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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