ARC2020 interviews IATP's Jim Kleinschmit

Posted May 31, 2012 by IATP   

 Jim Kleinschmit

IATP's Jim Kleinschmit was recently interviewed by ARC2020,  a multi-stakeholder platform, of over 150 organisations within 22 EU Member States working for reform the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). They asked about his work, and the links between the U.S. Farm Bill and the CAP. Learn more about ARC2020 at or read the interview below:

Last month, we received a visit from Jim Kleinschmit, Rural Communities Program Director at the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, USA. We took the opportunity to ask him about his work, his organisation and the links between the US Farm Bill and Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy…

1. Can you tell us how you came to be involved in your work and what are the strongest images and/or influences that have been accompanying you?

I was fortunate to be raised on a farm in Northeast Nebraska by parents involved in the U.S. family farm and sustainable agriculture movement. Over the last twenty five years, my family has transitioned our farm from conventional dairy, livestock and crop production to organic crop and grass-fed beef production. Throughout our childhood and even today, my parents instilled in me and my siblings the importance of farming in society, the responsibility farmers have to protect and enhance soil and other natural resources, and the fact that our current farm policies are not working for farmers, the environment or society.

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Chipotle, please add some farmworker justice to my burrito

Posted May 30, 2012 by    

Many of us on staff at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy enjoy an occasional Chipotle burrito. Compared to other casual dining options, the company has done an outstanding job of sourcing antibiotic-free meat from farmers committed to the humane treatment of animals. We applaud its efforts to provide “food with integrity” and, of course, the touching “Back to the Start” video that depicts the life of a family farmer.

Yet despite these admirable efforts, we are disappointed by Chipotle’s blind spot when it comes to farmworkers. As mentioned in a previous post and illustrated in a video by IATP Food and Community Fellow Shalini Kantayya, the treatment of workers in Florida’s tomato fields is atrocious. Tomato harvesters are still paid by the piece, and the average piece rate today is 50 cents for every 32 pounds of tomatoes they pick, a rate that has remained virtually unchanged since 1980. As a result of that stagnation, a worker today must pick more than 2.25 TONS of tomatoes to earn minimum wage in a typical 10-hour workday—nearly twice the amount a worker had to pick to earn minimum wage thirty years ago, when the rate was 40 cents per bucket.

Effectively addressing this crisis is not easy. Federal labor policy has overtly ignored the plights of farmworkers, and any individual grower would price himself/herself out of business if they tried to institute better labor standards as an individual business.

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Antibiotics in ethanol: An unnecessary risk despite the spin

Posted May 25, 2012 by    

 Used with permission from the USDA Agriculture Research Service. 

“Antibiotic levels nearly nil” screams the headline from this article in the industry trade publication, National Hog Farmer. It was a piece of spin doctoring in response to IATP’s report earlier this month on the widespread and unregulated use of human antibiotics in ethanol production. Ethanol producers use antibiotics to control bacterial outbreaks during production, which can interfere with the fermentation process and lower ethanol yields.

Our report, “Bugs in the System,” made some basic points:

  1. We know antibiotic use, wherever it occurs, can drive antibiotic resistance.
  2. Antibiotics in ethanol, we now know, leaves residues in what are known as “distillers grains” (DGS) a co-product that gets sold as livestock feed. The FDA has determined that sales of antibiotics to the ethanol  industry should be restricted, but has turned a blind eye to actually regulating such sales.
  3. Using human-medicine antibiotics and their analogues to produce much of the nearly 14 billion gallons of ethanol produced each year is both unnecessary and a pretty poor idea. Many ethanol producers have turned to non-antibiotic alternatives, which are readily available and effective, and those producers remain profitable.

The industry has said nothing to refute points #1 and #3. They can’t. They are irrefutable. The process of antibiotic resistance is basic to microbiology. POET, the world’s largest ethanol producer, is certified antibiotic-free.

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AGree—What’s it all about?

Posted May 14, 2012 by Jim Harkness   

Used under creative commons license from dwinstonfidler.

The multi-million dollar initiative known as AGree released their mission and strategies for transforming food and agriculture policy by 2030 last week. Despite a litany of plans and players involved, it’s still hard to know what to make of AGree.

AGree is the brainchild of nine foundations (with the Gates Foundation far and away the largest) that already fund a variety of initiatives of food and agriculture in the U.S. and around the world. They announced a year ago that they would combine forces and launch “an initiative designed to inform and address food and agriculture policy issues through the direct engagement of diverse groups” to “drive transformational change.”

AGree is led by four co-chairs including former USDA Secretary Dan Glickman, and a diverse Advisory Committee that includes farmers of all sizes and types as well corporate giants like Cargill and DuPont.  AGree has identified four interrelated challenges: meeting future demand for food; conserving and enhancing water, soil and habitat; improving nutrition and public health; and strengthening farms, workers and communities. And last week, AGree announced their five strategic priorities to take on these challenges:

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Defining our terms: Agroecology and sustainable agriculture in the context of Rio+20

Posted May 11, 2012 by Shiney Varghese   

Used under creative commons license from Grassroots International.

Farmers in Mozambique provide a viable alternative to the Green Revolution.

Earlier this month as the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development was hosting one of the last meetings to bring out a final draft for the negotiations in Rio de Janeiro, I came across a flurry of reports issued by various entities, including the one by UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), entitled Sustainable Development in the 21st century (SD21) Report for Rio+20, which will serve as a roadmap during the Rio+20 conference this June. (In all fairness, I should mention that IATP contributed to the component of this report entitled, “Food and Agriculture: The future of sustainability.”) While all of these reports focus on sustainability, the call for sustainability in the agricultural sector is worth our attention for the simple reason that it is where one of the most crucial fights for world’s resources is taking place.

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Who owns the Philippines?

Posted April 25, 2012 by Jim Harkness   

Used under creative commons license from mathieu.fortin.

Three conflicts going on right now in the Philippines illustrate just how high the stakes are in struggles over rights and resources around the world.

I got an email this morning from Esther Penunia, secretary general of the Manila-based Asia Farmers Association and IATP board member, informing me that the Supreme Court of the Philippines has ordered that the country’s second-largest family-owned plantation should be divided up among 6000 farm families. (See the New York Times story on this decision.) Although the amount of land and number of beneficiaries is limited, the decision has a much larger significance. The distribution of land and wealth in the Philippines have remained staggeringly unequal since colonial times, and one of the most prominent popular demands following the fall of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 was for land reform, but until now, the country’s plutocrats had skillfully used their influence over the government and courts to prevent any meaningful redistribution. After 25 years, the Philippines is taking a huge step toward realizing the People Power Revolution’s vision of equality and democracy. “We feel that this is social justice,” Esther said of the decision.

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A critical moment for Farm Bill energy programs

Posted April 24, 2012 by    

Used under creative commons license from esagor.

Woody biomass harvest site, Cass County, Minnesota.

There is a lot to talk about following last Friday’s release of Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow’s draft Farm Bill, but hardly any time to talk about it. The bill is scheduled for mark-up tomorrow. Yes, that’s April 25th. After the full mark-up, the Committee bill will move to the Senate floor for debate, probably sometime in May. We’ll have time, then, to do some thorough analysis. Today, however, we’ll try to give you a couple of bites to chew on, with accompanying actions to take. Here’s the scoop on important energy title programs.

What’s at stake?

The Senate Ag Committee draft of the 2012 Farm Bill includes zero mandatory funding for the Farm Bill Energy Title, which includes important programs that promote on-farm energy efficiency and perennial-based renewable energy. Over the last month, we’ve been working with many other agriculture, energy, and environmental groups to let Congress know how important these programs are. But without mandatory funding, these programs will be left virtually dead.

How much do we need these programs? Take the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), for example. In 2011 alone, REAP saved or created almost 7,000 jobs; reduced greenhouse gases by almost 2 million metric tons; saved the equivalent of over 2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity; and generated $465 million of investments in our communities.

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Farm Bill draft puts fragile lands at risk

Posted April 24, 2012 by    

Used under creative commons license from dsearls.

There is a lot to talk about following last Friday’s release of Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow’s draft Farm Bill, but hardly any time to talk about it. The bill is scheduled for mark-up tomorrow. Yes, that’s April 25. After the full mark-up, the Committee bill will move to the Senate floor for debate, probably sometime in May. We’ll have time, then, to do some thorough analysis. Today, however, we’ll try to give you a couple of bites to chew on, with accompanying actions to take. First up, conservation compliance.

What’s at stake?

In 1985, American taxpayers and farmers entered into a contract to provide a safety net for the country’s food producers in return for protection of critical natural resources.  Known as “conservation compliance,” this policy requires farmers to follow conservation plans that limit soil erosion on highly erodible land as well as preventing destruction of wetlands and native grasslands. Farmers who willfully violate their conservation plans risk losing taxpayer funded benefits.

Today, this important connection is at risk. Taxpayer-funded subsidies for crop insurance are not currently linked to conservation compliance as they once were. In the current Farm Bill debate, Congress is considering eliminating Direct Payments, the major subsidy program that is linked to conservation compliance, and move some of those funds to support increased subsidies for crop insurance, which currently lacks compliance requirements. Unless Congress reconnects crop insurance subsidies to conservation compliance, a significant part of farmers’ incentive to follow conservation plans will disappear this year.

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Draft report on food security and climate change falls short

Posted April 24, 2012 by Doreen Stabinsky   

Used under creative commons license from farmingmatters.

Agroecological methods pay attention to soil health, through practices that increase soil fertility as well as soil’s water-holding and infiltration capacities.

Climate change will have significant impacts on world food security in our lifetimes. Indeed, we have already begun to feel the impacts from extreme events—droughts, heat waves, torrential rains leading to floods, with consequent impacts on crop production in Russia, Texas and the U.S. Midwest, Pakistan, Thailand, to name a few recent high-profile locations. Scientists predict that in the changing climate, extreme events such as these will increase in frequency and magnitude.

More insidious and potentially more threatening are slow onset events that over time will incrementally diminish or eliminate crop production in some parts of the world. These slow onset events—temperature rise, salt-water intrusion, loss of soil moisture and water supplies, loss of productive coastal areas due to sea level rise—will reduce crop yields and eliminate agriculture as a livelihood strategy for many.

So the decision by the newly reformed Committee on World Food Security to request its High-level Panel of Experts (HLPE) to conduct a study on climate change and food security was welcomed enthusiastically, especially by many of the civil society organizations working on food and climate change. At the end of 2011, the HLPE established a project team of experts from around the world to write the report. The mandate given to the team was to “review existing assessments and initiatives on the effects of climate change on the most affected and vulnerable regions and populations and the interface between climate change and agricultural productivity, including the challenges and opportunities of adaptation and mitigation policies and actions for food security and nutrition.”

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Defending UNCTAD’s role in agriculture and food security

Posted April 23, 2012 by Sophia Murphy   


UNCTAD—the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development—is holding its 13th quadrennial conference in Doha, Qatar this week (April 21–26). As South Centre Director, Martin Khor, underscored in his Triple Crisis blog last Friday, the meeting has generated considerably controversy, the first time UNCTAD has created such waves in more than a decade. Created in the 1960s as a forum for developing countries to explore global and regional macro-economic issues independently of the Western country-dominated Bretton Woods institutions, UNCTAD has never had an easy ride from the U.S., UK and other major powers. But for the first 20 or so years of its existence, UNCTAD received the resources and respect it needed to make a big contribution to supporting initiatives that supported development, from preferential trading schemes, to commodity agreements, to what were called “rules to control restrictive business practices” (today more commonly referred to as competition policy).



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