Small farm near Ames, Iowa.
PLEASE CALL SENATORS CANTWELL & MURRAY TODAY, Sep 16
We likely all know by now that family farmers on our ferry-dependent islands provide us with "food security". They produce meat, poultry, eggs and dairy, from well fed healthy animals. They grow grains, fruits and vegetables using safe methods which also build our soils and make them more and more productive as the years go by. In addition, they provide jobs for local people, and they strengthen our economy.
With news in the past few weeks of not only factory-farmed salmonella tainted eggs shipped across country, but also news of outbreaks of e coli originating in meat from poorly fed livestock raised in giant corporate owned or leased animal containment farms, the significance of availability of good healthy food is very very clear. As is the importance of creating as many local jobs as possible.
Also crucial: food reserves and production sources that are island based, for any interruption in mainland access, or during other emergencies. It's incredibly important our small family farms are not crushed by regulations favoring corporate agribusiness. But that's what's in the works, right now, today, Thursday, in Congress, and you should know about it.
It's only "good business" for giant agribusiness corporations to eliminate their growing competition, the small family farmer. Although food products from these giants are sometimes cheaper at the grocery store, their prices are deceptive - we are paying more for them in total because our taxes go to these corporations in large chunks to "subsidize" them, cutting their food production costs while increasing the profits they take, on our dime. Small family farmers don't get these same subsidies, but have to compete against them in the marketplace. Corporations also employ workers at consistently lower wages than family farms, with poorer conditions, and, as multinationals, often take their profits offshore in addition to qualifying for huge tax breaks, while local family farms have access to fewer tax breaks and shelters, contribute to local tax bases and keep their profits in the local community. (On our islands, small farmers, both husbands, wives, and single farmers, work at least one other full-time job, and sometimes 2 or 3, to make it possible to stay in farming and provide us with the food they grow.)
Consumers are starting to understand how much better, healthier, and competitively priced food is from small local farms, and how keeping it local helps their local economy, and they are buying local farm food, instead of corporate grown products, in larger and larger numbers. Corporations can not tolerate competition. They are required to return the highest short-term profits possible, regardless of long-term effect. They practice the "good business" of eliminating competition early, using whatever means possible. Our small farmers also don't benefit from the much-ballyhooed "farm" or "agricultural" lobby, or the Farm Bureau; although most people think that those powerful groups of lobbyists are working for farmers, they're not. They're working for corporate agribusiness, and right now, they're working against small family farms.
The bill lobbyists and corporate backed Senate and House members are currently pushing through Congress is a big one, SB 510. It will essentially put large numbers of small farmers out of business by making it too difficult to continue, burying them in a blizzard of regulations and paperwork designed for problems that have originated exclusively in the poor conditions and feeding practices found in large factory farms, while at the same time paying only lip-service to dealing effectively with real factory farm problems. An amendment by Senator Jon Tester of Montana, a farmer and conservative who has supporters across the political spectrum, needs to added to SB 510 to make the bill actually effective as a food safety bill. The amendment protects the food safety that is provided by small family farms, and more effectively addresses safety problems posed by factory practices.
The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill today, Sept. 18, and Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, in addition to any other state senators you can contact, need to hear from you today to make sure the Tester amendment is added. There are more bills like this in the pipeline, but this one is right now, and needs your words to your Senator, to make it a bill for food safety. For you.
|Cantwell, Maria - (D - WA)||Class I|
|511 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510|
|Web Form: cantwell.senate.gov/contact/|
|Murray, Patty - (D - WA)||Class III|
|173 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510|
|Web Form: murray.senate.gov/email/index.cfm|
Helpful information on the Tester amendment from the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, here, and from the Portland Farmers Market, here.
Background on this bill and other food safety bills, at Actions page, here.
Photos by Scott Bauer
A small dairy farm in western Maryland. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines "small farms" as those averaging $50,000 in gross sales annually-which net, on average, around $23,159.