The following article was delivered as a speech at the 2006 World Social Forum, February 26-28, in Caracas, Venezuela. Bill Christison is a farmer in Chillicothe, Missouri. He is president of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and a member of the board of the (United States) National Family Farms Coalition (NFFC), a member organization of Via Campesina.
The National Family Farms Coalition provides a voice for grassroots groups on farm, food, trade and rural economic issues to ensure fair prices for family farmers, safe and healthy food, and vibrant, environmentally sound rural communities in the U.S. and around the world. Our organization chooses its projects based on the potential to empower family farmers by reducing the corporate control of agriculture and promoting a more socially just farm and food policy.
Presently, the NFFC organizations have set goals for a new food sovereignty campaign. The goals are: making real that farmers have the first right to markets in the farmers own region/countries at a fair price; popularizing the concept/goals of food sovereignty in the U.S.; developing international trade cooperation to ensure trade sovereignty.
We stand squarely behind Via Campesinas statement on the peoples food sovereignty which states, Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to define their own food and agriculture to protect and regulate domestic agricultural production and made in order to achieve sustainable development objectives to determine the extent to which they want to be self-reliant; and to restrict the dumping of products in their markets. Food sovereignty does not negate trade, but rather, it promotes the formation of trade policies and practices that serve the rights of peoples to safe, healthy, and ecologically sustainable production.
The National Family Farm Coalition plans to build U.S. support for a growing international food sovereignty movement -- one which seeks to guarantee the human right of communities to choose where and how their food is produced and what food they consume. The global expansion of transnational corporate agribusiness, promoted by governments and free trade agreements, increasingly denies communities that right by undermining family farms that have traditionally satisfied communities food needs.
We envision empowered communities everywhere working together democratically to advance a food system that ensures health, justice and dignity for all. Family farming will be an attractive and viable livelihood that supports economically, environmentally, and socially diverse and sustainable communities where future generations will thrive.
Farmers, ranchers, and fishers will have control over their lands, water, seeds, and livelihoods, as well as the ability to steward the land, take good care of the animals, protect biodiversity and conserve and increase farming knowledge. Farm workers and food workers will have respect and decent incomes, and farmers will have the first right to produce food for local and regional markets, so that the planets energy and the soil and water are conserved. All people will have access to healthy, local, delicious food.
NFFCs food sovereignty campaign creates a foundation for connecting the public with those in other countries to demand fair prices for farmers and consumers with local markets first served by local farmers everywhere. NFFC works globally with Via Campesina, a network of thousands of small farmer organizations on six continents and NFFC looks forward to lifting the voices of American farmers in harmony with others to achieve food sovereignty and make family farms the farms of the future worldwide.
We must short circuit the corporate model of animal production, food processing, and trade policy, which is a highly subsidized system. There is no good reason food should be hauled halfway around the world before it is consumed. Globalization is expensive and not sustainable. We should not forget that world prices are set at the Chicago Board of Trade. We must by-pass that system. Food sovereignty will greatly reduce the cost of food and increase the nutrition of food, also the availability of food while at the same time return dignity to our work-giving farmers a sense of satisfaction plus being able to have time to spend with their families.
Food sovereignty would bring about a much more environmentally friendly world. Acceptance of the food sovereignty model of food production by the world along with the lack of subsidies which wind up in the corporate pockets would mean corporate food processing and food globalization companies would cease to exist. The world is certainly big enough and rich enough to provide us all with a comfortable living if we are wise enough to use and conserve our resources with plenty left over for future generations.
Published in In Motion Magazine, March 5, 2006
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