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Family farmers testify in solidarity

(Friday, June 13, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- The following are news releases from the American Corn Growers Association and the National Family Farm Coalition regarding their testimony before the Congressional Progressive Caucus on trade agreements.

  • ACGA urges serious and thorough review of historic implication of past trade agreements

    Contact: Larry Mitchell (202) 835-0330

    WASHINGTON - June 12, 2003-The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) President, Keith Dittrich, a corn farmer from Tilden, Neb., testified today in the Rayburn House Office Building of the nation's capital before the Progressive Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives regarding the impact of free trade agreements on corn farmers.

    "Early in the process of negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Uruguay round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), ACGA assessed the dramatic effects on U.S. agriculture if reductions in domestic farm programs were made under the auspices of trade liberalization," stated Dittrich. "First of all, we knew that exports of basic commodities were relatively inelastic, and secondly, that reductions and the elimination of price support mechanisms, such as grain reserves and supply management programs, would have devastating effects on family farmers here and abroad. I would like the record to show that we sounded the alarms far and wide of what would happen if such a course were followed, but apparently this fell on deaf ears."

    "To this day, the U.S. government has continued to demand liberalized trade around the globe and radically adjust farm programs, which has led to the devastation of Rural America. In my home community, radical changes have taken place as family farm operations have either had to expand to survive or seek off-farm jobs to make ends meet," reported Dittrich. "Currently, our rural communities in Nebraska are facing severe education budget shortfalls that threaten to close many schools down. The infrastructure has either degraded or stagnated since these trade agreements have passed."

    More than a dozen members of Congress were part of the briefing, including Co-chairs Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio and Barbara Lee, D-Calif. as well as Representatives John Conyers, D-Mich, Bob Filner, D-Calif., Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, Major Owens, D-N.Y., Ed Pastor, D-Ariz. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Donald Payne, D-N.J., and Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.

    "Since trade liberalization's effects were so damaging to U.S. producers, one would think that the winners were farmers from other nations who supposedly have better access to markets through trade liberalization," said Dittrich. "To the contrary, farmers around the world have suffered along with U.S. farmers as commodity prices fell globally. Many have suffered even more seriously than US. producers due to the lack of any income assistance, and even consumers have failed to benefit from reduced commodity prices. Data show that retail consumer food prices have increased by nearly 250 percent over a twenty-five year period, while prices paid to corn farmers have decreased 67 percent. In reality, the only winners are the multinational food and grain processing and exporting companies."

    "ACGA urges a very serious and thorough review of the historic implications of past trade agreements before drafting, negotiating and ratifying any future trade agreements," concluded Dittrich. "We cannot afford the mistakes that have been made in the past."

    The American Corn Growers Association represents 14,000 members in 35 states. See http://www.acga.org .

    Click the following link to review the testimony: http://www.acga.org/news/2003/061203b.htm

  • Family farmers tesify in solidarity Contact: Dena Hoff (406) 687-3645
    John Bunting (607) 746-3892
    Katherine Ozer (202) 543-5675

    WASHINGTON, D.C., June 12, 2003 National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) farm leaders presented testimony Thursday before the U.S. House of Representatives Progressive Caucus along with labor and farmworker organizations, expressing in solidarity the destructive impacts of free trade agreements.

    “With barely more than 1 percent of Americans farming, we have become a nation disconnected from a working knowledge of our food supply,” said New York dairy farmer John Bunting on behalf of NFFC. “We need to understand the American dairy farmer is not suffering from competition.”

    “We are suffering from a kind of cannibalism,” Bunting continued. “We have the gluttons of concentrated power devouring the American dairy farmer in the name of free trade.”

    The Progressive Caucus heard testimony about free trade agreements’ impacts from 15 organizations, from the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations to the United Farm Workers of America. Each organization’s representative voiced their personal experience, along with the experiences of others in their community, on how free trade agreements affect their livelihoods.

    “A trade policy which is secret and undemocratic which ignores the negative impacts on family agriculture, workers, and the environment is a slap in the face to every American who believes they live in a country which proclaims 'liberty and justice for all,'” said Dena Hoff, Chair of NFFC’s Trade Task Force from Eastern Montana.

    Each testifier at Thursday’s briefing asked Congress to remedy the destruction already caused by current free trade agreements. Furthermore, they wanted reassurance that any future trade agreements would be negotiated with public participation to the benefit not of multinational corporations, but to farmers, laborers, farmworkers, taxpayers and consumers.