Actually, a follow-up to two different protests of the day. . .
Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’
Tags: agriculture, longshoremen, protest, shipping, South Africa, strike, unions, wages, workers
Tags: agriculture, protest, South Africa, strike, workers
Farmworkers [ht: sn] in the Western Cape have been engaged in a week-long strike, demanding higher wages. The South African police have killed one of the striking workers and wounded at least five others.
Tags: agriculture, austerity, protest, Spain, unemployment
Agricultural workers and members of the Andalusian Union of Workers rest inside a property belonging to the Duke of Moratalla, a member of Spain’s royal family, after they occupied it during the first day of a march in Hornachuelos, near Cordoba, southern Spain.
“We’re here to denounce a social class who leaves such places to waste,” said Diego Cañamero, the leader of the Andalusian Union of Workers, addressing the demonstrators who had occupied the property, the Palacio de Moratalla. For all of the estate’s grandeur, the owner, the Duke of Segorbe, lives in Andalusia’s capital, Seville, about 60 miles away.
The occupation was a demonstration of the class conflicts that simmer amid complaints about austerity and joblessness in Spain. Such protests have gathered pace in this farm region in Spain’s south in recent weeks, adding a volatile dimension to the country’s economic downturn. They have also pointed to a deeper anger about the shape of Spain’s economy and democracy.
Tags: agriculture, workers, working conditions, youth
Each year, hundreds of children are hurt or killed while working on American farms. The dangers run from hazardous chemicals to farm machinery (like the grain auger that severed the legs of 2 teenagers in Oklahoma). Yet, the White House has been sitting on new child labor rules that some safety advocates say would prevent such accidents.
“We’ve been trying to figure out who’s opposed to these rules,” said Celeste Monforton, a former Department of Labor safety official and blogger writing about workplace safety issues. “Is it part of this administration’s concerns about regulations and how they’re perceived? I have not been able to discern that.”
According to Celeste Monforton,
While 17 year old Tyler Zander and Bryce Gannon recover in the hospital, proposed improvements to Subpart E-1—-including provisions related to young people working in commercial grain elevators—-have been stalled “in review” at the White House for nine months. Secretary Solis’ latest regulatory plan says she doesn’t expect to issue the proposed rule until December. It’s troubling to me that in op-eds and speeches President Obama uses child labor protections as an example of common sense regulations, yet it’s his White House that is holding up changes to modernize them. Worse yet, these improvements are just at the preliminary stage of the rulemaking process. The document being held-up at OIRA is a PROPOSED rule—a document about which the Labor Department will seek public comment. A final rule is still a long way down the road. For an Administration that says it believes in child labor protections, and boasts about its commitment to public participation, openness and transparency (see yet another announcement this week) its failure to publish this proposed rule is especially inexcusable.
According to a 2002 report by the Department of Health and Human Services [pdf], 40 percent of work-related fatalities of young people (under the age of 18) stem from employment in Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing (another 22 percent occur in Retail Trade).
According to Monforton, the safety rules governing young workers employed in agricultural jobs have not been updated for 40 years.
It’s about time the U..S. government puts an end to the injuries and fatalities young people suffer in the fields of U.S. farms.
Tags: agriculture, capitalism, inequality, land, noncapitalism, poverty, rural
The latest report from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is about rural poverty. It would have been a much better report if it had focused on rural inequality.
As a report on rural poverty, it offers the usual diagnosis and remedies—in other words, agricultural development as usual. It focuses, as expected, on the extent of rural poverty in the world today (e.g., the fact that 1.4 billion people continue to live in extreme poverty, struggling to survive on less than US$1.25 a day, and more than two thirds of them reside in rural areas of developing countries) and strategies to move rural people out of poverty (e.g., by managing risk, promoting access to markets, and investing in education).
What it only mentions in passing, and fails to investigate in any depth, is the extent of rural inequality. Thus, nowhere in the report will readers find any estimates of inequalities in the distribution of income and land ownership (although, on p. 89, IFAD does mention that “Peru now has greater disparities in land ownership than before the agrarian reform of the mid-1970s”). As a consequence, there is no attempt, in the policy proposals, to change the nature of that inequality—either by redistributing land or by encouraging new, more collective forms of rural production (in both farm and nonfarm economies) or by expanding the size and access to common assets.
That would be a real Green Revolution—one that sought not to create “productive, profitable, sustainable and resilient” forms of production but to challenge the power of large landowners and to foster the collective ability of rural workers to appropriate and distribute the surplus they produce.
Civilization, as we know it, would not exist without corn. And there are two significant dates in its history.
First, about 9000 years ago, corn was created as maize—from a Mexican grass called teosinte. It became the basis of the Mexican diet, U.S. agroindustry, a network of natural amusement parks, and one of my favorite (alongside tomatoes) summer foods.
The problem in corn’s case is that we’re sacrificing the health of both our bodies and the environment by growing and eating so much of it. Though we’re only beginning to understand what our cornified food system is doing to our health, there’s cause for concern. It’s probably no coincidence that the wholesale switch to corn sweeteners in the 1980′s marks the beginning of the epidemic of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in this country. Sweetness became so cheap that soft drink makers, rather than lower their prices, super-sized their serving portions and marketing budgets. Thousands of new sweetened snack foods hit the market, and the amount of fructose in our diets soared.
This would be bad enough for the American waistline, but there’s also preliminary research suggesting that high-fructose corn syrup is metabolized differently than other sugars, making it potentially more harmful. A recent study at the University of Minnesota found that a diet high in fructose (as compared to glucose) elevates triglyceride levels in men shortly after eating, a phenomenon that has been linked to an increased risk of obesity and heart disease. Little is known about the health effects of eating animals that have themselves eaten so much corn, but in the case of cattle, researchers have found that corn-fed beef is higher in saturated fats than grass-fed beef.
We know a lot more about what 80 million acres of corn is doing to the health of our environment: serious and lasting damage. Modern corn hybrids are the greediest of plants, demanding more nitrogen fertilizer than any other crop. Corn requires more pesticide than any other food crop. Runoff from these chemicals finds its way into the groundwater and, in the Midwestern corn belt, into the Mississippi River, which carries it to the Gulf of Mexico, where it has already killed off marine life in a 12,000-square-mile area.
We are, indeed, unhealthy children of the corn. . .
Tags: agriculture, capitalism, imperialism, land
The NY Times reports on the current global land grab: the buying up of farm land in impoverished nations by wealthy corporations and governments at discount prices. The article correctly focuses on the politics of land and hunger. The problem is, all the examples are of Arab private investors’ and governments’ purchasing land (with the promise of higher-yield technologies and more jobs) in Africa. The only reference to Brazil is contained in the outrageous statements by Paul Collier:
Last fall, Paul Collier of Oxford University, an influential voice on issues of world poverty, published a provocative article in Foreign Affairs in which he argued that a “middle- and upper-class love affair with peasant agriculture” has clouded the African development debate with “romanticism.” Approvingly citing the example of Brazil — where masses of indigenous landholders were displaced in favor of large-scale farms — Collier concluded that “to ignore commercial agriculture as a force for rural development and enhanced food supply is surely ideological.”
Equally outrageous are the views expressed by Susan Payne, the chief executive of Emergent Asset Management:
“Africa is the final frontier,” Payne told me after the conference. “It’s the one continent that remains relatively unexploited.” Emergent’s African Agricultural Land Fund, started last year, is investing several hundred million dollars into commercial farms around the continent. Africa may be known for decrepit infrastructure and corrupt governments — problems that are being steadily alleviated, Payne argues — but land and labor come so cheaply there that she calculates the risks are worthwhile.
So, here we have 2 so-called experts, one arguing that the land grab in Brazil has been a positive force for rural development, the other arguing that Africa has not yet been exploited. There’s no mention of the local communities and small landholding peasants that are being expropriated, with the only prospect for displaced peoples to either migrate to cities or stay on as cheap proletarian labor for agroindustrial enterprises. And no mention that this is the second “scramble for Africa,” that colonialism and postcolonialism have had the effect of creating cheap land and labor.
Last year, Jacques Diouf, the head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation, warned
that the controversial rise in land deals could create a form of “neo-colonialism”, with poor states producing food for the rich at the expense of their own hungry people.
Websites tracking these land deals include the international land coalition and GRAIN. A good background report, “The Great Land Grab: Rush for World’s Farmland Threatens Food Security for the Poor,” is available from the Oakland Institute.