This week NFFC will represent North American producers in the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security (CFS) policy negotiations on “Food Systems and Nutrition”. Taking place online due to COVID-19, NFFC will join international allies from La Via Campesina and the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples Mechanism (CSM) in these policy negotiations to counter corporate agribusiness efforts to influence, and in many cases upend, participatory policy-making spaces in the UN. Our movement work on this international food and agriculture policy front builds on a UN North American policy consultation that NFFC attended in Maryland in late 2019, and comes at a time when corporate value chains and exploitative agribusiness models are particularly fragile due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
What’s at stake for food systems
For decades farmers, fishers, ranchers and peasants have been fighting to re-frame how food and agricultural systems are talked about, and ultimately structured through policy, by governments refuting the outdated idea that increasingly vertically integrated and corporate-dominated value chains, export-oriented trade, and highly processed foods are good for eaters, farmers, or the environment. In its place, we have striven for policy frameworks to recognize food systems as a more intricate web in which power relations and social and economic (in)justice influence who can access healthy food, whether producers are paid fairly, and how the environment is impacted. Perhaps most importantly, the right of people to access adequate and nutritious food is central to this debate. Powerful governments have resisted this policy debate at the international level, and in the US the Trump administration and USDA have also sought to cut funding and access to SNAP/WIC while production and distribution contracts for emergency food assistance programs are swallowed by agribusiness and other corporations. The evidence of our broken food system from a health and livelihoods perspective is overwhelming: 22-38 percent of US households have been deemed food insecure during this pandemic and more than 42 percent of U.S. adults are obese. Meanwhile, corporate agribusinesses gain record profits on the backs of exploited farm and food chain workers as the projected 2020 median farm income in the US is negative $1,840.
NFFC and allies have several key goals for the current UN CFS negotiations:
- Defend the Right to Food – Access to food is a human right. The US government should adhere to international human rights standards and policy, including the Right to Food, and should implement and fully fund domestic programs that ensure no one goes hungry in the US.
- Address corporate power – For decades corporate agribusiness has had increasing control over food systems in the US and abroad, and despite the corporate rhetoric, hunger has not been solved, our ecosystems are further degraded, and producers and agricultural labor continue to be exploited. Food systems should be treated as a public good with prioritization for serving the most vulnerable, eliminating labor and ecological exploitation, curtailing corporate power to ensure fair competition and economic justice for producers.
- Strengthen local food systems – Local food systems based on agroecology (also an important issue currently being debated through policy negotiations in the UN CFS) are essential for feeding our communities, supporting social justice, and addressing the climate crisis in the 21st century. Targeted government intervention is needed to expand local food infrastructure, incentivize land and sea stewardship, and put independent producers and workers in the driver’s seat of food system governance.
For more information about:
– Negotiating goals of the Civil Society and Indigenous People’s Mechanism for these food system and nutrition negotiations visit http://www.csm4cfs.org/working-groups/nutrition/.
– The United Nations Committee on World Food Security visit http://www.fao.org/cfs .
– NFFC’s involvement in policy processes at the United Nations visit here and here.
– NFFC’s recent advocacy for local food systems, farmers rights, and food security, especially during COVID-19, visit here and here.
 USDA. “Highlights From the February 2020 Farm Income Forecast.” Updated February 25, 2020.