29 March 2002

Americans reach out to an urban audience

TRANSATLANTIC support for Mr Harts views came from John Kinsman, president of Family Farms Defenders and vice-president of the National Family Farms Coalition which includes consumer and environmental groups and farmers.

Forming alliances to put family farmers messages across to the public and politicians was the way ahead, said the Wisconsin farmer.

"We were not being addressed by the major farming organisations and our messages never reached the top. So we decided we needed urban people, at least one-third, on our board. They had more passion and more understanding than farmers."

Even in the US, farmers are such a small proportion of the population that the ballot box has no power for farming communities. "The big corporations give equally large funds to two main parties so whoever gets in, they are covered," he said.

Farmers are afraid to ask for more because theyd been brain-washed into believing consumers would not buy if prices rose. But in Canada, which has a milk quota system, farmers get nearly twice the price of US dairy products.

Nebraska soya and maze grower Corky Jones said his family had been forced to take on part-time jobs despite farming 1133ha (2800 acres). Subsidies were no help because they were used to set farmer against farmer, country against country, and consumers against farmers.

"Farmers worldwide dont want subsidies. All we want is a sound policy based on production cost plus a profit. They understand that in every other walk of life," said Mr Jones.

Farmers must learn to recognise their enemies, he added. "You have to get senators and congressmen elected and that needs money. Money comes from big corporations. These big chemical companies and grain traders are farming us and doing a damn fine job of it."

Wisconsin farmer John Kinsman advocates forming alliances to put family farmers messages across to the public and politicians.

US soya and maize grower Corky Jones says farmers worldwide want a sound agriculture policy based on production cost plus a profit.