Food & Water Watch Launches Fair Farm Bill Campaign in Ohio
by Tia Lebherz
Contact Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) or call 202-224-2315 and ask him to stand up for a fair food system that includes protections that ensure fair markets for small and mid-sized independent farmers, and rules that prevent ever-increasing mega-mergers by big agribusiness.
About every four years, the federal Farm Bill comes up for reauthorization by Congress. Many people—especially those living in urban areas—have never heard of the farm bill or think it has nothing to do with their lives. However, this policy is one major piece of federal legislation that everyone should be keeping an eye on.
The farm bill determines how the food we eat reaches our plate. It includes everything from nutrition programs for low income families to land conservation, and has more than 1,000 pages of in betweens.
Currently, the farm bill does not include protections that ensure fair markets for our small and mid-sized independent farmers, and rules that prevent ever-increasing mega-mergers by big agribusiness, like Monsanto and Cargill. It is for those reasons that Food & Water Watch has launched its Fair Farm Bill campaign.
Our current food system is broken, and it didn’t happen by accident. Decades of bad food policy designed to benefit agribusinesses and mega-farms, combined with unchecked corporate mergers, have wreaked havoc on family farmers, public health and rural communities.
Our food system is no longer working for most Americans. Most supermarket aisles do not offer good, nutritious foods as feasible shopping options. What you find instead is an abundance of cheap, processed foods that are generally unhealthy, or meat from factory farms produced with antibiotics and artificial hormones, and vegetables raised with pesticides that are often produced halfway around the world.
At the same time, small and medium-sized family farmers across the U.S. have been driven out of business or are barely making ends meet. Our country is losing its farming backbone because big companies set unfair prices for livestock and crops, cheating small and medium-sized farmers out of money they need to cover their costs. The companies get away with it because farmers often don’t have anywhere else to sell their products. A few large companies dominate the meat and poultry industries. Their control over these markets allows them to use oppressive contracts to squeeze both small producers and consumers. For example, nearly all producers of broiler chickens (chickens raised for eating versus laying eggs) operate under abusive, take-it-or-leave-it contracts and often pay growers less for the chickens than what they cost to raise. Companies have retaliated against growers that have demanded fairer contracts, and growers put up with it because, in many parts of the country, there is only one processing company for them to sell their chickens to.
This corporate consolidation of our food system is pushing our small and mid-sized farmers out of business, while companies like Monsanto are making record profits.
We can’t shop our way out of this problem. We have to start to fix the broken food policies at the federal level by taking control away from large agribusinesses and rebuilding a more secure and sustainable system that protects farmers and consumers.
This is where the farm bill comes in. The farm bill is a crucial opportunity to create a fairer, safer and more sustainable food system. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is on the Agriculture Committee, so he’s making decisions right now about what protections the bill will include for small farmers, consumers and the environment. The good news for Ohioans is that he has historically been a champion on these issues.
Senator Brown has the opportunity to bring more healthful, affordable food and more quality jobs back to Northeast Ohio. He needs to support a farm bill that re-establishes regional food systems and addresses unfair, deceptive and anti-competitive trade practices that are putting small and medium-size farms out of business.
Food & Water Watch is running the Fair Farm Bill campaign in Ohio because we believe that Senator Brown will stand up for small farmers and consumers. With big agribusiness spending millions of dollars lobbying to stop these reforms, he needs to hear from his constituents that we care about the food we feed our families and need his leadership in ensuring that it’s safe, healthy and fair.
For more information or to get involved click here or contact your local organizer in Cleveland—Tia Lebherz at email@example.com, Columbus—Chris Linsmayer firstname.lastname@example.org or Toledo—Adam Reaves email@example.com.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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