Hawkins supports a shift towards organic farming, ending the use of toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, and strengthening NYS Food Policy Council
Government Ag Policies Need to Shift towards helping family farms and promoting healthier foods
Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, said today that he would promote organic farming and a reduction in the use pesticides and carbon-based fertilizers during his tenure. Hawkins said that the state must also show more leadership in helping farmers transition to meet the demands presented by climate change and peak oil.
Hawkins said he would appoint a Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets with a strong track record in organic farming, community food security, farmland preservation, Community Supported Agriculture, and support for family farms.
“The good thing is that every politician promises to help small and medium-sized farmers, so the issue has popular support. Unfortunately, we have been hearing such promises for decades, literally since the founding of our country, yet more and more small and medium-sized farmers are being forced off their land. State officials keep on identifying problems like processing, distribution, and protecting farmlands from development pressure, but decades go by without the needed investments and leadership,” added Hawkins.
Hawkins said that the state must do more to help small and medium size farmers with issues such as small-case food processing, local marketing and distribution (including regional wholesale farmers markers), and transportation.
Hawkins supports legislation to establish NYS Food Policy Council by law rather than Executive Order, including the creation of a strong advisory Board to ensure broad participation by a wide range of groups, including community food security advocates who are largely missing from the present Food Policy Council. Hawkins also supports the establishment of regional and city Food Policy Councils across the state, along with a greater recognition of food systems as an integral part of economic development.
Groups are concerned that the present Council, which was established by Executive Order by Governor Spitzer, may expire when a new governor is elected. The Greens have been disappointed by the lack of progress by the Food Policy Council to date, which is one reason it supports the creation of an Advisory Council. Food Policy Councils convene a wide range of stakeholders to discuss how to create a sustainable food system while addressing related issues such as support for farmers and the elimination of hunger.
Hawkins criticized Democratic lawmakers for cutting the already low funding in the state budget for farmland preservation by 51 percent. In New York State a farm is lost to development every three days. More than 70 percent of the fruits, vegetables and dairy products produced in the country are grown in metro areas and are at risk of being lost to unplanned development.
Hawkins acknowledged that a critical challenge for NY is to ensure that dairy farmers, as the largest segment of the state’s agriculture system, receive more economic support (e.g., higher price for milk, subsidies for their inputs). NY, the third largest dairy state, has 7,200 dairy farms with more than 678,000 cows. One solution is to help develop more local brands for milk as has been done in Connecticut. Another solution is for the state and local government to set high standards as to the amount of local milk and other dairy products they purchase.
Hawkins said he was disappointed that the Paterson administration has not yet set standards for the government purchase of locally grown and organic foods under the Sustainability Executive Order for state contracts issued by Governor Spitzer. New York City also needs to promote more leadership in establishing standards for local foods since they serve more than one millions per day.
”Nationwide, our food system is dominated by corporate agribusiness and unsustainable practices that threaten our health, food security, degrade the environment, destroy rural communities, and squeeze out family farmers. Our so-called cheap food comes at the expense of the exploitation of our farmers and farm workers along with the oppression of developing countries, inhumane treatment of animals, pollution of air and water, and degradation of our land. We need instead to focus on building local food systems. Local farmers producing food for their neighbors build local ownership of the businesses, engage in values-based local food trading, create both jobs and new income, restore the environment, and provide us with the sustenance we need to maintain our personal and our community health,” Hawkins noted.
Hawkins said he supported fair contract legislation modeled after that in Iowa so that farmers who have to sell to large corporate entities can associate with other farmers to bargain as groups, have the right to share information about the contract offered by a company with family, lawyers and other farmers, and have support in appealing unfair decisions by the corporations they sell to.
Pointing to the recent recall of 500 million eggs due to salmonella contamination and other recalls due to the pollution- and disease-prone factory farming by large agribusiness corporations, Hawkins he supported the rapid phase-out of CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) in New York State and the creation of more in-state small-scale meat processors to process livestock from small-scale farms.
The Green Party believes the goal of food, farm, and trade policy should be a globally sustainable and adequate supply of wholesome food at affordable prices. A family farm system is the most effective means to provide safe and quality food, diversity of production, equitable social and economic opportunity, and preservation of land, water, and bio-diversity. Family farmers, farm workers, and food processing workers produce a necessity of life; they deserve dignity, justice, and equity rather than exploitation for corporate profit. Corporate livestock and dairy production gain competitive advantage using cheap grain and oilseeds to the detriment of diversified family farmers who maintain crop rotations and recycle animal waste as crop nutrients. Labor intensive fruit and vegetable production shifts to countries where workers have few rights and are paid $4 per day, causing unemployment and low wages for U.S. farm workers.
The Greens have also been calling for a radical overhaul of the federal Farm Bill, shifting from primarily helping large corporate absentee farmers to focusing on helping small farmers, rural development, sustainable environmental practices and better nutrition / anti-hunger policies. The Greens also believe that one of the goals of immigration form should be to provide undocumented farm workers with a path to citizenship and protection from detention and deportation without due process.
Colia Clark, the Green Party nominee for US Senate against Schumer, added, “As I will work to bring home the bacon for small and medium farmers in New York state including returning to a common sense educational curriculum which trains and prepares all youth in food production and agribusiness practices. The US Congress must play a major role in making sure that the funds necessary to reclaim our agriculture sector for American families and communities away from huge agriculture corporations is made available. It is also urgent that any legislation for farmers in New York State include critical protection for farmer workers guaranteeing them fair competitive wages, right to organize, full health care and decent housing.”
Below are some of the additional proposals advanced by the Green party nationally to reform the nation’s agriculture system. (List below compiled by Denis Spisak, Green Party of Ohio Nominee for Governor)
- Establish the highest organic standards and reject the routine use of hormones and antibiotics in animal feed.
- Shift price supports and government subsidies to organic food products so that they will be competitive with chemically produced food.
- Phase out man-made pesticides and artificial fertilizers, as well as a ban on sewage sludge and hazardous wastes as fertilizers. We should promote locally or regionally produced, organic composting systems. Studies have shown that the use of sewage sludge by farmers is introducing toxics and pharmaceuticals into our food system.
- Educate farmers about best practices and support their transition to organic farming.
Safe, local and organic food for all
- Localize our food system and decentralize agriculture lands, production, and distribution. We support the creation of land trusts for much of our farmland and encourage public support for producer and consumer cooperatives, community kitchens, Community Supported Agriculture, urban agriculture, and community farms and gardens.
- In the interests of ecological sustainability, public health, non-violence and alleviating hunger, we promote the initiation of public education to encourage people to reduce their consumption of animal foods, including information on healthy vegetarian diets.
Democratic oversight and consumer power
- Phase out all public subsidies to large agribusiness conglomerates and redirect the subsidies to small and medium-sized farms that promote local organic production and sustainable agricultural practices.
- Ensure that food prices reflect the true cost of food production, including the health effects of eating processed foods, antibiotic resistance, pesticide effects on growers and consumers, soil erosion, water pollution, pesticide drift, air pollution and the vast inefficiency and ecological footprint involved in the production of animal foods.
Biodiversity and the Environment
- Promote the restoration of formerly traditional food crops, as well as innovative farm production methods, such as permaculture, polyculture and terra preta.
- Enact a moratorium on irradiated food and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) until safety can be conclusively demonstrated by independent (non-corporate funded), long-term tests for food safety, genetic drift, resistance, soil health, effects on non-target organisms, and cumulative interactions. We support the growing international demand to eliminate patent rights for genetic material, lifeforms, gene-splicing techniques, and biochemicals derived from them.
- According to the United Nations’ Livestock’s Long Shadow report, the livestock sector is one of the most significant contributors to our most serious environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Thus, we support a rapid phase out of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) not only because of their adverse impact on the environment, but also on food safety (e.g. disease epidemics), public health, and animal protection. We need to create more small-scale meat processors to process livestock from small-scale farms.
- We support the elimination of public subsidies to finance livestock grazing permits on public lands.
- Promote the widespread growth and use of hemp for industrial purposes. Properly grown, hemp has virtually no psychoactive effects when consumed. With a relatively short growth cycle, hemp is an efficient and economically sustainable crop. Hemp seeds are extremely nutritious, one of the best vegetable proteins and hemp fiber has a wide range of uses including paper, wood alternatives, and textiles.
In terms of revenue generated New York's top five agricultural products are dairy products, greenhouse and nursery products, apples, cattle and calves, and hay. New York is a leading fruit and vegetable producer in the eastern part of the country. Vegetable farms produce cabbages, cucumbers, green peas, onions, snap beans, squash, sweet corn and tomatoes. The state'fs leading fruit crops are apples, followed by grapes, cherries and peaches.
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