The UK farming sector is in the middle of an existential crisis. As a consequence of leaving the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, the Conservative government has had to draft a new agricultural support scheme to either match or replace the direct payments received by UK farmers from the EU. What will replace this scheme has been the subject of heated debate for years. Most probable is the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS). ELMS would offer ‘public money for public good’, meaning that farmers would receive payments if they could prove their farm was engaging in beneficial environmental practice, such as rewilding a section of their land. The scheme has its detractors across the political spectrum, yet to-ELMS-or-not-to-ELMS is a sideshow for much of the British public.
Worsening harvests, infertile soil and increasing food poverty are affecting the majority of small farmers across the globe, especially in the Global South. But the climate and food crises are not isolated phenomena. They are the result of a global capitalist system – and a neoliberal agenda – that has prioritised big corporate agricultural profits over people and the planet. “Most farmers can no longer produce adequate food for their families,” says Vladimir Chilinya. “Profit-making entities control our food systems… including the production and distribution of seed.” Chilinya is a Zambian coordinator for FIAN International, an organisation that campaigns for the democratisation of food and nutrition.
In farming, high crop yields are often associated with the use of human-made fertilizers. But what if these abundant results could instead be achieved by using farming practices that were more environmentally friendly? An extensive new study of 30 farms in Africa and Europe has shown that the combination of small amounts of fertilizer with natural farming methods like mixing compost or manure with the soil, cultivating a wider variety of crops and cultivating plants like clover or beans that amplify soil’s fertility can result in high crop yields while maintaining the harmony of agricultural ecosystems, a press release from Rothamsted Research said. The study found that a significant amount of chemical fertilizers could be replaced by adopting these more natural techniques, which would have multiple benefits.
We feel like we are sandwiched between unfair market competition at the bottom and unfair production regulations at the top. The industrial baking industry has all the comparative advantages of size, it uses standardized raw materials and many types of additives. We have all the disadvantages of standards tailored to industrial production. These rules have not been adapted to the possible risks of our small-scale artisanal production methods. With lower production volumes and higher labor costs, we are disproportionately burdened by these over-regulations, which hardly help to fulfil the goals they are supposed to serve. As competent, independent and socially responsible craftspeople, we are disenfranchised and penalized by rampant bureaucratic regulations.
Minneapolis, Minnesota - 25 community members and organizers entered Mayor Jacob Frey’s office, June 6, to demand that the city stop stifling the East Phillips neighborhood’s efforts to build a community-owned sustainable urban farm on the site of an unused Roofing Depot plant in their neighborhood. The coalition was led by the Climate Justice Committee and the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI). The site, which has decades’ worth of toxic arsenic waste in its soil and structures, is slated to be demolished by the city to accommodate more public works facilities. This would throw all of these toxins into the air of a neighborhood that already has some of the worst air quality in Minnesota.
Eleven hundred workers who manufacture agricultural and construction equipment for CNH Industrial in Burlington, Iowa, and Racine, Wisconsin, have been on strike since May 2. At the core of the strike is the company’s three-tier pay system. Workers hired before 1996 make $6 to $8 more per hour than those hired after 2004; those hired between 1996 and 2004 earn somewhere in between. Workers want to see at least the bottom tier abolished. Workers are also fired up that their counterparts at CNH’s non-union plants make an estimated $5.50 more per hour than the average union worker, according to UAW Local 807 President Nick Guernsey. “We're wanting parity between us and non-union plants,” Guernsey told the Hawk Eye.
When Leela Devi was married in Tilonia village (Ajmer district of Rajasthan), she had not heard of solar energy. But making use of the existence of solar centre of the Barefoot College (BC) near her new home, she learnt adequate skills within a year to set up rural solar units and assemble solar lanterns. Later as India’s External Affairs Ministry teamed up with BC to start an international program for training women in rural solar energy systems, Leela teamed up with other friends from B.C. to form a team of trainers. A training program has been designed for training women as barefoot solar engineers. When I visited the Tilonia campus (before the training program was temporarily discontinued due to COVID) , a group of women ( several of them Grandmas) from Zambia , Chad, Kenya and other countries was being trained.
Like-minded individuals from the United States, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Borinquen, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua gathered together in Nicaragua from September 3-13th, 2021, to build solidarity, exchange knowledge and culture, and learn through experience — specifically in the campo (countryside) of Nicaragua through agroecology. Members of the delegation eagerly gathered in Managua first to learn the history of Nicaragua and the Sandinista Revolution, which included touring the capital city, discovering historical sites, and enjoying community offerings in Managua, such as the beautiful Luis Alfonso Velasquez Park and the Salvador Allende Port. We learned that 45% of the population in Nicaragua live in the campo, and over 90% of the food consumed in Nicaragua is produced within the country.
Born and raised in Mount Pulaski, a town in central Illinois, Tom Martin has seen several grocery stores shut their doors over the years. The last one closed in 2016. It was hard to buy basic staples, such as milk or bread, after the independent grocery store’s closure, said Martin, 65, a local farmer. Residents in the 1,500-person town had to rely on the nearby dollar store and gas station to purchase food. “When a grocery store closes up and it’s your last one,” Martin said, “you feel it immediately.” Rural towns, such as Mount Pulaski, have lost grocery stores while dollar-store chains have been on the rise, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The departure of food stores leaves residents, especially those in areas with high poverty rates and dwindling population, with fewer options to buy food.
Gallup, New Mexico — It’s an overcast, windy November day as Zachariah Ben stands tall over the small, folding table at a local flea market. His tsiiyééł sits low on his neck and it’s clear that his dark brown hair is very long. Before him, on a black-and-white Pendleton blanket, sit two products — Bidii Baby Food and neeshjizzii — that share a common element, naadą́ą́, or corn. He’s already sold out of tádídíín, or corn pollen, this year, which sells fast during the summer and fall. But tádídíín is not the only thing missing from the table. Over the summer, he offered a variety of melons grown at Ben Farms, owned and operated by his family, at different flea markets in the Four Corners area on Saturdays and Sundays.
Even when there are funds available, the soils program can be difficult for farmers who grow many crops, as well as immigrant farmers who may not speak English fluently, to access or make use of. It’s also hard for lower-income growers who lease their land year to year to successfully complete an application, because the program requires a three-year commitment for all who participate. And HSP takes a largely prescriptive approach—requiring that one practice be applied to the same plot of land for the entire time. But smaller operations tend to grow a diverse range of crops that require intricate rotation and the ability to swap out crops due to weather, water availability and other factors.
The San Joaquin Valley in California is the most agriculturally productive farmland in the United States, but it is also plagued by high levels of poverty and water pollution, as well as the serious health risks that come with constant exposure to pesticides. These huge corporate farms in California, established over the last century, became the model for modern agrobusiness designed to exploit a transient labor force, bankrupt, and seize small family farms, exhaust the soil, and drain the aquifers and reservoirs. These agrobusinesses use their economic might to buy elected officials, deform the court system to legalize their assault on the land, and silence criticism in academia and the press.
Orange, California - Last month México’s Supreme Court provided hope for biodiversity, especially in the Global South, while flaming fear for seed companies. In a historic step, it ruled for corn advocates and against genetically modified (GMO) corn. The decision was a momentous act in country where maíz (corn) carries daily and sacred significance. This promises a way out of stale GMO debates that plague us. One side argues that genetic changes to seeds increase harvests. Seed companies and industrial agriculture make up this side. Another side says GMOs damage plant DNA. Small-scale farmers and environmentalists stand on this side. Neither addresses the other. This standstill keeps GMO policies ineffective. The court’s decision offers a path out of this by cutting at seed company positions.
After fighting for almost a year, farmers in India finally won a victory against the three farms laws enacted by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government last year. Prime minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday, November 19, that the three laws would be repealed and all legal processes related to the matter will be completed during the upcoming session of parliament.
Ag Tech and Big Tech firms are championing a kind of uberisation of farmlands in an effort to dominate all aspects of food production. This ensures that it is the powerless smallholders and agricultural workers who take on all the risks. The German pharmaceutical company Bayer’s partnership with the US non-profit Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD) intends to use e-extension training to control what and how farmers grow their produce, as agribusinesses reap the benefits without taking on risk. This is another instance of neoliberalism at work, displacing the risk onto workers whose labour produces vast profits for the Ag Tech and Big Tech firms. These big firms are not interested in owning land or other resources; they merely want to control the production process so that they can continue to make fabulous profits.