The Rapidian

Fair Farm Bill Rally

West Michigan citizens demand Stabenow's support for Fair Farm Rules; listen to speakers Sheri Rop, Andrea Villarreal and Cynthia Price
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Event Info

Fair Farm Rules Rally

November 3rd, 4PM @ Calder Plaza

More info @ www.foodandwaterwatch.org

local support from Grand Rapids citizens

local support from Grand Rapids citizens

Jane Weidenbeck (L) and Charlotte Bartter (R) of Food and Water Watch

Jane Weidenbeck (L) and Charlotte Bartter (R) of Food and Water Watch

This past Thursday was windy and overcast, with temperatures in the low 40s. That didn't stop the 20+ advocates who came out to support the Fair Farm Bill Rally held at Calder Plaza. Multiple signs read “Help Michigan Grow,” “Raise a Hand for MI Small Farmers,” “Stabenow Support Small Farms,” and “Implement GIPSA.” The rally was organized by Food and Water Watch with the goal to urge Senator Stabenow to adopt and implement the Fair Farm Rules.

Food and Water Watch is a national nonprofit that supports consumers and small farms. According to Jane Wiedenbeck, one of the event organizers, large farms have been putting small farms out of business, with 27,000 lost over the past five years. Food and Water Watch is working to implement GIPSA, also known as the Fair Farm Rules. One of GIPSA's strongest focus is to prevent meatpackers from giving preference to factory farms, which put small producers at a disadvantage. This would stop price premiums and contracts granted to factory farms, prevent buyers that represent multiple meatpackers from competitive bidding on livestock, and protect poultry growers who speak out about animal abuse. These rules were released in 2010, but still haven't been finalized.

Three speakers were invited to express their passion for Michigan small farms. Each guest speaker was allowed to share their opinion on how GIPSA will improve our community and Michigan agriculture. The first speaker was Sheri Rop, owner of Nourish Organic Market, a grocery store that sells meat and produce from mostly West Michigan farms. According to Sheri, small farms are a priceless resource and require a network of support. One way Nourish Organic Market supports local farms is by selling local, grass-fed meat. GIPSA will ensure that small farms in Michigan will survive and give hope to a new farm bill.

The second speaker was Andrea Villarreal, an activist and educator from Kalamazoo. Andrea explained that she represents people who shop local and want wholesome foods. At one time she was vegetarian and boycotted meat, but she found a solution by eating local meat. According to Andrea, local farms can't compete with corporate farms, which produce meat for profit only and not for the benefit of consumers. Without GIPSA rules, small farms won't be able to feed their families and we may lose choices about the food we buy.

The third speaker was Cynthia Price from Grand Rapids, who is the chair of Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council. Cynthia explained that Debbie Stabenow is an advocate for small farms. Although the Fair Farm Rules were mandated in the 2008 farm bill, Senator Stabenow has not yet implemented them. Corporate interests have been preventing this law from going into effect, which also prevents Michigan agriculture and small family farms to compete on a level playing field.

Not only do small farms need GIPSA, but so do we as consumers. Without Fair Farm Rules, more small farms will go out of business and the number of factory farms will increase. Factory farms produce meat raised with antibiotics and artificial hormones, which leads to less healthy choices for consumers. Large companies like Tyson, Cargill, and Swift are working against GIPSA and make a profit taking advantage of small farms.

Food and Water Watch has been working hard to get support from our senator. One way you can help support the Fair Farm Rules is by signing a postcard that reads:

“Dear Senator Stabenow,

We urge you to stand up for family farmers, consumers, and a better food system by supporting the fair farm rules (GIPSA rules) that the USDA proposed from the last farm bill and oppose any efforts to delay or derail their implementation. These rules are a crucial first step in leveling the playing field for small family farmers and fixing our broken food system”.

So far, 4,500 of these postcards have been collected from all over Michigan. Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo have collected a combined 2,978 constituents. These postcards have been delivered to Senator Stabenow's West Michigan office. You can also sign this petition at www.foodandwaterwatch.org/fairfarmbill. If you would like more information or would like to become more involved with Food and Water Watch, please visit www.foodandwaterwatch.org

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