Category Archives: Outraged!

Old MacDonald’s farm had a WHAT?

There are some unusual “crops” mentioned in the U.S. Farm Bill! Which of the following is regulated by the bill?

A.  Grain to distribute to survivors of disasters
B.  Corn grown to produce biofuel
C.  Field of wheat eligible for a generous government subsidy
D.  All of the above

Answer: D

That’s right. But did you know that these things are all harming communities in the developing world?

Take our quick quiz now to test your knowledge about the global impact of the Farm Bill. The bill is coming up for reform in 2012, and the more we know, the more we can do to make a difference.

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Old Mc’Donald Would be Shocked: The Dark Side of the U.S. Farm Bill

For a piece of legislation with such an innocuous-sounding name, the U.S. Farm Bill sure causes a lot of damage. The Farm Bill impacts food prices and the livelihoods of small-scale farmers in developing countries worldwide. From its guidelines on subsidies to its approach to food aid, this piece of domestic legislation is causing quite a lot of trouble overseas.

For example: after the earthquake in 2010, Haitian rice farmers found themselves in a losing competition with free U.S. rice distributed as food aid. And several years ago, U.S. subsidies for biofuels helped send the price of corn soaring, contributing to a global food crisis in 2008 that left 100 million more people hungry.

In fact, policies in the Farm Bill impact nearly all of the grassroots NGOs and local communities that AJWS works with in developing countries. And unfortunately, they can’t do a thing about it.

But we can.

The Farm Bill is up for revision in 2012, and we have the power to reform it for the better.

I’ll be reaching out to you in the coming months to tell you more about ways to take action. In the meantime, visit our advocacy page to learn more and consider participating in Global Hunger Shabbat, in November.

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I’m Eating Again, But the Fast is Not Over

Yes, I am eating again—but I’m, not eating the same way as before. I started slowly and am using this experience to change my eating habits. So, so far, I’m eating less and lighter, and with more consciousness of my food choices, and of when and where I eat. Hopefully that will continue, and I will continue to fast during the day on Mondays—I fast every day in solidarity with the people of Darfur—for the consciousness that this has brought me these last few years. Read More »

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Some Reflections on the Sensory Nature of Fasting

Many people have asked me what it feels like to fast for a week, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some musings on the sensory nature of this experience. Read More »

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Why I’m Fasting for Food Justice (Part IV)

Someone once wrote that seven meals is all that stands between civilization and anarchy. What a powerful thought. If you think about a society or a community without enough food, where everyone is feeling hungry and edgy, you can easily imagine chaos breaking out, food battles ensuing. I can understand this especially now that I’ve been there—14 “meals” with only liquids (though of course, my voluntary fast is so different than those who do it without a choice). Read More »

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Why I’m Fasting for Food Justice (Part III)

I fast on Yom Kippur and have done so every year of my life. As I grew older, I learned from the passage of Isaiah that we read on that day, that the act of fasting and spiritual repentance is meaningless unless it’s accompanied by moral actions in the world. We are not being asked to fast to focus on ourselves, on our dedication to God or religion or on how refined our souls are becoming. We are being asked to fast to remind ourselves to work harder for justice, to recognize the reality of those on whose behalf we speak out and to take actions to change that reality. Since I learned that, I have made an effort every year at Yom Kippur to ask myself what more I might do to help pursue justice in the world. Read More »

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The Price of Rice

We’ve been posting a lot recently about escalating food prices in the developing world. Here’s yet another report from Reuters:

“Rice prices will likely tick higher on the back of fresh demand from Indonesia and Sri Lanka, but gains will be nowhere near as dramatic as 2008 thanks to ample supplies from top exporters Thailand and Vietnam.

A sustained rise in the price of rice, a staple in the diet of nearly half the world’s population, would squeeze the budgets of millions of Asians living near the poverty line and raise concerns about a repeat of the unrest seen during the 2008 food crisis.

While global food prices have climbed to record highs in recent months, driven largely by shrinking supplies of wheat, corn and oilseeds, analysts and traders polled by Reuters said plentiful rice stocks would keep a lid on prices, despite larger-than-expected purchases by some importers.”

Learn more.

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Let’s Stop Wasting Millions on Food Aid

When I think about international food aid, what comes to mind are the challenges of distribution—who’s getting what and how much of it? But then there are the hidden costs of shipping. A recent IRIN article discusses the results of a Cornell University study that revealed the alarming fact that U.S. taxpayers spend about $140 million every year on non-emergency food aid in Africa. They spend roughly the same amount to ship food aid to global destinations on U.S. vessels.

$280 million. That’s a LOT of money. And the truth? It only benefits a very small constituency at the expense of taxpayers and recipients. Read More »

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Haiti’s Orphans are Still in Crisis. Where’s the Aid When They Need It?

Today’s heart-breaking New York Times story about Haiti’s orphans is a painful reminder of the earthquake’s enduring devastation. The article offers a harrowing portrait of Daphne, a 14-year-old girl who watched her mother’s mangled body get carted away in a wheelbarrow from a shattered marketplace. Daphne then lived in a makeshift orphanage founded by Frades—a grassroots collective that specializes in microloans and began supporting abandoned

and orphaned children after the earthquake. Daphne was just beginning to feel at home until she was claimed by a distant relative.

The article goes on to profile other children who have faced similar hardships—a 13-year-old named Michaelle who lost both of her parents in the earthquake and resides at Frades, cooking for the younger children with whatever food she can procure.

Frades’s board members and volunteers all shared similar thoughts: that even with so many international aid groups in Haiti, sustained help is hard to find. Mattresses, latrines, showers, medical care, psycho-social counselors and, most importantly, a consistent food and water supply are profoundly limited.

Nearly six months after the earthquake, cries for help are falling on deaf ears and efforts to hasten Haiti’s reconstruction have been stalled. It is absolutely unthinkable that countless other Haitian orphans could be profiled in the New York Times six months from now.

Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen. Tell your senators to pass the Haiti Empowerment, Assistance and Rebuilding (HEAR) Act to ensure that Haitians get the long-term aid and attention they need to build a sustainable future.

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What Does Global Finance Have Against African Farmers?

African countries aren’t spending enough on agriculture,IRIN reported last week. And that’s a bad thing:

“Spending money on food production is critical in Africa, where 70 percent of people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for food and income.

There are also going to be more people to feed in Africa in the next few decades. Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is expected to grow faster than elsewhere by 2050, increasing by 910 million people, or 108 percent.”

It is a bad thing, but the article and cited reports don’t go into much detail as to why these governments aren’t investing in agriculture programs. One key reason is that they don’t always have the choice. Powerful International financial organizations (IFIs) like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund frequently required developing countries to cut back government spending – including farm programs – in order for countries to receive desperately needed loans while global trade rules enforced by the World Trade Organization make many types of domestic agricultural policies that protect local farmers from unfair foreign competition “illegal.” This was all done in the name of creating more “open” global markets, yet the United States and other rich countries still heavily support their corporate commodity sector, which then dump products on   developing countries – competing with local farmers who now find it harder to sell their locally-grown food.

Food and Water Watch describes the devastating consequences of this cycle in its report What’s Behind the Global Food Crisis? How Trade Policy Undermined Africa’s Food Self-Sufficiency:

“This low level of agricultural investment cannot generate sustained growth in the farm sector that can provide a base for broader economic growth. Countries reduced or eliminated support for farm credit, seed and fertilizer subsidies, and crop distribution and reserve programs. These programs helped farmers increase agricultural productivity, invest in their operations and promote their crops in regional and export markets. When African governments rapidly withdrew from supporting these farm programs, agricultural productivity declined, as farmers were unable to secure loans, afford high-value seeds and fertilizers, or deliver their crops to more distant markets.”

People in Africa and other countries around the globe aren’t hungry because the world isn’t producing enough food. Along with poor infrastructure and inefficient aid policies, decades of unfair international finance and trade deals are part of a flawed global system that prevents the world’s vast surplus of food from making it to the mouths of hungry families.

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