Citizens from southwest Michigan gathered in Calder Plaza in Grand Rapids on Thursday afternoon to rally in support of Michigan's small farmers. The rally, organized by Food & Water Watch, was a push for Senator Debbie Stabenow to take a public stand on the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), also know as the Fair Farm Rules.
The rules prevent meatpackers from favoring large producers, like factory farms, which put small independent producers at an economic disadvantage. The rules were released in June 201, but have yet to be finalized or implemented.
"As Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Stabenow has the opportunity to stand up for small livestock farmers, consumers and the environment by supporting these Fair Farm Rules," said Jane Wiedenbeck, field organizer with Food & Water Watch. "Unfortunately, she has yet to take a stand on the issue, so we are asking her to get off the sidelines and publicly support Michigan's small farmers."
Nationally, nearly 27,000 independent family farms have been driven out of business over the past five years, and the ones that have survived, are being squeezed by a market that favors big agribusinesses. The GIPSA Rules would help to reverse this trend, and level the playing field for small and mid-sized farms.
"We're here to urge Senator Stabenow to look at the issue of the Fair Farm Rules that the USDA has developed, which were mandated in the 2008 Farm Bill," said Cynthia Price, chair of the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council. "We're asking for her support in the final adoption and implementation of those rules."
Over 4,500 signed postcards have been collected from communities across Michigan urging Senator Stabenow to take a stand and support the Fair Farm Rules. Following the rally, the postcards were hand-delivered to Senator Stabenow's West Michigan office. The petition delivery is a small part of a larger campaign across the state to build community and organizational support for the GIPSA Rules.
"Family farmers today cannot compete with the overwhelming size and lobbying power of large-scale meat providers," said Andrea Villarreall, an English teacher and activist from Kalamazoo. "Without the GIPSA Rules, I can't be sure that farms like Otto's Chicken will be at the market every Saturday providing me with hormone-free chicken. What we need right now is for Senator Stabenow to do the right thing and take a strong stance in support of the GIPSA Rules."
Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.