Farm Aid president Willie Nelson joined 500 family farmers from across the country today in a National Agriculture Day protest against factory farming at the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) headquarters just outside Des Moines. The protest was organized by family farmers representing the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment.
Nelson told the crowd, "I'm proud of your efforts to protect your farms and communities. Farm Aid will continue to stand beside you as long as organizations like the NPPC promote factory farms above the needs of farm families."
The demonstration, which attracted family farmers from Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and across the U.S., was spurred by NPPC's alleged misuse of producer checkoff funds to monitor activities of family farm organizations. At the rally, farmers demanded that NPPC stop monitoring family farmers who have voiced opposition to large-scale factory farming. They also asked for a federal investigation into reports that NPPC used nearly $50,000 in checkoff funds -- federally mandated assessments on pork producers for research, promotion and market development -- to hire a consulting firm to monitor farm groups who advocate sustainable agriculture and family farm pork production.
"With 25 percent of farmers going out of business in the past five years, the NPPC should be spending our money on programs that will help family hog farmers," said Larry Ginter, a hog farmer representing Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. "Instead, they continue to use our own money to spy on us."
Farmers announced at the rally that Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) has written a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman to request an investigation by the USDA,s Office of Inspector General.
"We hope that other policymakers will join Sen. Wellstone in calling for an investigation into the NPPC's activities," said Paul Sobocinski, a Minnesota hog farmer representing Land Stewardship Project. "Commodity groups must be held accountable for how they use farmers, money."
To cap off the protest, farmers "renamed" NPPC headquarters by posting a large sign reading "National Factory Farms Council."
Roger Allison of Missouri Rural Crisis Center said, "Today is only the beginning. Family farmers will continue to fight in every township, every county and every state to oppose any attempts to promote factory farms over family farms."
To read about a new booklet: When a Factory Farm Comes to Town: Protecting Your Township From Unwanted Development -- click here.