Put your money where your mug is: Finance the coffee you are drinking today...and tomorrow

Posted November 27, 2012 by    

 Farmers from the APECAFORM co-op in Guatemala.

The money in your mug. The nickel in your nip. The cashflow in your cup. What’s the connection and what does it have to do with you?

After oil, coffee is the world’s most traded commodity. Globally, over 25 million farmers grow coffee to support themselves and their families.  Many of these growers are very small, with a typical Fair Trade coffee farmer growing on less than eight acres of land. 

At the beginning of each growing season, farmers need to come up with the cash needed to run their farm as the coffee grows, to harvest it and get it to market. Like  farmers around the world, they have to finance these costs, as well as cover living expenses year round, even though they only harvest and get paid once a year.

Small-scale farmers have long struggled to access traditional financing. Lacking conventional collateral and access to fairly-priced loans they often have to borrow money from middle-men at exorbitant interest rates that cut into their profits and their ability to meet their families’ most basic needs.  Around the world, the annual demand for sustainable trade financing for farmers is estimated at $3 billion. The financing that is actually available to small growers is more like $300 million.

That’s where you come in.

Peace Coffee (which is owned by IATP) and a group of like-minded coffee roasters in the U.S. and Canada are exploring a new way for you to put your money where your mug is. In conjunction with the Grow Ahead Foundation, they are participating in a new model for social trade finance that connects coffee drinkers and others with the farmers who grow their coffee.

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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 www.iatp.org/gtmd12.

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 www.iatp.org/gtmd12.

Sincerely,

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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Big chemical companies + big bucks = Putting the brakes on chemical regulation

Posted October 25, 2012 by    

According to a new report from Common Cause, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) reported spending $2.8 million on political advertising so far in the 2011-12 election cycle. Scores of candidates “fighting for jobs” and “cutting government regulation” were funded by the ACC. The ACC is the trade group that represents big chemical companies like Dow Chemical and Exxon Mobil. In the 2011-12 election cycle the chemical industry also contributed $10 million to candidates for federal office and gave $388,000 to congressional leadership PACs.

Chemical companies are investing in a Congress that will represent their interests, and the money continues to flow after these officials take office. In 2011 the ACC spent $10.8 million lobbying Congress and for the first half of 2012 has spent $14.8 million. On top of this, individual chemical companies, including Dow Chemical and DuPont, have invested significant resources in lobbying Congress to the tune of $81.6 million to lobby the 112th Congress!

Why are big chemical companies spending big bucks on elections and lobbying? The chemical industry is trying to prevent reform of the outdated and ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA does a poor job of regulating the over 80,000 chemicals used in commerce, with only 5 chemicals restricted in its 35-year history. For the first time in 35 years, TSCA reform saw some positive momentum with the passage of Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s Safe Chemicals Act through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 2012. This legislation requires basic safety data on all chemicals and prioritizes the phase out of the worst chemicals, ones that are toxic and build up in the environment, in the food system and in the human body.

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The myth of Feeding the World exposed in new video

Posted October 24, 2012 by    

IATP has long recognized that many of the drivers of the destructive industrial food system are not based on a sound rationale, but instead on a series of corporate marketing myths. IATP Food and Community Fellow Raj Patel, for example, has recently been taking on the false assumptions that contributed to the Green Revolution and the revitalized interest in a new Green Revolution.

Another common assumption is that we have a moral obligation to “feed the world,” and that we should not only embrace chemically intensive, industrial food production and distribution systems for profit, but also to fulfill a moral obligation to feed hungry people in other parts of the world. It’s an extremely effective frame. Surely you’re not willing to ignore the plight of the hungry in order to selfishly provide local wildlife habitat or eat local and organic foods?

IATP has researched the relationship between U.S. grain exports and hunger, an important component of this myth. A recent report by IATP Senior Associate Julia Olmstead reveals that dramatic increases in U.S. grain production and export has not alleviated global hunger.

This confirms the conclusions of the exhaustive review conducted for the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), which found that inadequate income and the inability of countries facing hunger to develop their own sustainable food systems are important drivers to hunger that are often ignored in the drive for increased industrial food production.

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Land and power in Detroit

Posted October 18, 2012

Malik Yakini is an IATP Food and Community Fellow, Interim Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and chair of the Detroit Food Policy Council.

In the mid-1970s, I was a member of the Detroit-based Pan-African Congress, USA. Inspired by the South African political party, the Pan-Africanist Congress, the PAC-USA, asserted that “land is the basis of power.” Of course, this slogan echoed the words of Malcolm X and countless other Black activists before him. It embodied the understanding that it is from the land that we get the food that sustains our lives. It is from the land that we get the materials needed for housing, and clothing. It is from the land that we get mineral resources that feed economies and generate wealth. It is on the land that we build, grow and create community. As we struggle to foster food security, food justice and food sovereignty, the question of land, who “owns” it, who controls it and who benefits from it, must be in the forefront of our discussions.

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After the flood: A beginning farmer on the front lines of extreme weather

Posted August 30, 2012 by Erin McKee VanSlooten   

Severe flooding at Laughing Loon farm.

In mid-June, beginning farmer and former IATP staff member Dayna Burtness was delivering her farm’s vegetables to clients in Minneapolis when she got the call: the rain that had started at mid-day had not let up for hours.  Things were looking bad back at Laughing Loon Farm.

Dayna rushed back to Northfield to find a river of floodwater rushing through her fields. “It was terrible,” she remembered.

The downpour dumped more than eight inches of rain in several hours, and the water in a ditch bordering Dayna’s fields overflowed, following the path of a creek that had been diverted off of the property many years ago.  A 40-foot-wide rushing river of floodwater wiped out a third of Dayna’s crops, in addition to transplant seedlings, equipment and materials.

The destructive weather didn’t stop there. Just as she was assessing which crops had escaped this first onslaught, severe storms struck again a few nights later.

“Golf ball– to Roma tomato–sized hail severely damaged the rest of the crops that hadn’t been washed away. It completely wiped out the rest of our sugar snap pea production, which was just starting to hit its stride. It snapped most of our tomato plants in half. It bashed up our fields of cucumbers, squash and winter squash, and it also snapped off many of the tops of the peppers and eggplants.” Neighbors of Laughing Loon were shocked at the devastation on Dayna’s farm, and even long-time residents can’t remember seeing such destructive flooding.

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Radio Sustain: LaDonna Redmond on food justice

Posted August 1, 2012 by Andrew Ranallo   

LaDonna Redmond.

In today's edition of Radio Sustain, IATP program associate and long-time community activist LaDonna Redmond discusses food justice, and IATP's upcoming national conference, Food + Justice = Democracy.

Learn more about the conference, extensive list of speakers and registration at iatp.org/food-justice.

 

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Chipocrisy: Will Chipotle add fair labor to its definition of sustainability?

Posted July 31, 2012

Representatives from IATP, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (Center of Workers United in Struggle) and the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) gathered at an Uptown Minneapolis Chipotle to ask them to sign CIW's Fair Food Agreement.

Steve Ells is doing a great thing. It’s not just the Chipotle founder and CEO’s decision to buy organic, or local, or avoid antibiotics in animal products. It’s not even his focus on ethically raised meat. No, his greatest contribution is one of omission. While nationwide protests urge Mr. Ells to sign a labor agreement with farm workers, the mainstream press (most recently Time magazine) has chosen to focus on the eco-friendly practices of the Chipotle fast food chain. They call this “sustainability,” but it’s not; and this is what Mr. Ells has given us—an opportunity to redefine sustainability.

Most people think of sustainability as environmentalism for the business owner, but this is a narrow redefinition of a broad, inclusive term. To sustain is to keep something going, to endure. A sustainable system is one in which the elements are used only to the point where they can regenerate, where resources are not simply used up and disposed of. In this more comprehensive and accurate sense, a food system that exploits workers is not sustainable.

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Amendment craziness and the Farm Bill

Posted June 13, 2012 by Ben Lilliston   

This article in Politico suggests the slew of amendments introduced to the Farm Bill on the Senate floor is part of a conservative strategy to kill the bill.

An article in Politico yesterday suggested that the introduction of more than 200 amendments to the Farm Bill on the Senate floor was part of a conservative strategy to “bait Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) into a confrontation that will ultimately kill the bill.” Aside from potentially upsetting Reid, the avalanche of amendments also makes it extremely difficult for citizens to track and weigh in on the type of Farm Bill they want. And maybe that’s another part of the amendment bomb strategy.

Senate leaders are working to winnow down the amendments to something manageable, and still hope to complete the bill by their July break. Last week, IATP sent a letter to Minnesota Senators outlining our priority amendments, including those focused on: a packer ban to restore competition in livestock markets, linking conservation to crop insurance, public research focused on crop diversity, rural development programs, and support for Beginning and Disadvantaged farmers. 

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ARC2020 interviews IATP's Jim Kleinschmit

Posted May 31, 2012 by IATP   

 Jim Kleinschmit

IATP's Jim Kleinschmit was recently interviewed by ARC2020,  a multi-stakeholder platform, of over 150 organisations within 22 EU Member States working for reform the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). They asked about his work, and the links between the U.S. Farm Bill and the CAP. Learn more about ARC2020 at www.arc2020.eu or read the interview below:

Last month, we received a visit from Jim Kleinschmit, Rural Communities Program Director at the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, USA. We took the opportunity to ask him about his work, his organisation and the links between the US Farm Bill and Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy…

1. Can you tell us how you came to be involved in your work and what are the strongest images and/or influences that have been accompanying you?

I was fortunate to be raised on a farm in Northeast Nebraska by parents involved in the U.S. family farm and sustainable agriculture movement. Over the last twenty five years, my family has transitioned our farm from conventional dairy, livestock and crop production to organic crop and grass-fed beef production. Throughout our childhood and even today, my parents instilled in me and my siblings the importance of farming in society, the responsibility farmers have to protect and enhance soil and other natural resources, and the fact that our current farm policies are not working for farmers, the environment or society.

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