California fights FoodMaven approach to homemade food

In fight against food waste, FoodMaven could do more harm than good.

California: Do Not Make an Uber Mistake with Homemade Food!

We need you to write letters and make phone calls.

East Bay friends click here for a special East Bay page!

"We should not allow big companies like Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit or Amazon to extract profit as intermediaries of homemade food sales."

“We should not allow big companies like Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit or Amazon to extract profit as intermediaries of homemade food sales.”


TO WRITE: Click to download a template letter

To Contact the Assembly Health Committee:

Assembly Health Committee
State Capitol, Room 6005
Sacramento, California 95814

916.319.2097 phone
916.319.2197 fax

Please also send a copy of your letter to Christina@theselc.org so we can follow up and make sure it was received.

TIPS: We recommend that you do not email your Assembly member through their website contact form. Mailing or faxing a letter is much more effective and if you don’t want to mail or fax a letter (so old fashioned!) you can email your letter as a PDF to Christina@theselc.org and we’ll send it off for you. Phone calls are also very effective. Want to set up a meeting with staff or your Assembly member in your Assembly member’s local office? This is the best way to let them know you really care about an issue. Contact Christina@theselc.org if you’d like assistance with figuring out who to contact them and preparing talking points.

TO CALL: Click here for a phone script and numbers to call.

Want to get more involved?

We need lots of volunteers. Email Christina@theselc.org to get involved. In your email please specify if you have a preference for any tasks you’d like to do such as: writing blogs, public speaking, or talking with people one-on-one or in small groups. And tell us where you live (just your city or county is fine).

 "It's not about legalizing an Uber for food and making rich companies richer; it's about expanding our food options, bringing producers and consumers closer together and supporting livelihoods throughout the food system."


“It’s not about legalizing an Uber for food and making rich companies richer; it’s about expanding our food options, bringing producers and consumers closer together and supporting livelihoods throughout the food system.”

Posted in General Advocacy | Comments

“There shall be a great corporation owning and controlling the foods of this country.”

Milo Reno, President of Iowa Farmers Union speaking to the annual convention of the Kansas Farmers Union
Nov. 18, 1926

Milo Reno 1932

Milo Reno 1932

Milo Reno, President Iowa State Union – “I am aways fortunate. I was born under a lucky star. I always have the opportunity to talk; sometimes it is early and sometimes it is late but you know, I appreciate that and I enjoy it. You people know all about me. I want to find out something about you tonight. I want to get a good line up of this audience. How many of you believe in the Declaration of Independence? I am going to ask you men and women here tonight, how many would die for the principles that the Stars and Strips represent? How many would do that? How many of you would rather go along and each follow the line of least resistance and let the flag take care of itself? What about you people out there in the audience who did not vote either way? You belong in this last class. Oh yes you do.”

“I have asked those questions for a purpose. Not with any irreverence at all, because there have been times in the history of this country of ours when men had to make that decision and when women had to decide. It was not a battle of groups or classes but a battle of the American people; the citizenship of this country. There is not a man or woman in this audience but what, if you will go back far enough, you will find your fathers came from some old country to the United States of America. Some of you are German; some of you are English; and I imagine, if my recollection serves me right, I heard some Scotchmen; also some French, as I am.”

“Everyone came over here for one principle. To get away from the tyranny and the bigotry and oppression of the mother country. When they came to this country and organized the 13 colonies or established the 13 colonies, they only had one thought in their minds: to get away from the two forces that had been most instrumental in oppressing them. They did not know anything about bonds in those days. They did not know anything about any oppression movement except the bigotry and oppression of the Nobility.”

“They did not know anything about any oppression movement except the bigotry and oppression of the Nobility.”

“Each of them, perhaps, equally to blame for the peoples unhappiness and the very first things your fathers did when they had the opportunity to express themselves was to not only try to get away from those conditions but to make it impossible for them to be forced on their children or their children’s children. The consequence was, when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, that no American should accept the title of Nobility from any foreign country; they were protecting the men and women of today from the divine right of kings to rule. The other thing they did was to abolish the law of the kings. They would try to provide for you and I, making it possible for you and I to be citizens of the soil; to get away from the landlord and tenant way of living. Because of their desire, the Declaration of Independence was formed.”

“I want to say to you tonight, in this year of our Lord, 1926, the American people, to a man, will be compelled to decide as to whether we are going to maintain the government of the fathers or whether we are unable to meet the challenge of the world today and under which we are living. For the first time in the history of this nation, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are being directly assaulted.”

“There are just two programs being presented to the American people. Only two. One is the program of the Farmers Union similar to the one Woodrow Wilson spoke of in his book “The New Freedom,” before he had been bound by the politicians, and the programs of the exploiters. The two programs are very similar in some things. They have both been carefully worked out. Every step that has been taken by either of the groups has been carefully thought out and earnestly brought before the American people. You know a railroad that has not a terminal does not amount to much. Any organization that has not an objective does not amount to anything. A program, to be of use to the American people, must have a terminal. Both of the programs have an objection or terminal. One, the program of the exploiters of the common people today, has as its objective the entire obliteration of the American farm homes. The objective of the one program has the extermination of the American farm homes as a factor in the economic establishment of this country.”

“The objective of the one program has the extermination of the American farm homes as a factor in the economic establishment of this country.”

“The program of the great common people of this country, yours and mine, has “cost of production” for the farmer. This is your program. There are no others but these two. Men may misrepresent them; attempt to mislead you, but there are just these two programs.”

“You people here voted that you all believed in the Declaration of Independence. How many public schools in the state of Kansas teach to the scholars of that school the Declaration of Independence? How many do you think do? How many of you people here can give me the three fundamental principles contained in that Declaration of Independence? How often have you thought it over? Earnestly considered it. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.’ I wonder how many who held up their hands when they said they believed in the Declaration of Independence, how many were in earnest and had considered their vote carefully.”

“How many believe that any people in the world that has two groups of society, one group rolling in the wealth with all the degradation and debauch that the great accumulation of wealth carries with it, and the other side, the impoverished group, that is toiling and sweating to maintain the wealthy group? How many believe it is possible for a people to be happy under those conditions? It is an absolute impossibility. It never has occurred in this worlds history nor never will. Never in this wide world.”

“Here in the United States of America, the agricultural group that has contributed 50 percent of the nation’s wealth and income for over half a century, what have you to show for it? Indebtedness of $90.00 an acre on the land in the state of Iowa. I do not know how much you have here in Kansas. Not quite so much. About $2700 an acre, I think. Your mortgaged homes. This group that has contributed half the income in the United States as an object of pity from the other group. Why? You have got to answer that question some time, some where. You people have got to determine those things.”

“I drove out east of Des Moines the other day. I passed a Country Club. There is not only one Country Club at Des Moines, there are three. This was the newest one. The last one to be established. It cost a hundred thousand dollars. A little group of men in Des Moines built it. You drive on down through the streets of Des Moines and you see the great sky scrapers there. Go to the cities; the great centers of population, and there you see the evidences and destruction. You see the prosperity that has followed the organized efforts of certain groups and you farmers of Kansas, Iowa, and the great middle west have to organize. You get the answer definitely and decisively and you will be compelled to make the sacrifice necessary if you ever win or succeed. You will answer the question as to what the conditions of agriculture will be in the future in this county. When you speak of the future of agriculture in the United States, you speak for the world over.”

“When you speak of the future of agriculture in the United States, you speak for the world over.”

“You are the dominating force in the production of foods. Somebody has said they could not believe there was any group of men in the United States that would purposely obliterate the American farm homes. The farm home has been the backbone of this and every other nation from time eternal. It has been the farm home that has produced and furnished the boys who have worn the uniforms of the United States in every war that the United States has been engaged in. When they think, it was those boys who paid the debts. It is unthinkable to the average mind that any group of men would set out to destroy agriculture in the United States as we know it and love it. That is their program and it has been carefully put in operation today. Why do they want to do that? In their greed for power and wealth, they have concluded that to be necessary. In order to make this country the greatest industrial country of the world, control the industry and commerce, they have decided it is necessary that the farm home, as a unit, shall go. There shall be a great corporation owning and controlling the foods of this country.”

“There shall be a great corporation owning and controlling the foods of this country.”

“Just following the tail of the serpent, the first establishment of the Rockefeller Foundation until now, John D. Rockefeller is one of the big millionaires. This country has produced many millionaires who had wonderful minds along their lines. He is one millionaire who had the mind to look ahead and work out the problems, not only for this generation but for the generations to come. When John D. Rockefeller established his foundation fund, it was because he was aware of some economic truths.”

“No Democracy can continue with great accumulations of wealth.”

“No Democracy can continue with great accumulations of wealth. Do not forget that. Do not let it make you think I am a Socialist because I am saying these things. I am saying them because they are true. No democracy and great accumulation of wealth can long travel side by side.”

“John D. Rockefeller knew that. He reasoned it out. Then established his Foundation. In order to pass on from generation to generation the wealth he had accumulated by taking unto himself the great natural resources, he decided to undermine the peoples faith in Democracy, their confidence in self-government. He put the machinery in operation to do this. You remember so well when the Government asked you for your boys to take a part in the world war and they handed you the consolation that your boys were being called to the uniform to make the world safe for Democracy. I am not saying this with any criticism of our activities of the world war. I am going, step-by-step, as it happened. Let me assure you of another thing. The signatures of the armistice were not yet dry until they started scattering this propaganda. Three ex-Governors of the state of Iowa publicly ridiculed the idea of Democracy, and each of them delivered those messages within eight months of the signing of the Armistice. One man said Democracy, or anything approaching it, was dangerous.”

“The Saturday Evening Post came under the influence of the Rockefeller Foundation and supported one of the Trustees for President of the United States. Herbert Hoover’s picture was on the front cover. I am telling you history. I know it. John D. Rockefeller did not come down here and buy the Arkansas City Traveler. He did not go up to Kansas City and buy the Star. He did not go over into Iowa and buy any of those papers; he did not want them; he could not use them. They were not of any use to him. He got the Saturday Evening Post, the oldest and most reliable magazine in the United States. Not long ago, I stood by the tomb of Benjamin Franklin, who founded the Saturday Evening Post in 1734 and I wondered if the spirit that has gone on knew what was happening here. How it is possible for the spirit of Benjamin Franklin to remain entombed when the publication he established was used to destroy the liberty of the American people. The Saturday Evening Post carried a three page article from K. L. Roberts in which he renounced Democracy when he said the Government was controlled by the turbulents.”

“They organized a little paper for you, to reach the farmers. They called it the Country Gentleman. Sounds nice, don’t it? Did you sign a petition and send it over to John D. Rockefeller and the Curtis Publishing Company and tell them we did not have any farm papers in the middle west? Did you tell them, we want you to publish us a real American publication and send it to our homes? You did not do that but you got it. How did they get it to you? They got it to you through appointive officers that drew their salaries from public taxation. They went into your schools and made them subscription agencies for the Country Gentleman. The county superintendent and the county agent came down and made a proposition to the professor of the schools, that they give a little prize to the one who got the greatest amount of subscriptions for the Country Gentleman. My little nephew was trying for one of the prizes. When I came into his home, the proposition was put up to me. Wanted me to subscribe for the magazine. I was mad. I told that child to go tell that professor that we were going to put on a campaign for subscriptions to the Appeal to Reason. We passed a law in Iowa prohibiting that kind of stuff. Why did they want the Country Gentleman to get into the homes of the farmers? In Iowa, we have a number of papers and here in Kansas you have all kinds of agricultural magazines. Nobody needed the John D. Rockefeller Foundation to publish a paper for the middle west. Why did they do it? They wanted to reach you with their stuff. They wanted to undermine your faith to conduct your own affairs.”

“They wanted to undermine your faith to conduct your own affairs.”

“In the Country Gentleman that was issued with that Saturday Evening Post I told you of, it contained an editorial and recommended that this nation use the short ballot from now on and that the county officers should be appointed, and attacked the idea that the great common people of this country were competent to run their own affairs. In the Declaration of Independence, it says, that all just governments receive their power from the consent of the governed. Abraham Lincoln said your job and mine was to keep this government free; for the people and by the people. You cannot enslave a man who believes in his ability to govern himself. You can get to a place where you can compel them to a revolution but you cannot enslave them. You have to break down their self respect – his self reliance, before you can do that. You have to first teach them that some man has been endowed by the Creator to govern them better than they can govern themselves. Abraham Lincoln made this statement, that God Almighty never made a man good enough to rule his fellow men. Before they can enslave the American people, they must destroy the American confidence in themselves to conduct their own affairs. Another thing that will never happen. You will never entirely enslave a man as long as he has access to the soil.”

“You will never entirely enslave a man as long as he has access to the soil.”

“If I was to gov over and spit on John Tromble’s new shoes, there would be a fight right now. He would not stand for that. He had a good supper tonight and is feeling fine. Suppose he did not have a good supper and had not had one for several days and I would spit on him then, he would not be so sensitive then. It is the food that is attracting your attention. The group of men who intend to enslave the world fully realize that before you can enslave the American citizen, you have to control his food supplies and you never can control his food supply as long as he has access to the soil. You can not do it.”

“These programs I am bringing you here tonight; the other fellows program is to destroy your confidence in yourself, yours, that you can do things. They tell you you cannot raise hogs as good as I can. You need an overseer. You ought to have his advise. Do people for one minute think the Extension Service of the United States was established to increase production? For 50 years you produced such an abundant surplus that it has bankrupt you? It is not the economists in this country who do not know that is true. Your surplus is a problem today just as it was years ago. The farmers have produced such an abundance that there has never been a scarcity of food. No other nation can show a record like that. Do you think the Extension Service of this country was established to assist you to produce more? It was established for just one thing. That was to destroy your confidence in yourself. If we should stop here, just as far as we have gone, every reasonable mind knows that that is true. When you consider it in the light of the things that have happened year after year since the establishment of that institution, it proves it, conclusively. Henry Ford broke right out in print and said what it leads to. The Dearborn Independent, his paper, says the day of the little farmers is passed. That he was a back number. That the agricultural future of this country should be in corporations holdings. Such a strong wave of protest went over the country. You did not hear anything more from him until the Herald Examiner of Chicago opened their front page to him and then he commenced a series of articles, whether you like it or not, saying corporation would own and control the products of the land. He told you why. It was very necessary to farm efficiency. It would eliminate the waste of the little farmer that we have today. Corporations would control the productions of the food in the future. It would take only about 30 days to do that and the other 11 months that you have been loafing, they would put you to work in some factory. Everyone who read that article remembered it. If he was the only one who took that position, we would say it was one of his dreams, the same as his peace ship expedition.”

Reno 1934

Reno 1934

“H.L. Meneken, noted American author, takes the same stand. He says it is a crime to permit the production of food to remain in the hands of those so ignorant. If they were the only two who take that position, it would not be so serious. It is the August number of the Manufacturers Record. Articles and Editorials from that magazine are read into the Congressional Records. It is the mouth piece of the Industrial world today. There is an article by Mr. O’Neill there in which he states that corporation control is the only sensible way and efficient way to produce human foods in the future. One of his arguments in favor is that corporations will build their own mills, have their own stores, gin their own cotton, build and operate their fertilizing plants, control their light plants, etc. It will be the biggest business in the world: Agriculture. Every department he had in his program contained a place for an expert. If he was the only one, if it was only Henry Ford and Meneken O’Neill in the Manufacturers Record, it would not be so serious.”

“The program of O’Neill is being put into operation. We have a corporation under the name of the Fairway Farms Corporation in Montana, financed by the Rockefeller Foundation money and in their initial publication, they stated to the public they were ready for the establishment of this corporation. They said the Fairway Farms Corporation was established to demonstrate to society that the proper way to produce food in this country was on the landlord and tenant basis. They intend to link up with the Secretary of Agriculture’s Department of Montana and the Agricultural Experts. Down in Iowa, we call them County Agents. I had the satisfaction, last December, of addressing a wonderful meeting in Billings, Montana, when their Secretary of Agriculture sat in the front row and I asked him the question, after reading that part of the Article I quoted to you, if they intended the Rockefeller Foundation to take his Department in the State of Montana and if he intended to be made a part, at least, of the program to take the farms in the state of Montana that way. He said, ‘of course’, but he lied. He lied. They are doing it right along.”

“I spoke at Borderview, Montana in the early days of July. Went over from the Black Hills. He had a wonderful audience. They drove 150 miles, some of them to that meeting. We did not have any politicians there. I started at 1:00 and spoke until after 3:00 in the afternoon. I noticed them, every once in a while when I was outlining the Fairway Farms Corporation and what it meant to them and there would be a smile go over the faces of my audience. I found that on my left was the General Manager of the Fairway Farms Corporation. I said the men who intend to abolish the homes of the farmers were traitors 1,000 times blacker than Benedict Arnold or Jefferson Davis ever were.”

“In Henry Fords program, he does not see anything bad about that. He only sees the world through the reflection of the dollar. He only ridges men through the dollar. His heart and soul and mind has become a thoroughfare along that line. You can forgive him. Meneken with all his ability and his soul; he believes he belongs to a crowd that is superior to the common herd. You can forgive them because it is only what you would expect from that kind of a character. You can forget the contribution to the Manufacturers Record. It represents a group that only sees in the future an industrial nation. Agriculture is only a means to that end. They have no sentiment about our farm homes only to see the power they can have and the control it will give them by industrializing the United States and penalizing the American farmers. The men I cannot forgive and the men I will not forgive are those paid servants pledged to industry. Down in Iowa, we pay $7,500,000 out of our state treasury every two years to maintain the Agricultural College at Ames, and others. We have a lot of people employed down there. We have some wonderful minds in that institution. We have an Agricultural economist. He does not teach you to make two blades of grass grown where one grew before. He tells you how to make money out of what you do grow. He is a brilliant man. We do not pay a dollar too much for the services of Dr. Holmes.”

“He addressed the bankers at Sioux City, Iowa, not long ago. There were some he did not talk to. The warden of the penitentiary would not let some of them out. To the ones who were there, C.L. Holmes, the farmers chief economist, outlined a program for agriculture and he could speak with authority as your representative and servant. We pay him to look after the economic end of agriculture. Either of the three propositions Dr. Holmes presented to the state bankers association, if put into operation, would eliminate the farm home. Two were all day suckers. The meat was in his last proposition. They were, first, the farmer establish an association and they all put their land in and start and pay so much an acre and hire an AGRICULTURAL EXPERT to operate them.”

“He knew it was almost impossible to organize the farmers into a real farm organization. It is a hard task and he knows Gabriel will blow his horn before he could organize the farmers into an organization of that kind. The second was that the farmers organize great financial corporations to acquire title to the land in the middle west and they operate them as corporations under the management of an AGRICULTURAL EXPERT. In all their propositions, they have a page for the AGRICULTURAL EXPERT to tell you farmers how to farm. Mr. Holmes knows that is possible and what is impossible. Why did not he say organize a financial corporation and take the transportation lines of this country? An organization that represents $73,000,000. There is not a man or woman who has a wish for fairness, does not know Mr. Holmes was handling them an all day sucker. Suppose his second proposition was possible, what would have become of the American farm home? Even if the farmer had been able to form a corporation to acquire title to land in this country and it was operated as outlined, where is your American farm home? His last proposition was the one. Great corporations were to be formed to acquire title to the land and they were to be operated on the landlord plan. These operators were under the direct supervision and control of an AGRICULTURAL EXPERT. Told at last.”

“These operators were under the direct supervision and control of an AGRICULTURAL EXPERT.”

“You know, I rode 120 miles in a little Ford car with the President of the Farmers Union of Montana, Jim O’Shay. He told me of the horrors of the landlord system in Ireland.”

“You people are being asked no money for Ford, Meneken, O’Neill and Rockefeller to establish a landlord system in this country. The men who are supposed to represent agriculture and stand for agricultural interests are proposing the landlord tenant system in this country fled years ago. When you destroy the farm homes you have undermined our constitution. You have spit on the American farmer and the Declaration of Independence, just as sure as the sun rises tomorrow in the East.”

“Mr. Homes did not stop with a recommendation but he said in that address that already there had been many corporations of that kind form – I and they were proving successful. The program has not only been thought out but it is being put in force day after day.”

“There are some things I know and some things I do not know. I do not know if you have the peasants heart or not. I do not know whether you are going to sit down and allow these things to occur. I do not know whether you are going to bed led by the politicians first one way and then another. Are you going to allow these people to effect you or not? Have you the heart of an American gentleman or peasant?”

“Have you the heart of an American gentleman or peasant?”

“I know another thing. Every one of you, sometime in the future, are going to face those fathers of yours who stained the snow red with the blood from their feet at Valley Forge and may God help you, when you say to them you developed the heart of a servant or peasant and let your liberty be taken away from you. God help you, if that is the heart you have in you. I have no particular interest in making you people love me. You will either love me or you will go to hell. There is no place in the scriptures for anybody who does not love his brother. Now, you all love your brothers. I am your brother and you have to love me. I am telling you the truth as I see it. I am telling you the program as I know it. The consequences as I believe them. If I did not, I would not be standing here.”

“The other program is the program of the Farmers Union. I am saying this without the least jealousy or hatred or envy in my heart for any other people; the Farmers Union is the only organization in the United States today that can prevent the program I have outlined to you. If there is any other group who has a program that is workable, name it because I want to learn. Somebody says the Republican party. I expect that fellow who was up here tonight would say the Democratic party. May God help the American farmer when he gives his future to the hands of a political party.”

“May God help the American farmer when he gives his future to the hands of a political party.”

“I want you to understand that you, and you alone, can determine the things that are necessary for your existence and happiness. You can put in operation what you need and want.”

“Over in Oklahoma where they have taught non-partisan politics, they have two Republican Senators. Down in Arkansas they have two Democratic Senators. They joined hands and sources in the fight to unset Brookhart. I have heard Democratic politicians making speeches and they said the only hope to be had was in the Democratic party. Same with the Republican. The Republicans told the Farmers Union of Oklahoma, send us to the United States Senate if you want to preserve your liberty. Human selfishness and ambition control politics. Here in the state of Kansas, you have a member of Congress, who was so non-partisan that he thought you did not know what you wanted and voted against the McNary-Haugin Bill; a Congressman went over to the same group and spit in the faces of the farmers of Kansas. You have an ex-Gov. Allen. I do not know whether he ever told the truth, by accident or not; he tells lies about the farmers of Kansas and the farmers of Iowa. I know when Henry Allen said the only hope of Iowa farmers had was another world war, that was not the truth. He insulted the intelligence of every man in the United States, let alone in Iowa. No man like that could ever be elected to the governorship of the state of Kansas from any worth of his own. They say the only hope for the farmers of the state of Iowa is to get out. There is not a man in the state of Iowa who has little enough respect for himself to make a statement like Henry Allen made. That the condition of the Iowa farmers was because of speculation in land and extravagance of living. I do not know whether he knew any better or not. If he did not, he will not got to Hell. A man has to have some sense to go there.”

“Henry Wallace will tell you that only 7% of the farmers of Iowa became involved because of land transactions. Here is what happened in Iowa. Somebody went out and bought a little piece of land. It was gambled in. That land changed hands and the owner made a little money. The land changed hands many times and each time a little money was made or lost. Then they went out and said that the whole state of Iowa was being bought and sold. In one county in 7 ½ miles, there were just two farms that had changed hands. I have two farms and I never sold an acre or bought an acre at that time. It was the bankers and their speculators who speculated in Iowa land. Anybody can find that out if they only try. Go to the records. If you write to Mr. Jardine, Secretary of Agriculture, from your own state, he will verify that statement. All of this noise you have heard about Iowa farmers was one farm going through the hands of the speculator. The same man is gambling in your wheat, your corn, your pork, your beef, and every product of the American farm.”

“The same man is gambling in your wheat, your corn, your pork, your beef, and every product of the American farm.”

“I stopped the other day and watched and listened to the men at the grain exchange. It sounded more like bedlam than I ever heard in my life. I have heard every kind of noise on the face of the earth but I never heard anything in the wide world like the noise those men made, buying and selling your wheat. Just buying and selling. I said, poor as I am, I would give $1000.00 if I could get that noise across to the American farmer and make him listen to it. The same man is backed by the banking interests of this country who gambled with Iowa land. Henry Allen would not stand on this platform and say anything different, when I am on the platform, either.”

“The program of the Farmers union is sound and it has an objective. I was in the office of the Secretary of Agriculture, and I asked if he believed in Government price fixing. He said no, he did not want to jeopardize the American products by allowing price fixers to fix the price. The only persons who have the right is the men and women who produce them. Do you know it would be dangerous if the farmer would organize to fix the price on farm products. Do you think so? I do not. I said to him again; there is just one fair basis to all groups of society on which to determine the price of human food and that is the cost of production. That is the program of the Farmers Union. If the farmer would ask you to buy a machine at less than it cost to produce it, it is unfair. If the farmers of the United States would ask to buy clothes to cover their backs at less than it costs to produce them, it is unfair. If the other group will not pay “cost of production” for foods, it is unfair. When the farmer asked for a fair price, with cost of production, it is the only fair thing to do. We might just as well meet these things fair and square. That is your objective. Who is responsible for it? Then Farmers Union. Seven years ago at the State Meeting in Iowa I introduced a resolution from the floor of that convention and I meant it word for word. The resolution was thus resolved, that the farmer has the right to cost of production, plus a profit.”

“The resolution was thus resolved, that the farmer has the right to cost of production, plus a profit.”

“What they did not say about me, they did not say. That is all. They said the most nice things about me and to me. I am living to see the day when 24 producers groups of farmers have endorsed that resolution. Your organization was responsible for it. That is your program. You believe in cost of production for the farmer. Every step that has been taken has been responsible and logical. After the 24 groups of farmers agreed it was sound, that agriculture had to have cost of production, the next step was to ascertain what it was. Your organization accepted the responsibility. John Tromble was in the meeting when they made me the chairman of that committee. I appealed to them to appoint some man as chairman of that committee who had the time to give to that service. They refused to do that. I am sorry to say, some of them said, ‘it is your bill, now be daddy to it.’ I served notice on them, do not think this committee will not report. We will report for every state that will permit us to come in and get the figures. We took our cost of production sheets on two different occasions before the committee that has grown to 36 instead of 24 organizations that had endorsed this. It was so fair and unassailable that they could not refuse to accept it. The first thing I did when I selected the man to obtain the cost of production was to ask the members of the different organizations to send their representatives to Des Moines. Ames Agricultural College sent Dr. Holmes and Professor Thompson. They asked: how are you going to get this information? Are you going to take some particular place or are you going to take the farm as a whole and make them part of production costs, bearing it’s just proportion of loss and just proportion of income? Mr. Holmes objected to that and for two hours he objected to it. I said to him, if you insist on ascertaining cost of production on any other basis than considering the American farm home as a factory. I am serving notice on you, the time will come when the American farmer will demand the truth.”

“I am serving notice on you, the time will come when the American farmer will demand the truth.”

“The American farmers consist of 33 percent of the population of this nation. 66 percent of the children that make men and women of this nation come from the farms. I said more than that to Mr. Holmes. Out of the $74,000,000.00 debts in this country, the farmer has to pay every dollar of them. No other group will ever pay a dollar of that. Agriculture has to pay it. When the farmer is organized, he will demand that a sinking fund be made to absorb the debts of this country. He went away and never did come back. These cost of production sheets have been open to the entire world. The group who has made these figures and asked for their release and criticism has been your group. It is your organization, the Farmers Union, who will compel action to be taken. Your organization has invited every other group of citizens to set around the table and help us determine whether those figures were fair or not. No other group has ever done that.”

“The packers have a ruling from the Supreme Court saying they cannot go in and investigate their business. We want cost of production and we are building the organization to get it. The first shipping Association built in the state of Kansas, was it built to put some dealer out of business? You have outgrown that now, haven’t you? The first shipping Association was organized that the control and ownership of the livestock should be more in your own hands. You will never control the price until you control the product. Henry Ford controls his cars all the way to the distributor, from his factory until it reaches its driver. He controls the repairs, etc. too. You pay him what he asks. You have to build the same kind of sales agency. Say it costs this much to produce wheat, this much to produce corn, etc. You have to get control of the products before you can control the price. Why did you build this Livestock Commission Company at Kansas City? The object was to retain control of your livestock. When the Farmers Union controls at least 40 percent of the receipts of the terminal markets, they will fix the price. Do no doubt it. It is true of every step the Farmers Union has taken. It is true of your life insurance. It is true of you fire insurance and your other branches. The Farmers Union Life Insurance was the last stand of the American farmer for economic independence. Take two men. One is a good farmer who belongs to the Farmers Union, the other is a good farmer who does not. They both have $8,000.00 mortgages on their farms. The one borrowed from the bank. The Farmers Union member borrowed from his own life insurance company. Do you think the Farmers Union Life Insurance Company will let that member lose his farm? The man who borrowed part of his own money back. No, they will not. Do you think the Farmers Union of Iowa accepts the responsibility of building a life insurance company? We organized it so, instead of sending the millions of dollars out of the state, that you retained control of your surplus and reserve in your own hands. That is why we organized the Farmers Union Mutual Life Insurance Company.”

“Every step of the Farmers Union has been with an object. It is to build up machinery so you can control your own products. You have a problem to solve.You cannot get away from the responsibility. It is only a question of courage. Only a question of waiting.”

“Two or three weeks ago I was in Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence was signed. I sat down where General Washington worshiped. I thought. I went out and sat down at the foot of one of the monuments there, and I wondered why the American farmer, the biggest force in this nation, don’t do something; when a little handful of men, long ago, absolutely pledged their lives and fortunes to the success of that cause. They fought it out to a successful conclusion. They only won through the providence of God. You are willing at all times to grant to every other group every privilege you are asking for yourselves. Get those privileges for yourselves. When you do that, no power in the world can stop you. It is all up to you. You have to have the heart and the courage. In the solving of your problems, you have not given the full measure of devotion or the full measure of sacrifice until you have given life itself, if necessary. I said once to Mr. Brasted, I wonder if you realize all of your responsibility. Iowa is watching Kansas. You have to make a success. You have to make a success of your banking program. We are waiting for your people to demonstrate their ability. You cannot get away from that responsibility. We just as well meet these things fair. It is not a matter of appearance, it is a matter of earnestness and loyalty of principles we have been talking about. You are the only group who can solve that problem. It is heartbreaking when we see the opposition to the Farmers Union when it is the only hope for the farmers and for agriculture. If the farmers only knew that your organization today is the one block that stands between them and absolute obliteration; if they realized that, this room would not have held the people.”

“I want to pay tribute to the state of Kansas. It has been an inspiration to Iowa as well as Oklahoma. Your leadership has been an inspiration. I want to say this of John Tromble. There has been several times in the last 18 months that I wondered just what was going to happen and I began to look around for the man who I could depend on in an emergency and I always turned to him. You do not have to wonder how or where he stands. The first man who always finished in my mind is John Tromble of Kansas.”

“I thank you.”

—courtesy of Tom Giessel

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In fight against food waste, FoodMaven could do more harm than good

March 27, 2017

FoodMaven

It’s early Friday morning on a summer day in the Arkansas Valley. The small farmer, already sweating and tired from picking, cleaning and boxing his produce, feeding the hogs and other animals, and changing the irrigation water, is loading his worn out truck with the day’s deliveries. One hundred miles later he arrives at his first drop in Colorado Springs. A shiny new delivery truck is blocking the alley at the rear of the locally owned restaurant. The farmer, with evening chores waiting, is hurrying to make his deliveries. As he waits, he’s thinking a truck like that sure would be nice, especially with its comfortable seat and air conditioning. He’s told to wait until the truck finishes unloading. Surprised and confused, the farmer sees his very own produce, in his own boxes, coming off the truck – the same produce he delivered earlier in the week to a retail grocery store customer. The restaurant buyer, cigarette dangling from his lips, happily picks through the half-priced produce, thinking about his menu. Excited to see cheap items that will greatly reduce his food cost, he rejects the farmer’s order and sends him on his way.

Unfortunately, the same shiny new truck appears at other stops throughout the day. Finally back home after dark and finished with chores, the farmer sorts through his mail. Along with bills and some junk there’s an envelope from the retail grocery store, the same customer that gave his produce away to the competitor he saw parked at many of the same restaurants earlier in the day!

In the envelope is a bill demanding payment for what the retail margin would have been had his produce sold. At least the hogs will be happy, he mutters to himself. They won’t care that their meal just traveled 200 miles before returning to where it began. Wife and kids already asleep, there’s no supper waiting and it will be another short night as he prepares to head back to the Springs for the farmers market early the next morning, where shoppers will pick through his produce, leaving behind whatever is blemished or bruised, on their way to a weekend soccer game.

Bitter reality behind the “farm to table” fable

This snapshot of a day in the life of a small farmer shows why the retail-to-restaurant concept of grocery stores dumping excess inventories on the restaurant and institutional food sector is so damaging, and yet so brilliant, for the modern food industry. Big retailers like the appearance of abundance, with their overflowing colorful displays. Most of what the big food retailers sell is very cheap, high margin, industrially produced food. Waste is calculated into their margins and into what they are willing to pay their suppliers. In many cases, the farmer is a vendor who helps finance the retailer, taking payment only if the product sells, and likely with considerable delay.

The retail-to-restaurant model is similar to Walmart’s relationship to the dollar stores, except better. Dumping their waste into the food service sector doesn’t compete with new sales. None of these players have any interest in increasing what the farmer gets for what he produces; they are all in the business of driving prices to unrealistic lows.

Also, it’s a win-win for big grocery retailers if their waste can be used to destroy the local/regional farm-to-table food movement, which they see as a threat, since it exists outside of their control and reduces their monopoly power.

Treating the symptom not the problem

Big Food’s monopoly has eliminated the critical supply and demand relationship between food producers and consumers. Farmers know that over-production, especially of a perishable product, kills the price. A cabbage farmer from New York State once said, “If I have any cabbage in excess of my demand, I’m better off plowing it under, lest I destroy the price for all my cabbage. At least I’m feeding my soil.”

Multinational agribusiness firms have monopolized the marketplace. They write farming, food and trade policy. They leverage farmer against farmer, region against region, and country against country to drive commodity prices as low as possible. As a result their foreign food — including rotten beef from Brazil and chicken from China — has far easier access to the lucrative U.S. markets than our own family farmers.

Since the 1996 farm bill, corporate controlled farm policy has promoted a heavily industrialized, “get bigger or get out,” strip-mining approach to farming that incentivizes farmers to plant from “fence row to fence row.” This over-production has provided cheap commodities to middlemen processors, distributors, and retailers who have posted shamefully high profits year after year, at the direct expense of farmers, ranchers and consumers. This failed policy has created massive food waste, while contributing to farmer bankruptcies, loss of rural communities, historic soil loss, environmental degradation and declining human health.

A new-fangled tech start-up, modeled on “Uber” or “Airbnb,” doesn’t address the real problem of food waste. In fact, from the scene described above it’s easy to see how it ends up undercutting the farmers who make farm-to-table and truly good local food possible. Wonderful non-profit organizations like Colorado Springs Food Rescue and Seeds Community Café are already addressing the distribution problem of how to get leftover food to those who need it, and they are doing it with great dedication and efficiency. Those organizations deserve our unwavering support.

In contrast, the opportunistic mindset behind FoodMaven, of using steeply discounted food to make a buck, will only make it more difficult to re-localize, re-humanize and regenerate healthy food systems in the long run.

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Agriculture – Five areas that demand urgent attention!

The Faith, food and the Environment document offers five urgent areas to be addressed if we are to reduce global poverty and hunger:

Globalization of Industrialized Agriculture — the world market and expanded industrialized methods forces many local family and small-scale farmers off their land and into poverty. This is occurring both in developing countries and here in the U.S.
Financialization — agriculture is increasingly and exclusively thought of in terms of profit only, which may result in many short-sighted practices which have harmful results.
Agricultural Knowledge and Technology — new technology has created solutions to many perplexing problems, but often the implementation threatens ecological sustainability. Additionally, large agribusinesses may be driving the research at the expense of smaller operations.
Technocracy — an overemphasis on examination of problems only through technical perspectives which often prevents consideration of larger human concerns.
Ecological Impacts and Balances — excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has often resulted in degradation of the natural environment. This has not only harmed the poor and marginalized members of society, but it also threatens long-term ecological sustainability.

FoodMaven’s approach to addressing food waste violates more or less every one of the five areas the document sites as critical in feeding the world.

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The history of agriculture the world over has been a tragedy.

The Kansas Union Farmer, 1923

Building the Farmers’ Union, The Farmer’s Job

While the farmer has been paying dear for his information the fact is finally dawning upon him that his boasted individualism and self-reliance are suicidal and that he must have organization if he is to stop his rapid descent toward the abyss of serfdom. That unifying his forces will assist him, few will deny, but many are wondering what that organization is going to be and from whence it is to come. The average farmer has put about as much time and effort in building an organization for himself as he has in counting the stars or building aeroplanes and yet he wonders why he has not got an organization, and possibly repeats something he heard once about “won’t stick.”

A few men get together and from a Wall Street, oil, steel or meat Trust, Cotton, Grain or Livestock exchange, etc. etc. as they see fit, while farmers by the millions kneel at their feet to pay them tribute and homage. If we want an organization ready-made, handed to us on a platter, all we need to do is send in our order for it is ready to be served by those who now rule us, but those who think they see any relief in that program, provided they are sincere, are to be pitied.

The history of agriculture the world over has been a tragedy for the ample reason that the tiller of the soil has not appreciated the significance and value of that efficient instrument and weapon organization.

That the producer should be serf to the non-producer is ridiculous, yet that has been the rule the world over, until in studying the life histories of nations, we note that the downfall and degradation of agriculture precedes the burning out of each civilization through highly developed centers of exploitation.

While organization among men found its inception, probably in the motive of robbery, and while there has been no great departure from the original program as to purpose, it is high time that lock where placed on the hen house door and enough mass action to call a halt on the legalized pillaging of agriculture so as to make production a little more profitable and exploitation a little more precarious.

America sure has been the grafter’s paradise, but with the bankruptcy mills now running three shifts, with the worst yet to come, it is quite apparent that through the recent confiscatory deflation, the assassin on the Hudson thrust his dagger with deadly aim, and that it is going to take more than a mere palliative to restore peace and prosperity.

The time is ripe for the building of the Farmers’ Union, and it is up to every farmer to lend a hand. If there is a hatchet between two neighbors that looks like a mountain, reverse the telescope of prejudice and proceed with the burial. The farmers of the east and south are whipped to a standstill right now and the halter tied while the guns of the enemy are trained on us of the middle west, and while we are fooling away our time on production, they with all the agencies at their control through exploitation and confiscation are seeking to force the last remnants of independent, self-reliant agriculture into bankruptcy, preparatory to the new regime of universal landlordism and tenancy, in this land of the free and home of the brave.

What is our recourse? We are up against a money system that is impossible, one that will bankrupt the world, which will be immaterial to those that control it. Our only defense is our labor and the product or same so it behooves us to prepare to meet mass action with mass action and demand for agriculture a profitable basis, the first step of which is “cost of production” or no sale which will require state and national marketing agencies without a unified group and interest back of same in at least ridiculous. Some would enlist the services of those who deal in farm commodities but they are simply interested in commissions and profits. So it is up to the farmer class to stand as a unit where he can demand his rights both economically and politically or lose his identity in the great mass of the world peasantry. A not unusual statement from those who contemplate the farmer is “I’m afraid if he got the power he would go too far” which is an unconscious admission that there is no power like his if he only knew it, and should use it, but even so what would he do with his power? Buy too much of the products of labor? Build himself a real home with all its furnishings and live like a white man?

As long as a farmer sells for less than the cost of production, he is digging a big grave, for he knows that wherever he goes he is sure of a lot of company. The Union would change the farmer from a grave digger to a nation-builder and therefore has the satisfaction that it is engaged in a high calling under the motto: “Equity, Justice and The Golden Rule”. The National Farmer’s Union is a force that has to be reckoned with and it is high time that there were a general appreciation of its activities and a more general flocking to its banners. The farmer’s real job is Union building.

J.W. Batchelor

–from the archives of Tom Giessel

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Why We Farm

Amish farmstead

Why We Farm, 1924 copy

Why Do We Farm? Not for Wealth, Prestige, or Power

Chas. B. Wing, Farmer, Flower Grower and Seedman of Mechanicsburg, Ohio in Writing to the Farm and Fireside, Contrasts the Peaceful Life of the Farmer to the Turmoil of the City

This question really did puzzle me for a long time. I watch men who are of only mediocre ability go to the city shops and factories and make more money, with no investment whatsoever, than most of us do with a fair-sized and reasonably fertile farm.

So it isn’t the money in farming that helps us.

I watch other men, schoolmates, and apparently with no more brains than many of us, who go to the cities for various forms of brain work, succeeding admirably, where we seem to do far less here in the country; and this also troubled me for a while. Some of these men achieve fame, some wealth, some prestige, and power, while we who farm know that none of these things are for us.

Why, then, do we farm? I think that I know the reason, a most comforting one, and I only wonder if I can show you, in words.

When we plow, to most of us farmers the furrow that we turn is a living, breathing, sentient thing, filled with the grass roots, humus, air cells, and beneficent bacteria, all of which we know will now work for us, and all of which we consider as friends. We know as we turn the furrow that we are changing life itself, and that, shortly, we will be creating, or at least perpetuating, life; so we look upon our work with some curiosity, and more than a little wonder, for all life is somewhat of a miracle, one at which we never will cease to wonder.

The horse that draws the plow are not like machines. They also are living beings—with faults, to be sure, but with more good qualities, and think of them as really a part of the family; and to an extent so it is with the rest of the domestic animals with which we surround ourselves.

We unconsciously do many of the things we do because they have become part of ourselves. In summer we rise early partly because there is work to do, but also, in part, because we would not miss the sunrise, the fresh crispness of the dawn, the songs of the birds, the thousand different things that go with the beginning of a new day. Would we give this up for the cramped spaces, the shut-in, breathless confines of the city where no one ever dreams of seeing the sun rise or of hearing the birds?

We plant the crops, care for them, and exult to see them grow, acre after acre, and mile after mile, as far as we can see. We do not think of corn or wheat or meadow as a machine that strives, while we guide it to manufacture money for us, but it becomes a friend—in reality it is a part of the family. The money that it makes we know in advance will be meager or nothing at all; but the crop did its best, and we love it in the making, even if its life is spent for us to little financial avail.
Rain for the city man means the annoyance of umbrella and overshoes. For us it means the very life of a million thirsty plants, and it is, therefore, a friend.

The wonders of changing seasons: spring with the soft gray-green fawn and dull red of countless freshly opened forest leaves; summer, when the whole earth is alive, trembling and throbbing with life, even to the soil underfoot; autumn with its fruits and grains to be garnered, and its very fairyland of riotous color in autumn leaves; finally winter with its challenge to our manhood, its swirling leaves and peaceful snow—all these to the city man mean mostly a question of what clothes to wear today, and the beauty and wonderment of it all must needs to be lost to him, for he cannot see it or feel it.

Night with us means the calm and peace of resting nerves and muscles, when beast and bird, and even the humble insect, for the most part, lie down to pleasant dreams. But in the great city there is no night, and its inmates restfully rove the brilliantly lighted streets, searching for pleasure or amusement.

Wide spaces with us become part of our very being; hill and vale, the restful-looking belts of timber, miles of growing crops, of wild flowers in the fence rows, or even in the grain, the call of the quail, and the cheery whistle of the meadow lark—all these, without our realizing it, become inseparable from our life.

I supposed that half the men who live in American cities do not care to own their own homes. Really, I don’t blame them. The lawn is only ten feet square, the house so similar to a million others that it is no hardship to change from one to another. But we farmers nearly all own, or earnestly try to own, our homes.

We wouldn’t trade our Baldwin Greening, and Spy trees for Jim Smith’s orchard of other varieties. I should say not. Our barn may not look like a palace, but it shelters both feed animals, and beats John Brown’s all hollow, while as to garden there is no comparison between ours and the neighbors’; and there’s that rosebush hat Grandmother used to grow, and the lilac, the vines that climb over the porch—well, I wouldn’t want to move for anything. You see, this is our house.

Furrow and team, no matter how humble, the ever-present, ever-changing forms of life about us, bird note and cheerful cricket, shadow and sun, the life-giving rain, wild flowers under foot and beside the fields, the peaceful panorama of cultivated fields, pasturage, the wood lot, and a bit of smoke curling out from our own chimney—these things do more than weave meshes around us, they become interwoven with the fiber of our very souls, and inseparable from us.

That, my friends, is why we farm.

Credit: Tom Giessel archives

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