Action Alert

Fair trade or free trade? Let your voice be heard on Minnesota’s future!

The Obama Administration is negotiating two new mega trade deals (one with Pacific Rim countries, another with Europe) entirely in secret, with the goal of further expanding the NAFTA-model of free trade. These trade agreements could have major impacts on Minnesota's farmers, workers, small business owners and rural communities. They could limit Minnesota’s ability to support local food and energy systems and grow local businesses. In order to stay up to speed, Minnesota has set up a new Trade Policy Advisory Council (TPAC) to advise the state legislature and Governor.

TPAC wants to hear from Minnesotans: What concerns do you have about free trade? What role could TPAC play in the future? Now is your opportunity to have a say in our future trade policy. Complete the survey and let them know future trade negotiations should be public, not secret. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the development of trade agreements and that they protect local control and our quality of life. The free trade model has failed for Minnesota and we need a new approach to trade. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard before trade agreements are completed, and that they protect local control, our natural resources and our quality of life.

Please take five minutes and complete the survey. To find out more about these trade agreements, go to

Change in the wind on food aid?

Posted February 28, 2013 by Karen Hansen-Kuhn   

Food AssistanceFood security

Used under creative commons license from USDAgov.

Washington D.C. is a gloomy place these days, with grey skies and a weirdly warm winter, the sour prospect of failure around the sequestration debate, and more cuts on the horizon. It’s possible, however, that on international food aid there just might be a silver lining to all that gloom.  Reuters reports that President Obama might propose new rules in his March budget proposal that would make food aid reach more people, more quickly and more efficiently.

Since the 1950s, nearly all U.S. food aid has been shipped in-kind. There was a certain (though even then, not entirely positive) logic to that practice when this country had vast grain reserves, but that hasn’t been the case for years. Most donor countries now provide more flexible resources for local and regional purchases of food aid, and there has been pressure for years from development and faith organizations for the U.S. government to get with the times and make that shift.

There was a small breakthrough in the 2008 Farm Bill, which created a pilot program to test local and regional purchases of food aid. The evaluation of that experiment found that food aid purchased locally arrived, on average, in about 56 days, compared to 130 days for food purchased and shipped from the U.S.—and at lower cost. Early drafts of the 2012 Farm Bill would have expanded that program and made it permanent, but the Farm Bill, like so many others initiatives these days, is in limbo.

Eleven civil society groups, including American Jewish World Service, Oxfam and IATP, issued a statement this week applauding reports that the administration would reform food aid to institutionalize local and regional purchase of food aid and take steps to replace monetization (when food aid is sold on local markets to generate funds for development projects) with more sensible and sustainable development funding. The National Journal reports that other groups including the American Soybean Association and the Sailors Union of the Pacific oppose the changes, insisting that, “Growing, manufacturing, bagging, shipping, and transporting nutritious U.S. food creates jobs and economic activity here at home.” The fact that the actual proposal is still just a rumor only fuels controversy, but all groups agree that cuts in food aid should not be on the table.

Food aid is just one tool for agricultural development. It is that last safety net when all else fails, so it is imperative that funding levels don’t fall. But reforming food aid so that it’s faster, more efficient and even possibly a tool to build local markets, is a common-sense solution that deserves to be a much bigger part of the anti-hunger toolbox.

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