Food justice advocates and many US farmers on Wednesday issued a statement expressing solidarity with the farmers on protest at the borders of India’s national capital for over two and a half months. The unjust farm laws will increase the stranglehold of agribusiness on the food system, the statement said, adding that the three new Central laws were passed in Parliament in September 2020 without the knowledge of farmers or consultations with organizations representing them.

The statement also endorsed the need for the Minimum Support Price: “One of the key demands of the movement is for farmers to receive a Minimum Support Price (MSP) —currently assured for just a few crops — for all produce, including vegetables, which are essential for healthy diets. This would ensure that farmers in India, already burdened by huge debts, receive a fair price for their produce. MSP is the price at which the Indian government also buys staple grains, like wheat and rice, from farmers for its public food programs so that the poor can access subsidized grains.2 While the Indian government only procures a small percentage for its food programs, the MSP is a key price signal to other traders in India, and it ensures that farmers receive a fair price for these specific crops,” it said.

The signatories of this statement, which includes National Family Farm Coalition, Rural Coalition, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, and Indians of the diaspora community in the US working with farmers in India, also faulted the US for bringing India to this pass: “We recognize the role of the US government in creating the conditions that have led to these repressive laws. The US has been a key opponent of India’s limited use of MSP at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The US, with Australia, Canada and the European allies, has claimed that India’s MSP distorts trade.”

It called on US President Joe Biden to shift trade policy in the US too to allow other countries to support fair markets for their farmers, so food providers are assured a living wage.

“While the U.S. agricultural sector receives inordinately large support compared to many countries, access to that support remains inequitable. In particular, Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian-Pacific and other people of color producers, who lack secure land tenure and are concentrated in vegetable and small-scale cattle sectors, have been excluded historically.3 Support flows to larger agribusiness farming operations instead of the independent family farmers whose voices we amplify,” the statement said.

The statement pointed out that India is going down the same path that US farmers went four decades ago: “The Reagan era furthered the farm crisis through deliberate federal policy changes, with systematic erosion of parity prices and other deregulatory efforts. “Get big or get out” has been our government’s mantra. Farmers with the means to consolidate have been rewarded for growing monoculture commodities. Tribal nations and traditional producers as well as small farmers who have always practiced or shifted to diversified agroecological farming have effectively been subsidizing the U.S. agriculture sector. It is rare for these food producers to make a living without supplemental income. Unsurprisingly, farm suicides in rural America are 45% higher than the rest of the population.”

The World Trade Organization has worsened this crisis, the statement points out, making the gap between the developed North and the Global South even greater. “What every nation-state can do, at the very least, is protect small farmers from deregulatory efforts, such as the three farm laws in India, that diminish the limited bargaining power that farmers have, pushing them off their farms.”

The statement calls on President Biden to stop prioritizing agribusiness over small farmers. “The U.S. must also endorse multilateral governance norms that will support India’s transition to climate-resilient, biodiverse and water-conserving food systems that reach all producers.”

The statement expressed respect for the struggles led by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha. “We urge both governments to support independent family farmers and localized food systems, ensuring food sovereignty and securing the livelihoods of millions who are the bedrock of its food security and nutritional wellbeing.”

Rosamma Thomas is an independent journalist


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