Rally to "Save Rural America"
by Terrie Albano and Erwin Marquit "Save family farms and ranches" is a demand that farmers, rural Americans and the labour movement brought to Congress on March 21 as thousands converged on Washington for the Rally for Rural America. Co-sponsoring the rally were the National Farmers Union (NFU) and the AFL- CIO, together with the American Corn Growers' Association, National Family Farm Coalition, Black Farmers' and Agriculturalists' Association, the National Farmers' Organisation, the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, and the Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Mennonite and Catholic churches. Mark Froemke, vice president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO and a leader of the Fargo local of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco, and Grainmillers' union, said members of his union came to the rally "to let everybody know about the crisis in rural America and the urgency of saving our small farms, jobs, and rural businesses". If things don't change, Froemke said, "rural America will be completely destroyed. The corporate conglomerates control 80 percent of the markets and now want to control all of the land." Abandoned farms mean "some family lost a home, a town lost a piece of its economy", he said. "When you drive through rural towns and see 90 percent of businesses and schools boarded up, it's not nostalgic. "We as a group — workers, farmers, environmentalists, regular people — are getting our butts kicked. If we unite, we can kick some butts ourselves", he said. "We came out of the `Battle in Seattle' fight against the WTO, witnessing the birth of a great new anti-monopoly, anti-corporate coalition on a world scale", said Scott Marshall, Communist Party USA Labour Commission chair. "The natural alliance between labour, family farmers and agricultural workers, once again, has begun to take a central role in this fight. We all have to eat, work and prosper. "The giant agribusiness monopolies are ruining farm land, driving family farmers off the land, and using working people as test animals in potentially dangerous experiments with genetic engineering." "We've been lucky in Minnesota", Pete Takesh, Minnesota Farmers' Union public affairs director said, "There has always been a strong tie between farmers and labour. "From the farm perspective, labour is a key tie to consumers. Farmers asking for a fair price is the same as workers asking for a living wage. The new thing is environmental groups, the consumer groups, small businesses, the schools and churches. We had a local rally about the rural crisis, last summer, and 2,000 migrant workers were a part of that as well as Tribal Councils." Andrea Clark, education and membership director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers' Union who grew up on a ranch in New Mexico said, "When you have three companies processing 90 percent of the beef, they pretty much control the prices. It makes a producer a slave to the purchaser." Concerned about the long-term safety and market uncertainties of genetically modified crops, National Farmers' Union delegates have urged Congress "to support a moratorium on the patenting and licensing of new transgenic animals and plants developed through genetic engineering until the broader legal, ethical, and economic questions are thoroughly explored."
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