Chiko the Cat says support IATP to the max

Posted November 14, 2012 by Jim Harkness   

Dear Friends,

Give to the Max Day in Minnesota is a special day to support your favorite Minnesota nonprofits.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) has long prided itself as being on the cutting edge of identifying and addressing global issues that affect our daily lives. We analyze complex challenges, bring people together, and work to shift power in our quest for a more democratic, sustainable and just world.

Our ever-vigilant policy analysts report back that there is but one unifying forum recognized around the world for sharing ideas and vision: the cat video.

I invite you to enjoy IATP’s latest production, Chiko, Le Chat Politique.

Please share this important message with your friends. And give now at

Thanks to a generous friend of Chiko the cat, all gifts today will be matched dollar for dollar up to $8,000.

Thank you for participating in Give to the Max. Your support makes our work possible. To learn more, go to


Jim Harkness, President

The fine print: No cats were harmed in the filming of this video, unless you count licking a McDonald’s cheeseburger. With special thanks to Henri, Le Chat Noir.

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An open letter to G-20 finance ministers: The world needs leadership on finance reform

Posted November 2, 2012 by Dr. Steve Suppan   

Used under creative commons license from G20Mexico.

Meeting of the G-20 Finance Ministers from April, 2012.

  • George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Government of the United Kingdom
  • Michel Barnier, Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, European Commission
  • Ikko Nataksuka, Minister of State for Financial Services, Government of Japan
  • Pierre Moscovici, Minister of Finance, Government of France

Your Excellencies,

Soon you will be on your way to the Group of 20 finance ministers meeting on November 4–5 in Mexico City. To judge by what has been posted at G-20 websites, you will have reviewed many reports that indicate progress towards fulfilling the Heads of State commitment in September 2009 to place all “standardized Over the Counter derivatives” (OTC) on regulated trading venues “as appropriate” by the end of 2012. However, as the Financial Stability Board has reported to you, this goal will not be met in 2012. Unfortunately, if and when that goal is achieved, it may have small relevance to the broader goal of regulating OTC derivatives, to achieve more transparent and stable markets.

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The CFS comes of age

Posted October 26, 2012 by Sophia Murphy   

Photo credit: ©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti.

I came away from the 39th session of UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) last Saturday tired but hopeful. In a world where many are skeptical of global institutions' ability to solve the world’s most challenging problems—not least of which, climate change—the CFS offers a new approach to global governance, and is getting results. It’s a rare place in the multilateral system where transparency and participation have stretched to allowing civil society a place at the negotiating table. The processes are not perfect, and as Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter’s summary reminds us, there is still a need for a “strong, innovative monitoring and accountability mechanism” to give the organization teeth. Nonetheless, it’s getting things done, and keeping a surprising diversity of people happy while doing it.

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A global step forward on climate and agriculture

Posted October 25, 2012 by Shefali Sharma   

Photo © FAO/Alessandra Benedetti.

Last week in Rome, the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security (CFS) agreed on key principles on how governments must address the massive food security challenge that climate change brings. The big news: Governments at the CFS recognized that policies addressing climate change must also support the Right to Food—an important step forward that if taken seriously by governments could result in a major shift in the way agriculture and land use are considered at the global climate talks.

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For Haiti’s agriculture, the hits keep coming

Posted October 24, 2012

Used under creative commons license from Marion Doss.

The damage from Hurricane Isaac was so severe, it is estimated that the agriculture sector in Haiti suffered $2,420 million in losses.

Guest blogger Sarah Leavitt is the digital outreach manager of the Lambi Fund of Haiti.

It’s a common scene in Haiti: Marceline, a small farmer, walks into a bustling market to sell her harvest and the marketplace is riddled with imported goods.  Fruits and vegetables are from the Dominican Republic, packaged goods from the U.S. line the rows and large bags of rice stamped with USAID lay on the ground. To an unknowing eye, this wouldn’t mean much, but to Marceline these imported goods are undercutting her and other Haitian farmers’ ability to make an honest living.

In Haiti, the idea of food sovereignty means so much more than growing food that is healthy, culturally appropriate and produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods (as defined by the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty). For the more than half of Haitian society that depends on agriculture for its livelihood, an agriculture system that that supports locally grown foods is imperative.

The struggle to protect and strengthen local agriculture is nothing new to Haiti. Severe environmental degradation and years of deforestation have eroded the soil and left much of the land devoid of the nutrients essential to producing high yielding crops. This, coupled with Haiti’s propensity for natural disasters, like hurricanes, leaves small farmers especially vulnerable to fluctuations in the environment. 

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Moving ahead on food justice

Posted October 23, 2012 by    

On September 24–26, 2012, hundreds of food justice advocates gathered in Minneapolis for the Food + Justice = Democracy conference. One of the primary features of the conference was the use of a People’s Movement Assembly process to craft principles around food justice. View and comment on the draft Principles of Food Justice or read a summary of the conference and its aims below. Join IATP for a post-conference webinar to review the outcomes and plan for moving forward on November 15. RSVP now.

The U.S food system has never been just, fair or healthy. This is a shocking statement to some, but to the vast majority of people of color and tribal nations in the United States this has always been a reality. This sentiment was the thread connecting many of the conversations throughout all three days of IATP’s Food + Justice = Democracy conference last month in Minneapolis.

African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos experience higher incidence of chronic diseases, higher mortality, and poorer overall health outcomes. To address the health disparities that those communities face, we must recognize their experience in the overall analysis of the problem of a failed food and agriculture system.  

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World Food Day: Keep farmers on the land

Posted October 16, 2012 by Karen Hansen-Kuhn   

World Food Day is an event perhaps best known to those already advocating to end hunger in their own countries and around the globe. That seems like such an obvious goal, and yet how to achieve it is subject to vigorous debate. This year we’re in the middle of the third global food price crisis since 2008. It seems likely that those crises will become the upward swings of ever more unstable prices unless we make some serious shifts in policy and practice.

To begin with, it’s about time we abandon the idea that the problem of global hunger is simply about producing enough food. Increasing the volume of food production is important, but who has access to that food, and who controls how it is grown is even more vital. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) reports that 70 percent of rural people live in poverty. Many of those people are themselves farmers who are also facing new threats to their ability to feed their families and their communities.

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Policymakers are AWOL on agricultural challenges

Posted August 24, 2012 by    

Used under creative commons license from USDAgov.

Aerial views of drought-affected farms.

We are in the midst of the worst U.S. drought since the 1950s, and some regions are to the point of the Dust Bowl-era 1930s. As expected, prices of corn, soybeans and wheat have increased significantly, causing a rise in food prices and putting a difficult squeeze on many livestock farmers.

Fortunately the Obama administration and Congress have stepped up and decided to ... purchase meat from livestock farmers to donate through food assistance programs? Open up sensitive environmental lands for haying and grazing? And if Congress gets its act together, possibly pass a livestock disaster aid bill?

Addressing the economic challenges of the drought will of course be welcomed by farmers throughout the Midwest. Yet, comparing the policy actions of today to other times of agricultural crisis, these initiatives appear woefully unimaginative and small. Policymakers are clearly missing the forest for the trees, and prefer to make a lot of noise about small policies rather than address structural issues.

It would be one thing if the food and agricultural economy tended to hum along fine and economic calamities were rare, but that is clearly not the case. If it isn't a drought, it's been a flood, or exploding energy costs, or food safety concerns, or Wall Street speculators, or skyrocketing land values. Our food system—the most important of production systems—is disturbingly vulnerable to events well beyond the control of farmers. And perhaps the most chronic of problems occurs when farmers produce an abundance of crops, when everything goes well, and commodity prices are driven down below the farmers' cost of production.

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IATP's Bike and Bite celebrates the International Year of the Cooperative

Posted August 16, 2012

This Saturday, August 18, marks IATP’s second annual Bike and Bite celebration, a day to eat, drink, bike and appreciate the dedication to local food that exists in our own Minneapolis community.

This year, Bike and Bite also celebrates the United Nation’s International Year of the Cooperative. Many of us love the notion of the cooperative. You may imagine a few people, probably college students, living together, sharing their food and responsibilities. Housing cooperatives are certainly prevalent, but cooperatives span the full spectrum of business. Most Minnesotans may not realize that our state has the highest number of cooperative businesses in the United States. According to the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Cooperatives’ research, over one thousand cooperatives from 16 different business sectors employ over 42,000 Minnesotans!

Why are there so many cooperatives in Minnesota? Scandinavian, German and Dutch immigrants brought the business model over from Northern Europe in the early 1800s where many cooperative businesses, particularly agricultural cooperatives, were thriving. Since, the popularity of cooperatives has grown immensely in part due to their high rate of success. An international study estimates that 64 percent of cooperatives around the world survive their first five years compared to only 32 percent of other business model types. Further, they estimate the survival rate of cooperative businesses is even higher in the American Midwest.

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The 2012 drought and food aid

Posted August 6, 2012 by Karen Hansen-Kuhn   

The reports of drought across the United States continue to worsen. Just this week, USDA decreased its estimates of corn harvests in “good to excellent” conditions to 24 percent. Corn futures are hovering near $8 a bushel, and wheat futures have started to rise as well. We won’t know for sure how much of the crop is affected for several weeks, but what seems clear is that the harvest will be down, perhaps 30 percent or more, and prices will be up substantially.

This kind of weather extremes have become increasing common around the world. The number of recorded natural disasters has doubled in the last 20 years, and the U.N. estimates that nine out of ten of those disasters are linked to climate change. All projections are that these problems will only increase with growing climate chaos. At the same time, a crop failure here doesn’t mean that crops have failed everywhere. Argentina, for example, is expecting a record corn and wheat harvest. So food crises and famines will likely rise, but where the supplies are located will become more and more variable.

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