Thousands of farmers, ranchers, and rural families from more than
one dozen states travelled to northern Missouri last weekend to
rally support for a new coalition, the National Campaign for Family
Farmers and the Environment, working to reverse the corporate
takeover of America's food production and the corporate threat to
farming communities and rural environments.
The rally took place in Lincoln Township, a small town of 250
residents, where Premium Standard Farms, Inc. has built a giant
pork operation, despite the community's opposition and the
environmental zoning laws preventing the corporation from setting
up waste confinement facilities near the township's residential areas.
"This is a classic example of why FARM AID came into existence -- to
keep big corporate farms from running over the little people" said
FARM AID President Willie Nelson in a news interview before
addressing a crowd of nearly 3,000 people attending the rally April
1. "This type of operation (PSF, Inc.) destroys the environment and
puts hog farmers out of business. It's important to keep family
farmers on the land."
FARM, ENVIRONMENTAL, CHURCH LEADERS CROWD LINCOLN
FARM AID President Willie Nelson, who received dozens of letters
from Lincoln Township residents asking for his help, was joined by
more than 30 farm and environmental speakers at the rally.
National Farmers Union President Leland Swenson opened the rally
calling on participants to work toward the reform of tax and credit
policies that would foster family farms rather than corporate farms.
NFU pledged during its annual convention last March to work against
increasing corporate concentration in the farm sector.
Likewise, leaders from the National Family Farm Coalition, the
Missouri Rural Crisis Center, the Land Stewardship Project, the Clean
Water Network, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Farmers
Legal Action Group, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and
others climbed onto a makeshift stage at the rally. They all shared
stories of the devastating environmental and financial problems
created by factory farms in rural communities across the country.
"We're here today from many states, from Nebraska to North
Carolina, from Oklahoma to Minnesota, to say 'shame on you' to the
corporations, investors, and political leaders who are robbing family
farmers and rural citizens across the country of their future, their
water, their way of living," Barb Grabner of Prairie Fire Rural Action
said to the crowd.
NATIONAL CAMPAIGN ANNOUNCES DEMANDS
Representatives of the National Campaign for Family Farms and the
Environment issued a list of demands during the rally Saturday,
1. Premium Standard Farms, Inc. to drop all terms of their
lawsuit against Lincoln Township. The corporation had intended to
sue Lincoln Township, one of Missouri's poorest counties, for $7.9
million and to challenge enforcement of the county's zoning laws.
PSF, Inc. dropped the monetary demands of their lawsuit just days
before the rally, but is continuing to pursue non-monetary terms of
their lawsuit against the town.
2. The Environmental Protection Agency to vigorously enforce the
Clean Water Act. Large factory poultry, beef and hog feedlots, like
the one owned and operated by PSF, Inc., impose serious threats to
rural water supplies and air quality. GOP leaders in Congress are
currently marking up legislation that will substantially weaken
corporate compliance under the Clean Water Act on waste disposal
and other point source pollution, according to Bill Wenzel of the
Clean Water Network. In fact, under H.R. 961, factory farms with
large livestock operations would receive special protection through a
"point souce exemption."
3. The U.S. Justice Department to investigate anti-trust activity in
the hog, poultry and other agricultural markets controlled by a
handful of corporations. Drawing from official sources, Al Krebs of
Prairie Fire Rural Action has documented the level of corporate
concentration across different agricultural sectors. Only four
corporations, for example, control 84 percent of the cereals market;
45 percent of the pork slaughter market; 52 percent of the poultry
slaughter market; and 66 percent of the rice market.
Federal lawmakers, Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sam Gejdenson (D-
CT) last month sent a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno
requesting an investigation of corporate control of the cereals
CAMPAIGN SUPPORT GROWS: THOUSANDS SIGN PETITIONS
More than 5,000 concerned farmers, rural residents, church activists,
environmentalists, consumers, animal welfare advocates and others
from around the country have signed a Campaign petition, charging
% Raise commodity loan rates to boost farm income;
% Continue to enforce a strong Clean Water Act; and
% Eliminate marketing, development and export subsidies and tax
exemptions for corporations.
Likewise, new Campaign members and long-time family farm
advocates are calling on the Clinton administration to enforce U.S.
anti-trust laws, such as the Packers and Stockyards Act, to take
action against illegal corporate concentration in the farm and retail
For a copy of the petition, contact the Missouri Rural Crisis Center,
710 Rangeline St., Columbia, MO 65201. (314) 449-1336.
MARCH TO RURAL CONFERENCE PLANNED
Members of the National Campaign for Family Farms and the
Environment will march across northern Missouri and through Iowa
to President Clinton's National Rural Conference in Ames, April 25 to
ensure their demands are addressed at the national level.
"Farmers and their families from Lincoln Township will begin the
week-long march to Ames," said Terry Spence who runs the
Campaign office in Lincoln Township. "We expect many others to join
us in the march each day along the way."
Once in Ames, Iowa, Campaign members will meet up with other
groups pushing for family farming rights in the 1995 Farm Bill.
Join the march; call the Missouri Rural Crisis Center for more
information: (314) 449-1336.
If you were unable to attend the rally, copies of the following are
available from the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, (314) 449-1336:
1. Rally coverage printed in the DES MOINES REGISTER, KANSAS CITY
STAR and other newspapers, as well as the ASSOCIATED PRESS; and
2. Rally press kits, including a list of organization leaders who spoke
at the rally.
National Rural Conference rally in Ames, Iowa sponsored by the
National Family Farm Coalition, April 25. For more information
contact NFFC, (202) 543-5675.
The rally is being organized to ensure that farmers' voices are a part
of the decision making process as Congress and the administration
debate the future of our nation's rural development and farm policy.
If you count on a stable and healthy supply of food, then you depend
on family farmers. Now they're depending on you. Please help keep
family farmers on the land - bring your voice to the rally.
We welcome comments and suggestions: contact Harry Smith at
FARM AID, (617) 354-2922. We encourage the reproduction of
FARM AID NEWS. Produced by The Institute for Agriculture and
Trade Policy (IATP) for FARM AID. Editors: Gigi DiGiacomo and
Harry Smith. For information on other agriculture bulletins, contact
IATP: (612) 379-5980.