Editorial note: We republish the statement of solidarity from U.S. farmers and activists with the farmers’ protests in India. The original statement, including the full list of signatories, can be found here. You can also read more about the protests in our Wire photo essay documenting the early days of the protests in Punjab.
“We are not going back — that is not in our genetic code. Agriculture has turned into a slow poison. It’s better to die fighting here.” — Ringhu Yaspal, a protestor in Ghazipur, India.
U.S. farmers and allied food justice advocates express our solidarity with the farmer protests in India against the unjust farm laws that will increase agribusiness’ stranglehold over their food system. India’s farmers have mobilized to create one of the world’s most vibrant protests in history, camping on the outskirts of New Delhi for more than two and a half months. 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, which are essential for healthy diets. This would ensure that farmers in India, already burdened by huge debts, receive a fair price for their produce. MSP is the price at which the Indian government also buys staple grains, like wheat and rice, from farmers for its public food programs so that the poor can access subsidized grains. While the Indian government only procures a small percentage for its food programs, the MSP is a key price signal to other traders in India, and it ensures that farmers receive a fair price for these specific crops.
We recognize the role of the U.S. government in creating the conditions that have led to these repressive laws. The U.S. has been a key opponent of India’s limited use of MSP at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The U.S., with Australia, Canada and European allies, has claimed that India’s MSP distorts trade.
But, that is not surprising: the U.S. government has been eroding the concept of parity (similar to MSP in India) at home for decades. There is an opportunity for the Biden administration to shift U.S. trade policy to allow other countries to support fair markets for their farmers and shift agricultural policy to ensure that our food providers make a living wage.
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.
Let us be clear: what the Indian farmers are enduring now happened in the U.S. almost four decades ago. The 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 U.S. 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 indeed worsened an already unequal playing field between the Global South and Global North. 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. In the U.S., it is said that the previous administration’s agenda, “focused primarily around deregulation and increasing aid to commodity farmers while cutting food aid to needy families, [which] will have long-lasting implications.”
The Biden-Harris administration is off to a promising start, yet much work remains to be done on parity and environmental and racial justice in relation to food and agricultural policy domestically, as well as internationally. The U.S. government must stop prioritizing the interests of agribusiness over small farmers, abetting further corporatization of the food system here and in other countries. The U.S. must also endorse multilateral governance norms that will support India's transition to climate-resilient, biodiverse and waterconserving food systems that reach all producers. This would also mean harmonizing trade rules to include parity pricing and public crop procurement.
We have great respect for the unified struggles the farmers and farmworkers of Samyukt Kisan Morcha have built, and we stand with them. We urge both governments to support independent family farmers and localized food systems, ensuring food sovereignty and securing the livelihoods of millions who are the bedrock of its food security and nutritional wellbeing.
A Growing Culture
AFGE Local 3354
Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network
Agricultural Justice Project
Agroecology Research-Action Collective
Alabama State Association of Cooperatives
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas
Alliance for Progressive South Asians (Twin Cities)
American Sustainable Business Council
Americana World Community Center
Association for Farmers Rights Defense, AFRD Georgia
Black Farmers & Ranchers New Mexico/National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association
Buttermilk Falls CSA
Center for Regional Agriculture Food and Transformation
Community Agroecology Network
Community Alliance for Global Justice
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Community Farm Alliance
Community Food and Justice Coalition
Compassionate Action for Animals
Disparity to Parity
Earth Ethics Actio
East Michigan Environmental Action Council/Cass Commons
Echo Valley Hope
Ecologistas en Acción
Ecosocialist Working Group, International Committee, Democratic Socialists of America
Fair World Project
Family Farm Action Alliance
Family Farm Defenders
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Farmers On The Move
Farmworker Association of Florida
Health of Mother Earth Foundation
Imagining Transnational Solidarities Research Circle
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Institute for Earthbound Studies
Just Transition Alliance
National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association
National Family Farmers Coalition
NC Climate Justice Collective
North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project
Northeast Organic Farming Association—Vermont
Northeast Organic Farming Association, Mass. Chapter
Northeast Organic Farming Association-Interstate Council
Peoples Architecture Commonwealth
Pesticide Action Network North America
Philadelphia Community farm
Real Food Media
Regenerative Organic Alliance
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA
Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecropper Fund
Rural Development Leadership Network
Safe Food and Feed Foundation
Santa Cruz Permaculture
Science for the People
Science for the People —Twin Cities
Seeds for All
Shaping Change Collaborative
Southeastern African-American Farmers' Organic Network
Texas Drought Project
The Carbon Underground
United People Community Organization, Market, and Farms
University of MN Food Recovery Network
Uprooted & Rising
US Food Sovereignty Alliance
Vision for Change Foundation
Vitis and Ovis Farm
Washington Biotechnology Action Council
Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice
Women’s Environmental Institute
Photo: Rohit Lohia
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