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agricultural workers and peasants

Analysis: How do the EU farmer protests relate to climate change?

By Orla Dwyer - The Conversation, February 5, 2024

From Berlin and Paris, to Brussels and Bucharest, European farmers have driven their tractors to the streets in protest over recent weeks. 

According to reports, these agricultural protesters from across the European Union have a series of concerns, including competition from cheaper imports, rising costs of energy and fertiliser, and environmental rules. 

Farmers’ groups in countries including Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Poland and Romania have all been protesting over the past couple of months. 

The UK’s Sunday Telegraph has tried to frame the protests as a “net-zero revolt” with several other media outlets saying the farmers have been rallying against climate or “green” rules. 

Carbon Brief has analysed the key demands from farmer groups in seven countries to determine how they are related to greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, biodiversity or conservation. 

The findings show that many of the issues farmers are raising are directly and indirectly related to these issues. But some are not related at all. Several are based on policy measures that have not yet taken effect, such as the EU’s nature restoration law and a South American trade agreement. 

International Day of Peasant Struggles: Build Solidarity! Enough with the genocide, evictions and violence!

By staff - La Via Campesina, April 17, 2024

17 April 2024 – Today is the International Day of Peasant Struggles. A moment when we, La Via Campesina, commemorate the 28th anniversary of the El Dorado de Carajás Massacre in Brazil and denounce the impunity with which peasant and indigenous people are harassed, attacked and criminalized around the world. Every year, our movement dedicates this day to mobilize in support of the ongoing struggles of peasants, rural communities, indigenous groups, pastoralists, fisherfolk, migrants, and rural workers.

As a global peasant movement, we persistently denounce and resist various forms of oppression—genocides, wars, hunger, evictions, persecution, criminalization, and systemic violence—within a geopolitical landscape dominated by the advancing forces of imperialism, neocolonialism, and exploitative capitalism. Our efforts, that also found a full consensus at the recetly concluded 8th International Conference, encompass a diverse set of initiatives, including the UN Working Group to monitor the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, the efforts to broaden the global movement for Food Sovereignty by actively contributing towards the Nyéléni Global Forum for Food Sovereignty in 2025, a host of global solidarity campaigns, and our sustained advocacy for an alternative trade framework based on Food Sovereignty. These actions exemplify La Via Campesina’s response to the crisis-ridden context we confront.

On this International Day of Peasant Struggles, our member organizations worldwide are engaged in a myriad of activities. These include demonstrations of denunciation and solidarity, seed exchanges, planting of traditional crops, sale of agroecological products, conferences with other social movements, and various other actions. These efforts nourish global processes and propel collective demands for Food Sovereignty and social justice. Below is a succinct overview of the most notable struggles at the global level.

The anti-colonial struggle for the self-determination of the Haitian people has reached the United Nations

By staff - La Via Campesina, April 10, 2024

Fully intertwined with current geopolitical dynamics, the anti-(neo)colonial struggle in Haiti is central. Confronting existential challenges, the Haitian people engage in a protracted struggle for emancipation and self-determination. This endeavor necessitates a robust and mobilized internationalist solidarity movement. Dominant imperialist forces persist in asserting control over the small Caribbean island to gain strategic advantages, thwarting Haiti’s path to true independence and national sovereignty.

The current situation in the country is marked by unprecedented violence and systematic human rights violations, disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations, particularly those from lower classes and rural communities. With half of the nation now under the sway of criminal gangs, manipulated by the national oligarchy aligned with imperialist interests, dissent is confined and social unrest quelled. In response, Haiti’s social movement, comprising peasant organizations, progressive political entities, unions, and feminist groups, collectively organizes to carve out autonomous spaces for self-centered development. These alternative models to the prevailing racist and neo-colonial paradigm are perceived as disruptive, prompting the targeting of the social movement by imperialist and neo-colonial forces, hence the exploitation of criminal gangs.

In Haiti’s context, the United Nations has historically played a deleterious role. Under its auspices, interventions spanning three decades have exacerbated rather than alleviated the nation’s plight. These so-called “peacekeeping missions,” ostensibly aimed at restoring political stability and combating corruption, have only further destabilized the situation. The UN Security Council’s recent proposal for a foreign military intervention to tackle the country’s gang problem underscores this point.

Chayuda Boonrod: “Dams are Just Good for the Capitalists”

By Chayuda Boonrod - Capire, April 5, 2024

Chayuda Boonrod is a member of the Assembly of the Poor (AoP), a grassroots organization based in Thailand that struggles for self-determination and right to resources with both rural and urban communities. Her participation in the struggle comes from her family, who is involved in the struggle for land in the country.

Chayuda shared with us aspects of the current political context of Thailand, and the struggle of AoP against dams’ impacts in the country. The Assembly of the Poor is active in the struggle against dams since it was formed, on September 10th, 1995. “I was born on the 31st, so I’m 21 days younger than the organization. Growing up, I saw my family, my aunts, and uncles, everyone that I know, engaging in one way or another with our organization and La Via Campesina” said Chayuda.

This interview was conducted during the 8th International Conference of La Via Campesina, held in December 2023 in Bogotá, Colombia. Together with La Via Campesina, AoP members have participated in activities both in the country and abroad. About this relationship between these two organizations, she adds: “We have many people from LVC coming to visit and study the communities”. Besides that, AoP hosted the LVC Asia Youth meeting, held on Oct 2022 in Surat Thani, Thailand. Read the full interview below.

Argentina: The peasant perspective, 90 days of the Milei Government

By MNCI Somos Tierra - La Via Campesina, March 27, 2024

Since December 10th the economic deregulation policies have hit the popular areas in Argentina. 27 million people (57.4%) are under the poverty limit, while 15% is poor. The minimum wage (USD$ 200) has been reduced 14.8% in January 2024. The crisis has been worsened by the high value of the food, which in January has risen 26%. In Argentina, 20.6% suffer from food insecurity and the consumers have paid 5.2 times more than the price paid to the producers. In addition, in a little more than two months the price of a liter of Premium gasoline has risen from $349 to $918 per liter, 163%.

The method of advancement of this anarco-capitalist far right expression tries to provoke chaos to put forward their financial agenda. Milei rules to the service of the corporations and install the debate that has put forward the boundaries of the democratic consensus and the rights conquered due to the struggle of the trade unions and social movements.

The Milei government is based on the idea that the State must disappear, reducing it to its minimum and leaving everything on part of the market. To achieve this, he supports the criminalization of the protest and the popular organization, the blind negationist of the State terrorism of the last military dictatorship, a hatred and misogynistic discourse and the economic deregulation policies.

In this sense, one of the first measures was the imposition of an Emergency Decree (DNU, in Spanish) 70/2023, published December 20th 2023, that we, the Movimiento Nacional Campesino Indigena Somos Tierra (MNCI ST) reject because of its authoritarian and anti-republican perspective, representing a great attack to the democratic institutions.

This DNU is unconstitutional and void. Because of the number of legislations that abolish, just like the changes, it must be Congress of the Nation where fundamental consensuses are discussed and achieved to represent the majority of the population. In addition, each of the points of the decree benefits a reduced group of business people that always do their business at the expense of the misery of the Argentinian people.

Farmer Protests: The Wrong U-Turn

By Angela Hilmi and Emile Frison - Green European Journal, March 25, 2024

While farming and nature are inextricably bound together, political bargaining often sets the two in opposition. Recent protests across Europe and worldwide show growing frustration among farmers. The European Commission is responding with row-backs on environmental standards. Could farmers be brought back onside with a Common Agricultural Policy U-turn on trade?

Imagine a job where you never get a day off. Where your work, providing an essential public service, requires you to take on hundreds of thousands of euros in debt over decades. Where you never know how much you’ll get for what you sell. Where mainstream media either ignores or vilifies you. Where your health is at risk from prevailing practices. Where you don’t earn enough to retire with a pension. Where, once you do retire, no new generation is willing to take up the reins because the quality of life is considered low. Welcome to today’s farming in Europe. And not just in Europe but worldwide. 

It’s not hard to see why recent weeks have witnessed waves of European farmers’ protests from Brussels to Madrid and Warsaw. Headlines have been filled with images of tractors blocking motorways and city centres, slurry dumped at supermarkets, police being sprayed with manure and pelted with eggs. Farmers are vociferously raising their voices demanding dignity, support for their livelihoods, viability of small farms, a future: “No farmers, no food!”

In Brussels, many of those on the streets have been demonstrating against the free trade agreements that undercut their prices and livelihoods. In Poland, Germany, and Romania, farmers are rejecting the influx of cheap Ukrainian grain and its impact on their livelihoods. In India, farmers are once again out on the streets, resisting the latest attempts to dismantle commodity price support policies, without which their already-strained livelihoods will be even further devalued.

These protests are not isolated incidents but rather a global expression of frustration and disillusionment with a system that prioritises profit and global competition over people. They are stirring up important debates about regulation, fair prices, trade agreements, and the future of our food. In Europe, the negotiations for a deal with the Mercosur trade bloc loom large, threatening to undercut local producers and exacerbate the challenges they face. 

Yet, as these protests unfold, panic-stricken politicians – in the heat of a “mega” election year – seem more inclined to throw environmental protection under the bus than address the legitimate grievances of those who feed us. The European Commission has already unscrupulously junked plans to cut pesticide use, scrapped a strategy on sustainable food systems, and loosened environmental and labour requirements that farmers must respect to access farming subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Florida blocks heat standards from being passed across the state

By Alexandra Martinez - Prism, March 21, 2024

Florida legislators dealt a blow to outdoor workers this month by passing a law that bans local governments from implementing heat standards. Starting July 1, it will be illegal for local governments to pass health and safety measures for outdoor workers in extreme heat. The decision comes after Florida experienced its hottest summer on record. 

“In just a few months, as Florida temperatures soar to triple digits, outdoor workers will face increasingly dangerous conditions,” said Esteban Wood, the policy director at WeCount!, a nonprofit that helps immigrant workers in South Florida. “Workers will suffer heat stroke, businesses will lose out on billions in lost worker productivity, and local emergency rooms will become overwhelmed with heat related hospitalizations.” 

Miami-Dade County’s outdoor worker activists with WeCount! had been organizing for the nation’s first county-wide heat standard since 2017. The coalition of workers officially launched their Que Calor! Campaign in 2021 and came close to getting the Board of County Commissioners to approve the proposed heat standard in September, but by November, commissioners buckled under lobbyist pressure, and the final vote was postponed until March 2024 in the hopes of gaining support. 

Less than a week later, state Rep. Tiffany Esposito filed House Bill 433, which was designed to prevent cities and counties across Florida from enacting workplace heat standards. The bill was passed on March 8, just weeks before the county was set to determine the local decision.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, average annual heat-related deaths have risen 95% from 2010 to 2022. The ¡Que Calor! Heat Standard originally included a heat exposure safety program for workers and their supervisors about the risks of heat exposure and best practices for minimizing heat-related illness. The standard also stated that on days with a heat index of at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit, workers have a right to 10 minutes of paid rest and a water break every two hours to cool down under shade and avoid heat stroke. The standard has now been raised to 95 degrees.

Florida Legislators Ban Local Heat Protections for Millions of Outdoor Workers

By Amy Green and Victoria St. Martin - Inside Climate News, March 19, 2024

ORLANDO, Fla.—Even if the often unbearable Florida temperatures started creeping up toward triple digits, Maria Leticia Pineda could usually be found clad in at least three layers of clothing to protect her skin from sunburns while she worked in an outdoor plant nursery.

Pineda spent 20 years working 11-hour days as she helped grow fruits like strawberries, blueberries and pineapples, as well as vegetables, ferns and other plants. But by 2018, between headaches that she believes were exacerbated by the heat, recurring pains in her right elbow and back and aches just about everywhere else, she’d had enough.

“I love agriculture and working with people and the environment, but I stopped because it’s so hot,” said Pineda, who is 51. “With the heat, it won’t kill you right away. I’ve felt the struggle for so long and the damage stays with you.”

The state’s 2 million outdoor workers are poised to have less access to accommodations like water and shady rest breaks under a bill the Florida Legislature recently approved.

The measure prohibits local governments from establishing heat protections for outdoor workers. It comes after commissioners in Miami-Dade County considered a proposal last year that would have compelled construction and agriculture companies to provide water and rest breaks when the heat index there rises to 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The proposal also would have required training in heat illness and first aid, but it was never brought to a vote.

The new state legislation preempts any such local provisions. It was approved earlier this month, on the final day of the annual session, but still requires the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has described himself as “not a global warming person.” His climate change policy has focused on fortifying the state’s infrastructure against rising seas and increasingly damaging hurricanes, but he has done little to address the human-caused emissions contributing to hotter temperatures.

Farmers’ protests in Europe and the deadend of neoliberalism

By Morgan Ody and Vincent Delobel - La Via Campesina, March 1, 2024

Below is an excerpt from an opinion piece by Morgan Ody and Vincent Delobel of La Via Campesina, which was published on Al Jazeera on February 25th.

These are people who produce Europe’s food – whether conventionally or organically, on a small or a medium scale. They stand united by a shared reality: They are fed up with spending their lives working incessantly without ever getting a decent income.

We have reached this point after decades of neoliberal agricultural policies and free trade agreements. Production costs have risen steadily in recent years, while prices paid to farmers have stagnated or even fallen.

Faced with this situation, farmers have pursued various economic strategies. Some have tried to increase production to compensate for the fall in prices: They have bought more land, invested in machinery, taken on a lot of debt and seen their workload increase significantly. The stress and declining incomes have created a great deal of frustration.

Other farmers have sought better prices for their produce by turning to organic farming and short distribution channels. But for many, these markets collapsed after the COVID-19 pandemic.

All the while, through mergers and speculation, large agroindustrial groups have gotten bigger and stronger, putting increased pressure on prices and practices for farmers.

ECVC has actively taken part in the mobilisations of farmers in Europe. Our members have also been hit hard by dwindling incomes, the stress linked to high levels of debt, and the excessive workload. We clearly see that the European Union’s embrace of WTO-promoted policies of deregulation of agricultural markets in favour of big agribusiness and the destructive international competition are directly responsible for our plight.

Since the 1980s, various regulations that ensured fair prices for European farmers have been dismantled. The EU put all its faith in free trade agreements, which placed all the world’s farmers in competition with each other, encouraging them to produce at the lowest possible price at the cost of their own incomes and growing debt.

In recent years, however, the EU has announced its intention to move towards a more sustainable agricultural model, notably with the Farm to Fork Strategy, which is the agricultural component of the Green Deal.

Farmers’ organisations welcomed this ambition, but we also stressed that the sustainability of European agriculture could not be improved without breaking away from the logic of international competitiveness. Producing ecologically has huge benefits for the health and the planet, but it costs more for the farmers, and so to achieve the agroecological transition, agricultural markets need to be protected. Unfortunately, we were not heard.

An adequate answer to the farmer’s protest: fair prices through strengthening the UTP directive

By Morgan Ody, Andoni Garcia Arriola, Vitor Rodrigues - EuroVia, February 26, 2024

ECVC demands an obligation at the EU level to ensure prices paid to farmers cover the costs of production, including a decent income for the work of farmers and agricultural workers and their social security contributions.

In recent months farmers protests have blocked cities all over Europe. ECVC firmly believes that the Spanish translation of the EU Unfair Trade Practice (UTP) directive is a good way forward to reply to the demand unifying most of the protests: fair prices for farmers’ products. While some other national translation may be interesting, it is only in Spain that this law has been effective and actually made a difference in the price of the farmers: it actually obliges each link of the food chain to cover its production costs, starting with producers. Some key features are developed here, which should be taken up at the EU level of the directive in order to strengthen it.

Through the law, producers have the right to anonymously report anyone who purchases their produce at a price below their production costs, which they self-determine for their products on a case-by-case basis. Thus, purchase of produce at a loss can be punished with a fine of €3,000 to €100,000. It is important to have truly dissuasive fines. Repeat offenders can be fined at a higher rate, from €100,000 to €1 million euros. During the first quarter of 2023, the Spanish government announced that 55 companies had been sanctioned[1] .

An instrument, created by COAG – one of the Spanish member organisations of ECVC and La Via Campesina - in 2008, together with two consumer associations, has been very important in giving transparency to the market:

- The Origin-Destination Price Index (Indice de precios origen-destino - IPOD) publishes an index every month to denounce the abuse of power and the imposition of prices below production costs by industry and distribution. This index started off back in 2008 as an initiative of farmers and consumer organisations, and it illustrated the difference between prices paid to farmers and by consumers. This amounted to more than 500%, indicating that the greatest beneficiaries of market deregulation have been the strongest operators (generally large-scale distribution) and the most disadvantaged were farmers and consumers, for whom prices at source are very low and yet consumers pay a much higher price than they would have to in a regulated market situation.

The core of the law are the two following functional instruments:

- First, the Food Information and Control Agency (FICA) which is the legal body of control, dedicated to collecting anonymously complaints and sanction from farmers, farming organisations, cooperatives and other entities in the chain. It also has its own capacity to carry out ex officio inspections of compliance and execution of contracts, on price abuses, lack of agricultural contracts, failure to meet payment deadlines and other abusive practices. It publishes the sanctions when they are final.

- The Chain Observatory, which is responsible for carrying out price and cost studies along the value chain of each agricultural and animal production. These studies are important as they are part of the possible references for farmers when they negotiate contracts. It also has to publish studies of costs, evolution of consumption and evolution of food prices.

Another key element is that in Spain, contracts – which are obligatory - must be deposited in an official register so that no changes can be made once complaints have been articulated.

The EU should include this high level of public control and price transparency. It should also pay attention to the following elements:
- Prices by law must cover production costs in each link of the chain, starting with the farmer and the cost must include a decent income for farmers and all agricultural workers.
- Selling at a loss is prohibited.
- Farmers must be paid in a maximum of 30 days when they sell a perishable product and 60 days if products are processed.
- Sanctions must be significant if the above points are not complied with.
- Price observatories at national and European levels must provide net margin levels by brand and manufacturer.
- There must be transparency on commercial negotiation conditions.

Finally, this law will not be completely effective without addressing international trade, removing the WTO from agriculture and stopping free trade agreements. A new trade framework based on food sovereignty should be implemented to enable the relocation of agricultural production and prevent national production from competing with imports that maintain low prices. Furthermore these free trade agreements deepen the climate and biodiversity crises and damage food systems in Europe and the rest of the world.

The European Union adopted it last revision of the Directive on Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) in the agricultural and food supply chain in April 2019[2]. The Directive bans certain „Unfair Trading Practices“ imposed unilaterally by one trading partner on another at the EU level in the agricultural and food supply chain. However, even though the directive is a step in the right direction, it does not go so far as to legally cover production costs. As seen in the farmers protest the national implementations did so far not improve the barging power of farmers. Hence ECVC is calling the EU commission to strengthen the directive at EU level and a national implementation based on the chain law in Spain.


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