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US: Family Farm Organizations Endorse Taco Bell boycott

Coalition of Imokalee Workers
March 19th, 2003

In what is a natural -- but all too rare -- partnership, farmworkers and family farmers have joined forces in the battle against the corporate domination and consolidation of agriculture, as several family farm organizations have endorsed the Taco Bell boycott!

The National Family Farm Coalition (a coalition of farm organizations), the Family Farm Defenders, and the Community Farm Alliance in Kentucky and Indiana have all joined the growing list of endorsers. [Some of you may remember that two family farmers joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in the recent hunger strike in Irvine -- Mike Moon of Family Farm Defenders and Stephen Bartlett of Agricultural Missions -- fasting and fighting side-by- side with farmworkers from Immokalee.]

The reason is simple: farm gate prices that family farmers receive for their produce are set by the broader market, which is dominated by large corporate producers, most of whom benefit from the undervalued labor of hundreds -- if not thousands -- of migrant farmworkers.

As a result, corporate growers are able to offer their produce to the market at artificially low prices, forcing small farmers to undervalue their own labor -- effectively paying themselves the same sub-poverty wages that farmworkers receive -- if they want to sell their produce. In this way, farmworker poverty and the disappearance of the family farm in this country are intertwined. The fate of farmworkers and small farmers are tied up in the same corporatization of agriculture that is being pushed by mammoth corporate buyers, like Taco Bell.

In the words of the Community Farm Alliance, "We know if prices reflected the true costs of peoples' labor, more people would live in dignity... We hope to stem and reverse the now regular disappearance of small farmers from the rural landscape... we hope to see the fair compensation for labor for all those involved in agriculture in our lifetimes." [You can find the full text of their statement below at the end of this email.]

So today we welcome the endorsement of these important farm organizations, and we pledge to make their struggle ours, as well. Together we are far stronger than apart, and we will need all our strength to fight and win a voice for the community in this country's food production once again.

The following is the statement of support written by Ivor Chodkowski of the Community Farm Alliance:

"While the small farmers and sympathetic urban members of Community Farm Alliance in Kentucky and Indiana know little of the actual field sweatshop conditions and life pressures as experienced by Imokalee workers, many of us small farmers know exploitation of a sort. We've felt in our own arms to the rough tips of our fingers and in our legs down to the ache in our ankles, the tax of yet another hour, yet another day of work, so that we might match the low prices of those about whose working conditions we aren't supposed to know. We've seen the look in the eyes of our husbands and wives and in those of our children and friends, and we know too, those of us who feel called to farming, that what we've done is made of ourselves exploited labor. And yet, because we know the great muscle of organization, we know too that in such tinder dry conditions our hearts are most apt to catch fire.

We wonder openly, and have been for years, at how small dairy farmers have received the same rock-bottom and stagnant price per hundred weight for as long as folks can remember. We know what a few more pennies on the pound would mean for milk and we expect we know well enough what a few more pennies on the pound would mean for tomatoes and for the Coalition of Imokalee Workers. We know if prices reflected the true costs of peoples' labor, more people would live in dignity.

We understand too that, as we begin the hard work of developing a Local Integrated Food and Farm Economy, including the necesarry redevelopment of small farm processing and distribution, we understand that your victories will not be yours alone. We know that as your organization and other farmworker organizations suceed, we will have begun to dismantle the sort of unfair corporate advantage such as is advanced by the corporate cheerleaders for the North American Free Trade Agreement and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. We hope to stem and reverse the now regular disappearance of small farmers from the rural landscape. Instead of giving further berth to the expansion and further empowerment of corporate agriculture such as is now systematized under NAFTA and will be developed further under the proposed FTAA, we hope to see the fair compensation for labor for all those involved in agriculture in our lifetimes.

As we the small farmers and urban membership of Community Farm Alliance consider the CIW's hunger strike and give our endorsement of the Coalition of Imokalee Worker's boycott of Taco Bell, we hope too that as people across these states and around the world eat the fruit of our labor, they'll remember the hands that picked and that these hands, belonging to farmworker and small farmer alike, these hands are the same hands, and that together, these hands may lift us all."

Thanks, Coalition of Immokalee Workers





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