Food Security, Immigration and “Free Trade”

For Immediate Release
June 1, 2010

Public Forum
Food Security, Immigration, and ‘Free Trade:’ Putting Justice Back on the Table
A panel discussion and public forum on making trade work for people in Lane County

EUGENE – At 7pm on June 9, 2010, the community will gather in Harris Hall (125 E. 8th Ave.) to explain how “free trade” agreements affect the economy, demographics, and food security of Lane County and share ideas for achieving trade reform that benefits the people and the land. The event is organized by the Lane County Fair Trade Campaign (LCFTC), a new local alliance of individuals and organizations building cross-issue solidarity for just and sustainable U.S. trade policy with environmental and economic benefits at home and abroad.

“Unfair trade policies, like the North American and Central American Free Trade Agreements (NAFTA and CAFTA), and institutions like the World Trade Organization have been destabilizing local economies and disadvantaging family farmers, both here and abroad, over the past decade,” says Samantha Chirillo, Lane County Organizer of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, convenor of the Lane County alliance. “The increasing rate of job offshoring, soaring unemployment rate, Oregon’s ranking as the second most hungry state in the U.S., and rising food transport costs demand our immediate attention and action.

Guadalupe Quinn,  Immigrant Rights Advocacy Program Coordinator with Amigos and panelist at the forum, explains the link between trade agreements and migration of people from Latin American communities to our own: “The U.S., via its unfair trade policies, has crushed family farmers in Mexico to the extent that their unemployment, poverty, and hunger rates are far worse than our own. We can expect more socioeconomic refugees until we improve the situation abroad.

Dan Armstrong, another panelist with Mud City Press and the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project, points out that “trade agreements have pumped up large agricultural operations while deflating family farmers and have increased our exploitation of and dependency on immigrant farmworkers. With these trends and a shifting climate and fuel economy, we’re swimming against the tide. Even so, in Lane and Benton counties we’re making significant progress to restore local food security and, thereby, community resiliency.

“Fortunately we have trade reform legislation that is building momentum in Congress,” says Arthur Stamoulis, statewide Organizer of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign. “With growing support for the the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment Act (TRADE Act), which would level the playing field in the agricultural and other industries, we have an opportunity to restore stability to communities in Oregon.”

Robert Roth, a retired lawyer and participant in LCFTC, noted that U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio and David Wu are already co-sponsors of the TRADE Act.

“This is one of the most important pieces of legislation in the Congress right now, to save the middle class, for all working families, and for both the manufacturing and agricultural sectors,” said Roth. “We’re hopeful [U.S. Senator] Ron Wyden and the rest of the Oregon Congressional Delegation will join us on this one soon.”

Event co-sponsors include LCFTC members: the Immigrant Rights Advocacy Program (Amigos), Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network/Jobs with Justice, the Lane Branch of Industrial Workers of the World and the Latin America Solidarity Committee. The LCFTC welcomes new groups and individuals to get involved via its gatherings every second Monday of the month at 5:30pm in the AFSCME Bldg at 7th & Charnelton.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.