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U.S. family farmers applaud collapse of WTO talks

(Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release:

Contact: Sherry Stanley (202) 543-5675

Washington, Sept. 15, 2003 -----The U.S.-based National Family Farm Coalition joined with farmers and peasants around the world in welcoming the collapse of the WTO talks.

George Naylor, an Iowa corn and soybean farmer and NFFC President representing Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement stated, "While the U.S. government was misrepresenting the interests of family farmers, rural communities, and consumers in their negotiating position at Cancun, enough governments, mostly from poorer countries, stood up for their citizens in rejecting the WTO agreement. The collapse of these talks is a resounding rejection of the failed cheap commodity policy of the United States and European Union. Cancún will be remembered as the place where those of us who have been getting the shaft from so-called ‘free trade’ policies -- protesters in the streets and government negotiators in the convention hall alike -- drew the line and said ‘no more!’"

"Now we can finally open the real debate," said Dena Hoff, a Montana farmer representing Northern Plains and Chair of NFFC's Trade Task Force. "That is: how can we design and implement policies that promote food sovereignty and allow farmers around the world to earn a fair price from the market, not from taxpayers." NFFC is a member of Via Campesina, the international peasants and farmers’ movement who organized marches in Cancun with farmers from North and Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Europe in Cancun.

Leon Crump, a South Carolina farmer who attended the Cancún meetings representing the Federation of Southern Cooperatives said, "every country should have the right and ability to develop a farm system that supports its farmers, peasants, and rural communities. Trade agreements should not deny these rights."

"While we identify with the concerns of farmers in other nations about U.S. farm subsidies, the elimination of subsidies without establishing effective mechanisms to ensure fair prices for producers from the marketplace will only perpetuate the economic problems facing farmers, peasants, and rural communities in all countries,." said Rhonda Perry, a family farmer leader in the Missouri Rural Crisis Center representing the Rural Coalition in Cancun.

Naylor recommends a complete trade and farm policy reversal to address the problem of low global agricultural prices: "The U.S. must take the lead as a major exporter to set a floor under farm prices, create a food security reserve, and enable farmers around the world to grow food sustainably instead of encouraging the further industrialization of the world's food system. Our government needs to care more about public and economic health and less about corporate welfare for giant food exporters and corporate food processors."

NFFC joined with Farm Aid and over 30 national organizations in issuing a "Declaration for a New Direction for American Agriculture and Agricultural Trade" on September 7. Available online at www.farmaid.org. The Declaration called on Congress to take action along with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick to "work towards global trade agreements that reflect the basic values of fairness, independence, democracy, and social and economic justice.