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Farm Leaders from Brazil, U.S., Europe and Africa Announce Common Ground on Trade Reforms; other news

(Friday, April 22, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. U.S. to Comply with Ruling on U.S. Cotton Subsidies
2. Rapid City, SD mayor speaks out against factory farming
3. NFU Applauds Bill Banning Packer Ownership
4. WTO Talks Will Not Find a Solution
5. Farm Leaders from Brazil, U.S., Europe and Africa Announce Common Ground on Trade Reforms: International Trade rules in Agriculture Must Improve Prices, Stop Agriculture Dumping

1. U.S. to Comply with Ruling on U.S. Cotton Subsidies


OMAHA (DTN) -- The Bush administration today will formally notify the World Trade Organization that it plans to fully comply with the ruling regarding U.S. cotton subsidies. However, the administration still has not decided how it will implement the WTO decision, which was adopted by the organization's Dispute Settlement Body on March 21. Trade officials and lawyers in several government agencies, including the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and USDA are examining several options.

USDA Undersecretary J.B. Penn said deciding how to comply with the WTO ruling would take time because the issue is complex and "and there are a lot of stakeholders [who need to be consulted in the process]." Penn said that he is currently "up to my eyeballs" with work on the issue, noting that the two most urgent issues the administration is attempting to resolve concern the WTO decision condemning the Step 2 and export credit programs for cotton production.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., last week said officials are looking at the formula that triggers Step 2 subsidies to millers and exporters.

USDA's Penn said the United States agrees that it must comply with the WTO ruling by July 1 with respect to the Step 2 and export credit programs.

"After that, we have a little more time to address some of the other implications [of the WTO ruling]," he said.

2. Rapid City, SD mayor speaks out against factory farming

Forum Page Article (published April 16th, 2005), Rapid City Journal

Imagine the prisoners all lined up in front of you. You can barely hear yourself think, with all the screaming going on. Each inmate is in a cell of iron bars, and the cells are so small they cannot move or turn around. They try desperately to climb out of their cell, but can't quite make it.

All prisoners are forced to live in their own waste, and receive little or no medical attention even when in excruciating pain. They develop sores and lesions of indescribable magnitude and severity. When they become too ill or have been deemed of no more use, many are grabbed by guards and swung by their feet, slamming their heads onto the concrete floor. Quite often the weak ones are hauled outside in summer heat or winter cold, and simply left to die of thirst or starvation.

Those, however, are only the conditions of the pregnant mothers and their newborns.

As the offspring of these inmates age, they are confined in community holding areas wherein they can barely move, and are often forced to eat their own feces. They, too, are often starved, so they begin to eat each other, much as the Donner group did in the Sierras so many years ago. Mutilation and cannibalization are commonplace in this facility.

Since the guards in this prison are often bored and looking for "fun", they are said to enjoy torturing the prisoners. This can include, but is not limited to: burning their eyes with cigarettes, using cattle prods to "burn" their genitalia and eyes, and clubbing, beating, and kicking them to death.

When the prisoners have served their purpose, they are then tortured on their way to the death chamber. Many, many times they are transported in below-freezing temperatures, going long distances in large trucks so open by design that some prisoners are literally frozen to the surfaces of the truck upon arrival.

If the semi-frozen inmate shows resistance to leaving the truck, the guards will rip them from their frozen position, and if they lose their skin or a limb, it's the inmate's fault.

Then, in the "modern" death chamber, they are shot in the head. The problem is, they are being processed so quickly, their "handlers" can't do a good enough job, so many are boiled alive or hacked apart while still conscious.

You're probably thinking, "Wow, I thought Saddam Hussein was in jail! Where in the world could there be places like that? Civilized people don't allow that to go on!"

Well, folks, welcome to the industrial model of corporate agriculture in your own country.

If you thought pigs were raised on real farms, with farmers who take good care of their livestock, you would be right, but only for about five percent of the pigs slaughtered in America.

The rest are "corporate wards" and are subjected to the kinds of inhumane cruelty that decent people would probably attribute more to terrorists than these corporate suppliers of pork.

Defenders of this "modern agricultural practice" don't really want you to know the other aspects of this "system" either.

Take a piglet from its mother at two weeks instead of naturally weaning at seven weeks and you deny the animal the antibodies from its mother's milk that it needs to fend off disease.

Since "production quotas" require it, the factory farmer loads these pigs with antibiotics in their feed for the rest of their lives. Talk with health care specialists and see what they think of the fact that a whopping sixty percent of all antibiotics sold in America went into livestock last year. See if doctors are incredibly nervous about the effectiveness of some of these drugs now that antibiotic resistance has developed in some very dangerous pathogens.

And let's not forget the manure. A hog produces four times the waste that a human being does. What's their "modern" answer? Mix the manure with lots of water, dig a hole, and pour it in! Hey, if it ruins our drinking water supply for years & years, at least the corporation made money.

All of the unspeakable animal cruelty, environmental problems, employee health problems, and meat safety problems are not the end of the story.

No, there is one more aspect that we in the cities had better get our arms around, and quickly. Perhaps the most devastating damage coming from these animal concentration camps is the loss of family agriculture in our nation. Family producers who care about us city folks and practice true livestock husbandry, are unable to compete with these absentee-owned investor "factories" and their unscrupulous practices.

It's time we stood up for family farmers and ranchers, the true stewards of the land and stakeholders in our nation's agricultural future. They deserve nothing less.

Jerry Munson, Mayor of Rapid City, SD 2001-2003
2310 Arrow Street
Rapid City, SD 57702-4302
(605) 342-4701

3. NFU Applauds Bill Banning Packer Ownership

Contact: Emily Eisenberg, 202-314-3104, eeisenberg@nfudc.org

WASHINGTON (April 18, 2005) - National Farmers Union applauds the introduction of legislation by United States Senators Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ken Salazar, D-Colo., that would ban packer ownership of livestock and help restore competitive livestock markets.

"This legislation will help slow the trend toward vertical integration and help restore the competitive markets our free-market economy is based upon," said NFU President Dave Frederickson.

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President John Stencel said he is also very pleased by the introduction of the bill. "We have been struggling with this issue for many years, and it is time for Congress to take this issue up seriously," said Stencel. "Banning packer ownership seven days prior to slaughter will give the producers greater market access and fairer prices for their cattle."

National Farmers Union is a long-time supporter of a ban on packer ownership of livestock, and was pleased to see its inclusion in the Senate-passed 2002 farm bill. This important measure was removed from the final compromise farm bill despite its bipartisan support.



4. WTO Talks Will Not Find a Solution

by Paul Beingessner
Canadian farmer, writer

As the World Trade Organization prepares to meet again to try to reach agreement on agricultural trade, Canadian farmers must feel there is a lot at stake. One part of this is the concern that in order to get agreement at the last round, the Canadian government tossed up the Canadian Wheat Board as a sacrificial lamb. Another part is the fear that supply management in the dairy and poultry sectors will be set up for an eventual fall.

Since Canada isn't into subsidizing agriculture very heavily, these are two of a very small number of areas our competitors can chip away at.

And for what? If you listen to the brainiacs at Agriculture Canada, the real issue is getting rid of export subsidies and lessening domestic supports, so that Canadian farmers compete on a level playing field.

So lets translate that into plain English. The end of export subsidies would theoretically bring up the price of grain and other agricultural commodities. As for a decrease in domestic support programs, the hope is that if farmers in other countries get less government support, their agriculture will become as uneconomic as ours, and they will produce less. Less will then be available for export, and prices will rise.

This, in a nutshell is what countries like Canada hope to achieve. Countries that subsidize agriculture heavily, like the U.S., have a somewhat different agenda. The Americans want poor countries to lower their tariffs on imported agricultural products so that the U.S. can get its farm commodities into their markets. This is what free trade with Mexico did for the U.S. It allowed cheap American corn to flood into Mexico and displace domestic corn, driving small farmers off the land in droves. As a sideline, the Americans like to snipe at agencies like the Canadian Wheat Board, since it keeps American agribiz corporations like Cargill from reaping large profits from export wheat and barley.

Canada's hope for change at the WTO is, well, stupid. Unfortunately, in the framework of the WTO, it appears a stupid hope is the best one can expect. The export subsidies used by other countries are actually not very important to Canadian farmers. Export subsidies have been little used in cereals and oilseeds of late. Their reduction would not mean much.

The notion that a decrease in domestic support programs would decrease production flies in the face of the science of agricultural economics. In fact, when incomes drop, farmers typically try to increase production. They must, since a lower margin requires more bushels to meet expenses. Dr. Daryll Ray, Director of the University of Tennessee's Agricultural Policy Analysis Center, points this out regularly.

Seeking the elusive WTO agreement has one large negative consequence. It gives the illusion that a solution to the farm crisis can be found there. It can't. But governments can use the WTO as a smokescreen to cover their failure to conceive of real solutions.

Just as frightening to Canadian farmers as the bogus solutions fostered by the WTO is a recent press release by some farm groups. The Western Canadian Wheat Growers, Western Barley Growers Association, the Alberta Barley Commission and the Alberta Grain Commission announced they are sending a joint team to Geneva to try to influence the outcome of the talks. The group's press release says, "the current round of WTO negotiations must make major reductions, if not elimination of tariffs and distorting subsidies."

But if the track record of these groups is any indication, they will have one major agenda - to try to convince the Canadian delegation to throw in the towel on the Wheat Board. They will argue we must give up the CWB in order to get other countries to make concessions. They will also carp against supply management, in an attempt to destroy the only sectors of Canadian agriculture that are profitable.

A question quickly springs to mind with the Wheat Growers and their Alberta cousins. Where do they get the money to send an eight-person delegation to Geneva? The membership of these small groups is barely sufficient to maintain their limited range of activities. If they are drawing on the unlimited coffers of the Alberta government, as they did in the past, they cannot claim to represent western Canadian farmers. If they are on the dole from agribusiness corporations, as they have been in the past, to whose tune will they dance?

(c) Paul Beingessner (306) 868-4734 phone 868-2009 fax beingessner@sasktel.net

5. Farm Leaders from Brazil, U.S., Europe and Africa Announce Common Ground on Trade Reforms: International Trade rules in Agriculture Must Improve Prices, Stop Agriculture Dumping

Contact: Larry Mitchell (202) 835-0330 - http://www.acga.org
Alexandra Strickner, +41-79-76 48 658 - astrickner@iatp.org

Geneva, April 21, 2005 ­ International agricultural trade rules must address the severe price depression in agricultural commodities that are hurting farmers around the world, a group of farm leaders from Brazil, the U.S., Europe and Africa said at a press conference today. While country negotiators are locked in disagreement over new agriculture rules, farm leaders around the world outlined a series of reforms designed to help build a sustainable food system built around family farmers.

"We need measures and instruments which allow protection to family farmers in order to develop a proper sustainable food production system based on family agriculture," said Altemir Tortelli, FETRAF SUL (Federation for Workers in Family Farming in the South of Brazil), Brasil.

"The disease we face in farming today is low farm prices, in the U.S. and around the world," said Larry Mitchell, of the American Corn Growers Association. "To defeat the disease of low prices we need policies that improve prices in the U.S and around the world, establish adequate food reserves and address production adjustments to enhance production of crops in short supply in favor of crops in surplus. There are efforts already underway to bring about such international cooperation on supply management."

The WTO negotiations on agriculture are at a critical juncture. Most WTO member governments want specific commitments to cut trade-distorting domestic support, the absolute elimination of export subsidies and significant cuts to agricultural tariffs. But the farm leaders argued that the WTO’s effort to eliminate domestic subsidies in agriculture will do little to affect the most important problem confronting family farmers, especially in developing countries: depressed prices.

The farm leaders presented a platform, known as the Call from Chapeco (a state in Brazil) that was agreed to by 47 farm organizations from Africa, Europe, North America, Central America, South America, and Asia in January 2005. The Call from Chapeco rejects the dogmatic view of agricultural policies promoted by the WTO, IMF and World Bank, and calls for rules that: 1) Ensure access to resources and prioritize food production for the domestic market; 2) Appropriate import protection to reinforce productive capacities; 3) Ensure remunerative agricultural prices through border protection, supply management, collective marketing, and sustainable production; 4) Recognize at the international level the right to protect and reinforce supply management policies.

Different forms of these broad proposals have been introduced within WTO negotiations. The G33 has made specific proposals to end the damage to their rural economies caused by the dumping of under-priced commodities in world markets. These measures, including a special safeguard and exemptions from tariff cuts for certain designated special products, continue to meeting resistance from many countries.

The farm leaders highlighted the problems of unmanaged commodity production, and the extraordinary concentration of market power in a handful of transnational food processing and marketing companies that now dominate worldwide. This has led to unprecedented levels of global commodity price depression. The beneficiaries of these policies are transnational food trading, processing and marketing companies, both in the North and South. Producers worldwide are the losers and many have joined together in a call for new rules to govern international trade in agriculture.

"While a main focus of WTO negotiators are the reduction of subsidies and tariffs, the main focus of farmers is a trading system that promotes fair prices and rural development," said Alexandra Strickner, of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Geneva. "If our goal is a sustainable food system that puts family farmers at its center, it is a much different agenda that what is being negotiated at the WTO. A fair trade system would be in the interest of all farmers, not just those in certain countries."

To read the Call from Chapeco, go to: