Farmers head to Cancun armed with a declaration and the support of their peers

Singing for our supper: Willie Nelson was among the performers at the 2003 Farm Aid concert. Others acts included: Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Cheryl Crow and Brooks and Dunn.
September 10, 2003: The Germain Amphitheater in Columbus, Ohio was rocking for ten straight hours as thousands of small farmers and their supporters descended on the Midwestern city for a daylong concert celebration. The annual concert sponsored by Farm Aid, a family farm advocate group, served as a release before talks turns serious at the WTO ministerial in Cancun. The day was a mix of rock, pop, Latin, country, folk and messages.

"We need everybody to get the word out, and the word is, the family farmer needs help,” Willie Nelson, one of the organizations co-founders, told reporters at a press conference prior to the concert. “And the country needs help. I think there’s a direct link between helping the farmer and helping the country at the same time, because we’re all connected.”

The event also served as the venue to announce the Farm Aid sponsored “A Declaration for a New Direction for American Agriculture and Agricultural Trade.” The missive states, “We demand trade agreements that put the good of the people before the trade of goods; trade agreements that value social justice over private profits.”

The message will be brought to Cancun by group of family farmers who will challenge the WTO to re-examine the impact of global trade policy on food security, farmers’ livelihoods, and local, sustainable food production. The family farm representatives flew out Monday, September 8 and will be the voice for the organization in Cancun. Click here to read the complete statement

Farm group core principles
• Access to safe, affordable food is a universal human right; widespread hunger cannot be acceptable in a world where food is abundant.
• Food production cannot come at the degradation of soil, water, air and biodiversity.
• Family farmers and ranchers around the world must be assured economic justice through fair prices for their production.
• Farm laborers must be assured economic justice through fair wages and contracts.
• All family scale producers, and especially indigenous, minority, immigrant and other excluded farm sectors must be assured access to land and to a system of agriculture that supports, protects and sustains their culture and communities.
• Corporate profits cannot come at the expense of the livelihoods of farmers and workers in the U.S. or other countries, nor at the expense of access to and diversity of the global seed supply.

It was nearing Midnight when Willie Nelson brought the emotional concert to a close. The once filled arena had drained of some of its fans but the faithful remained and the stands were still peppered with the swaying duel braids and bandanas of the Nelson impersonators and red t-shirts bearing in white the words “stop factory farms”.

“Just a few more weary days and then,
I'll fly away;
To a land where joys shall never end,
I'll fly away.”

The words of the famous gospel song lingered in the air as concert goers packed up their remaining belongings and trudged back to their cars. The celebration was over and for the farmer's heading to Cancun it was time for the work to begin. Their mission, fittingly, endure some weary days so the joys of the land will never have to end.

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