Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tell Obama: Good Food = Fair Food

By Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, originally posted on PAN's website, June 22, 2011.

This morning, while my boys are eating breakfast, I’m going to take a moment to mentally thank our local dairy farmers for the milk on our table and our chicken farmers for our eggs. Then I’m going to pick up the phone and call the President. It won’t take long, and it’s really important. Family farmers and ranchers' livelihoods are on the line.


This Wednesday, June 22, is the National Call-in Day for Fair Farm Rules. It’s the day that thousands of us across the country will call the White House and urge President Obama to put Fair Farm rules into practice.


Fairness Approved, But On Hold

It has been obvious for a long time that our food and farming system is broken (I testified about this at the Agriculture and Justice Department workshops back in December). During the past two decades, rapid corporate concentration has enabled a handful of giant companies to gain control of nearly the entire food system — from farm inputs to processing and retail. This market concentration, which encourages all kinds of corporate abuse of farmers, has driven hundreds of thousands of family farmers and ranchers out of business, while giving consumers less access to healthy, fresh food.

In 2008, our legislators knew that something had to be done right away to level the playing field for America’s struggling farmers. That's why they agreed to establish a new set of commonsense rules to restore fairness in our food system and force big agribusinesses to play fair. The rules — required by the 2008 Farm Bill, proposed by the Agriculture Department a year ago but still not yet implemented — will prevent meatpackers, for example, from favoring large producers like factory farms, over small independent family businesses. They will prevent secret contracts and prohibit retaliation against poultry growers for speaking out against company abuses.

These rules should already have been put into practice long ago, but surprise! Big processing companies like Tyson and Swift — along with grain trader Cargill and trade associations such as the American Meat Institute and the National Chicken Council — have been lobbying furiously to bury the rules. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture is getting ready to put them into practice (or so they say, anyway), but the White House is still delaying — and needs an extra push from the public to make it happen.

Make A Call For Fair Food!

That’s where we come in. Please join me in calling on the President to fulfill his campaign promise to implement Fair Farm Rules. Food and Water Watch has made it very easy. Wednesday, June 22 is the official call-in day, but if you can’t do it Wednesday (or if the line is busy), try back later or any day this week.

It’s not only our farmers and ranchers that desperately need these rules (they do). All of us — wherever we live, whatever we do — if we eat, and if we want good and fair food for ourselves and our families, then we need these rules too.

Take action » Tell President Obama that good food is fair food!

If you’re still hesitating, take one minute and 14 seconds to listen to Virginia contract poultry grower Eric Hedrick telling the Justice Department just how desperately family farmers need these new Fair Farm rules. I was in the room when Eric got up to testify. (His first comment is directed at an industry guy who was sneering at a struggling poultry grower who had just testified about the threats and abusive practices by the dominant poultry contractor in her state. The industry guy had asked why she got into the business, if she couldn't stand the heat.) When Eric took the mic, you could have heard a pin drop.

If farmers like Eric can risk their livelihoods and stand up to big business, then the least the rest of us can do is call our President and tell him to enact Fair Farm Rules now.

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