"This is a national security issue," warned U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder during the first in the series public workshops on antitrust issues in agriculture convened by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture last Friday in Ankeny, Iowa.
According to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the purpose of the workshops is "to determine whether or not the system is fair. Is today's ag system suffering from a lack of free and fair competition?"
Free and fair? Ask Moe Parr, the soft-spoken, unassuming seed cleaner interviewed in the academy award nominated film Food Inc. after he was sued by Monsanto and driven out of business. Monsanto charged that Moe had helped a neighboring farmer harvest his Round-Up Ready soybean seed. Monsanto requires farmers to sign a contract that prevents them from seed harvesting. (By the way, global giant Monsanto is doing precisely the same thing to Iraqi farmers, who have been harvesting and saving their own seed for at least two thousand years.)
Free and fair? Ask the union of United Food and Commercial Workers, dozens of whom attended Friday's workshop in their readily identifiable UFCW yellow shirts. The UFCW represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers across the U.S. It was fantastic to see them there at the hearing in solidarity with family farmers, consumers, and millions of other hard-working, urban and rural, justice-seeking Americans. Check out UFCW president Joe Hansen's editorial here.
Free and fair? Ask the dozens of farmers, consumers, local and national activists, and other citizens who offered their own views. Both Moe Parr and David Runyon, an Indiana farmer who was also interviewed for Food Inc. after being sued by Monsanto, were among the dozens of concerned citizens who spoke their piece during the Thursday pre-workshop town hall meeting and the Friday workshop public comment periods.
Free and fair? Ask Farm Aid. Worried about who controls your food? Join the thousands who have already submitted comments to let the DOJ and USDA know we trust farmers for our food, not corporations!
Free and fair? Ask the majority of the 800 people in the overflow crowd at Friday's workshop. We've put together a photo slide show below of events in Ankeny last week, which included a raucous town hall meeting the night before the workshop, organized by Iowa Citizens for Community Action and the several groups sponsoring the new Bust The Trust website. See the site's blog for video clips of farmers speaking out at the town hall meeting, which was attended by over 250 people.
Free and fair, indeed. As you mobilize your friends and neighbors to take part in the fight against corporate control of our food, don't forget to send them this link for info on upcoming DOJ/USDA workshops in Alabama (on poultry issues), in Wisconsin (on dairy issues), in Colorado (on livestock issues), and in Washington, D.C. (on prices paid to farmers and prices charged to consumers).