On June 4, Representative Michael Michaud and Senator Sherrod Brown introduced the TRADE Act to Congress. As the press release from the National Family Farm Coalition expressed (see our earlier blog post), this is an exciting opportunity for Congress to finally reform existing trade bills and ensure that future trade agreements are designed to actually benefit small farmers, workers, local economies and the environment.The bills have been officially introduced into both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Debate most likely won’t begin until early next year, but this is an important time to begin gathering support for the bills’ provisions.
Please consider calling or writing your Congressional representatives to urge them to co-sponsor the bills – a strong show of support will strengthen the chances of passage and ensure solutions to skyrocketing food prices, loss of family farms, disintegration of communities and massive waves of immigration.
To read the proposed legislation (or summaries and key provisions of the bills), a list of those organizations supporting the TRADE Act, and a series of press releases from a wide variety of labor, farm, and worker rights organizations expressing enthusiasm for these bills, please go to citizenstrade.org.
There you will find everything you need to email or call Congress, such as talking points and a quick link to your Senator or Representative’s office.
Keep up to date on actions you can take to ensure our free trade agreements are FAIR at Equal Exchange’s action alerts web page.
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The following is a press release from the National Family Farm Coalition about a trade bill recently introduced to Congress which we can finally put our support behind!
FAMILY FARMERS PRAISE INTRODUCTION OF TRADE BILL THAT HELPS ADDRESS GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: U.S. and United Nations Continue to Promote Catastrophic Free Trade Agenda
Washington D.C., June 4, 2008
The National Family Farm Coalition today praised the introduction of the TRADE Act in the House and Senate which offers urgent and necessary reforms to our deeply flawed trade agreements. Much of the world is grappling with a growing global food crisis. Much of the crisis has been precipitated by free trade policies that have made developing countries reliant on imported food at the expense of domestic local production. Farmers from Haiti to Indonesia to Mexico have been driven off their land due to trade agreements that dismantled tariff protections and domestic state support for local farmers. This allowed U.S. agribusinesses to dump cheap commodities into overseas markets, forcing countries to be at the mercy of global markets for their food security instead of relying on local family farmers. With commodity prices now skyrocketing, governments are no longer able to provide food for their citizens.
The TRADE Act offers positive steps to help countries practice food sovereignty instead of “free trade.” Ben Burkett, President of the National Family Farm Coalition and a Mississippi farmer said, “We applaud the introduction of the TRADE act. The legislation is clear that fair trade begins with farmers being able to earn fair prices reflecting cost of production, fair treatment of farm labor, and limitations against unfair dumping practices. It allows for countries who are part of a trade agreement to establish strategic food and energy reserves, an important policy that must be reinstated to address the global food crisis.” (more…)
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On World Fair Trade Day, we posted a few links to an article and a blog post written by Karisa Centenni (see: World Fair Trade Day) about the Equal Exchange Food Co-op trip to Chiapas, Mexico this past January. Since that time, we have received copies of two other articles written by participants of that trip, Colin Meginnis, Grocery Buyer for the Wheatsfield Co-operative in Ames, Iowa and Ian Ryan, Bulk Buyer of the East End Food Co-op in Pittsburgh. Each one provides an interesting and personal account of their days visiting the Cesmach Co-operative, a coffee co-op whose members live and farm sustainably in the buffer zone of a U.N. designated Biosphere, El Triunfo. To read about the history of CESMACH, as told by the farmers who founded the co-operative, see the blog entry: A David and Goliath story of small farmer perseverance, co-operative spirit and pride, and willingness to take risks.
In their articles, Colin and Ian also provide their impressions of Fair Trade, free trade, and the environmental initiatives of our farmer partners as they try to grow their co-operative, provide a dignified life for their families, and protect the delicate eco-system of the Biosphere. You can read their accounts and other related stories, at:
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February 20th marked the end of a two-day national agrarian strike in Peru. Campesino organizations demanded government measures to alleviate the financial hardships small-scale farmers will face as a result of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) recently signed with the U.S. Under the FTA, tariffs will be lifted on heavily subsidized U.S. grains, like corn and soybeans, creating unfair competition for millions of small-scale farmers in Peru. The strike began on Feb. 19, when farmers in eight departments throughout Peru held marches and blocked traffic. Four protesters were killed, hundreds of people were arrested, and the government declared a state of emergency in all eight departments. The following day, on Feb. 20, the government agreed to undergo negotiations and the strike was suspended. (more…)
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“There used to be one bus a day leaving this area (Esquintla, Chiapas) heading north. Now, four buses a day go to the border…. And each is packed with our young boys. Today, with the conditions the way they are, youth have become our biggest export.” -Miguel Angel Barrios Bravo, president of a coffee co-operative affiliated with FIECH, the Indigenous Ecological Federation of Chiapas, one of Equal Exchange’s trading partners.
“You can build the Berlin Wall. You can build the China Wall. The U.S. can build a wall any size it wants. But they will never be able to stem the migration north as long as farmers are hungry and have no way to support their families.” -Gabriela Soriano, CIEPAC, the Center for Economic & Political Research for Community Action.
In January, I took a group of Equal Exchange staff to visit our trading partners in Chiapas. We also met with local organizations in San Cristobal to learn about the current political and economic realities of the region. Our first meeting was with CIEPAC, a very active organization devoted to research, analysis, education and action. We have been very impressed with CIEPAC’s work and last year Equal Exchange was able to facilitate a portion of our profits to support their educational programs. Unfortunately, others find their work with indigenous farmers threatening; CIEPAC’s offices have been raided on numerous occasions and individual staff members have received multiple death threats.
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