Betting the farm on free trade; other news
(Friday, June 3, 2005 -- CropChoice news) -- 1. Betting The Farm On Free Trade 1. Betting The Farm On Free Trade By Paul Magnusson in Washington Bob Stallman is at the center of a storm over the future of American agriculture Across the midwest, rural radio stations are airing ads that feature a famous quote from President Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the cornfield." The ads are sponsored by the National Farmers Union, a group representing family farms, and it's no secret that the Washington pencil-pusher being targeted is American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. Even Stallman, who grew up on a 1,100-acre rice and cattle farm in Columbus, Tex., ruefully calls himself "a cell-phone farmer." But it's not his pinstripe suits or corner office overlooking the U.S. Capitol that get the goat of the NFU. It's the way Stallman is dividing farm country by leading the 5.6 million-member Farm Bureau, the nation's most powerful agricultural lobby, in a strong free-trade direction. Stallman favors low worldwide tariffs and a cut in government handouts, reasoning that large-scale, mechanized, and superefficient American farmers can export their way out of the commodity glut dogging the industry. That stance puts Stallman at the epicenter of a raging controversy over the future of American farming. Other voices representing small farmers and their struggling rural communities -- the NFU and the National Family Farm Coalition among them -- fear being crushed between giant U.S. agribusiness and tons of food from developing countries. The debate will heat up in the coming months. In June, Congress will take up the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) between the U.S. and six Caribbean Basin countries -- a deal that would open the U.S. to increased imports of sugar, among the most heavily protected crops in America. Meanwhile, the Geneva-based World Trade Organization is pushing Europe and the U.S. to trim the hefty subsidies that provide some farmers with a third or more of their income. Agriculture "is the tiebreaker" that will bring developing nations to the table for an overall deal that will include manufactured goods and services, says U.S. agricultural trade negotiator Allen F. Johnson. The Farm Bureau supports CAFTA and the WTO initiative in the face of critics who insist that trade deals will hasten consolidation of U.S. farms into large-scale corporate agriculture. Despite skepticism among some farm families and rebellions by state Farm Bureau offices in North Dakota, Louisiana, and Colorado, Stallman remains an adamant free marketer. During nearly six years heading the Bureau, he has beefed up its economic analysis and insists that its studies demonstrate that America's farming future lies in exports. If Stallman has any sentimental attachment to the family farm, it doesn't show in the number-crunching. "It is important to maintain a productive and profitable agriculture sector, but the questions of who should be farmers, and what size farms should be, and what the countryside should look like -- those are social issues," Stallman declares. "If you want a social program, look at what the European Union spends to maintain its countryside and keep individual families on farms." Washington would have to pay subsidies four times as high as it does now to halt the trend toward consolidation, he says. Such hard-nosed calculations draw considerable support from farm economists. "He is seeing the whole forest instead of looking to save every single tree," says Paul A. Drazek, an independent farm analyst and adviser to the Bush Administration. The nation's First Rancher also is a fan, and little wonder: As head of the Texas Farm Bureau, Stallman engineered an endorsement of long-shot challenger George W. Bush in his successful campaign for governor in '94. To Stallman's critics, free-trade deals are the key to ruin, not prosperity. They point to the dwindling U.S. trade surplus in farm products, which the U.S. Agriculture Dept. predicts will turn to a deficit this year. During the 1990s, the North American Free Trade Agreement, establishment of the 147-nation WTO, and trade deals with China all failed to kick-start exports. But they did encourage imports of meat, fruit, vegetables, and wine. DICTATING PRICES
(Friday, June 3, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --
1. Betting The Farm On Free Trade
1. Betting The Farm On Free Trade
By Paul Magnusson in Washington
Bob Stallman is at the center of a storm over the future of American agriculture
Across the midwest, rural radio stations are airing ads that feature a famous quote from President Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the cornfield." The ads are sponsored by the National Farmers Union, a group representing family farms, and it's no secret that the Washington pencil-pusher being targeted is American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.
Even Stallman, who grew up on a 1,100-acre rice and cattle farm in Columbus, Tex., ruefully calls himself "a cell-phone farmer." But it's not his pinstripe suits or corner office overlooking the U.S. Capitol that get the goat of the NFU. It's the way Stallman is dividing farm country by leading the 5.6 million-member Farm Bureau, the nation's most powerful agricultural lobby, in a strong free-trade direction. Stallman favors low worldwide tariffs and a cut in government handouts, reasoning that large-scale, mechanized, and superefficient American farmers can export their way out of the commodity glut dogging the industry.
That stance puts Stallman at the epicenter of a raging controversy over the future of American farming. Other voices representing small farmers and their struggling rural communities -- the NFU and the National Family Farm Coalition among them -- fear being crushed between giant U.S. agribusiness and tons of food from developing countries.
The debate will heat up in the coming months. In June, Congress will take up the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) between the U.S. and six Caribbean Basin countries -- a deal that would open the U.S. to increased imports of sugar, among the most heavily protected crops in America. Meanwhile, the Geneva-based World Trade Organization is pushing Europe and the U.S. to trim the hefty subsidies that provide some farmers with a third or more of their income. Agriculture "is the tiebreaker" that will bring developing nations to the table for an overall deal that will include manufactured goods and services, says U.S. agricultural trade negotiator Allen F. Johnson. The Farm Bureau supports CAFTA and the WTO initiative in the face of critics who insist that trade deals will hasten consolidation of U.S. farms into large-scale corporate agriculture.
Despite skepticism among some farm families and rebellions by state Farm Bureau offices in North Dakota, Louisiana, and Colorado, Stallman remains an adamant free marketer. During nearly six years heading the Bureau, he has beefed up its economic analysis and insists that its studies demonstrate that America's farming future lies in exports.
If Stallman has any sentimental attachment to the family farm, it doesn't show in the number-crunching. "It is important to maintain a productive and profitable agriculture sector, but the questions of who should be farmers, and what size farms should be, and what the countryside should look like -- those are social issues," Stallman declares. "If you want a social program, look at what the European Union spends to maintain its countryside and keep individual families on farms." Washington would have to pay subsidies four times as high as it does now to halt the trend toward consolidation, he says.
Such hard-nosed calculations draw considerable support from farm economists. "He is seeing the whole forest instead of looking to save every single tree," says Paul A. Drazek, an independent farm analyst and adviser to the Bush Administration. The nation's First Rancher also is a fan, and little wonder: As head of the Texas Farm Bureau, Stallman engineered an endorsement of long-shot challenger George W. Bush in his successful campaign for governor in '94.
To Stallman's critics, free-trade deals are the key to ruin, not prosperity. They point to the dwindling U.S. trade surplus in farm products, which the U.S. Agriculture Dept. predicts will turn to a deficit this year. During the 1990s, the North American Free Trade Agreement, establishment of the 147-nation WTO, and trade deals with China all failed to kick-start exports. But they did encourage imports of meat, fruit, vegetables, and wine.
DICTATING PRICES"We have been hearing forever that we are just one trade agreement away from prosperity," says Tom Buis, vice-president for government relations at the 103-year-old, Denver-based NFU. While he calls Stallman "a very bright agricultural leader," Buis insists that the consolidation that Stallman considers inevitable "is a huge issue to rural America." Giant purchasers -- such as Tyson Foods (TSN ) and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM ) -- are increasingly able to dictate prices. Also, "Just having diversified family farms helps sustain a stronger rural economy," insists Katherine Ozer, executive director of the National Family Farm Coalition.
In the end, the future of CAFTA and the summer's farm policy debate may well hinge on the American sugar industry. Although sugar growers account for less than 1% of the nation's 2.1 million farmers, they wield political power in Washington far in excess of their numbers. Republicans from such states as Idaho and Georgia will hesitate to sacrifice their sugar farmers on the altar of free trade. Unless the Administration can attract 30 or so Democratic House members to make up for expected GOP defections, CAFTA dies. Ironically, the sugar program is the last vestige of the 1930s-era government supply-management programs once championed by the Farm Bureau. "Some of my best friends are sugar farmers -- cane and beet," says Stallman. But, he calculates, "The damage to sugar is minimal compared to the benefits for all agriculture."
Even more ironic, in the 2000 race for Farm Bureau president, Stallman beat 14-year incumbent Dean R. Kleckner by promising to concentrate more on domestic programs than on a free-trade agenda. Instead, Stallman buttressed the organization's finances, moved its headquarters from Chicago to Washington, and eventually shifted the Farm Bureau focus back to trade. While willing to swap subsidies for lowered import barriers abroad, Stallman insists: "We won't unilaterally disarm." But in the long, hot summer ahead, his biggest worry won't be battles abroad, it'll be friendly fire at home.
2. Food Sovereignty: turning the global food system upside down
When last February France's president, Jacques Chirac, toured a number of countries in Francophone Africa, he talked a lot about agriculture. Stopping over in Dakar, Senegal, and talking at a seminar where he had the attentive ear of six other heads of state from the region and hundreds of farmers representatives, he called for a reorientation of agricultural development along the lines of food sovereignty. For him, that implies that agriculture should receive a special treatment in the debate on globalisation, local traditions should be respected, and that the development level of each country should be taken into account. However, at the same seminar, he fervently argued that the EU 's current farm policies - widely criticised for dumping exports, taxing imports and undermining small-holder agriculture in the EU and elsewhere - should not be seen as the enemy of poor countries and farmers. Apply food sovereignty, but leave the global food system untouched?
A few months before Chirac went to Africa, GRAIN held it 's annual a staff meeting in a small village close to Tangail in Bangladesh. Our host was UBINIG, a grassroots NGO that has as its main objective to promote 'Nayakrishi Andolon ', which literally means 'new agricultural movement '. Nayakrishi farming avoids the use of external inputs, uses a tremendously diverse base of local seeds, and most of all considers the growing of food as an integral part of their culture, their self reliance, and the sovereignty of local communities. It also produces more food than any of the industrial agriculture methods that are being pushed upon the country.
"Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples, communities, and countries to define their own agricultural, pastoral, labour, fishing, food and land policies which are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances. It includes the true right to food and to produce food, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and to food-producing resources and the ability to sustain themselves and their societies."
From: Food Sovereignty: A Right For All, Political Statement of the NGO/CSO Forum for Food Sovereignty. Rome, June 2002
The villagers that hosted our meeting insisted on showing us their 'Community Seed Wealth Centre '. The centre is stunning. A bewildering amount of clay pots and glass bottles contain the seeds of hundreds of different varieties of dozens of different crops. But the women in charge of the seed centre patiently explained that this is just the tip of the iceberg of the seed network that they are part of. Hundreds of communities in many different parts of the country use the seeds every season, keep them safe in their homesteads, and a sophisticated exchange and monitoring network of the villagers ensures that at any point in time thousands of different seed varieties are being grown and kept alive, somewhere. At some point in the discussions, someone asked the question what they understand by food sovereignty. One of the women pointed to the seed centre behind her, smiled, and simply said: 'this'.
At the heart of food sovereignty is local autonomy. The UBINIG women feel strongly that the loss of seed from the household also means the loss of the women 's power. Dependence on the outside market for seeds makes them redundant and powerless, and displaces them from the control of the heart of the agricultural system. What is true for the survival of women as farmers, is also true for the survival of peasant agriculture as a whole. The neo-liberal globalisation agenda pushes for an agriculture in which the billions of today's peasant farmers have no place, and in which the global corporations - with the active support of government elites North and South - control the food chain all the way from agricultural inputs and the growing of the crops, to the distribution, processing and selling of food across the world. This is the very vision of agriculture that the concept of food sovereignty challenges.
Food sovereignty in context
The concept of Food Sovereignty was first launched by Via Campesina at the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome. Since then, it has been discussed and developed further at many subsequent gatherings. In 2001, the 'World Forum on Food Sovereignty ' was held in Cuba and a year later, at the NGO/CSO Forum on Food Sovereignty held alongside the second World Food Summit in Rome, the concept was further discussed and elaborated.
Many different actors (from social movement to governments) have appropriated the concept and it is now widely used. In a way, food sovereignty 's 'success ' as a new discourse, has also been part of its problem as different people now use it for very different purposes resulting in a situation where it is fast being emptied of its original contents and meaning. Chirac 's understanding of the concept quoted at the beginning of this article is just one example of this.
Food sovereignty has its roots in life and struggle of peasant farmers, fishermen and indigenous peoples. Different from many other terms invented by intellectuals, policy makers and bureaucrats, food sovereignty springs from the peasant struggles as a need to create a strong, radical and inclusive discourse about local realities and needs that can be heard and understood globally.
In a way, the concept was developed as a reaction to the increasing (mis)use of 'food security '. The mainstream definition of food security, endorsed at Food Summits and other high level conferences, talks about everybody having enough good food to eat each day. But it doesn 't talk about where the food comes from, who produces it, how under which conditions it has been grown. This allows the food exporters, North and South, to argue that the best way for poor countries to achieve food security is to import cheap food from them, rather then trying to produce it themselves. This, as already is becoming painfully evident everywhere, make those countries more dependent on the international market, forces peasant farmers that can 't compete with the subsidised imports off their lands, and leaves them looking in the cities for jobs that don 't exist. Food security, understood this way, just contributes to more poverty, marginalisation and hunger.
The thinking behind food sovereignty contrasts this neo-liberal approach that believes that international trade will solve the world 's food problem, with a focus on local autonomy, local markets and community action. Perhaps, then, the first issue to stress is that food sovereignty is a process of peoples ' resistance and its conceptualisation can not be carried out outside the dynamics of the social movements that are central in these struggles.
The local space first
The first space in which peasants identified the transformative power of food sovereignty was, of course, the local space. This is where the farmers have their roots, and where the seeds that they sow grow their roots. It is here where food sovereignty acquires its most central dimension. It is also at this level that strategies and actions are formulated and developed; from the fight against pesticides by the women in Paraguay, to the seed networks in France, Spain and Italy and from the peasant cooperatives ' initiatives in Uganda, to the rescuing of traditional medicine by the indigenous peoples of Chiapas. It is in the spaces where local communities are creating autonomy based on their own needs, beliefs and timelines that food sovereignty acquires real meaning. It also acquires a common understanding that allows peasant communities from different parts of the world to appreciate - and identify themselves with - each others struggles.
Therefore, when farmers of MOCASE put themselves in between the bulldozers and their fields to stop large landowners from taking their land in order to plant soybean monocultures, they know that they are not only defending their livelihoods, but also that they are resisting a development model in which peasant farmers have no place what so ever.
MOCASE stands for 'Movimento Campesino de Santiago del Estero ' and is a farmers movement from the province of Santiago del Estero in Argentina. It was formed in 1990 to defend local farmers against the increasing aggression from large soybean farmers destroying their livelihoods. Asked about food sovereignty, they say:
"For MOCASE, food sovereignty is the right to produce and eat what we want. Our strategy is to strengthen our own production and consumption models based on self sufficiency, production of our own food that we produce in our gardens, and the cultivation of cotton and maize. We protect our own culture passed on from our ancestors, the animals, the chickens, the different types of goats, and the geese. Santiago del Estero is a region with low requirements, and the mountains are our only source for food."
Traditional agricultural systems have developed based on principles of cooperation, integration and dialogue with nature. This in turn has led to highly complex agro-ecological systems. Such farmers are custodians of thousands of years of research and creation that has made such an extraordinary biodiversity-based agriculture possible. This agricultural biodiversity and culture is today vigorously defended by peasant organisations in the name of a unique heritage and food production for billions of people on the earth today and in the future.
This is in stark contrast with modern industrial agriculture. Such systems are based on greed, exclusion, and destruction, and can be seen by vast monocultures dependent on a few species and varieties and impervious to local cultures and people.
The broader dimensions
Food sovereignty is a solid alternative to the current mainstream thinking on food production. The struggle for food sovereignty incorporates such wide ranging issues as land reform, territorial control, local markets, biodiversity, autonomy, cooperation, debt, health, and many other issues that are of central importance to be able to produce food locally.
Land reform in particular is an important component of food sovereignty; a radical redistribution of land, particularly amongst the poorest and those without access to land. The Brazilian 'Movimiento de los Sin Tierra ' (Brazilian Landless Movement) is a good example of how food sovereignty is intrinsically linked with the social struggle of the millions of rural people that have been thrown off their lands and urban poor that have never had access to land and who now search for the path to recuperate their identity by claiming back land. One of the major bottlenecks of local food production is the unequal distribution of land. In many countries of the world 20% of the landowners control 80% of the land - and such land is often used to produce export commodities rather than locally available food. Similarly, the enforcement of the rights of indigenous peoples to their territories is an indispensable requisite to move towards food sovereignty.
Food sovereignty also brings together peasants and farmers from the North and South, an artificial distinction promoted by many. For example, the farmers ' seed networks in France are as much about food sovereignty as the struggle of the women led seed wealth centres in Bangladesh. Or in the words of Jose Bové, a peasant farmer leader from France: "For the people in the South, food sovereignty means the right to protect themselves against imports. For us, it means fighting against export aid and against intensive farming. There is no contradiction there at all".
Perhaps even more importantly, food sovereignty allows different movements that traditionally too often have been played out against each other, to come together in their struggles. The peasants, the landless, the fisherfolk, the pastoralist, indigenous peoples.... are increasingly coming together and are developing a common understanding of common aims and actions.
Food sovereignty has also come to the millions of city dwellers that are fighting for survival in the big cities. Production of food in family or community gardens not only brings wholesome food, that industrial agriculture is often unable to deliver, but also a level of dignity, cooperation and independence.
All of these people are fighting for something more than Jacques Chirac's interpretation of food sovereignty in Senegal. Unlike for Chirac, food sovereignty implies that the global food system should be turned upside down. It has been peasants, fisherfolk, pastoralists and indigenous peoples that have fed the world since millennia - to achieve a world without hunger a world where all have access to nutritious locally produced food, they need to take centre stage again.
* Michael Windfuhr and Jennie Jonsén, 2005, Food Sovereignty: Towards democracy in localized food systems, FIAN-International. Available from: ITDG Publishing, Bourton Hall, Bourton-on-Dunsmore, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 9QZ, UK, Tel +44 1926 634501, Fax +44 1926 634502, Email: orders(at)itpubs.org.uk, Website: http://www.itpubs.org.uk
"In this paper, Michael Windfuhr shows how the Food Sovereignty policy framework starts by placing the perspective and needs of the majority at the heart of the global food policy agenda. It also embraces not only the control of production and markets, but also the Right to Food, people 's access to and control over land, water and genetic resources, and the use of environmentally sustainable approaches to production. What emerges is a persuasive and highly political argument for refocusing the control of food production and consumption within democratic processes rooted in localised food systems." - From the preface by Patrick Mulvany (ITDG)
* Via Campesina, position paper, 'What is food sovereignty? ' http://www.viacampesina.org/art_english.php3?id_article=216
* Peter Rosset 'Food Sovereignty: global rallying cry of farmer movements '. Food First Backgrounder, Food First, Fall 2003. http://www.foodfirst.org/pubs/backgrdrs/2003/f03v9n4.html
* "Food Sovereignty: A Right For All Political Statement of the NGO/CSO Forum for Food Sovereignty". Rome, June 2002. http://www.foodsovereignty.org
3. China remembers famine: Food security is a high priority
by Daryll E. Ray, Ph.D.
One of the things we say over and over in this column is "food is different." Those words came to mind as we read a story in the May 11, 2005 issue of China Daily about the development of a "super wheat."
The story was about a Chinese agronomist, Liu Binghua, who has developed a variety of wheat that should earn the designation "super wheat" when harvest is completed in June.
The article notes that, if successful, the research led by Liu could bring about a doubling of China's average wheat yield. In 2004, the average wheat yield in China was 62.17 bushels per acre, well above the US average of 43.14. In test plots last year, the highest wheat yield was 159 bushel per acre, a yield that Kansas and North Dakota wheat farmers can only dream of.
In addition to yield, Chinese researchers are working on adapting this high yielding wheat variety to the varied weather and soil conditions in China, including the high-altitude area of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Breeding in drought tolerance is also a breeding priority.
While the agronomic advances are interesting, what caught our eye was the context into which the China Daily journalist placed the story. The focus of the story was not that Chinese agronomists are conducting world-class, cutting-edge research on wheat production. Rather, the focus of the story was made clear by the China Daily headline: "Wheat harvest to enhance food security."
The article indicates that China Agricultural University projects that the population of China in 2030 will be 1.6 billion, up from today's 1.3 billion. The projected demand for grain to feed the increased population is between 9.5 billion bushels (60 lb. bu. equivalent) and 10.7 billion bushel equivalent. Currently China?s grain production stands at 6.7 billion bushel equivalent.
The article makes it clear that the preferred way of reaching that goal is to increase Chinese domestic production: "As the nation grows increasingly alarmed by the international catchwords 'food security,' it has never ceased its efforts in grinding out super-yield crops to feed its growing population."
In 1963, when Liu was in senior middle school, his experience of hunger set him on the path that he has followed throughout his life. "Unconsciously, I have been on a mission to find solutions to yield more crops for the nation ever since," said Liu, adding that starvation happened even in Henan, a staple province for China's wheat planting." The average wheat yield in China in 1963 was 11.55 bu./ac. compared the 25.18 in the US during that same year. In the intervening years, US wheat yields have increased by 72% while Chinese yields have increased by 438%, a testimony to the importance China places on increasing its ability to feed its population. As the article says: "China feeds 22% of the world's population on only 7% of the world's arable land. That means grain security must be placed at the top of the government's agenda."
Many countries view food security in the same way that we view military security in the US. Food is different. If the US, which has never experienced a major famine, seeks to maintain its domestic base of food production so it does not become dependent on imports, how much more might that be true for a country like China, which has experienced famine within the lifetime of many of its residents?
Daryll E. Ray holds the Blasingame Chair of Excellence in Agricultural Policy, Institute of Agriculture, University of Tennessee, and is the Director of UT's Agricultural Policy Analysis Center (APAC). (865) 974-7407; Fax: (865) 974-7298; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.agpolicy.org . Daryll Ray's column is written with the research and assistance of Harwood D. Schaffer, Research Associate with APAC.
4. Women Find Their Place in the Field
By JULIA MOSKIN
CHERYL ROGOWSKI planted her seeds of change in the black soil of Orange County, N.Y., in 1994. Her parents, first-generation Polish-Americans, built the W. Rogowski Farm, starting in the 1950's. Like most farmers in the area, they dedicated their land to the wholesale onion business. "We sold 500 tons of onions every year," Ms. Rogowski said, "and never met any of the people who bought them."
In 11 years, starting with a crop of chili peppers seeded in her bedroom and planted in a remote field, Ms. Rogowski has transformed Rogowski Farm, raising 250 varieties of produce and forming intimate connections to its customers and employees. For her innovations, she won a $500,000 "genius award" last year from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the first given to a full-time farmer.
"What I know about farming is this: It's not enough to just drive the tractor anymore," she said.
Ms. Rogowski, 43, is one of thousands of women who have changed the face of American farming. Though American farms have steadily declined in jobs and capital for years, the number of farms operated by women has more than doubled since 1978, from just over 100,000 to almost 250,000 today, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Almost 15 percent of American farms are now run primarily by women - a sea change from 1978, when the figure was 5 percent. On organic farms, according to the Organic Farming Research Foundation, the number is 22 percent.
The concentration is especially high in the Northeast, where a small farm near an urban area can now survive solely through farmers' markets, restaurants, farm memberships (in which customers pay in advance for a season's worth of produce) and other direct outlets.
"Farming has changed, and farmers now have to do things they are traditionally really bad at: marketing, educating consumers, collective action, communication," Ms. Rogowski said. "And it can't be a coincidence that women are traditionally good at those things."
To expand her farm's business and its reach in its community, Ms. Rogowski arranged for weekly deliveries of produce to centers for the elderly, mentored immigrant farmers from Mexico and Guatemala, started a catering business that uses local produce, sells vegetables at eight weekly farmers' markets and is an activist for land use reform.
"Women farmers aren't a special-interest group," she said. "Our issues are the same as all American farmers - we all want to keep our farms, and we have to make money from them. But women have come up with a lot of the new ways of doing it."
Women's work has always been integral to American farming, but women were seldom considered farmers. Now, networks of female farmers are thriving in Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maine, Montana and Iowa. And a national conference for women in sustainable agriculture, the first of its kind, is scheduled for October in Burlington, Vt. At the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, an organic agricultural training center, all of this year's farm interns are women, which is also a first, said Jeff Moyer, the farm manager.
All of the women interviewed for this article said they had experienced little resistance from their male colleagues. "I can do every job on this farm that my dad or brother could do - operate the forklift, bag onions, haul manure," Ms. Rogowski said. "And the farmers around here, not to mention the guys who work for me, all know that."
Annie Farrell, 54, was a single mother when she started farming in Bovina, N.Y., in the 1970's. "It was a man's world back then," she said. A longtime supplier to New York City chefs, she was one of the first local growers to produce organic vegetables of restaurant quality. "The kind of farming I wanted to do takes finesse and patience, and the men didn't seem too impressed."
The rise of small-scale "market farming" has brought many women back to farming. "Small tractors have become the fastest growing segment in the agricultural equipment industry," said Barry Nelson, a spokesman for John Deere. "We have more women buying tractors than ever before, and more small farms that need just one piece of heavy equipment. It's a lot easier to get started than it used to be."
Even so, according to the Department of Agriculture, women are far more likely than men to be farming on inherited land. Betsey Ryder's farm, in Brewster, N.Y., has been in her family since 1795.
Today, Ryder Farm's motto is: "Where the Ladies Drive the Tractors."
"When I was growing up, family farms didn't seem like they had a financial future," Ms. Ryder, 49, said.
She trained as a nurse but kept finding herself back in the fields, she said. Like many American farmers, she has found it necessary to keep working away from the farm, which produces vegetables, fruit and flowers on 12 acres.
"Love brought me to farming, but health insurance and common sense brought me back to nursing," she said. "Maybe women are more susceptible to the romance of farming, or to the idea of holding on to the homestead."
Nancy MacNamara, of Newburgh, N.Y., farms on the piece of land she grew up on; her father was a commercial farmer. "Women are finding our place in the field," she said. Ms. MacNamara, 57, farms on only two acres but sells her hand-raised greens to such chefs as Thomas Keller of Per Se and Wylie Dufresne of WD-50.
Like many of today's female farmers, Ms. MacNamara came of age during the 1970's, when she left her parents' farm "to roam the world and be a wild hippie," she said. But the turbulence of the 1970's eventually ebbed, depositing her back on the land with her two children. "We had the rise of feminism at the same time as the rise of organic agriculture and the 'back to the land' movement," she said. "People - especially mothers - started to want to know where their food is coming from."
Ms. MacNamara started feeding New Yorkers by selling fruit off a truck in the East Village. "We were maverick direct marketers," she said. "A lot of those people had never had a ripe peach before."
In the 1980's, as Americans grew more sophisticated about food, Ms. MacNamara started to experiment with growing fruit for flavor rather than for size or appearance. Like many small farmers, she worked to make the most of the land she had. She used the research of William Albrecht, a pioneering soil scientist. "He said that if you feed the soil, then the soil will feed the plant and the fruit will taste the way it should," she said.
"My father thought I was crazy to produce so few berries," she added. "But he could never have imagined how much chefs would pay for them."
Paulette Satur of Satur Farms imagined exactly that. Married to Eberhard Müller, the executive chef at Bayard's and formerly at Lutèce, she built a half-acre weekend garden into a 200-acre farm in about four years. Satur Farms employs about 50 people on its work crew, and supplies many of New York City's top restaurants and gourmet shops with lacinato kale, wild arugula, baby carrots and other vegetables.
Ms. Satur, 49, says her ability to communicate with chefs and the Spanish-language skills that let her communicate with her work crew are her most important farming skills. "Paulette is the farmer, even though she doesn't drive the tractor," Mr. Müller said.
Ms. Satur was raised on a dairy farm. "I use a different skill set than my parents did on the farm, but growing up there made it possible for me to imagine myself as a farmer," she said. "For women farmers, that is a huge first step."
Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht, 32, whose first child is due on Friday, came of age a generation after many of her female colleagues. Ideas about sustainability, feminism and community-supported agriculture had already taken root in American agriculture, she said, and the idea of a female farmer was not new. She majored in environmental science at Harvard, has a master's degree in conservation biology and sustainable agriculture, and started a small organic farm, Garden of Eve, on Long Island, in 2001.
She farms with her husband, Chris, who grew up on a dairy farm. She says that farm work includes traditionally male and traditionally female skills, and that a farm needs both. "Like a baby," she said, "a farm needs as much nurturing as it can get. I can't imagine being a single parent to a farm."
To her surprise, Ms. Kaplan-Walbrecht said, she and her husband usually divide the farming duties along traditional gender lines. "I hate to traffic in these stereotypes," she said, "but it's true that Chris is the one out on the tractor in freezing weather with bleeding fingers, and I am the one feeding the chickens."
"But," she added, "I am usually also the one reading the spreadsheets."
5. China upsets the US apple cart
By Devinder Sharma
Not only textiles and garments, China has flooded the United States market with apple juice concentrate. Not satisfied with only concentrates, China is now seeking quarantine approvals from the US Department of Agriculture for export of fresh apples. A red tide of apples is therefore expected to sweep over America.
Scouting for cover, the US apple industry is now demanding protection for domestic producers. At the same time, it is planning to find a market for apples in countries like India. Asking India to open up for apples in turn for export of mangoes to America, the US is dangling the swap agreement. Interestingly, China too is trying to convince India with the same proposition. In India, despite the domestic apple production reigning high, nearly half a million boxes (20 kg each) were imported in the last two years, 30 per cent from Washington. In Chennai, for instance, more than 70 per cent of the apples available in retail are sourced from America.
Such has been the surge in apple concentrate that American growers lost an estimated US $ 135 million in revenues from the imports in 2002 alone. Despite imposing anti-dumping duty to the tune of 51.74 per cent on Chinese apple concentrates beginning May 2000, the imports continue to pour in. Within the last five years, the share of Chinese apple concentrate in the US apple juice market has risen to 45 per cent. The industry is now crying for help.
China has clearly upset the US apple cart. Its great turnaround in apple production is a remarkable success story which defies the textbook understanding of demand and supply. China was a major importer of Washington apples in the 1980's. It was around that time the government decided to plant apple orchards in the north-western provinces. From practically zero production to the world's biggest producer of apples in the next 12-15 years is spectacular by any yardstick. So much so that China not only tops the world's apple production chart but its total output surpasses the combined production of the next ten top producing countries, including India.
The US has been relegated to the second position, with China producing 50 per cent of the world's apple production.
Barely 15 years after it started planting apple trees, China's exports of concentrates began to dominate the US market, increasing gradually to 1200 per cent. With the rise in exports, the price continued to be on a downward slide from US $ 7.65 per gallon in 1995 to $ 3.57 in 1998. While the apple producers and the industry cried aloud, the consumers were visibly happy. Supermarket chains like Wal- Mart procured the concentrates at rock bottom prices, packed them into juice cans and bottles, but did not pass on the price benefit to the consumers in the same ratio as they gained from the reduction in import prices. That the Chinese apple concentrates could still be comparatively cheaper after the imposition of anti-dumping duties tells us how low has been the cost of production.
The US apple industry is crying foul. As usual, it cites the lack of social standards and environmental protection to be among the reasons for stalling any further imports. It is true that at 25 cents an hour, the Chinese labour can out price any effort from the US to compete in the price war. Moreover, the US producers claim that the Chinese cultivation practices requires heavy intake of pesticides and is therefore unhealthy. But the fact that the US consumers are not complaining has put a damper on the industry claims.
The US Department of Agriculture has provided a list of 300 insects and diseases that it fears will come along with fresh apple imports. China has already replied, and awaits clearance. Already USDA officials have had a few rounds of discussions with the Chinese horticulture and pathology experts. The indications are that the US will soon be allowing imports of Chinese fresh apples. Once this happens, the US producers will have to shift from apple production given the high production costs. By penetrating the American "apple pie" China has demonstrated that the American consumers stand to gain immensely if the heavy protective ring around its domestic agriculture are removed speedily. Not only fruits, American consumers will find the prices of food falling still further.
Meanwhile, the US apple industry is getting into an aggressive marketing mode. It has urged the Congress to provide an additional US $ 200 million for the year 2006 under Market Access Programme, the level authorised under the notorious Farm Bill 2004. Since 1986, the industry has been receiving US $ 3.1 million every year as export development funds under the MAP programme. These export enhancement expenditures are also part of the massive farm subsidies that the US doles out every year. Europe on the other hand had provided apple growers with an equivalent of US $ 2 billion in subsidies in 1998-99.
It will now be turn of apple growers in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir in the northwest India to be at the receiving end. With both China and America eyeing the Indian market, the warning bells are loud and clear. #
(Devinder Sharma is a New Delhi-based food and trade policy analyst)