MINNESOTA ACTION NETWORK
|Joel Wainwright interviews with KARE 11.|
Demonstrators Converge on Cargill's World Headquarters
The newly formed Minnesota Action Network held the first ever demonstration at Cargill's World Headquarters in Minnetonka. The action against Cargill was in solidarity with farmers attending the "Rally for Rural America" that took place today in Washington D.C. and to highlight the devastating impacts that agribusiness is having on farming communities throughout the United States and other parts of the world.
The Minnesota Action Network is a network of individuals and organizations dedicated to organizing grassroots education and action to challenge the increasing dominance by global corporate interests of the economy, political systems and culture. This network has emerged in Minnesota after the successful Seattle WTO demonstrations against growing dominance of corporate institutions.
Joel Wainwright, one of the spokespeople for the AAN - Agriculture Action Network (a group affiliated with the Minnesota Action Network (MnAN)) stated that, "Today's demonstration is in solidarity with the "Rally for Rural America" in Washington D.C. and to shine the public spotlight on the devastating impact that agribusiness is having on farming communities thoughout the United States and other parts of the World. Cargill is an excellent example of profit at the expense of the public interest."
The "Rally for Rural America," has been organized by the National Farmers Union (NFU), and is taking place simultaneously in Washington, D.C. The Rally for Rural America is "an opportunity for family farmers, church leaders, citizens, business owners, implement dealers, environmentalists and others to join forces to fight for changes that will benefit rural communities throughout the nation."
Spokesperson Joel Wainwright explained that "the local demonstration supports the principles the NFU is fighting for in Washington. The first major principle is social and economic justice for farmers. Farmers deserve fair wages and prices for their crops." Since the passage of the 1995 "Freedom to Farm" Bill, which restructured the price support mechanisms for American farmers, thousands of Minnesotan farmers have gone out of business. The combination of low prices and low subsidies (and, in some cases, low yields) has proved disastrous for rural communities. Stephen Schwen, a local organic farmer stressed that "it's time to revoke the "Freedom to Fail" bill and develop a comprehensive farm policy that enables sustainable rural development."
The second major principle is to institute progressive agricultural policies. Justice and sustainability depend on government policies that support fair trade, not "free" trade. This implies, at a minimum, enforcement of anti-trust laws, to ensure fair competition in agricultural markets; a five-year moratorium on the release of genetically modified organisms, pending further scientific studies; and support for small farms and organic and sustainable agriculture.
If the still pending Cargill-Continental merger is approved by the Department of Justice, Cargill will control 45% of the global grain trade, including more than 40% of the US maize exports and a third of US soybean exports. Brian Levy explained that the "unprecedented and monopolistic concentration of resources in a small number of multinational corporations like Cargill has drastically reduced farmer's capacities to make basic decisions about productions, use ecologically sound practices, and earn a sustainable living."
After the prepared statements of the AAN, the demonstrators held a mock trial of Cargill. Cargill was accused of no longer serving the public good and working against the interests of small family farmers worldwide. Testimony was provided by "expert witnesses": Kristin Dawkins of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Mike Jacobs, farmer and owner of Easy Bean Farm, Brian Levy of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Stephen Schwen, an organic farmer of 25 years and founder of the Full Circle Organic Farmer Co-op.
Dawkins stated "Export subsidies from the government subsidize Cargill and encourage farmers to grow and sell their grains abroad. But when cheap imports come off of Cargill's ships and flood the local market, masses of farmers loose their livelihood."
To symbolize the dumping of grain on world markets, the AAN then dumped a bushel of corn at the Cargill campus.
Brian Levy then spoke, stating "Cargill increasingly monopolizes the food chain- keeping prices low for the farmer, high for the consumer, and pocketing the difference. The bigger this corporation grows, the more money and power they yield over local, state, national, and international policy. Cargill is not just a danger to our farmers. They, like any other form of concentrated capital, are a danger to our democracy and our right to self-determination."
Mike Jacobs, while holding a seed, stated "Agribusiness equates a seed with a dollar sign while to me it represents creation." He asked the audience to take a handful of seeds to be sent to corporate executives.
At the close of the event, the "judge" T.J. Semanchin presiding over the hearing asked the "jury" to pass their verdict. "Guilty!!", the crowd roared, demanding the revocation of Cargill's corporate charter.
About 125 farmers, activists, teachers, students attended the event. Throughout the event, dozens of protestors stood nearby holding signs with slogans saying "Corporate mergers=farm foreclosures", "Stop the Patenting of Life. Stop Biotechnology", "Agri-CULTURE, not Agri-BUSINESS". One protestor named Chelsea Earles said, " I'm here today because corporations like Cargill destroy rural communities like the one I grew up in. I don't trust them. I don't trust their genetically modified food!" Another contingent of protestors with the group GrainRAGE (Upper Midwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering) were wearing white biohazard suits blockaded the entrance to Cargill's corporate headquarters. They called for Cargill to stop developing and patenting genetically modified (GM) foods.
Joel Wainright stated that "We salute the willingness of GrainRAGE members to put their bodies and freedom at risk to protect farmers and consumers throughout the world." He further explained that the GrainRAGE action was done autonomously from the Agriculture Action Network.
He then concluded his statements, saying "In short, we are here today to support the NFU's Rally for Rural America. But we are here at Cargill's global headquarters to rally for farmers around the entire world."