Campaign Challenges Pork Industry
Mounts actions in Louisville, Des Moines, St. Louis
by Paul Sturtz,
Instead of being just concert-goers, members of MRCC and the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment made the 10th anniversary Farm Aid benefit (October 1, 1995) in Louisville more than just a show. At every turn, the Campaign brought its fight against corporate agribusiness into the spotlight, driving home a political message amidst the music. Highlighting the role that factory farms play in polluting the environment, jeopardizing the nation's food supply and hurting rural economies, MRCC (Missouri Rural Crisis Center) and the Campaign earned the attention of the national press and the sold-out crowd of more than 47,000.
The day's events started with a march, punctuated by rousing slogans such as "Family Farms -- Yes! Factory Farms -- No!" Then the group of 150 gathered for an impromptu rally outside Farm Aid's town hall forum, "Agriculture at a Crossroads." Speakers ranged from personal accounts of how nearby factory farms had affected their lives and health to Campaign spokespersons who emphasized the need to strengthen environmental regulations and to reevaluate government aid to corporate agriculture.
Then as noontime approached, the Campaign swarmed the forum building, filling most of the benches with red Lincoln Township T-shirts to hear speeches by MRCC's Roger Allison, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, poet Wendell Berry, Arturo Rodriguez of the United Farm Workers, and other grassroots activists and political leaders. Allison talked of how corporate control of the livestock industry is the most critical issue facing family farmers and rural people.
"While these corporations are exploiting the people, the land, and our culture, government policy is encouraging and supporting their takeover of agriculture," Allison said. "These policies subsidize industry in the form of cheap grain, taxpayer-funded research, and the failure to enforce regulations."
Katie Godfrey - whose family in Powersville, Missouri are MRCC members -- read a poem about how life has changed since Premium Standard Farms' hog operations moved across the road from her house. "Across the road is a pool of waste," she read. "The smell stings my eyes like I've just been Maced." Her reading earned uproarious applause from the crowd and gave a personal spin to other denouncements of hog factories.
Before the concert began, Campaign petitioners engaged passersby with a petition in support of Lincoln Township and distributed stickers with "Stop Factory Farms" written in the middle of a red stop sign. These stickers soon were plastered on just about every other person inside Cardinal Stadium and lent a political edge to the musicmaking. By the time Neil Young interrupted his solo show at the end of the night to read the Campaign's demands to President Clinton including vetoeing the farm bill, it was clear the Campaign had been successful in vaulting the issue of livestock concentration from what could have been just a concert.
The Farm Aid march and rally was one of many Campaign actions throughout the last year. The Campaign dogged the National Pork Producers to stop backing corporate facilities and led a boycott of NPPC's "manure summit" which sought to greenwash the industry's poor environmental record.
"We're not interested in solving problems to help hog factories expand," said Larry Ginter, an Iowa CCI farmer and member of the Campaign. "It's time that the NPPC stop carrying water for corporate livestock factories and start paying attention to family farmers."
The Campaign secured a meeting with Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman in Lincoln Township, Missouri, which was attended by 250 farmers. It was a historical day for a secretary of agriculture to meet directly with farmers, instead of commodity groups and their lobbyists. Citizens demanded that the USDA stop subsidizing factory farm agriculture through taxpayer- funded research, cheap grain and credit.
The Campaign held a week of rallies at state capitols in the Midwest in February to challenge officials supporting factory farms and to hold companies accountable. MRCC's rally on February 20 was attended by 250 farmers and rural people demanding a hog bill with teeth.
The Campaign is an action-oriented effort to stop government and agribusiness policies and practices that are detrimental to America's family farmers, the rural economy, animal welfare, public health, and to our land, water and air. It is made up of farmers,rural residents, environmentalists, and animal protection advocates in Missouri, Illinois, lowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and North Carolina.
Published in In Motion Magazine - August 20, 1996 (approx.)