In 1986, leaders of rural and farm movements from around the world gathered in Geneva to discuss the deepening farm crisis that was forcing farmers off the land and devastating rural communities. It quickly became clear that many of the obstacles facing farmers in the U.S. were the same challenges facing farmers in Europe, Asia and Africa, and that international trade agreements were deeply affecting local rural communities across the globe. At the conclusion of the Geneva meeting, a small group of rural and farm leaders—who now comprise IATP's board of directors—identified the need for a new organization to examine the links between global policy and local communities.

Mark Ritchie, then a trade policy analyst for the state of Minnesota, returned from the Geneva meeting to the United States and incorporated the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy as a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, with the mission of fostering sustainable rural communities and regions. In 1987, IATP began to organize and report on the newly launched round of international trade negotiations being conducted by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or GATT—which eventually became the World Trade Organization. The rules of agricultural trade set in the GATT and implemented at the WTO have deeply influenced national and local farm policies around the globe over the last two decades. Since its founding, IATP has played a unique role in analyzing international trade policy and summarizing the ramifications of these policies on local communities, both in the U.S. and abroad.

In the 1990s, IATP expanded beyond its initial focus on international policymaking institutions like the WTO to include the promotion of positive alternatives to economically, socially and environmentally destructive agricultural and trade practices. This wider focus gave IATP the opportunity to work with a much larger audience of partners. For example, with the Center for Agriculture and the Environment in the Netherlands, IATP developed tools to help U.S. farmers increase their income by reducing on-farm pollution. We tackled major health concerns of rural communities by organizing campaigns to stop the contamination of farmland by toxic waste incinerators. We helped launch international efforts to promote certified sustainable farming, fishing and forestry and sustainable consumption, including fair trade for farmers and fair wages for everyone working to put food on our tables. We put our ideas into action to demonstrate the viability of fair trade by founding Transfair USA, an international fair trade certification organization, and starting Peace Coffee, now a nationally consumed fair trade coffee brand.

With offices and staff in the U.S. and Switzerland, IATP continues to expand international partnerships, adapting ideas, strategies and experiences from the global community to the challenges facing local communities.


IATP published "Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup" by Dr. David Wallinga, Director of the Food and Health program at IATP.

On May 8, Minnesota became the first state in the country to ban the use of the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles and "sippy" cups. It was landmark legislation pushed by the 31 member organizations of the Healthy Legacy coalition, which is co-directed by IATP.

IATP helped coordinate and host the first Midwest Rural Assembly bringing together policy makers from the local, state and national levels with rural residents.

IATP opened two new offices: one in Washington, D.C., and one in Bangkok.

IATP co-authored "The Global Food Challenge: Towards a Human Rights Approach to Trade and Investment Policies."

IATP sent a 9-person delegation to the CoP15 climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark and participated actively in the Klimaforum after being denied access to the negotiations taking place in the Bella Center.


At a January reception in Minneapolis, the Sow the Seeds Fund celebrated an effort that donated $383,900 to 31 farms in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa that were damaged by massive storms in August 2007.

IATP published the Smart Plastics Guide to help consumers choose safe plastic products. When "The Today Show" mentioned IATP's Smart Plastics Guide, the immediate surge of traffic crashed our Web site.

This summer, IATP helped organize six mini-markets hosted and managed by local community organizations in Minneapolis neighborhoods that have limited offerings of fresh, healthy foods.

IATP launched the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED) to promote sustainable and equitable energy, environmental, and economic development locally and globally.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation honored IATP's own David Wallinga, M.D., with its Upstream Health Leadership Award.


In February, IATP joined 60 farm, faith, consumer, environmental, development and rural advocacy organizations in a new campaign called "Building Sustainable Futures for Farmers Globally." At a Washington, D.C., press conference, the groups launched a comprehensive platform for the 2007 U.S. Farm Bill as a basis for moving away from agricultural market and trade deregulation, and toward an alternative vision for food and agriculture based on "food sovereignty."

IATP launched new China initiative to integrate sustainability into food systems in China. IATP President Jim Harkness met with researchers, international organizations and nongovernmental organization (NGO) leaders in Beijing to discuss the program.

IATP and the City of Minneapolis hosted a Midwest Rural Somali meeting to better connect rural Somali refugees from different communities. Participants came from rural Minnesota and Wisconsin to network, find common solutions to concerns, share resources and plan for future events.

Mark Muller, the Director of IATP's Environment and Agriculture program, received a Community Partnership Award from University of Minnesota's School of Public Health on September 20.

IATP President Jim Harkness and TIP staff met with WTO Director General Pascal Lamy in October to discuss, among other topics, concerns about the Aid for Trade program. In November, IATP and colleagues held a press conference in Geneva, criticizing the initiative and calling for the WTO to focus on building a new and better framework for trade.


A WTO dispute panel rules against EU measures to protect the environment and consumers against harm from GMOs; IATP is the first to post the panel's conclusions and recommendations online

IATP publishes a primer for free-range poultry farmers to protect them and their flocks against avian influenza, a global health threat

IATP publishes a report, summarized in the New York Times, on the incidence of arsenic in U.S. poultry products

Mark Ritchie steps down as president; Jim Harkness is hired as IATP's new president


IATP publishes Cultivating a New Rural Economy on how bio-based fuels and products can revitalize the Upper Midwest

IATP hosts a town hall meeting featuring the UN's Evelyn Herfkens and business leader Marilyn Carlson on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals

IATP publishes a critique of the U.S. food aid system for undercutting local food systems in poor countries

IATP joins a friend of the court brief in a WTO dispute over the EU's system for regulating GMOs

The WTO holds its sixth ministerial in Hong Kong; IATP's Radio Hong Kong podcasts are downloaded more than 13,000 times

IATP webcasts live a first-ever meeting between civil society and WTO director-general candidates from Geneva


IATP issues paper warning about efforts to privatize oceans for industrial fish farming

Monsanto abandons regulatory approval for genetically engineered wheat after farmers object; IATP and the Stop GE Wheat campaign declare victory

IATP and the Earth Council launch the WTO E-Learning Center for NGOs and government representatives around the world who want to learn more about how the WTO works

IATP participates in the UN Conference on Trade and Development and supports the creation of an international task force on commodities


WTO holds its fifth ministerial in Cancún, Mexico. During the ministerial, IATP organizes the first Fair Trade Fair and launches Radio Cancún, daily on-the-ground podcast coverage.

IATP issues the first report documenting the presence of bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics in brand-name poultry products

First discovery of mad cow disease in the U.S.


IATP and Windustry host the first Upper Midwest Wind Energy Show

IATP co-publishes the first book in the Renewing the Countryside series about successful farmers and rural entrepreneurs who protect the land

IATP issues its first report documenting export agricultural dumping by U.S.-based food companies

Sen. Paul Wellstone and his wife, Sheila, are killed in a plane crash


IATP launches the Eat Well Guide, eatwellguide.org, an online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs available from North American farms, stores, restaurants and online merchants

WTO holds its fourth ministerial in Doha, Qatar, and launches a new round of trade negotiations with the promise of promoting development

IATP hosts a town hall forum with Mary Robinson and Walter Mondale in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks

IATP and other coalition members form the Keep Antibiotics Working campaign to end antibiotic overuse in animal production


IATP publishes The Price We Pay for Corporate Hogs, on health, environmental and social costs of factory hog farms

With six other groups, IATP launches GE Food Alert to challenge the use of genetically engineered crops in food

IATP hosts experts from 11 countries on the precautionary principle as a basis for a regulatory system

In Montréal, 131 countries approve the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety, which addresses specific risks of genetically engineered crops

IATP launches Trade Information Project in Geneva to serve as an information clearinghouse on the WTO for NGOs around the world


The WTO holds its third ministerial in Seattle

IATP hosts the first international NGO media center and broadcasts its first live webcast

IATP and the Mississippi Riverwise Partnership work to find solutions to Gulf of Mexico hypoxia; IATP publishes reports on agriculture and climate change

IATP conducts a workshop in Zimbabwe for representatives of 18 African governments on the impact of U.S. agriculture policies on Africa

IATP works with WTO trade negotiators in Geneva to protect the use of indigenous plants without fear of patent violations

IATP participates in its first meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a food-standards body recognized as authoritative by the WTO


IATP's Forestry Program works with forest owners to establish the first value-added, sustainable forestry cooperative in the country

IATP marks the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with an event in New York with Jesse Jackson, John Sweeney and others

IATP publishes Bugs in the System: Redesigning the Pesticide Industry for Sustainable Agriculture, edited by William Vorley and Dennis Keeney


IATP purchases the 2105 First Av. S. building in Minneapolis, a turn-of-the-century home built by the Crosby family, one of the founders of General Mills

IATP launches No Patents on Life campaign and publishes The Ownership of Life

IATP introduces environmental impact assessment yardsticks to help farmers reduce chemical use

IATP incorporates TransFair USA, the first U.S. fair-trade certification body

WTO holds ministerial in Singapore; Mark Ritchie attends as part of the official U.S. delegation


IATP forms Peace Coffee with Guatemala's Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú

The World Food Summit is held; IATP helps draft a Global Convention on Food Security presented to delegates

IATP joins with 25 other groups to form Health Care Without Harm

U.S. Congress approves the Freedom to Farm Bill, wiping out programs that had helped stabilize farm prices. As IATP predicts, prices soon collapse

IATP joins four other NGOs for its first friend of the court brief in a WTO dispute settlement process for the U.S. challenge of the EU's ban on beef raised on growth promoting hormones


IATP holds a series of events nationwide with surviving founders of Bretton Woods and United Nations institutions

IATP organizes a Science and Strategy on Chlorine conference to develop strategies for reducing chlorine use

IATP promotes farmer-led approaches to protecting watersheds

Mark Ritchie is appointed by Vice President Al Gore to the Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee

50th anniversary of the United Nations

The World Trade Organization goes into effect


IATP joins with other activists to form the International Forum on Globalization

IATP is the only American NGO present when GATT approves the creation of the World Trade Organization in Marrakech, Morocco. IATP warns about the challenge of WTO rules to democracy at the national level

IATP launches its first Web site, iatp.org

U.S. Congress approves the North American Free Trade Agreement


The New York Times reports on an IATP paper that raises concerns about potentially reintroducing bovine tuberculosis into the U.S. attributable to lax NAFTA regulations

IATP opens Selling to America, training seminars for NGO, government and business leaders from countries around the world

Congress gives President Bill Clinton fast-track negotiating authority. NAFTA is agreed to by all parties and signed by Clinton; the national debate over NAFTA goes full bore


IATP joins AFL-CIO, Friends of the Earth, National Farmers Union, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club in organizing Trade for the 21st Century in Washington, D.C.

IATP warns that if NAFTA is passed, the United States will see a wave of immigration from Mexico due to the devastating impact cheap U.S. corn exports will have on the Mexican economy

IATP launches email news bulletins Trade News and NAFTA Monitor

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, more commonly known as the Earth Summit, meets in Rio de Janeiro; IATP co-hosts the Global Forum on the GATT at the summit


IATP co-hosts a series of trilateral meetings for U.S., Mexican and Canadian organizations on forestry, farm policy, immigration and environmental standards as they relate to trade

IATP publishes a legal critique of the GATT Tuna/Dolphin decision, which strikes down U.S. legislation designed to protect dolphins from death and injury in the nets of tuna fishermen

In New York, IATP conducts trainings and strategy coordination for 20 coalition partners in preparation for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development


IATP arranges exchanges among U.S. and Mexican organizations leading up to the battle over NAFTA

IATP organizes an international conference of consumer organizations in Geneva to discuss how GATT will impact consumer protections, including food safety. IATP warns that a proposal could categorize health and safety standards as trade barriers

IATP distributes "Trading Away Our Future"—a video on how GATT affects American agriculture policy—to over 1,000 local organizers, opinion leaders and teachers

Paul Wellstone, one of IATP's earliest and strongest supporters, is elected to the United States Senate


IATP moves out of Mark's basement and into our first office at Sabathani Community Center

IATP purchases its first secret weapon: a Toshiba TF581 fax machine, immortalized in a Nov. 23 Financial Times article: "Through a busy fax machine, Mr. Ritchie keeps farm groups more abreast of GATT developments than many members of Congress."

IATP, in conjunction with the Canadian Environmental Law Association, organizes Trading Away the Environment, a conference outlining threats GATT poses for environmental protection, including climate change

The United States, Canada and Mexico launch talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement


IATP, Prairiefire Rural Action and League of Rural Voters hold a presidential candidate forum on agriculture issues in Ames, Iowa

A GATT meeting in Montréal is met by thousands of anti-globalization protesters. It is one of the first organized civil society challenges to GATT and, later, the WTO

IATP organizes a meeting of farm leaders from the U.S., Canada, Japan and Europe in Brainerd, Minnesota, just prior to the Big Four Summit to negotiate the Uruguay Round agriculture agreement. IATP and farm leaders call for the ministers to retain domestic farm policies, stop agriculture dumping, support fair markets and protect the right to food security


IATP launches the Sustainable Agriculture Computer Network with email, access to shared data and research, news wire services, electronic conferencing and bulletin boards

IATP organizes a series of exchanges with European partners; exchanges include bringing German farm leaders from the Protestant Farmers Association to the United States

IATP organizes the first GATT workshop for farm leaders, agricultural policy makers, churches and other NGOs in Geneva

The U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement is signed; it is a precursor to the North American Free Trade Agreement


IATP is founded and headquartered in the basement of Mark Ritchie's house at 3838 Blaisdell Av., Minneapolis

The Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is launched


The first Farm Aid is held in Champaign, Illinois

In November, an international conference, Impact of Agricultural Trade on Domestic Farm Policies, is held in Geneva

Leaders of the meeting decide an American organization is needed to focus on the role of trade and international institutions on domestic farm policy

The meeting brings together many people who will become IATP's board of directors and the idea for IATP is formed


From the 1983 Ottawa meeting, U.S. and European farm leaders and researchers form an informal network that includes exchanges and study tours


Mark Ritchie hosts the Old Timers Conference, bringing together the surviving leadership of the progressive farm movements from the 1920s to the present

Farm leaders from Europe, Asia and the Americas hold an emergency meeting at Canada's parliament in Ottawa to address the worsening agricultural trade situation. The First International Farm Crisis Summit is organized by Mark Ritchie


Mark Ritchie writes Loss of Family Farms, a powerful indictment of U.S. farm policy, which intentionally cut the number of farmers in the country