The Guardian March 29, 2000


US:
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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People's Weekly World

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