Agriculture

'Happened in US 40 Years Ago': 87 US Farmers' Unions Speak Out for Indian Farmers' Protest

"Reagan era furthered the farm crisis through deliberate federal policy changes, with systematic erosion of parity prices and other deregulatory efforts."

New Delhi: Citing damning examples of Reagan era policies that have led to irreparable damage to the US’s farmers, 87 farmers’ unions in the country have extended solidarity to the ongoing protests by farmers in India.

In a strong letter, the organisations draw a sharp connection between how agriculture has been affected by “forces of neoliberalism” in both India and the US. The unions began the letter by quoting Ghazipur protester Ringhu Yaspal, who says, “Agriculture has turned into a slow poison. It’s better to die fighting here.”

The unions called the ongoing protests at Delhi’s borders “one of the world’s most vibrant protests in history.”

“Their rallying cry is to repeal the three unjust laws that were passed without their knowledge or consultation. We extend our solidarity to countless farmers who are peacefully and boldly standing up for their rights and dignity, with other farmers from across the globe.”

One of the key demands of the movement is for farmers to receive a Minimum Support Price (MSP) — currently assured for just a few crops — for all produce, including vegetables, the unions note.

The unions extol the virtues of MSP, noting that it is a key price signal to other traders, and ensures that farmers receive a fair price for crops.

A security person keeps vigil near barbed barricades at Ghazipur border during the ongoing farmers protest. Photo: PTI

Notably, the unions recognise the role of the US government in creating the current imbroglio.

“The US has been a key opponent of India’s limited use of MSP at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The US, with Australia, Canada and European allies, has claimed that India’s MSP distorts trade.”

In a two-part analysis for The WireIndra Sekhar Singh had essayed the after-effects of US policies on agri-business and the model India has sought to follow with these farm laws.

The unions also exhorted the Biden administration to make agricultural policies conducive to farmers.

“While the U.S. agricultural sector receives inordinately large support compared to many countries, access to that support remains inequitable. In particular, Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian-Pacific and other people of color producers, who lack secure land tenure and are concentrated in vegetable and small-scale cattle sectors, have been excluded historically. Support flows to larger agribusiness farming operations instead of the independent family farmers whose voices we amplify.”

The unions note that it is their understanding that what Indian farmers are enduring now happened in the US almost four decades ago.

“Reagan era furthered the farm crisis through deliberate federal policy changes, with systematic erosion of parity prices and other deregulatory efforts. “Get big or get out” has been our government’s mantra. Farmers with the means to consolidate have been rewarded for growing monoculture commodities. Tribal nations and traditional producers as well as small farmers who have always practiced or shifted to diversified agroecological farming have effectively been subsidizing the US agriculture sector. It is rare for these food producers to make a living without supplemental income. Unsurprisingly, farm suicides in rural America are 45% higher than the rest of the population.”

The WTO has worsened an already unequal playing field between the Global South and Global North, the unions note. What every nation-state can do, at the very least, is protect small farmers from deregulatory efforts, such as the three farm laws in India, that diminish the limited bargaining power that farmers have, pushing them off their farms, they said.

Finally, the unions urged governments in the US and India to support independent farmers and localised food systems.

“We have great respect for the unified struggles the farmers and farmworkers of Samyukt Kisan Morcha have built, and we stand with them,” the unions announced.

Below is the list of signatories:

1. A Growing Culture
2. Abanitu Organics
3. AFGE Local 3354
4. Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network
5. Agricultural Justice Project
6. Agroecology Commons
7. Agroecology Research-Action Collective
8. Alabama State Association of Cooperatives
9. Alianza Nacional de Campesinas
10. Alliance for Progressive South Asians (Twin Cities)
11. American Sustainable Business Council
12. Americana World Community Center
13. Ancestor Energy
14. Association for Farmers Rights Defense, AFRD Georgia
15. Black Farmers & Ranchers New Mexico/National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association
16. Buttermilk Falls CSA
17. Center for Regional Agriculture Food and Transformation
18. CoFED
19. Community Agroecology Network
20. Community Alliance for Global Justice
21. Community Alliance with Family Farmers
22. Community Farm Alliance
23. Community Food and Justice Coalition
24. Compassionate Action for Animals
25. Disparity to Parity
26. Earth Ethics Action
27. East Michigan Environmental Action Council/Cass Commons
28. Echo Valley Hope
29. Ecologistas en Acción
30. Ecosocialist Working Group, International Committee, Democratic Socialists of America
31. Fair World Project
32. Family Farm Action Alliance
33. Family Farm Defenders
34. Farm Aid
35. Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
36. Farmers On The Move
37. Farmworker Association of Florida
38. Ground Operations
39. Health of Mother Earth Foundation
40. i4Farmers
41. Imagining Transnational Solidarities Research Circle
42. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
43. Institute for Earthbound Studies
44. Just Transition Alliance
45. Land Core
46. National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association
47. National Family Farmers Coalition
48. Natures Wisdom
49. NC Climate Justice Collective
50. NeverEndingFood
51. North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project
52. Northeast Organic Farming Association — Vermont
53. Northeast Organic Farming Association, Mass. Chapter
54. Northeast Organic Farming Association-Interstate Council
55. OPEIU 39
56. Peoples Architecture Commonwealth
57. Pesticide Action Network North America
58. Philadelphia Community farm
59. Real Food Media
60. Regenerative Organic Alliance
61. Regenerative Rising
62. Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA
63. Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecropper Fund
64. Rural Coalition
65. Rural Development Leadership Network
66. Rural Vermont
67. Safe Food and Feed Foundation
68. Santa Cruz Permaculture
69. Science for the People
70. Science for the People — Twin Cities
71. Seeds for All
72. Shaping Change Collaborative
73. Sierra Club-USA
74. Southeastern African-American Farmers’ Organic Network
75. Steward Foundation
76. Texas Drought Project
77. The Carbon Underground
78. United People Community Organization, Market, and Farms
79. University of MN Food Recovery Network
80. Uprooted & Rising
81. US Food Sovereignty Alliance
82. Utopia Cornucopia
83. Vision for Change Foundation
84. Vitis and Ovis Farm
85. Washington Biotechnology Action Council
86. Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice
87. Women’s Environmental Institute