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National Farmworker Awareness Week

Please join us in celebrating the 18th annual National Farmworker Awareness Week (NFAW) from March 24-31, 2017! This is a week to raise awareness about farmworker conditions, honor their contributions to our communities and raise awareness of farmworker issues by holding events on college campuses and in the community! Every year, NFAW is planned to coincide with the birthday of American labor leader and civil rights activist, Cesar Chavez, born March 31, 1927.

FWAF March 2017
National Farmworker Awareness Week serves an important purpose for all of us. This week raises awareness about the irreplaceable value that farmworkers add to our lives and communities. The hard work of farmworkers puts food in our grocery stores, in our restaurants and on our tables! This week also raises awareness about the many injustices and appalling lack of federal and state protections for farmworkers, who are not only an economic powerhouse but are our family, friends and neighbors as well.
During this year’s celebration, Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF) is partnering with students at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, to organize several events on-campus designed to raise student awareness about farmworkers and the work of Farmworker Association of Florida. Events include an art exhibit, documentary showing followed by discussion, a farmer’s market, a farmworker bandana display, the opportunity for pro-farmworker and immigration emails to Senator Marco Rubio via a laptop station and the display of FWAF literature. Long sleeve t-shirt and monetary donations will also be collected for the benefit of FWAF.
Again, please join us in honoring farmworkers this upcoming week! Thank you and thank a farmworker!

RESISTANCE THAT TRANSFORMS AGRICULTURE FROM THE GRASSROOTS

In the current political climate, many of the things that we have worked for over the years and for decades are coming under attack.  The progress we have made and the wins we have collectively achieved may be reversed or undermined in the coming year, leaving farmworkers in our communities ever more vulnerable and at risk, not only to harsh living and working conditions, but to detention, deportation and family separation.   Fear and anxiety are affecting the way farmworkers are able to live their lives and this is affecting their health.  For many, the landscape of the future looks uncertain, if not bleak.  

through her eyes

Historically, farmworkers have had to push back against an agricultural system that exploits their labor and gives them little back in return.  Farmworker movements, organizations and unions have empowered workers to fight for better wages, working conditions, housing and health and safety.  But, conventional agriculture has grown ever larger and more powerful, as it relies on practices that exploit the environment and the workers who make our food supply possible.   

Resistance takes on a new form!  Hope comes in the form of communities resisting the dominant agriculture paradigm and putting power back in the hands of people.  A new report, just released last week by WhyHunger and entitled “Through Her Eyes” follows the work of organizations and individuals that are challenging our current agricultural system by promoting and adopting the principle of “food sovereignty.”  It portrays the “struggle for a new world order that centers [around] the rights of women to live freely and safely, and to lead in envisioning and crafting a world void of hunger and violence.”  

Two of the Farmworker Association of Florida’s women leaders, staff members and organizers are featured in the report, sharing their personal experiences as farmworkers and the movement for resistance against and transformation of the way we do agriculture in the United States.  Communities gain hope and dignity, empowerment and respect through a form of resistance that gives power back to the people.  Read the report here:

WhyHunger.org

Rollins College at Farmworker Association of Florida

report by Aidan McKean, Rollins College anthropology student
 
Rollins College at FWA F
 
The Farmworker Association of Florida Apopka office in the month of February was generous enough to lead not only one class but two separate groups that included the Rollins College (Winter Park, FL) classes of Environmental Justice, Applied Anthropology, and Global Cultures. With such a diverse group of students, the conversation not only discussed environmental issues of Lake Apopka, but also work inequality and social and environmental injustice.
 
The experience usually starts with first hand involvement with the farmworkers and their work at local nurseries and farms. Through this interaction, students experience for several hours the hard work that the men and women workers go through every day in order to make a living. It also became apparent the chemical usage at the nursery as several of us felt a strange tingling and numbing sensation in our hands. Afterwards everyone had a newfound respect for the farmworkers and the work they endure, but also realized the inequality they all face.

Following the nursery work, we all went back to the Farmworker Association office and met with a former farmworker of the Lake Apopka area, who had worked on the vegetable farms from the mid-1960s until the farms were closed by the state in 1998. She told us about her work in fields of cabbage, lettuce, and kale and how there were good days of quick work for an early end and bad days with lightning, muck storms, sunburns, snakes, and cold weather. The former farmworker also talked about being sprayed by planes with pesticides and getting rashes, as well as breathing problems from the chemicals, but how none of the farmworkers knew about the health issues that would arise from pesticide contact. Today this former worker deals with multiple health issues and lost many friends and family to lupus, stomach cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.
She finished her talk about “feeding America” and ending with “keep on fighting until I die.”
 
Jeannie Economos—the Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator— gave us an impassioned talk on the history of Lake Apopka. The lake dealt with devastating pollution that resulted in fish kills; reproductive problems, endocrine disruption and birth defects among alligators; and a bird mortality incident that killed over a thousand birds. These severe impacts to the wildlife were linked to pesticides used on the farms, the 1979 Tower Chemical Company DDT spill into the lake, and other pollutants, such as raw sewage and citrus processing effluent that were dumped into the lake by the surrounding towns. However, no one investigated the health of the farmworkers who were exposed to the same pesticides every day. Instead the state bought out the farmland and put thousands of workers out of employment.
 
Photo ToxicTourKline.Newcombclasses 4
 
From this discussion, while driving around the lake, we continued the talk about the different hazardous areas around Lake Apopka and how the community is still seeing environmental injustice. Sites such as the Superfund area with hazardous barrels that contained pesticides, an ecotourism trail that has not provided jobs to displaced workers, two landfills in close proximity, and a medical waste incinerator that is located next to a playground.

At the end of a full day of working at the nursery, listening to a farmworker’s story, and touring around Lake Apopka, the entire experience was eye opening for many who had never heard of the issues farmworkers experience. Finally Jeannie Economos apologized to our entire group for the problems her generation has left to our generation to fix. This definitely resonated with many students, as they continued to talk about her final words on the car ride back to Rollins College.

Over 300 food and farm groups Urge Jeff Sessions to oppose agricultural mega- mergers

Expert Contacts:
Michele Colopy, Pollinator Stewardship Council, 832-727-9492, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Jeannie Economos, Farmworker Association of Florida, 407-886-5151, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lisa Griffith, National Family Farm Coalition, 773-319-5838, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
                                                                 
Media Contacts:
Linda Wells, PAN, 563-940-1242, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Kate Colwell, Friends of the Earth, 202-222-0744, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Angela Huffman, Organization for Competitive Markets, 614-390-7552, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
                                        
Over 300 food and farm groups Urge Jeff Sessions to oppose agricultural mega- mergers
Call on new DOJ leader to put farmer, consumer, worker interests above corporations
(Washington, D.C.)— Nearly 325 farming, beekeeping, farmworker, religious, food safety, and conservation advocacy groups today urged the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a thorough investigation into the proposed mergers of the world’s largest agrochemical and seed companies. Groups urged Jeff Sessions, the new Attorney General, to enjoin the mergers of Dow Chemical with DuPont, Monsanto with Bayer AG, and Syngenta with ChemChina on the grounds that they will drive up food and farming costs, threaten global food security, curtail innovation, threaten the health of farmworkers, and limit farmer choice. This letter comes on the heels of the Senate’s vote to confirm Senator Sessions to be the head of the Department of Justice. The letter was also delivered today to members of Congress and state attorneys general.

The letter points to the adverse and wide-ranging consequences of these mergers stating that, “Conglomerates of such massive scale, breadth and reach, such as those proposed by these mergers, pose a real risk to our economy, to our agricultural sector, to public health, to food security, to the environment and to the general health of the agricultural and food business climate. Dominance of this magnitude can pose both domestic and international consequences that would be irreversible, once set in motion.”

Farmers and their allies across the country implored the new Attorney General to block the merger.

"Farmers across the country know that these mergers will result in fewer options and higher prices for the inputs we rely on. Already, a third of what a farmer makes for a corn harvest goes to pay for the seed alone; in the end there is nothing left for the farm family. We’ve seen what happens when too few companies control too much of the market, and these mergers would only make a bad situation worse,” said Mike Weaver, president, Organization for Competitive Markets.

"The decline in the quality of plant breeding for conventional varieties and the corresponding increase in the use of crop chemicals will continue, as the merged companies narrow their interests yet further to a few number of products likely to bring in the greatest profit for those biotech companies. The past two decades have shown us that herbicide-resistant GMO seeds have been the favorite for companies like Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta because they boost the sale of pesticides, "said Aaron Lehman, a grain farmer and president of Iowa Farmers Union.

“These agrichemical company mergers would be harmful for our environment, farmers and the American public,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner, Friends of the Earth. “We call on Sessions to put the interests of the American people, workers and farmers above the interests of mega corporations and conduct an independent review process free of political interference.”

“These mergers will hurt honey bees and native pollinators by making it harder for farmers to secure diverse seeds  that are not coated in bee-killing pesticides or engineered to withstand multiple doses of herbicide applications,” said Michele Colopy, program director,  Pollinator Stewardship Council, a national group that representing beekeepers and beekeeping organizations.   “This merger makes it harder for farmers to gain access to the seeds they need to farm more sustainably. Seeds produced by a pesticide company may be engineered to cope with the pesticides, but honey bees cannot take increased pesticide exposure.”

 “These mergers pose an ever greater threat to the health, livelihoods and human rights of farmworkers who are on the front lines of toxic agricultural chemical exposure,” said Jeannie Economos, Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida. “These proposed mergers only puts more power and influence on the side of agribusiness, which contributes to but does nothing to pay for the health impacts on families of the chemicals they produce.  People should not pay with their health and lives for the profits of these mega-corporations.”
"The concentrated corporate control of seed markets threatens farmers’ traditional practices of developing, saving and exchanging locally-adapted seed in the United States and around the world, practices that support the biological diversity and ecological resilience critical to addressing local and global food needs," said farmer Denise O'Brien, founder of Women's Food and Agriculture Network and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America board vice-president.

If all three deals were to close, the newly created companies would control nearly 70 percent of the world’s pesticide market, more than 61 percent of commercial seed sales and 80 percent of the U.S. corn-seed market.

“A Bayer AG-Monsanto company would control 70 percent of the Southeast cottonseed market, which would increase the price by over 18 percent. Soy and corn prices would also rise, putting farmers’ livelihoods at risk even more,” said Mississippi farmer Ben Burkett, National Family Farm Coalition president and Federation of Southern Cooperatives representative.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Senator Sessions about his views on these mergers and his approach to anti-trust matters during his confirmation hearings. His answers were evasive and vague.

Groups expressed concern during the confirmation process that Senator Sessions would allow politics to interfere with the review of these mergers; especially given Donald Trump’s meeting with Bayer and Monsanto Executives in January and Trump’s appointment of Dow CEO Andrew Liveris to lead the American Manufacturers Council in December.

 

Read the letter to Jeff Sessions, Attorney General HERE.

Statement by the Farmworker Association of Florida

With the advent of a new administration in Washington, D.C., the Farmworker Association of Florida re-asserts its long-standing conviction and commitment to protect the dignity, civil liberties, and human rights of farmworkers and immigrants in Florida and around the country. We stand in solidarity with our Brothers and Sisters, including people of color, families in rural communities, those of diverse religious beliefs and sexual orientation, those living in environmental justice communities, as well as those experiencing discrimination and exploitation in the workplace based on their immigration status, gender, disability, or who are experiencing abuse based on who they are.


As it has throughout its history, FWAF continues to defend the most vulnerable in our communities against oppression and exploitation, even as we renew our defense of the natural environment against resource depletion and contamination. We recognize that we are one people dependent on a healthy and robust environment that sustains us all. Negative attacks and rhetoric serve only to divide us from one another. We affirm the need to protect, to heal and to resist any attempts to roll back decades of progress toward greater equality, diversity, justice and understanding in our country.
Following the precept of Martin Luther King, Jr., that “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” we call upon our members and sympathizers to stay vigilant and critical of policies, laws, and actions that could harm our communities. Going forward into this new era, we rally our courage and our strength, following the inspirational words of Cesar Chavez: “Sí, Se Puede!” “Yes, We Can”! Join us! We can do it together! And, together, we must!

 

Reflections on 2016

Building on the Past; Moving into the Future

As we approach the end of 2016 and look to the future in 2017, we reflect on the successes we have had this year and the challenges we face ahead.  We have seen progress on the plans for the implementation of the new EPA Worker Protection Standard (WPS) for improved health and safety for farmworkers.  Our agroecology program continues to expand and advance, even as we plan to break ground in January on a new community garden in Apopka.  Our Los Girasoles heat stress study begins its third year of studying the impacts of heat exposure on farmworkers’ health.  We continue to document cases of wage theft of workers, and our vocational rehabilitation program is doing important outreach to farmworkers in seven counties in Florida.   

During 2017, FWAF received the U.S. Food Sovereignty Award by the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance; the Steve Shore Catalyst Award from the East Coast Migrant Stream Forum; and FWAF co-founder, Tirso Moreno, was honored for his decades of work for justice for farmworkers by Farmworker Justice at their annual Wine and Jazz Fest in Washington, D.C.  Our staff members have held health fairs, conducted pesticide trainings for close to 500 farmworkers, and organized community cultural events at our offices in five areas of the state.  We are always busy at FWAF, and we expect 2017 to be no different.

Sadly, as we enter this new year, we may expect to see attacks on the new WPS regulations that took 20 years of hard work to finally revise and improve.   Anti-immigrant sentiment is at an all-time high, and programs to help the status of immigrant youth (DACA) may be dismantled, leaving families at risk of separation and deportation.  Already, we are hearing fears from many farmworkers, immigrants, low-income people of color, and children that they may be more at risk in the coming year than they have been in decades.  While we are deeply saddened at the negative rhetoric that is serving to create divisions, rather than build a community of one human family, we re-commit ourselves ever stronger to the struggle for social and environmental justice that defines our work and who we are as an organization and as a people.  Going forward into the new year, we rally our courage and our strength with the words that have inspired us for decadess, Sí, Se Puede!  Yes, We Can!  Join us!  We can do it together!  And, together, we must!

Thanks to all our allies, friends and supporters over the years!  Let’s lock hands together as we move into 2017.

FWAFGotFood

 

In Honor and Recognition of Geraldean Matthew

On Saturday, September 3, at about 8:30pm, the world lost a strong warrior in the struggle for social and environmental justice.  Geraldean Matthew transitioned peacefully from this world to the next, leaving behind a lasting legacy in the lives of the countless people whose lives she touched through her dedicated and unselfish work in and for her community for more than three decades.
 
Born in Belle Glade, Florida to a farmworker mother, Geraldean grew up as a young girl traveling the seasons up and down the east coast harvesting crops as varied as corn, cabbage, oranges, peppers and even Christmas trees in Southern Canada.  Eventually, her family settled in the agricultural town of Apopka, Florida, where she remembers working in the vegetable fields on what is Florida’s fourth largest lake. The Lake Apopka farmlands are infamous for being the site of bird deaths and alligator reproductive anomalies due to the extensive amount of fertilizers and pesticides applied to the crops.  Geraldean remembered being sprayed directly by pesticides and bringing home empty pesticide containers for various uses around the house – long before there were any regulations to train farmworkers about the dangers and health effects of pesticide exposure.
 
As a young woman in the late 1970s, Geraldean met the four courageous nuns who moved to Apopka and formed the Office for Farmworker Ministry to work with the largely African American and later Hispanic and Haitian communities in the area.  That was the beginning of Geraldean’s education about the issues of social injustice and her becoming engaged in what would become a life-long work of making a positive difference in her community.  Later, as a staff member of the Farmworker Association of Florida, Geraldean was known as fearless in her outreach to the HIV/AIDS community in Central Florida, leading the way into potentially dangerous environments if she knew there was someone in there who needed her help.
 
In the 1990s, when the Lake Apopka Farmworker Project was established at FWAF, Geraldean was at the forefront of efforts to help farmworkers displaced by the closing of the Lake Apopka farms to find re-training, new jobs, housing and assistance for their basic and immediate needs.  Oftentimes, thinking more of others than of herself, Geraldean woke early to transport people to jobs miles away and worked late into the night doing outreach and education. Later, in 2005, she was the co-coordinator, along with anthropologist Ron Habin, of the Lake Apopka Farmworker Environmental Health Survey, which sought to identify the health conditions in the community of former Lake Apopka farmworkers and their experiences of pesticide exposure, (see the video here). A decade later, she was most proud of the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt Project, which she helped inspire, and of the book Fed Up: The High Costs of Cheap Food, by author Dale Slongwhite, which captured the stories of some eleven former farmworkers and community members.
 
In the last year of her life, as Geraldean was suffering the consequences of multiple chronic illnesses likely related to decades of direct and generational exposure to organochlorine pesticides, Geraldean Matthew told Fed Up author that they had at least two or three more books yet to write together; that she had many more from a lifetime of stories that still needed to be told.  Sadly, those stories leave us along with Geraldean, as she moves on from this world to the next.  Still, those Geraldean leaves behind have a wealth of stories of their own from a vast treasure of memories of working alongside Geraldean for years – at rallies and demonstrations; lobbying to decision makers in the state capitol; going door-to-door conducting a health survey; testifying at meetings and conferences, including at the EPA; speaking to countless church, student and civic groups about her personal life and the conditions for farmworkers; outreaching to AIDS patients in crack houses and on the streets; organizing meetings and community events; and motivating and inspiring others to get involved.
 
Geraldean may be gone, but her spirit lives on in all whose lives she has touched and by leaving the world a better place for her having been in it.   We will miss you Geraldean.  You are now free of the suffering of this world.  May you be at peace and may your spirit soar free!

The Forefront Of Progress: California Passes Historic Legislation To Protect Farm Workers

By Arturo S. Rodríguez, President, United Farm Worker. Article taken from huffingtonpost.com
Photo our archives

This Labor Day the American worker has reason to be optimistic.

While a few short years ago a $15 minimum wage seemed like a moonshot, today municipalities and states across the country are standing with workers and adopting a minimum wage that will ultimately lift 35 million hard-working American families out of poverty.

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration expanded overtime pay protections to more than 4 million working Americans.

And in California we are on the cusp on progress that builds on what the President has accomplished and paves the way for reforms that have the potential to put millions of working Americans on a pathway to the middle class.

Last week, California lawmakers passed first-of-its-kind legislation that allows farm workers to get paid overtime like all other workers.

Right now - in 2016 - a Jim Crow-era federal law excludes professions like farm workers, maids and domestic workers from overtime. Professions almost exclusively held by people of color. The fact that 78 years later that law is still on the books, prohibiting farm workers from earning a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, is reprehensible.

In 1938, it was passed to discriminate against people of color and all these years later it still discriminates, now predominately against Latino farm workers.

While we haven’t been able to change that law on the federal level due to Congressional inaction, states have the right to expand benefits. After decades of fighting to correct this injustice, we are close to righting an historic wrong.

The bill sponsored by California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez that recently passed would gradually raise overtime pay for farm workers, requiring time-and-a-half for more than 8 hours worked in a day or 40 hours worked in a week. Farm workers who work more than 12 hours a day would get double pay.

It means a hard working mother or father who rises before dawn in the summer heat or on a freezing winter’s day and gets home well after the kids are asleep will finally get the pay they deserve but have been denied.

This isn’t controversial - it’s just fair.

The legislation didn’t pass on its own. Hillary Clinton was the first national leader to advocate for the change, Obama Administration officials, including Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, have stood with us, as has Senator Dianne Feinstein and a diverse coalition of labor, immigrant, civil rights and social organizations.

Now the only remaining hurdle we have to clear to level the playing field for farm workers is Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

If we can do it in California - the largest agriculture producer in the nation and the state that produces more than half of our nation’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts- it would be the latest example of the Golden State leading the nation in workers’ rights. It will yet again be a model for other states to follow.

Today, I’m proud to see our efforts bear fruit. As we celebrate Labor Day, farm workers in California rejoice the passing of this historic legislation. We’re almost there.

Together, we will continue to fight alongside our brothers and sisters as we work to open up a path to the middle class for farm workers and their families.

FWAF is honored as one of the two recipient of the eighth annual Food Sovereignty Prize

International Allies Challenge Corporate Control of the Food System and False Solutions of Biotechnology
Eighth Annual Food Sovereignty Prize
Honors Grassroots Organizations Calling Big Ag’s Bluff


SEATTLE, WA, August, 31 2016 – The US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) is pleased to announce the honorees of the eighth annual Food Sovereignty Prize: the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) and the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF). The honorees were selected for their success in promoting food sovereignty, agroecology and social justice to ensure that all people have access to fresh, nutritious food produced in harmony with the planet.
Lauded as an alternative to the World Food Prize, the Food Sovereignty Prize champions real solutions to hunger and is recognized by social movements, activists and community-based organizations around the world. The 2016 honorees are strident in their resistance to the corporate control of our food system, including false solutions of biotechnology that damage the planet while exacerbating poverty and hunger. Their programs and policies support small-scale farmers and communities, build unified networks, and prioritize the leadership of food providers, including women, farmworkers, peasants, indigenous peoples and other marginalized communities within the system.
“Hunger is not a technical problem, it’s a political problem,” said John Peck, Executive Director of Family Farm Defenders and US Food Sovereignty Alliance member. “Small farmers have had the solution to hunger for millennia in agroecology and food sovereignty.”
“The Borlaug and Gates Foundations and multinational corporations like Monsanto promote biotechnology because they profit from it. Ask the millions of farmworkers, family farmers and family fishermen feeding their communities what they need and they will tell you: access to land, clean water and their own seeds,” noted Diana Robinson, Campaign and Education Coordinator at the Food Chain Workers Alliance and US Food Sovereignty Alliance member.
About the Honorees
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) was founded in 2008 by a group of activist networks and launched in Durban, South Africa, during the 2011 alternative people's climate summit, organized to counter the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference Of the Parties 17 talks (COP17). AFSA brings together organizations representing smallholder farmers, pastoralists and hunter/gatherers; indigenous peoples; youth, women and consumer networks; people of faith; and environmental activists from across Africa. Together they advocate for community rights and family farming, promote traditional knowledge systems, and protect natural resources. In the face of increased corporate agribusiness interests threatening their food systems, including massive land and water grabs, the criminalization of seed-saving practices, and false solutions to climate change such as so-called "Climate-Smart Agriculture", AFSA unites the people most impacted by these injustices to advance food sovereignty through agroecological practices, policy work and movement-building efforts.
Bern Guri, The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa’s Chairperson, noted, “Africa has a myriad of ways to feed her people and to keep her environment safe. However, a few international corporations from the global North have generated approaches strictly for their own profit by misleading our leaders and our people, stealing our seeds and culture, and destroying our environment.”
For AFSA it is clear that the way forward will allow food producers, supported by consumers, to take control of production systems and markets to provide healthy and nutritious food. Facing the many ecological, economic and social challenges in today’s world requires an urgent transition to agroecology to establish the ecologically sustainable, socially just and nutritious food systems of the future, and it can be done through the collective, inclusive and democratic co-generation of the knowledge held by farmers, consumers, researchers and African governments, who are meant to serve the interests of their (farming) populations.
The Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF), founded in 1986, has a long-standing mission to build power among farmworker and rural low-income communities to gain control over the social, political, workplace, economic, health and environmental justice issues affecting their lives. Their guiding vision is a social environment in which farmworkers are treated as equals, not exploited and deprived based on race, ethnicity, immigrant status, or socioeconomic status. As members of the world’s largest social movement, La Via Campesina, FWAF is building collective power and a unified force for providing better living and working conditions, as well as equity and justice for farmworker families and communities. This includes building leadership and activist skills among communities of color who are disproportionately affected by pesticide exposure/health problems, environmental contamination, racism, exploitation and political under-representation while lifting up women’s wisdom and leadership.
"Farmworker families pay the greatest price in the corporate food system of today. They work in fields of poison and exploitation so that people can easily access cheap foods,” explained Elvira Carvajal, Farmworker Association of Florida's Lead Organizer in Homestead, Florida. “We have a vision to bring together the community around the art of healing with good food and herbs, which is part of our
culture. We practice agroecology in the community by sharing the knowledge we bring from our grandparents, our mothers, our families, our ancestors. The meeting of cultures that happens in the gardens, where we grow our own food without chemicals, and sharing plants and traditions and knowledge across generations is a beautiful thing. I am proud of our own people practicing food and seed sovereignty."
US Food Sovereignty Alliance members Community to Community Development and Community Alliance for Global Justice will host the prize for the first time in the Northwest, welcoming the 2016 Honorees and Alliance partners from across the country to Seattle and Bellingham for several days of activities and actions. The prize ceremony will take place on Saturday, October 15th at 6pm at Town Hall at Eighth and Seneca in Seattle.
For event updates and more information about honorees visit www.foodsovereigntyprize.org, follow the Prize at facebook.com/FoodSovereigntyPrize and join the conversation on Twitter (#foodsovprize).
###
About US Food Sovereignty Alliance
The US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) is a US-based alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based and food producer groups that upholds the right to food as a basic human right and works to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty. The Alliance works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies and assert democratic control over the food system, believing that all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food produced in an ecologically sound manner. Learn more at usfoodsovereigntyalliance.org.

FWAF JOINS BLACK LIVES MATTER MARCH AND CANDLELIGHT VIGIL

The event began Sunday evening at Alonzo Williams Park in Apopka, Florida, where some 150 people gathered in historically Black and farmworker South Apopka to support the neighborhood Black Lives Matter March. Along with many local residents, all ages and races of people - carrying signs and wearing black clothing - stood together in solidarity with the nationwide movement to stop violence against the Black community.

The event began with speeches by various community leaders. The director of Moms Demand Action spoke passionately about getting her organization off the ground with a simple text message chain, reaching out to mothers to come together to work for gun sense for America.

Speaker Carrea Gunn spoke about her SHE’RO and HeRo program that, through using a holistic approach supported by a team of volunteer mental health counselors, empowers young teens, aged 12-18, to lead responsible and productive lives by discussing relevant issues affecting today’s youth.

Pastor Darrell Morgan proclaimed that it was a message from God that inspired him to become involved in the BLM movement, and a representative of Minister Louis Farrakhan brought the leader’s message that the community must look to its roots for strength, unity and empowerment.

Along with the Farmworker Association of Florida was a contingent of supporters from FWAF’s sister organization, the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka.

Marchers made their way through the heart of the South Apopka chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands Up; Don’t Shoot” along with other chants. The event culminated in a candle light vigil, where marchers stood in memory of all the Black lives lost due to systemic racism and all committed themselves to stomp out racism and discrimination against all our Black Brothers and Sisters.  

Solidarity With Victims & Their Families

[email protected],  
 
The horrific shooting at Pulse in Orlando has left us all reeling- and heartbroken. The Farmworker Association of Florida deplores this act of violence. Our community in Apopka has lost cousins, children, and fathers, some of our dear friends luckily escaped with minor injuries. We are all heartbroken and trying to work through the surreal feeling that this happened to our community, and that so many lives were lost or changed forever. 
 
We know  the shooting  happened during Pride Month, that there was Latinx Trans talent performing that night, and that the Muslim-American community is reeling from this tragedy along with the Latinx community.
 
This attack did not occur randomly; it was not aimed at the general public. It was aimed at latinx and queer people. 
 
"At moments like this, we are doubly affected. We reject attempts to perpetuate hatred against our LGBTQ communities as well as our Muslim communities. We ask all Americans to resist the forces of division and hatred, and to stand against homophobia as well as against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry."- Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity
 
Equality Florida  has further information on their page to access counseling and blood donation services.

Muchas gracias compañero Alfredo

Alfredo Bahena (Dic.  26, 1961-Abr. 18, 2004) es recordado por la Asociación Campesina de Florida y por su comunidad en Pierson, Florida; por su sinceridad, preocupación, dedicación y compromiso de toda la vida por mejorar las condiciones de trabajo y vida de las trabajadoras y los trabajadores agrícolas en su área y a través del estado. Como Coordinador de Salud y Seguridad de la Asociación Campesina de Florida, Alfredo llevó a cabo muchos entrenamientos de pesticidas y abogó por  mejorar las normas de salud y seguridad para los lugares de trabajo. También ayudó a personas y familias de la comunidad en temas relacionados con: derechos laborales, migración, vivienda, discriminación en las escuelas y lugares de trabajo y cuando hubo desastres naturales. Alfredo además ayudó a establecer la Unión de Crédito y una tienda de comida. Trabajó en colaboración con grupos locales de la comunidad y defendió los derechos de los y las inmigrantes en las reuniones y foros a través de Florida, a nivel nacional e internacional. Alfredo se ganó el respeto de los representantes de las agencias del gobierno y el amor de su comunidad.

Es por estas razones, en el 2004, los legisladores en Tallahassee honraron la memoria de Alfredo con una nueva ley de protección de los trabajadores agrícolas y sus familias a la cual dieron su nombre.


Muchas gracias compañero Alfredo

Day of Peasants and Farmers Struggles – April 17th

Afiche Conferencia Reforma Agraria - copiaApril 17th is an important day in the struggle for food sovereignty. Twenty years ago, 19 members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil were killed during a peaceful action to obtain land for farming and other livelihoods.

Now, every April 17th, social movements and allies around the world mobilize actions and events advocating for food sovereignty and agroecology against the agribusiness model of food production. These actions and events engage the broader society in the process of transforming agriculture in order to end hunger, ensure the production of healthy foods, provide viable livelihoods, and fight for climate justice. As the international peasant movement La Via Campesina says, this is a day to “inspire us to continue to develop our work of denunciation and resistance.”

In this moment, we recognize the violence and the criminalization of grassroots organizations and movements struggling for a better world. Resource extraction and industrial agriculture – and the corporate greed and free-market politics supporting them – threaten solutions to the many crises we face. On this day of Peasants’ and Farmers’ Struggles, we honor the lives and work of activists who have been oppressed or killed defending land, water, and indigenous rights against transnational corporate greed and state violence. We also honor the lives and work of activists who continue these struggles.

On April 7th, MST members Vilmar Bordim and Leomar Bhorbak were killed in an attack by Brazil’s State Military Police and private security forces of the logging company Araupel, in an MST encampment on land that had been declared public by the Brazilian Justice Department. We honor their lives and struggle for land. We also remember the work of Berta Caceres, coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), who was murdered in her home for protecting indigenous lands and waters from destruction and pollution. We also mourn the assassination of Bazooka Rhadebe, Chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee in South Africa, for resisting mining projects on their ancestral lands.

As members of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA), we recognize that our current industrial food systems in the US are rooted in structural racism and colonization. We recognize the urgency and responsibility to confront the widespread influence of corporate agribusiness and transnational corporations, many of which are based in the United States. We reject this dominance by US corporations that often comes with political support for repressive and anti-democratic regimes. Within the US, we denounce the devastating policies that have exploited and repressed the working classes, people of color, native peoples, immigrants, and migrant laborers. We work to build solidarity with these communities in the US and across the world.

The United States is now the epicenter of industrial agriculture, and many rural communities are struggling to hold on to their land, their livelihoods, and their health. Over the past 80 years, disastrous free market agribusiness policies that push prices far below a farmer’s cost of production, as well as the spread of monoculture forms of agriculture that require heavy use of pesticides and technology to be economically viable, have left roughly 2.1 million farms in the United States, down from 7 million in 1935. There are as many as 3 million landless farm workers in the United States who face poor wages and are denied basic labor and human rights. Moreover, as older farmers retire over the next 10-20 years, up to 400 million acres of land are expected to change hands, with corporate agribusiness and the banks and investment funds financing them just waiting to acquire it.

The representation of  the number of American Indian, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American and African-American farmers and ranchers shows remarkable resilience, growing at a faster rate than White farmers and ranchers (5%, 21%, 10% and 21% respectively, according to the USDA), and reversing earlier declines. Even so, these diverse groups combined  operate only about 7% of the farms in the US, leaving 93% controlled by white operators. Additionally, even though 85% of fruits and vegetables are handpicked by millions of farm workers, the population of skilled farm workers, many of whom were farmers in their places of origin, forced out by bad policy in response to unfair trade deals, remain largely invisible.

In urban spaces, after decades of “redlining” and a long history of institutionalized racism and segregation in American cities, communities of color have been left with little employment, few services, and very limited access to healthy food. Now, mega real-estate developers are buying up land in these cities, displacing communities and literally uprooting the gardens and urban farms that communities created to ensure that families could eat.

The concentration of the commons into corporate hands extends beyond land to our waters as well. Fishermen are facing a rapid privatization and financialization of the fisheries as the “right to fish” is commodified and sold to the highest bidder, opening the floodgates to banks and corporations to buy up massive and exclusive control over the fisheries and the oceans.

On this April 17, the USFSA calls on its member organizations and its allies to organize actions and events for food sovereignty and food justice. At our 3rd Membership Assembly and 5th anniversary as an Alliance, the USFSA strengthened its commitment to building up the power of its grassroots and food producer member organizations in the United States – small farmers, landless farm workers, family fishermen, and urban gardeners – and strengthening ties of international solidarity around the world, to advance food sovereignty and food justice “in the belly of the beast.”

Members of the USFSA and the US Friends of the MST are organizing actions in New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, and Oakland on April 14th, 15th, and 18th, to push for food sovereignty and agrarian reform here and internationally, in solidarity with the social movements in Brazil and around the world. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance calls on its members and allies to organize demonstrations, public discussions and debates, film screenings, farmers’ markets festivals, and other actions of solidarity this April 17th. To share information about your action, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and to learn more, visit www.usfoodsovereigntyalliance.org.

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The US Food Sovereignty Alliance works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system. We believe all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. As a US-based alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based, and food producer groups, we uphold the right to food as a basic human right and work to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.

Images credited to La Via Campesina.

FLORIDA STATE AND UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

FLORIDA STATE AND UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA law students stand on a dock at Lake Apopka, while learning about the effects pesticides have had on the lake and its various animal populations during this year’s alternative spring break event. The lake trip was part of a “Toxic Tour” throughout Apopka with the Farmworker Association of Florida during which the students learned about the history of pesticide use in Florida agriculture and its present-day effects on the agricultural workers and lands in Southwest Florida. The group also trained in Immokalee with Florida Rural Legal Services on various aspects of migrant worker law and met with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Human Trafficking Task Force to learn about the current state of trafficking laws in Florida, and how law enforcement is using the law to catch traffickers and protect victims.

Article appreader at Floridabar.org

Statement on the Assassination of Berta Cáceres and Call to Action

150422113110_berta_premio4_624x351_goldmanenvironmentalprize-1.jpgYesterday, at 1am, Berta Cáceres, a Lenca Indigenous woman and an internationally recognized leader, was assassinated in her home. Berta was supposed to be under special protection by the local authorities because of the innumerable death threats that she received. As General Coordinator of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Berta Cáceres was an organizer working at the frontlines in the struggle against the expropriation of land and water from her community by the construction of the Agua Zarca hydropower dam project in the Gualcarque River basin, promoted by the company Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA) and financed by foreign investors.

She was a courageous voice in defense of Lenca communities and the struggle for the rights of people and of Mother Earth. During her 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize Award ceremony, Berta shared these words:

“In our worldview, we are beings who come from the Earth, from the water, and from corn. The Lenca people are ancestral guardians of the rivers, in turn protected by the spirits of young girls, who teach us that giving our lives in various ways for the protection of the rivers is giving our lives for the well-being of humanity and of this planet… Let us wake up! We’re out of time. WE must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction.

“Our Mother Earth – militarized, fenced-in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated – demands that we take action.”

The atrocious crime happened just three months shy of the seventh anniversary of the coup d’état that devastated Honduras and had rippling effects across the American continent. In the first year of the coup, 43 people were killed - half of them were trade union members. Since 2009, there have been over 100 organizers killed, many of them Indigenous Peoples and small scale farmers engaged in nonviolent struggles for land and territory, including Tomás Garcia of COPINH and Margarita Murillo of La Vía Campesina Honduras. Thousands of people left the country, a place considered one of the most unsafe places on Earth. Unaccompanied children travelled alone to find safety in the US, only to be held in makeshift warehouses and deported back to the very place they had fled. At the same, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization for the American States reports that children from 5 to 23 years are receiving military training in Honduras.

The murder of Berta Cáceres is a direct result of the ill-advised US policies for Latin America. It is past time for the US government to recognize that the financial and political support it has provided to the 2009 military coup and to the current Honduran government only fuels abuses by military personnel and the role of death squads against journalists, students and organizers, especially those at the forefront of defending land, territory, and natural resources.  Berta had warned that DESA was once again invading Lenca territories, this time accompanied by private and public armed forces, including the military police called "Tigres" – trained and financed by the United States. Furthermore, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is directly supporting the Agua Zarca project through the USAID MERCADO program.

Besides Berta, other leaders from trade unions and peasant, Indigenous and Afro-descendent organizations are frequent targets of death threats. We ask friends and allies to participate in local actions to demand a prompt and full investigation into the killing of Berta Cáceres. We call on everyone determined to uphold human rights to immediately contact their congressional representatives, advise them that the US support to Honduras and to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project is destroying democratic rule in Honduras and killing innocent people, and demand an immediate end to such support.

Finally, we support the rightful demands of COPINH and of all Indigenous communities to protect and defend their lands and to prevent unwanted megaprojects in their territory, starting with the Agua Zarca dam project on the sacred Gualcarque River.

In solidarity,

The US Food Sovereignty Alliance, United States

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, United States

Community to Community, United States

Food First, United States

Farmworker Association of Florida

Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project, United States

Quotes :

“For decades, Berta Caceres gave everything she had to the causes of true democracy; indigenous power; protection of the earth, the forests, the rivers; rights of women and LGBT individuals; and an end of tyranny by the US government, transnational capital, and Honduran oligarchy. Berta advanced these agendas not only in Honduras, but globally - most recently even in an audience with the Pope. Now, the one thing she did not freely give has been taken from her: her very life. But she is not gone; she lives on in all of us who continue to believe in and work for a just, humane, and ecologically safe world.” – Beverly Bell, Other Worlds

“The assassination of Berta Caceres is a tremendous loss to us, and to all communities who seek justice and dignity. And her murder is an indictment on an insatiable and immoral system – supported by US policies since the 2009 coup – that grabs ancestral lands from indigenous communities, poisons and privatizes waterways and seeks profit above all else.  She stood courageously in the face of mounting threats, knowing the dangers, and with love in her heart, organized to protect the lands and waters of the Lenca people. We mourn with and call on the international community to take action, to bring justice for Berta and to work to continue her legacy.” – Chung-Wha Hong, Grassroots International

¨A Honduran friend who recognizes his Lenca ancestry called me today and declared: They have killed Lempira again. They killed the person carrying the banner of Indigenous Dignity the Highest, Berta Caceres. Lempira was the Lenca leader killed by the Spanish at the time of conquest. I agree: On March 3, 2016 Lempira Was Killed Again. I mourn for our collective loss and the loss of a beautiful, inspirational sister of supreme struggle.¨ - Stephen Bartlett, Agricultural Missions

“Berta was a tenacious leader. She worked tirelessly to bring indigenous and peasant families into international alliances to contain the greed of international capital for local resources. Above all, Berta was a dear friend and a sister in the struggle for many people in Central America and beyond. The loss of Berta Caceres is now our mística, the energy that will unify us and will sustain our struggle for a more just society.” – Saulo Araujo, WhyHunger

”At Grassroots Global Justice Alliance we are saddened and enraged by the murder of our compañera Berta. She stood up fiercely against her government and trans-national corporations, but always grounded in her love for people and the land.  We will continue to live up to the example that she set to fight for land, for life, for dignity, and for happiness!   The US government is as much responsible for her death as the people who invaded her home.  We will not forget the fights Berta has been engaged in, Let's channel her strength and her courage to continue her legacy.” - Cindy Wiesner on behalf of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Opportunities and Threats to Immigrants in Florida's Legislative Sessions

WE SUPPORT:

HB 89: Florida Kidcare Program
Sponsor: Rep. Jose Felix Diaz
SUPPORT: SB 248: Medical Assistance
Funding for Lawfully Residing Children
Sponsor: Senator Rene Garcia
This bill would extend health-care coverage to nearly 17,000 lawfully residing children of immigrants by eliminating the five-year waiting period to be eligible for Florida Kidcare.

WE OPPOSE TO:

CS/HB 9: Reentry into State by Certain Persons
Sponsor: Rep. Carlos Trujillo
This bill would make it a third degree felony to re-enter into the state of Florida after having been deported from the U.S. This would be punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines.

SB 118: Persons Subject to Final Deportation Orders
Sponsor: Senator Travis Hutson
This bill would make it a first degree felony for a person who has an order of deportation to continue living in the state of Florida, which would be punishable by up to 30 years in prison and $10,000 in fines..

HB 675 / SB 872: Federal Immigration Enforcement
Sponsor: Rep. Larry Metz
Sponsor: Senator Aaron Bean
This bill is attempting to obstruct the power and authority of local governments to protect the civil rights of their communities; would force local governments and law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities at a level that is not mandated or funded by the federal government and may even turn school boards, administrators, teachers into immigration agents; would authorize the Attorney General to sue local governments and officials who do not comply, and would fine localities up to $5,000 per day for not enforcing the policies, and would make local governments vulnerable to civil cause of action for personal injury or wrongful death.

SB 150: Offenses by Illegal Immigrants
Sponsor: Senator Travis Hutson
This bill would enhance the penalties of criminal offenses committed by undocumented immigrants.

HB 563 / SB 750: Temporary Cash Assistance Program
Sponsor: Rep. Matt Gaetz
Sponsor: Senator Travis Hutson
Seeking to penalize mixed status immigrant families, the income of a primary member of the family, who is undocumented, but is not legally eligible to receive benefits must report their income in determining eligibility for the whole family. The impact of this bill would be decreasing the amount of assistance for the whole family.

HB 1095 / SB 1712: Prevention of Acts of War
Sponsor: Rep. Lake Ray
Sponsor: Senator Wilton Simpson
This bill is meant to limit the access to resources of refugees and immigrants in the state. The bill would prohibit state, political subdivisions, agencies &
employees, & persons receiving state funds from assisting refugees and immigrants. It would also require any of these entities offering assistance to submit personal identifying information of refugees and immigrants to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Furthermore, the bill would authorize the Governor and Attorney General to challenge federal laws and regulations encouraging refugee resettlement and directs the Governor and Attorney General to prevent entry into or resettlement in state of certain restricted persons.

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