Want to See Food and Land Justice for Black Americans? Support These Groups.

Civil Eats

Want to See Food and Land Justice for Black Americans? Support These Groups.

Food justice is racial justice. As the nation rises up to protest atrocities against Black people, here are some organizations working to advance Black food sovereignty.

Protestors march in Philadelphia on June 1, in the aftermath of widespread unrest following the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others.

Food justice is racial justice. Food and agriculture, like everything in this country, are deeply intertwined with our nation’s entrenched history of slavery and structural racism. Our food system actively silences, marginalizes, and disproportionately impacts people of color, who are also being hardest hit by COVID-19.

As Americans rise up to respond to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others, and to the ongoing violence, suppression, and brutality facing the Black community, we hope this list of organizations working to strengthen food justice, land access, and food access in the Black community will inform, inspire, and energize you to show up for racial justice.

Black Church Food Security Network works to connect Black communities and other urban communities of color with Black farmers in hopes of advancing food and land sovereignty. Read more.

Black Dirt Farm Collective is a collective of Black farmers, educators, scientists, agrarians, seed keepers, organizers, and researchers guiding a political education process.

Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers Cooperative of Pittsburgh works with Black communities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to grow food and to share Black cultural traditions through a farm, youth program, and policy work. Read more.

Black Urban Growers (BUGS) is committed to building networks and community support for growers in both urban and rural settings. Through education and advocacy around food and farm issues, it nurtures collective Black leadership.

Castanea Fellowship offers a two-year fellowship for diverse leaders working for a racially just food system in any of the areas of health, environment, agriculture, regional economies, or community development. Read more.

Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED) is a queer and transgender people of color-led organization that partners with young folks of color to build food and land co-ops.

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network ensures that Detroit’s African American population participates in the food movement through urban farming, youth education programs and the much-anticipated Detroit People’s Food Co-op. Read more.

Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (FARMS) is a legal nonprofit, committed to assisting Black farmers and landowners in retaining their land for the next generation. Read more.

Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund is a non-profit cooperative association of Black farmers, landowners, and cooperatives, with a primary membership base in the Southern States.

Food Chain Workers Alliance is a coalition of worker-based organizations whose members plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food, organizing to improve wages and working conditions for all workers along the food chain. Read more.

Food First works to end the injustices that cause hunger through research, education, and action.

Freedom School Demonstration Farm runs a Fresno, California-based program aimed at empowering Black and brown youth to grow their own food. Read more.

HEAL Food Alliance brings together groups from various sectors of movements for food and farm justice to grow community power, develop political leadership, and exposing and limiting corporate control of the food system. Read more.

The Land Loss Prevention Project responds to the unprecedented losses of Black-owned land in North Carolina by providing comprehensive legal services and technical support to financially distressed and limited resource farmers and landowners. Read more.

The National Black Farmers Association is a non-profit organization representing African American farmers and their families in the United States.

National Black Food and Justice Alliance organizes for Black food and land, by increasing the visibility of visionary Black leadership, advancing Black people’s struggle for just and sustainable communities, and building power in our food systems and land stewardship. Read more.

New Communities Land Trust is a grassroots organization that has worked for more than 40 years to empower African American families in Southwest Georgia and advocate for social justice. Read more.

The Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust advance land sovereignty in the Northeast through permanent and secure land tenure for Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and Asian farmers and land stewards.

Planting Justice works to empower people impacted by mass incarceration and other social inequities through a nursery, land trust, and various community farming efforts. Read more.

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United is fighting to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce. Read more.

Sankofa Farms seeks create a sustainable food source for minorities in both rural and urban areas located in Durham and Orange County, North Carolina.

The Seeding Power Fellowship is an innovative 18-month, cohort-based food justice fellowship program. Read more.

Soil Generation is a Philadelphia-based Black- and Brown-led coalition of growers building a grassroots movement through urban farming, agroecology, community education, and more. Read more.

Soul Fire Farm is a Black, Indigenous, and people of color-centered community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system. Read more.

Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network is a regional network for Black farmers committed to using ecologically sustainable practices to manage land, grow food, and raise livestock that are healthy for people and the planet. Read more.

Want more? Read our ongoing coverage of the many worthwhile efforts to expose and address structural inequities in the food system.

We Must Save Farmers’ Markets

Civil Eats

Op-ed: We Must Save Farmers’ Markets

Without more support, the impact of losing markets could be massive to farmers, eaters, and regional economies.

San Francisco’s Heart of the City Farmers’ Market has been an oasis of fresh, farm-direct produce in a neighborhood dominated by fast food and liquor stores since 1981. It makes a variety of local produce available to a diverse population of shoppers from around the city and provides income for 82 farmers and food artisans.

Each year, the market also matches low-income shopper’s produce purchases, resulting in $1.5 million in food assistance, making it the largest distributor of EBT of all farmers’ markets in California. COVID-19 has spiked demand for these services, to the point that lines now wrap around the block. Unfortunately, the virus has also strained the nonprofit’s budget and put all of that good work in jeopardy.

Farmers’ markets operators—the organizations and individuals who plan, coordinate, and run America’s farmers’ markets—are engaging in herculean efforts to protect their communities from COVID-19. In the case of Heart of the City, this means crowd control measures to limit the number of shoppers, pre-order options, and the elimination of sampling and touching produce before shopping, among other strategies.

Farmers’ markets have always been hubs for innovation. When farmers have opted or been forced out of the traditional supply chain, America’s 8,000 farmers’ markets have served as a lifeline to their businesses, filling a vital role to move their goods from field to plate. Now, in this time of crisis, these markets have had to devise rapid solutions. Apart from these efforts, emerging research suggests sunlight effectively kills COVID-19, adding more support to the idea that farmers’ markets may be the safest place to shop for groceries during the pandemic.

“There are benefits to visiting a farmers’ market in light of coronavirus … you’re outside, there’s fresh air moving, and the supply chain is shorter,” Yvonne Michael, an epidemiologist at Drexel University School of Public Health, told WHYY recently.

But keeping these markets safe is very expensive for the organizations that run them. For example, Heart of the City market expects to lose almost $200,000 by the end of the year because of a drop in attendance by vendors, who pay a modest fee to participate. These fees serve as the backbone of the market’s budget. And yet, many vendors have been unable to attend due to farmers’ health concerns, age, and labor shortages on their farms. At the same time, the market anticipates spending over $80,000 to maintain health and safety measures, including extra staff and equipment to maintain social distancing.

Yerena Farms, one of the vendors at the Heart of the City Farmers' Market in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of Heart of the City)

Yerena Farms, one of the vendors at the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of Heart of the City)

The Heart of the City market is far from alone. In a recent, as-yet unpublished Farmers Market Coalition member survey, 74 percent of the organizations that responded reported decreased income, while 93 percent report added costs, including the purchase of PPE for market staff, rental of more handwashing stations, new software or services, and additional staff to rearrange market layouts and monitor customer traffic. In a similar survey by the California Alliance of Farmers Markets (also unpublished), nearly 20 percent of farmers’ market operators reported concern that they may not survive the economic impacts of COVID-19.

The impact of losing farmers’ markets would be massive. They facilitate an estimated $2.4 billion dollars in sales for small and mid-scale farms in the U.S. each year.

“Without direct assistance for our state’s farmers’ markets, many of which already operate on a shoestring budget and an all-volunteer staff, we risk losing this vital outlet, drastically affecting the livelihoods of farmers,” says Robbi Mixon, director of the Alaska Farmers Market Association. “Small to medium scale farms are the cornerstone of local food systems. If farmers’ markets disappear, these farmers lose market access and economic stability.”

The cruel irony is that interest in local food and demand for emergency food needs have skyrocketed during the pandemic, making the work of farmers’ market operators more important than ever. And yet, they have largely been left out of relief efforts, both public and private.

A vendor's sign about maintaining physical distance at a farmers' market in Boone, North Caroline. (Photo courtesy of the Farmers Market Coalition)

A vendor’s sign about maintaining physical distance at a farmers’ market in Boone, North Caroline. (Photo courtesy of the Farmers Market Coalition)

And the fact that farmers’ markets are some of the safest places to shop at this moment hasn’t happened by accident. It’s thanks to the committed efforts of people who work hard for their communities. These are very lean organizations and many are close to a breaking point, especially since they have been left out of grants and recovery funds that have been made available to other sectors of the economy. For example, many farmers’ market operators were not eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program because of their nonprofit incorporation type. Only 501(c)(3) nonprofits are eligible for these funds and most farmers’ markets are not.

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare many of the structural problems of our food system, not the least of which is the vital and underappreciated work that farmers’ market operators engage in to keep farmers in business and keep people fed.

The federal government needs to make the Paycheck Protection Program available to farmers’ market operators and provide grants to ensure that they are able to keep markets open and safe. If this work is to continue, farmers’ market operators will need the support of public and private entities as they develop and implement recovery plans.

Meanwhile, we hope the private individuals and foundations who can will step up and donate to support the operation of their local farmers markets. These community institutions have a pivotal role to play—now and in the future—and they’re much too important to lose.

A Tennessee police chief had a message for fellow law enforcement: turn in your badge if ‘you don’t have an issue’ with George Floyd’s death

Insider -U.S.

A Tennessee police chief had a message for fellow law enforcement: turn in your badge if ‘you don’t have an issue’ with George Floyd’s death

Celia Ferandez, cfernandez@insider.com         
David Roddy has been a member of the Chattanooga Police Department for 24 years.
David Roddy has been a member of the Chattanooga Police Department for 24 years.

  • After the video of George Floyd’s arrest and his subsequent death went viral on Monday, a Tennessee police chief tweeted his thoughts on Wednesday.
  • David Roddy said that officers who don’t have an issue with Floyd’s arrest should turn in their badges.
  • His tweet has since gone viral with over 159,000 retweets and 623,000 likes.

A Tennessee police chief by the name of David Roddy sent a message to his fellow officers on Twitter in response to the death of George Floyd.

On Wednesday, Chattanooga Police Department Chief David Roddy said police officers who didn’t see an issue with the graphic video that showed former Minneapolis police officer David Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as the 46-year-old repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe,” should quit the force.

“There is no need to see more video. There no need to wait to see how “it plays out”. There is no need to put a knee on someone’s neck for NINE minutes. There IS a need to DO something. If you wear a badge and you don’t have an issue with this…turn it in,” Roddy wrote.

Roddy’s tweet has since gotten over 159,000 likes and 623,000 retweets. According to the Chattanooga Police Department website, Roddy has 24 years of service under his belt.

Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital on Monday shortly after his arrest. Since the video starting circulating social media, Chauvin was charged on Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and all four officers that were involved in the arrest were fired.

Footage of the arrest has also sparked outrage across the country causing protests in cities like Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Detroit, Dallas, Washington, DC, and more.

Roddy did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read the original article on Insider

Related:

The Independent

‘The names change but the colour is always black’: Protesters on what George Floyd’s killing means to them

Andrew Buncombe, The Independent                 
EPA
EPA

At the junction where a police officer was filmed kneeling on George Floyd’s neck as he gasped for air, there were shouts and cheers when it was announced the man had been charged with murder.

“Yes! Chauvin’s been charged with murder,” yelled one man. “We got one of them.”

But for the protesters gathered at 38th St and Chicago Ave, in the south of Minneapolis, any celebrations over the charging of 44-year-old white police officer Derek Chauvin, were short-lived.

People demanded that all four officers involved in the incident that led to the death of Mr Floyd be brought to justice. And what was all this with third-degree murder? He meant to kill him, people insisted It should be first-degree.

There was also agreement that until all four men were charged, the protests – both the peaceful and those that saw a police station and other buildings set ablaze – would continue.

“I can’t say I agree with burning down buildings useful to our community,” said 19-year-old student Tsunami Douglas, claiming there were reports that police had set some buildings alight. “But people have had enough.”

Her friend, Twyla Mowll, 18, said as a young person of colour growing up in south Minneapolis, they would never call the police as nobody knew how it would play out.

“Police officers are trained to serve the people,” she added. “That does not involve shooting or killing, When people have to be protected from the police, there is no point. There needs to be a new system.”

As Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman announced the charges against Mr Chauvin, further details emerged of the incidents in which Mr Floyd’s throat was stepped on, as he lay on the floor close to Cup Foods grocery, the spot now marked with flowers and photographs.

The charge sheet claimed Mr Chauvin had his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. The complaint said that included nearly three minutes after the man had stopped moving and talking.

“Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous,” it said.

An officer allegedly put his knee on George Floyd’s throat for more than eight minutes (Andrew Buncombe )
An officer allegedly put his knee on George Floyd’s throat for more than eight minutes (Andrew Buncombe )

 

Amid the anger and dismay, one reaction few if any mentioned was surprise.

This was something that happened all the time, or at least every summer, residents said. “There needs to be a revolution,” said a 20-year-old woman called Macy, who said she was visiting her parents from New York.

“The only reason we got this murder charge was because of the burning of the buildings. So we cannot afford to let that stop,” she said.

“The white people are getting scared. They feel threatened. But America does not want to confront its past. Even Germany examined its Nazi past. Nobody will talk about slavery.”

The other three officers have been named Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng. Mr Freeman, the prosecutor said he considered there could be charges brought against them as well, but declined to suggest what they might be.

At the spot where people took turns to speak on a microphone to the crowd, people demanded all four men were responsible for what had happened. They said none of the officers had stepped in to stop what was being done by their colleague.

“If someone like me is present where there’s a crime, I’d be charged as an accomplice,” said Sadi, a woman who asked to give one name and who said she was in her mid-40’s.

Asked how a system in which young black men repeatedly die at the hands of police could be changed, she said: “We need white people to be allies. We need them to care about this. But we have a racist as president.”

As the banners and placards on display grow, George Floyd joins a mounting list of young African American men – and some women – who have been killed in encounters with the police – Michael Brown in Ferguson, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and Eric Garner in New York, to name just as few.

In Minneapolis, a 24-year-old black man named Jamar Clark was shot dead by police in 2015. The following year, officers killed Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man killed by a Minnesota police officer during a traffic stop.

“This happens all the time, but people are saying enough is enough,” said Yasmeen Abdulla, a 26-year-old medical student who lives in the neighbourhood. “People have been dying in police brutality. They want justice.”

He said while the names of the police’s victims varied, there was one constant. He said: “The names are different but they are always the same colour.”

Every Single Worker Has Covid at One U.S. Farm on Eve of Harvest

Bloomberg – Business

Every Single Worker Has Covid at One U.S. Farm on Eve of Harvest

Mike Dorning and Jen Skerritt             
Every Single Worker Has Covid at One U.S. Farm on Eve of Harvest
Every Single Worker Has Covid at One U.S. Farm on Eve of Harvest

(Bloomberg) —

All of the roughly 200 employees on a produce farm in Tennessee tested positive for Covid-19 this month. In New Jersey, more than 50 workers had the virus at a farm in Gloucester County, adding to nearly 60 who fell ill in neighboring Salem County. Almost 170 were reported to get the disease at a tomato and strawberry greenhouse complex in Oneida, New York.

The outbreaks underscore the latest coronavirus threat to America’s food supply: Farm workers are getting sick and spreading the illness just as the U.S. heads into the peak of the summer produce season. In all likelihood, the cases will keep climbing as more than half a million seasonal employees crowd onto buses to move among farms across the country and get housed together in cramped bunkhouse-style dormitories.

The early outbreaks are already starting to draw comparisons to the infections that plunged the U.S. meat industry into crisis over the past few months. Analysts and experts are warning that thousands of farm workers are vulnerable to contracting the disease.

Aside from the most immediate concern — the grave danger that farmhands face — the outbreaks could also create labor shortages at the worst possible time. Produce crops such as berries have a short life span, with only a couple of weeks during which they can be harvested. If a farm doesn’t have enough workers to collect crops in that window, they’re done for the season and the fruit will rot. A spike in virus cases among workers may mean shortages of some fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, along with higher prices.

“We’re watching very, very nervously — the agricultural harvest season is only starting now,” said Michael Dale, executive director of the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project in Portland, Oregon, and a lawyer who has represented farm workers for 40 years. “I don’t think we’re ready. I don’t think we’re prepared.”

Unlike grain crops that rely on machinery, America’s fruits and vegetables are mostly picked and packed by hand, in long shifts out in the open — a typically undesirable job in major economies. So the position typically goes to immigrants, who make up about three quarters of U.S. farm workers.

A workforce of seasonal migrants travels across the nation, following harvest patterns. Most come from Mexico and Latin America through key entry points like southern California, and go further by bus, often for hours, sometimes for days.

There are as many as 2.7 million hired farm workers in the U.S., including migrant, seasonal, year-round and guest-program workers, according to the Migrant Clinicians Network. While many migrants have their permanent residence in the U.S., moving from location to location during the warmer months, others enter through the federal H2A visa program. Still, roughly half of hired crop farmworkers lack legal immigration status, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

These are some of the most vulnerable populations in the U.S., subjected to tough working conditions for little pay and meager benefits. Most don’t have access to adequate health care. Many don’t speak English.

Without them, it would be nearly impossible to keep America’s produce aisles filled. And yet, there’s no one collecting national numbers on how many are falling sick.

“There is woefully inadequate surveillance of what’s happening with Covid-19 and farm workers,” said Erik Nicholson, a national vice president for the United Farm Workers. “There is no central reporting, which is crazy because these are essential businesses.”

On the Tennessee farm where workers caught the virus, only a very few showed any symptoms. After an initial worker tested positive for Covid-19, all employees at Henderson Farms in Evensville were given tests out of an “abundance of caution,” revealing the infection had spread among all of them. The workers are now all in isolation at the farm, where they live and work.

“We take our responsibility to protect the essential workers feeding the nation through the pandemic seriously,” Henderson Farms Co. said in a statement. “In addition to continuing our policy of providing free healthcare, we have implemented additional measures to support workers directly impacted by Covid-19, including those in isolation as per the latest public health guidelines. We are working closely with public health officials in Rhea County, Tennessee, to ensure we can continue to deliver our high standard of care as we support our workers and our community through these unprecedented times.”

Critical Months

May and June mark the start of a critical few months when migrant workers head to fields in North America and Europe to plant and gather crops. Travel restrictions amid the pandemic are already creating a labor squeeze. In Russia, the government is calling on convicts and students to fill in the labor gap on berry and vegetable farms. In the U.K., Prince Charles took to Twitter to encourage residents to #PickForBritain. Farmers in western Europe usually rely on seasonal workers from eastern Europe or northern Africa.

In Canada, migrant workers often come from Jamaica, Guatemala and Mexico. They’re typically housed on farms, with two or four people sharing a room, depending on if there are bunk-beds, said Colin Chapdelaine, president of BC Hot House, a greenhouse farming company that grow tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in Surrey, British Columbia.

All the houses are audited and approved by regulators with guidelines for how much kitchen and bathroom space to provide, but “Covid has kind of turned that on its head,” he said.

“It’s a precarious situation if something happens and it flows through a greenhouse and you can’t pick your crop,” Chapdelaine said. “We’re taking huge precautions to make sure everyone comes in suited and masked up. You have to do all the right things and still hope for the best.”

In the U.S., migrant farm workers primarily come from Mexico and Latin America.

President Donald Trump has sought to maintain the flow of foreign workers to U.S. farms during the pandemic, waiving interview requirements for some guest workers when consular offices shut down and exempting them from a temporary immigration ban. But so far, the administration hasn’t created rules to protect the workers. Democratic Representative Jimmy Panetta of California and 71 other members of Congress urged in a letter last week that the next coronavirus relief package include funding dedicated to combating spread of the virus among farm workers.

Even before infections started to creep up, there weren’t enough workers, causing harvest issues in parts of the U.S. Some prices started to move up. A 2-pound package of strawberries is fetching about 17% more than it was last year, and a pint of cherry tomatoes is 52% higher, USDA data as of May 22 show.

So far, though, the price impact has been limited. As restaurants shuttered during virus lockdowns, many farmers lost a key source of produce demand, creating some supply gluts.

Now, stay-at-home restrictions are easing in all 50 states, and some restaurants are opening back up. Meanwhile, labor shortages could get worse as illness among farm workers deepens.

“The cost will go up, and there will be a little bit less available,” said Kevin Kenny, chief operating officer of Decernis, an expert in global food safety and supply chains. “You really will see some supply issues coming.”

Perishable crops that require more hands on labor to pick are the most at-risk of disruptions, including olives and oranges, Kenny said.

In Florida, oranges are “literally dying on the vines” as not enough migrants can get into the country to pick the crops and things like processed juice will probably cost more in the coming months, he said.

When the virus spread among America’s meat workers, plants were forced to shutter as infections rates topped 50% in some facilities. Prices surged, with wholesale beef and pork more than doubling, and grocers including Kroger Co. and Costco Wholesale Corp. rationed customer purchases. Even Wendy’s Co. dropped burgers from some menus. After an executive order from Trump, plants have reopened, but worker absenteeism is restraining output. Hog and cattle slaughter rates are still down more than 10% from last year.

The produce industry could see similar problems because workers face some of the same issues. They sometimes work shoulder to shoulder. They are transported to and from job sites in crowded buses or vans. They often come from low-income families and can’t afford to call in sick or are afraid of losing their jobs, so they end up showing up to work even if they have symptoms.

“A lot of people are concerned that the summer for farm workers will be like the spring for meat packers,” said David Seligman, director of Towards Justice, a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization based in Denver.

There’s “a lot of worker fear because of the asymmetry of power in this industry,” Seligman said. “We’re hearing anecdotal reports. Gathering information about farm workers is very hard because of how scared and how isolated they are.”

There are some key differences between the two industries. For one, farm workers spend most of their time outside, and some research has shown that the virus is less likely to be spread outdoors. Meanwhile, meat workers are piled into cold, damp factories where infectious diseases are particularly hard to control.

In other ways, farm workers are more exposed. Living conditions can be even more cramped, with close-together bunks and communal cooking and bathroom facilities that make physical distancing extremely difficult.

Plus, the workers move around so much, meaning increased chances of exposure for themselves and more chances that sick individuals can spread the illness to other communities.

In Oregon, a farm worker often may move a half dozen times during the summer, working for new growers and housed in new labor camps as they shift from harvesting cherries to strawberries to blueberries to pears, said Dale of the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project.

Nely Rodriguez is a former farm worker who is now an organizer with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Immokalee, Florida, a major tomato growing area. She said that some farms are taking steps to protect migrants, such as having buses make more trips so workers won’t be as cramped and requiring them to wear masks, as well as providing more hand-washing stations and sanitizer.

Lisa Lochridge, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, also pointed to increased measures to protect workers and said some employers even set aside separate housing to be used for a quarantine area if necessary. Cory Lunde, of the Western Growers Association, said farm owners are staggering start times, disinfecting buses and increasing distances between workers, both in the field and in packing facilities and offices.

But protection measures can be spotty, said Rodriguez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. There aren’t yet any farm specific Covid-19 safety protocols from the federal government.

Developing Guidance

The USDA is “diligently working” with the the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration “to develop guidance that will assist farmworkers and employers during this time,” the agency said in an emailed statement.

“Additionally, considering the seasonal and migratory nature of the workforce, we are working to identify housing resources that may be available to help control any spread of Covid-19,” the USDA said.

Harvests take place at different times across the country, depending on the weather and the crop. That means when gathering finishes in an early state like Florida, workers will travel into areas such as Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana and New Jersey, said Rodriguez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. They’ll often make the journey on old school buses rented by employers, sitting for 7 or 8 hours at a time with 45 people crammed in.

“If there is a bunch of farm workers here that are sick, they can essentially spread this virus to other rural communities,” Rodriguez said.

Many farm workers come from indigenous communities in southern Mexico and don’t speak English or Spanish as their first language, so they don’t have adequate information on the pandemic in a language they can understand, said Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice, a national advocacy group.

They typically don’t have easy access to coronavirus tests, and many are undocumented so they are concerned about reporting illnesses, he said.

“They’re marginalized in Mexico. They’re similarly marginalized here,” Goldstein said. “People like that are incredibly vulnerable to Covid-19.”

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

Coronovirus – Life (& Living) or Death

Life (& Living) or Death

Gabriel Martin, Opinion         May 7, 2020
Politics and screaming lunatics aside, you have your re-open crowd and you have your stay-at-home crowd. Generally speaking, of course, most people have a fairly strong opinion either way.
The stay-at-home people believe in taking the pandemic very seriously, and it usually helps if they have a living situation which isn’t too much at odds with lock-down orders to begin with (i.e. they already worked from home/their job now allows them to work from home, they have food and comfortable living conditions, etc).
Those who want to re-open the economy and lift the orders seem to see the negative effects of the lock-down as far outweighing any possible threat from the virus. In my friends list, it usually means people in rural areas, not yet heavily affected by illness. The general consensus is that problems like loss of wages, lack of food access, missed rent, businesses going bankrupt, shops permanently closing, poverty and pending homelessness, are all more dangerous than the illness. (Also, in a more vague sense, some talk of possible depression and/or suicide rates going up.)
It is a pretty callous stance for stay-at-homers to just casually dismiss every single one of these realistic and practical concerns. As if anyone who wants to re-open is an ignorant, financially driven, asshole.
It is equally insensitive for re-openers to pompously flaunt their misplaced bravado in the face of a very serious threat, and belittle and ridicule those who feel they are doing the right thing to keep those they love safe and alive, by following the necessary orders.
Here’s the thing though: you shouldn’t have to pick a side and fight and yell at the other side, telling them how ignorant and delusional they are. The government should have the ability to solve both of those problems simultaneously.
The entire reason for a government’s existence in any society is to solve problems and protect their citizens in an emergency situation. Sometimes this means military defense, sometimes it means gathering and stockpiling vital resources, natural disaster relief, etc. In this case, it means protection from the illness and the security of life’s necessities, while the battle is ongoing. This is the system’s primary job at the moment, the very definition of its function, and it is failing miserably.
If a government only works well when everything is running smoothly, but falls apart during an emergency situation, then you have to wonder ‘what are you actually here for, exactly?’
So now, as citizens of the same inept government, we have to fight and argue with one another over what to do, because the government has put us in a position where too many people have to make a choice between living in crushing poverty or dying from an illness.
The answer to the problem can be seen in other countries that are not failing their people: You stay at home and guess what? None of those other bad things happen to you. Rent and mortgages are frozen, you continue to receive wages, you will not be fired, your business will still be there when it’s all over, free food is delivered to your door, if you get sick you will receive your care at no cost to you, government services are in place to assist you and your neighbors, so that a very effective lock-down can happen and the infection rate drops very quickly. You still have your home, job, food, car, etc. and the efficiency of the quarantine means you spent a few weeks inside instead of depressing and endless months. Now, orders can be relaxed because the remaining infected have been identified and quarantined and strict testing infrastructure is in place to help keep it from a resurgence.
These things aren’t happening in the U.S. because every system that could help make it happen has been stripped, dismantled, and defunded so that those tax payer dollars could be funneled right into various private bank accounts. There simply is no money to do what needs to be done.
For decades and decades the amount of your tax money available to this country for emergencies and necessary life-saving programs has dwindled, and dwindled, and dwindled…. while the bulk of that lost money has been shifted straight up to the highest of the elite, where they sit on it and put it in tax free accounts in other countries, hoarding it and never putting it back into the country. It’s a slow and steady siphoning effect that has sucked the country dry and is now literally killing people.
Look at the wage gap. Look at the trillions in debt the country is now in. Look at the poverty level and the unemployment. Even in the best of times over the last few decades, most jobs couldn’t even pay a living wage. The general populous makes less and less, while the stock market goes up and any programs or systems put in place to help the average person are killed and that money goes straight to corporate contracts and subsidies.
So, now what happens when there is a crisis? SORRY. We don’t have the money. It’s not there when we need it. Why? Not sure exactly, maybe ask Boeing… or Amazon… or your bank. Well, we can go further in debt and borrow a metric shit ton of money for a stimulus bill to keep the economy happy but, GUESS WHAT?!? Most of that is going to those same corporations and you get a few scraps, but not much else. We have to keep big business happy over any other concern. That’s what’s best for everyone, right?
SORRY, there are no systems in place to help, we killed those. Unnecessary. There is no money, a handful of people have most of that now and they don’t seem too eager to give any of it back.
Because the government couldn’t perform even its most basic function, (preparing for an emergency and protecting its citizens when there was one) now we have to fight among one another over who is right: those who love poverty or those who love illness.
We’re so busy fighting each other, we don’t bother turning back around to the government and saying “Hold on now… What the actual fuck?!?”
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‘A risk for the future’: How warming oceans are disrupting America’s seafood supply

Yahoo Finance

‘A risk for the future’: How warming oceans are disrupting America’s seafood supply

Yvette Killian, Producer Yahoo Finance         May 12, 2020

Recorded temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are increasing at an “alarming” rate, according to one scientist, and forcing fisherman to confront a seafood industry primed for disruption.

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts recorded 2017 as the warmest year on record for water temperatures in the Northeast. Glen Gawarkiewicz, a senior scientist at the institution, said 2019 was equally “disturbing,” adding that over the past seven years, water temperatures off southern New England have increased by nine degrees Fahrenheit, faster than any region outside of the Arctic.

“The ocean is changing pretty rapidly,” Gawarkiewicz said. “Typically temperature variations might be two degrees Fahrenheit there, and fish are probably sensitive at about one degree Fahrenheit there. So it’s almost an order of magnitude more that you normally need to get some kind of change.”

With 2020 already shaping up to be one of the warmest years on record, there is growing concern about the sustainability of the fishing practices that have dominated this region for generations. Scientists say lobster, a mainstay in waters off of Cape Cod, are moving further north into deeper waters, while warm-water fish are moving in. The dramatic shifts are re-shaping the ecosystem here, potentially putting the traditional food-supply in jeopardy.

“Certainly many of the locally caught seafoods in New England are iconic,” Gawarkiewicz said. “I think it is a risk for the future there.”

SANDWICH, MA - JULY 17: A lobster is removed from a trap at the Sandwich Marina in Sandwich, MA on July 17, 2019. Melting arctic ice is pumping fresh water into the ocean around Greenland and weakening an ancient current that pulses cold water down the East Coast. With that cold water spigot turned down, a surge of warm water that travels north from the tropics is increasingly encroaching on the Gulf of Maine, the basin of the Atlantic whose southern boundary is marked by the Cape. For thousands of years, this frigid, 36,000-square-mile bathtub was home to countless cold-water creatures. But in recent years, it has been warming faster than 99 percent of the worlds oceans. Species that are able, including lobsters, are seeking more hospitable waters, touching off a great undersea migration. To the millions of us who visit Cape Cod once or twice a summer, the effects of climate change can seem subtle, if we see them at all: A breach in the dunes. A crack in the pavement. But once you know how to see what is shifting, changing and washing away, it is impossible to ignore. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)View photos. A lobster is removed from a trap at the Sandwich Marina in Sandwich, MA on July 17, 2019. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Fears about that risk of warming climates have only been magnified by the coronavirus outbreak. As lawmakers look to craft economic policy to lead countries out of this pandemic, researchers, as well as citizens concerned with the fallout from greenhouse-gas emissions, have urged governments to adapt sustainable solutions, to avoid exacerbating a public health crisis with a climate crisis. The sudden shutdown, caused by stay-at-home restrictions are expected to reduce CO2 emmissions by 8% this year, strengthening the case for collective, global action.

Diversification a necessity

For his part, Gawarkiewicz believes that the region needs to diversify economically — meaning expanding beyond traditional catches like American lobster and supplementing with other, non-traditional species, like the Jonah crab.

“Jonah Crabs used to almost be like trash. People would throw them away,” said Bobby Colbert, a longtime fisherman who, along with his brother Denny, operates a fleet of boats out of Sandwich, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, and has been fishing the mid-Atlantic waters for 35 years.

The market for Jonah Crabs has spiked, growing from only about 1 million pounds being caught in 1990 to 19 million pounds last year, according to Aubrey Ellerston, a researcher with the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation.

“It’s a huge economy now on our East Coast,” she said, “and it supports hundreds of fishing families and allows lobstermen to diversify and reduce their dependence on lobstering.”

MARTHA'S VINEYARD, MENEMSHA, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - 2013/10/20: Shack, lobster traps and boats in fishing village. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)View photos. MARTHA’S VINEYARD, MENEMSHA, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES – 2013/10/20: Shack, lobster traps and boats in fishing village. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

How temperatures affect lobster

Historically, lobster “landings” — the industry word for “catches” — have been primarily been in shallow waters closer to shore. But warming oceans are sending lobsters, and those who catch them, farther out.

“It’s been well documented that bottom water temperature really impacts American lobster. So it affects their growth, maturity, their egg extrusion and development. So many females are trying to seek cooler waters to protect egg development,” explained Ellerston.

According WHOI’s research, the rise in ocean temperatures is also bringing non-native species into the waters off New England. “One of the most dramatic examples recently was in January of 2017. There were juvenile black sea bass that were caught near Block Island, south off the coast of Rhode Island,” said Gawarkiewicz, adding, “that had never happened before.”

The changes in ocean temperatures and a drive for more data have created an unlikely alliance between fishers and scientists. Fishermen, once concerned about restrictions placed on them through government intervention, are now working alongside scientists in a mutually beneficial arrangement — to preserve the industry.

“Fishermen do talk about it a lot. And a lot of fishermen are like, ‘Yeah, they’re trying to get us. They’re going to close us down.’ Well that’s not the whole thing,” Colbert said. “We’re working at it together, how do we keep it around? I mean, we’re creating a food source so we want to protect that.”

Colbert remains optimistic about the fishing industry, despite shifts in the supply chain brought on by warming ocean waters. He thinks fishers will adapt to changing conditions as good stewards of the sea — partly as a matter of necessity.

“I think the generation that we have fishing now is more concerned about the resources and protecting it, but also knowing it’s how we make a living,” he said. “It has be sustainable, because I mean, we want to pass something on to the next generation.”

Yvette Killian is a producer for Yahoo Finance’s On The Move.

Wisconsin is starting to resemble a failed state

The Guardian

Wisconsin is starting to resemble a failed state

Nathan Robinson                  May 19, 2020
<span>Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA</span>
Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

 

A failed state is one that can no longer claim legitimacy or perform a government’s core function of protecting the people’s basic security. Lately, the Wisconsin supreme court seems to be doing its level best to make its state qualify for “failed” status. Multiple decisions have both undermined the government’s legitimacy and endangered the people.

First, there was the primary. Because voting in person is clearly risky during a pandemic, several states delayed their primaries to make sure everyone was able to mail in a ballot instead of having to go to a polling place. Not so Wisconsin. The state’s Democratic governor signed an executive order for an all mail-in election but was thwarted by the Republican legislature. Then the governor issued an order postponing the election. Republicans challenged it, and the Wisconsin supreme court sided with them. The primary went forward, but was a disaster: there were “long lines in Milwaukee, where only five polling places in the whole city were open” and more than 50 people appear to have contracted coronovirus as a result. Ensuring that people can vote without risking their lives is a basic duty of government, one at which Wisconsin failed.

But the Wisconsin supreme court’s latest decision is even worse. The conservative majority overturned the state’s “stay-at-home” order, immediately leading bars to be flooded with patrons . Even as public health officials stress the danger in suddenly lifting restrictions, justices presented it as a freedom issue, with one writing that the “comprehensive claim to control virtually every aspect of a person’s life is something we normally associate with a prison, not a free society governed by the rule of law”. Public opinion is generally against the anti-lockdown protests, but if a conservative minority has power, the “letting a deadly virus spread unchecked = freedom” perspective will triumph.

Courts are the least democratic branch of government to begin with; judges are like robed “philosopher kings” with the power to overturn measures overwhelmingly favored by the people. (Sometimes that’s a good thing, but decisions as to what to let stand and what to overturn are almost always political.) Once a single party dominates at court, it simply has veto power over the entire democratic process.

The court’s conservative majority has shown no hesitation in imposing its ideology on the state. As Akela Lacy reported in the Intercept, they have been denying the rights of unionized workers, ruling consistently against criminal defendants, and even overturning a rule banning people from carrying weapons on public buses.

Wisconsin’s Republicans have succeeded in capturing power in the state even without having to capture popular approval. As Michael Li of the Brennan Center documents, the state has been heavily gerrymandered, meaning Republicans can exercise power without having to win majority support:

“[G]errymandered maps make it virtually impossible for them to ever lose their legislative majority. Wisconsin’s maps were crafted with such micro-precision that even if Democrats managed to win a historically high 54% of the two-party vote – a level they’ve reached only once in the last 20 years — Republicans would still end up with a solid nine-seat majority in the state assembly. In fact, Wisconsin’s maps are so gerrymandered that Republicans can win close to a supermajority of house seats even with a minority of the vote. Analyses of the maps in the lawsuit challenging the maps showed that Republicans are a lock to win 60% of statehouse seats even if they win just 48% of the vote.”

In a supposedly democratic country, this should be an outrage. How can a government claim legitimacy if it does not require the people’s support? But this is true far beyond Wisconsin. Republican rule is minority rule; as we know, thanks to our archaic electoral college system Donald Trump, like George W Bush, was able to win the election without winning the most votes, and the undemocratic Senate is Republican-dominated. The Republican agenda is unpopular, meaning that in order to impose it, institutions have to be crafted that will prevent the population from exercising its will. The easier it is for the masses to participate, the more difficult it is for Republicans to protect the 1%, who really should be winning exactly 1% of the vote. (Donald Trump admitted that if voting were easy enough Republicans would never win another election.)

What respect do people owe a government that cannot protect them and cannot claim democratic legitimacy? Very little. The more that Wisconsin Republicans act to impose their will unilaterally without regard to the safety or will of the people, the less we should treat Wisconsin as a functional government.

  • Nathan Robinson is the editor of Current Affairs and a Guardian US columnist