By Tammi Jonas
In my second and final year as President, the AFSA National Committee has worked and fought hard to especially support small-scale dairy and ethical meat producers who are at the pointy end of unfair regulations and outdated planning schemes. We’ve done so because the food sovereignty movement must actively support ethical and regenerative farming models so that eaters have somewhere to turn as we ask them to turn their backs on Big Ag and the duopoly.
A major focus for the year has been the crowdfunding campaign to establish a Legal Defence Fund to support farmers, makers, and eaters in their attempts to grow and access ethical and ecologically-sound produce in the face of unfair and inconsistent regulations and planning designed for large industrial agriculture and processing. We’ve currently raised nearly $30,000 and recently distributed the first funds to three farms in need: Elgaar Organic Dairy in Tasmania, Moo View Dairy in South Australia, and Happy Valley Free Range in Victoria. The campaign has been great for building AFSA’s membership, which has nearly tripled over the past year.
The #youcantbuywhatieat potlucks have been a huge success across the country at raising awareness of the problems of our current food safety regulations and the threat they pose to food sovereignty, and they have been some of the best meals I have personally ever eaten! We’ve feasted on wild-shot rabbit ragu, roadkill roo stew, home-killed and cured salamis, raw milk cheeses and an endless variety of pickles and ferments to support the millions of good bacteria in our guts and contest the orthodoxy of sterility that is a different but genuine risk to public health. Communities everywhere are coming together to talk about what kind of food and agriculture systems they want – it’s food sovereignty enacted!
The Legal Defence Fund is now a formal sub-committee of AFSA with its own Terms of Reference and we’ll be seeking expressions of interest soon for members of the Steering Committee – those with training or experience in food safety and planning are particularly urged to join us in our efforts to reform the system back to accommodating a more human scale.
In addition to running the campaign to build a Legal Defence Fund, we’ve also been very active in lobbying policymakers and legislators directly. AFSA made submissions to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into the Impact of Regulation on Agriculture, and the Animal Industries Advisory Committee’s inquiry in Victoria, and attended hearings of both inquiries to further express our views on what food sovereignty could look like with some careful reform. We’ve met with the Ministers for Agriculture and Planning in Victoria as well as backbenchers and leaders from the Opposition to build awareness of the food sovereignty movement across the political spectrum.
The small-scale farmer movement continues to grow and gather, and this year’s Deep Winter saw over 200 farmers and our allies come together for two rejuvenating days of strategizing and nourishing our community in Gerringong, NSW thanks to the wonderful people of Buena Vista Farm and Milkwood.
Also in AFSA’s efforts to support more small-scale producers I’ve met with dozens of livestock farmers across the country, and a movement to (re)build small regional abattoirs is well underway – watch this space in the coming year as we continue to reclaim the means of production back from the hands of corporate greed.
At the international level, in August 2016 Fair Food Farmers United (FFFU), the farmers' branch of AFSA, was officially accepted as a member of La Via Campesina (LVC), the leading voice of the global food sovereignty movement. LVC brings together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. It defends small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way to promote social justice and dignity. It strongly opposes corporate-driven agriculture and transnational companies that are destroying people and nature.
AFSA is also a proud member of both the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) and Urgenci: the International Network of Community Supported Agriculture.
In March 2016 I attended the Asia Pacific Regional Conference of the FAO in Malaysia, where we continued to forge alliances with civil society organisations working for food sovereignty across our region, and had the opportunity to put forward positions on over-regulation in Australia to the Director General of the FAO. I also learned more about opportunities to work in solidarity with our comrades across the Global South as they fight the ill effects of cheap Australian exports that are destroying their own smallholders’ capacity to survive.
I have done a dozen interviews for radio and print media as well as numerous podcasts in addition to nearly 20 public speaking engagements at events as varied as the Victorian Agritourism Summit, the Horsham Landcare AGM, and Slow Food’s Terra Madre in Italy. Our outgoing Communications Officer and Sydney University academic Alana Mann has detailed the rest of our media impact in her report.
I step down from the role of President knowing I am leaving it in the very able hands of organic beef and lamb producer Sally Ruljancich, a force of nature and know-how in her own right and a bright new leader for the food sovereignty movement in Australia.
I will continue on the AFSA National Committee in the role of Chair of Fair Food Farmers United, where I look forward to continuing our strong engagement with farmers, and to building on nearly two years of work to establish the Legal Defence Fund. I also look forward to furthering AFSA’s international advocacy work with IPC, LVC, and Urgenci over the coming year.
As I hand over the helm, I’d like to offer a sincere and resounding thank you to the hard-working National Committee members of 2015-16: Chris Balazs, Alana Mann, Sally Ruljancich, Jo Hall, Phil Stringer, Ben McMenamin, Paul West, Michele Lally, Sophie Lamond, Wendy Lehman, Sam Hawker, and Gavin Williams, as well as our two fantastic interns over this past year Katarina Munksgaard and Courtney Young. And a very special note of gratitude to our dynamo volunteers who help with AFSA’s websites and comms Kate Raymond, Sharon Lee, and Larna Pittolgio, as well as the talented Greer Freshwater Burton, who designed our brilliant new logo this year. If it’s true that the future belongs to those who turn up, I’m really glad it was you guys. ;-)
Viva la revolución!