native Americans, to promote small-scale agriculture. Doubling, or tripling the resources dedicated to this program, could help create a more localized food system and put more farmers on the land.

All farmers, need fair markets and fair prices. The government must, as it has in the past, establish reserves for grains, as well as other products.  Counter-cyclical government loans – a part of previous Farm Bills – would allow farmers to sell their produce either on the market, or into the reserves, with their decision based on a floor price that farmers, processors, and retailers would negotiate. Reserves would improve prices for farmers, prevent food shortages and stabilize consumer prices.

Smaller local processing facilities – for beef, dairy, as well as fruits and vegetables – would strengthen markets and make the supply chain more flexible. This should include more brick and mortar facilities, as well as mobile facilities that can travel from farm to farm, giving farmers multiple options for sales and consumers more options on how they buy.

Rural areas are in desperate need of improved communications and transportation infrastructure. The Post Office provides rural residents affordable access to the rest of the world and its viability must be ensured. Similarly, broadband internet access must be made available to everyone. And if farmers are to move their product, significant resources need to be spent on improving roads, dams, bridges and railroads.

The effects of the COV-19 pandemic have shown that large processors cannot meet the challenges of a crisis. A less consolidated food system that is more flexible, and supportive of farmers and workers will be better able to meet future challenges. Upcoming stimulus plans must address these problems in our food system now and for the long term. If they do, we might be ready for the next challenge.

Jim Goodman is an emeritus organic dairy farmer from Wonewoc, Wisconsin .

Anthony Pahnke is the Vice President of the Family Farm Defenders and Assistant Professor of International Relations at San Francisco State University.

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Africa and the world needs to hear this; Dr Vandana Shiva Calls War On Bill Gates – Video 44 min

Zoom Africa TV – Apr 20, 2020 – Video 44min

Our goal at Zoom Africa TV is to throw more light on everything concerning Africa, zoom into the values and beauty of what makes us Africans as well as showcase investment opportunities for Africans in the diaspora and make it easy for people to see available investment opportunities. But in doing that, we don’t forget to also entertain you.

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My NEW technique to harvest carrots in below FREEZING temperatures – Video 6 min

Urban Farmer Curtis Stone – Dec 18, 2019 – Video 6 min

About Urban Farmer Curtis Stone: Curtis Stone started Green City Acres, a commercial urban farm called Green City Acres out of Kelowna, BC, Canada, in 2010. His mission is to show others how they can grow a lot of food on small plots of land and make a living from it. Using DIY and simple infrastructure, one can earn a significant living from their own back yard or someone else’s.

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The Seattle 1999 WTO protest was a battle for food sovereignty – Video 3:47

Democracy Now – Vandana Shiva – Dec 1, 2019 – Video 3:47

Twenty years ago, tens of thousands of activists gathered in Seattle to protest the World Trade Organization and stop executives from signing a global trade deal that many felt was harmful to environmental and workers’ rights. Indian scholar and environmental activist Vandana Shiva reflects on the WTO’s threats to food sovereignty — stripping farmers of their autonomy through corporate seed patents. The WTO “has given control to the poison cartel over our seed and food.” She also says the WTO has contributed to today’s global wealth inequality, consolidating the power of billionaires. “Bill Gates … got rules written so he would not have to pay taxes in transport or transfer. Jeff Bezos shipping goods around and pay no taxes anywhere — these trillionaires are children of the WTO rules,” Shiva says, arguing that the uprisings against neoliberal austerity all over the world today are a part of the legacy of the WTO protests. “The brutality and limitless greed of the handful of corporations and billionaires is now really reaching ecocidal and genocidal limits.”

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On Contact: Is it food? NYU’s Marion Nestle – Video 27 min

RT America – Chris Hedges – Oct 19, 2019

Host Chris Hedges talks to Marion Nestle, New York University professor of nutrition, on how food companies distort the science and research into what we eat. In her book ‘Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew The Science Of What We Eat,’ Nestle explains that the food industry follows the formula pioneered by the tobacco industry – cast doubt on the science, fund research to provide desired results, offer gifts and consulting arrangements to buy silence or loyalty, use front groups, promote self-regulation and personal responsibility, and use the courts to challenge critics and dismantle regulations.

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