Non-Profit Group Releases Report About Impact Of US Trade Policies On So. Willamette Valley Farms And Food Systems

Mckenzie Ingram, MyEugene The Oregon Fair Trade Campaign (OR-FTC) met Tuesday evening at Cozmic Pizza with local farmers, concerned community members, and an assortment of interest groups to talk about their common interest in “Going Local in a Globalized Economy.” The event was co-sponsored by Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network/Jobs with Justice and AFSCME Local #3214. What started as a presentation of OR-FTC’s recent report about the impact of U.S. trade policy (particularly the Fair Trade Agreement) on the Willamette Valley food system turned into a community discussion about how to support and protect local farmers and the local food supply. The report begins: “A recent public opinion poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC found that only 17% of Americans believe that Free Trade Agreements have helped our economy. Most Americans understand that existing trade policies are responsible for off-shoring manufacturing jobs. Less well understood is how trade policies influence the food we eat, including where and how it is produced.” Samantha Chirillo, the Lane County organizer for OR-FTC, opened the meeting with the results from the 2011 study, Going Local in a Globalized Economy: Trade Policy and Food Systems in Oregon’s Southern Willamette Valley. She explained how globalization is affecting local farms and food systems. According to the report: “U.S. trade policy has had enormous negative impacts on farming, food processing and food consumption patterns in Oregon’s Southern Willamette Valley. Trade agreements have created unfair competition and lead to wild food price fluctuations, factors that have subsequently affected local food system infrastructure and consumer expectations.” Chirillo said current US trade policy creates unfair competition because global market prices are being driven down by low-quality foods, labor exploitation and non-compliance with EPA standards. Lowered consumer expectations have caused a drop in local, high-quality food purchases, she said. Then Chirillo pointed out the benefits and challenges of going local in the current economy. “It’s easy to say that you buy local and organic, but there are many challenges that we all need to be involved with overcoming such as the market being stagnant for a long time,” said Chirillo. “We have the same people buying local. We need to expand, and that means educating our family and neighbors and getting them excited about getting involved.” The meeting lasted two hours, and featured a variety of speakers including two local farmers (specializing in bean, grains, legumes and edible seeds as staple crops) sharing their experiences about their small organic farm in the southern Willamette Valley. Sarah Kleeger and Andrew Still, representatives of Open Oak Farm and Adaptive Seeds, spoke about how they have fought against the use of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and the struggles they’ve overcome with neighboring farms using GMOs. “GMOs scare me,” said Still. “They erase biodiversity and force monocultures.” The farmers spoke about the dangers that GMOs pose to local farms and foods, and how the process of going local in a globalized economy starts with each individual and his or her eating habits. “Eat more diverse foods,” said Still. “I’m sure we could all eat something new tomorrow night!” The meeting concluded with Chirillo asking attendees to immediately make a call to Senator Ron Wyden opposing the free trade agreements. Read original post here.