Farmers have been through this before our lives and livelihoods falling under corporate control. It has been an ongoing process: consolidation of markets; consolidation of seed companies; an ever-widening gap between our costs of production and the prices we receive. Some of us are catching on, getting the picture of the real enemy.
The 99 percent are awakening to the realization that their lives have fallen under corporate control as well. Add up the jobs lost, the health benefits whittled away, and the unions busted, and the bill for Wall Streets self-centered greed is taking a toll.
When Occupy Wall Street (OWS) welcomed the Farmers March to Zuccotti Park in New York on Dec. 4, a natural rural-urban alliance the Food Justice Movement, gardeners, farmers, seed growers, health care workers, and union members was formed at Wall Streets back door.
Change can come only when you confront your oppressors directly on their turf. That makes them uncomfortable, it gets attention, and it wakes up the distracted public. The Occupy movement is doing exactly what the prominent student activist Mario Savio spoke of in 1964, when he declared:
There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you cant take part, you cant even passively take part and youve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the apparatus and youve got to make it stop and youve got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless youre free, the machine will be prevented from running at all.
The people who are now forming a movement to occupy the food system agree with this sentiment too.
The food system isnt working. People eat too many calories, or too few. Theres too much processed food on our plates. Too many Americans lack access to food that is fresh, nutritious, and locally grown. This is the food system that corporate America has given us. Its the food system its selling to the rest of the world.
Farmers need access to farm credit, a fair mortgage on their land, fair prices for the food they produce, and seeds that arent patented by Monsanto or other big corporations. Consumers need to be able to purchase healthy and local food, and to earn a living wage. The parallels are pointedly exact. It may be the Wall Street banks that are controlling our lives, or it may be Monsanto, Cargill, DuPont, Kraft, or Tysons. The system isnt working.
Why do agribusiness profits continue to grow while farmers struggle to pay their costs of production and more Americans go hungry? We cant feed our people if we are forced to feed the bank accounts of the 1%. Agribusinesses insist that we have the responsibility of feeding the world. Growing more genetically engineered corn and soy isnt going to feed the world, nor will it correct the flaws in our food system; clearly it has created many of them.
The worlds people can feed themselves if we let them if we stop the corporate land grabs and let them develop their own economies for their own benefit.
The message from the Occupy movement neednt and shouldnt be a specific set of demands. It should be about asking the right questions. Wall Street, the government, and corporate America need to answer one basic question: Why did you sell us down the river?
Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc, Wis. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2012
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