U.S. Strategy for Global Food Sovereignty



Time has passed without the implementation of the strategy set out below, (and without any campaign following the timeline set out in Chart 5).  My interpretation of the stunning Trump/Republican victory is that the rural vote was an important part of his success, and that vote represented, in part, a context of chronic rural trauma.  In my view, this rural context is one of economic trauma leading to social trauma leading to the desire to throw a metaphorical brick through the glass windows inside-the-beltway in Washington D.C.  (See references to these interpretations at the bottom.)

Two and three decades ago the Family Farm (Farm Justice) Movement had major programs to address both the economic and social traumas of the past 60 years of U.S. rural history, and these strategies were quite successful against the kinds of far right groups that have been attracted to Trump.

Politically, the farm justices strategy has always been a powerful tool against conservative ideologies, as it has emphasized the economics that are key to the dominant narrative that we are fighting.  We’ve alway had a much cheaper farm bill than the conservatives, and one which makes much more money for the United States.  Their narrative, then, is one of chronic failure, chronic incompetence.

Trump’s win will lead to major activity on a new farm bill by 2017, which is just a month away as I write.  That will be an enormous strategic opportunity to bring forth voices to tell the story of conservative failure and incompetence, (especially to voters in rural regions,) but only if we can quickly teach this alternative farm-side strategy to urban and rural U.S. social movements working on food and farm issues.

The U.S.-global strategy for  Food Sovereignty outlined below explains major aspects of the kinds of responses that are needed in response to the Trump victory.

Prior to posting here online the title was:

Strategy for US Food Sovereignty

(Note:  This explains charts that I prepared for [but didn’t use at,] the “Strategic Dialogue” meeting [US Food Sovereignty Alliance, National Family Farm Coalition, visitors from other countries,] on the day of the 2014 Food Sovereignty Prize, In Des Moines Iowa, [10/15/14].  While my initial purpose was to speak to strategy, I now also see this as an overall assessment of US efforts on these issues, with the US Food Sovereignty Alliance as the primary audience.  The views here originate within the Family Farm Movement sector.)



Here in the US, we have huge contributions to make to global food sovereignty, especially out of our family farm movement, which has prioritized US farm justice issues, especially the farm bill, for 6 decades.  This has huge global implications, since the US is the dominant farm commodity exporter and price setter.

This is the macro side of food sovereignty, as opposed to the local side.  For food sovereignty we need governments to manage national, regional and global markets, for fair prices (floors and ceilings,) and to address both overproduction and the risk of shortages.

The biggest places where changes are needed are the US Farm Bill and trade agreements, (which also relate to US and other farm bills and programs).



30 YEARS AGO our whole US farm and food movement was primarily a movement of US “Family Farm” activists, plus some allies, (i.e. churches, labor, other rural people).  It was a much larger movement than our subsector(s) has (have) today.  Other kinds of activists, such as food and hunger activists that didn’t really understand or join our movement (i.e. like Frances Moore Lappe and Food First,) were, collectively, a very small sector (or sectors,) at least on issues like export dumping as affected by the Farm Bill.

TODAY our movement has shrunk, with the loss of many groups and alliances, and a smaller surviving National Family Farm Coalition in which many member groups don’t really understand these issues.  Compared to past decades, National Farmers Organization and National Farmers Union have been much less involved, though NFU recently rejoined the efforts, with the Market Driven Inventory System.  Mainline churches are usually not allies, and seem to have forgotten about the earlier period of working with us, with an occasional exception like the Presbyterian Church USA, which has had mixed information, some against dumping and some unknowingly for dumping.

Even NFFC’s closest new allies often show misunderstandings of the macro side of food sovereignty.  For example, in recent years I’ve found a number of items on the web sites of groups like Why Hunger, Food First, Pesticide Action Network that (unknowingly) support agribuisness exploiters against the farmers being dumped upon.  Usually these are misunderstandings of the US farm bill related to farm subsidies, or rather, an overall false paradigm of the farm bill and related matters that prevents the issue from being understood, even when correct information is shared.

Meanwhile, as I show with the large “Other” circle, we now have the large, urban-side “Food Movement” that we’ve long called for.  The question of whether or not it’s a mile wide and an inch deep is a separate matter.  It’s potential, at least at the moment, is huge.

Unfortunately, this movement is even worse at understanding export dumping issues, usually having (virtually) no correct information about which policies are bad and which are good on their web sites.  Overwhelmingly, they advocate (unknowingly) FOR dumping, for agribusiness exploiters and against US and global farmer victims, directly against their own values and goals, and ours.

We see then that the Family Farm Movement has shrunk drastically in size (large circle to small circle).  It’s also shrunk drastically in status.

I’ve also tried to illustrate two family farm subsectors.  The Sustainable (Family Farm) Agriculture Movement is a fairly new player that’s being noticed.  It is a movement sector that arose and split away from the Family Farm Movement during the 1990s.  The Sustainable Agriculture Movement’s only work on the big “farm justice” issues of the farm bill and trade has usually been limited to subsidy caps, so the result has been support for export dumping and against the macro side of food sovereignty.  Otherwise, they do great work on sustainability issues, and represent one of the most significant innovations in the Family Farm paradigm in our history.

The sustainable agriculture sector directly represents a very small fraction of farmers, which are themselves a small fraction of US population.  On the other hand, it’s received strong support from academics and scientists who represent a post mega-industrial paradigm, (and from foundations).

Family Farm Activists are hard to find these days, and represent a tiny fraction of the whole (farm and) Food Movement of today.  Surviving “family farm” organizations, even the best ones from history, sometimes did little or no work on the biggest of these issues for the 2008 and/or 2014 farm bills, and work on trade issues is also greatly reduced.

A second tiny subsector on the chart is dairy.  Dairy farmers are a very small fraction of farmers, and dairy farm justice activists are very few in number, (plus it’s hard for them to get away from their work).

I’ll refer to these two tiny subsets of farmers (dairy and sustainable agriculture,) farther below, as they powerfully illustrate my thesis regarding food sovereignty strategy from the US to the world.



Our very small group (today) that accurately works on the macro side of food sovereignty works directly on the biggest issues, “US & global Market Management,” or what I call “Farm Justice.”

In contrast, with regards to policy, the much much larger category of “Others” who share our values, especially the Food Movement, works on the much smaller category of US issues involving farm bill spending, (and then state and local issues,) with little or no impact on Food Sovereignty beyond our borders.  Worse, they misunderstand the farm subsidy part of farm bill spending, (which is mistakenly thought to have large global implications).  On the chart, this is in pink, and fairly big, to illustrate that they advocate on the wrong side, (in favor of agribusiness exploiters and against the US and global farmer victims).  This is, again, unintentional, and directly contrary to their values and goals.



Ok, what are these specific issues?  These, (our tiny subsector’s issues, the biggest issues,) start with managment of whole US and global markets.  Most directly, these are the biggest issues of US and global distributive economic justice, (or farm justice).  In the long haul, these are multitrillion dollar issues, and that doesn’t even count the impact on economic multipliers throughout these rural economies.

This starts with fair prices such as “fair trade,” “living wage” or parity prices, in programs that limit production, for example, by limiting the number of acres farmed.

Globally, these programs, especially when supported by trade agreements, stop most volatility and speculation.  In terms of progressive values on lists of “political correctness,” they address (for the US & globally,) the needs of the “disadvantaged,” such as women and groups that are racial minorities here.  They also largely determine the conventional prices affecting premiums for local, organic, and fair trade production

Fair farm prices then work in the opposite direction of the cheap grain that has given huge below cost gains to CAFOs, as surviving US farmers have lost livestock and 4 corporations have come to own 66% of hogs, for example.  In losing livestock, farmers have lost the economic use of alfalfa and clover, the most powerful crops in crop rotations, and pastures, for example on a farm’s most hilly or flood prone land, have usually gone away.

In contrast to these sustainable impacts for markets as a whole, farmers as a whole, both in the US and globally, the large circle of “Others” on the chart such as the Sustainable Food Movement, focus on the much smaller sub category of US spending issues related to sustainability, such as those that usually affect a relatively tiny number of farmers, for example, moving towards organic level standards of farming, or those selling locally.

We see, then, that, while “family farm” (farm justice) values are usually seen as a kind of low grade progressivism (for the self interests of smaller sized and somewhat differently structured, farms that are usually “industrial,” not organic,) they really have the biggest impacts of all on the highest priority progressive values.  This understanding shows up virtually nowhere in the dominant farm and food paradigms of today, including our own paradigm.  Almost no one really seems to “see” that the assumedly low-grade “family farm” values, (the values that, [virtually alone,] start with US and global distributive economic justice,) deserve virtually our top priority rankings.

(Note that CAFOs feed grain, not hay, and anyway, for organic systems, it’s best not to sell the stems, [hay and straw,] as opposed to the seeds (i.e. grain).


(Note:  Some have suggested skipping this section, as they find it hard to understand.  It can be skipped without hurting the other sections.  It is especially relevant to political strategy.  See sources related to this alternative paradigm of human values at the bottom.)


This chart introduces a new general paradigm for human values, in which the “family farm” (farm justice) paradigm is shown to overcome the limitations of both “industrial” and progressive values.  I’ve pulled out this chart for further development, at the suggestion of another farmer.  Contact me if you want more information.  It’s based upon the work of Charles Hampen-Turner.



The timeline at the top of this chart refers to the strategy diagrams at the bottom.  The strategy is for our small movement sector(s) to teach the well meaning but misguided “Others,” such as the “Sustainable Agriculture,” the “Food” and the “Hunger” Movement sectors about US and global farm justice, as a paradigm and in terms of specific proposals, (Food from Family Farms Act, Market Driven Inventory System, and related trade issues).  They already share our values and goals, and they are already working on farm bill issues, and yet their advocacy, (like some of our own,) is almost always reversed, in support of export dumping, and the hunger and lack of sustainability that arises from those kinds of support for agribusiness.  So this must surely be our top priority.

For two farm billls, (2008 and 2014,) at least, we haven’t accomplished this, and perhaps we haven’t had a serious strategy to do so.  Clearly, the “moment” has been here during the 2008 and 2014 work.  We might have had a new “populist moment.”  Instead we may have lost the entire moment, the entire possibility.

Let’s hope not.

To now, finally, implement such a strategy, timing is critical.  As shown on the chart, which is a “next farm bill” timeline, there are two years for doing such a strategy, 2014 and 2015, and it’s already mid October of 2014!  During these two years we need to contact and then train the larger progressive food, hunger and sustainability movement.

In later years, then, 2016, 2017 and 2018, they can incorporate it into their web sites, reports, videos and other materials.  They need to also remove the false materials, those which support dumping by agribusiness exploiters, and which falsely blame farmer victims.

The end goal is shown in the green circle.  There we leverage our whole movement, a huge movement, working for, (not mostly against,) the best values on the biggest (but least known) issues.

Here I’ve also again included the tiny subsectors of dairy farmers and sustainable agriculture farmers.  Dairy farmers have been having the most acute US farm crisis, as three of the biggest names in the farm bill, (corn, soybeans, rice,) have been having a rare period of much better prices, (above zero vs full costs over seven years).  Dairy has been the canary in the mine of the farm bill, illustrating how bad the new farm bill is, (as we’re now seeing with a return to extremely low prices for the other corn and soybeans, for example).  The opportunity has been there through the 2008 and 2014 periods of farm bill work, but no such strategy seems to have been implemented.  We missed these moments for fixing dairy while simultaneously educating the greater movement.  Instead our strategy seems to have been primarily to mobilize the tiny group of dairy farmers themselves, as illustrated on the chart, to really give Congress a talking to.

We can then contrast this with the other tiny subsector of farmers, sustainable agriculture.  In this case, however, they’ve successfully leveraged the huge Food (environmental, public health, etc., etc.,) Movement to advocate on their issues.  They represent an excellent model for study.  Another group, especially severely neglected over the decades, is the work of the Rural Coalition.  I think that their issues have also been widely included in the larger movement’s food conferences, books, list sharing, etc. in recent years.  I’ve seen this at conferences in Oakland, New York City, Des Moines, and Minneapolis.  At the same time, they and some of their groups apparently haven’t managed to do much work recently on the larger US and global issues of farm bill farm justice.



As I understand it, La Via Campesina represents something like 200 million to 300 million peasants and other family farmers world wide.  On the other hand, few of these farmers and farm advocates can vote inside of the United States.  They rely on us, on our tiny subsector of US activism, and on the quality of our strategies, and the timing of their implementation.  The concluding assessment is clear from the various charts.  In recent years, such as over the 2008 and 2014 periods, we’ve failed.  We really haven’t done much of anything to support them on the biggest global (& US) issues of the farm bill, (farm justice,) and related trade issues.  Our web sites often contain material that leads people to support export dumping in the interests of the largest and most exploitative agribusiness firms.  We’ve allowed ourselves to be marginalized within the greater US Food and Farm Movement of today, as if our values were low-grade, and unimportant.  Our leaders hardly ever mention the specific proposals of farm justice that are needed by the farmers of La Via Campesina.

On the other side, there are clear strategies for fixing this.



(NOTE:  I plan to add references in the future.)


Brad Wilson, “Via Campesina with NFFC: Support for Fair Farm Prices,” Brad Wilson at ZSpace, 9/16/10, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/via-campesina-with-nffc-support-for-fair-farm-prices-by-brad-wilson/ .

Brad Wilson, “WTO Africa Group with NFFC, Not EWG,” Brad Wilson at ZSpace, 4/1/11, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/wto-africa-group-with-nffc-not-ewg-by-brad-wilson/ .

Brad Wilson, “Food Sovereignty as Government Intervention,” Brad Wilson at ZSpace, 9/22/15, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/food-sovereignty-as-government-intervention/ .

Brad Wilson, “Food Crisis PRIMER,” Brad Wilson at ZSpace, 8/9/14,  https://zcomm.org/zblogs/food-crisis-primer/

Brad Wilson, “False on the Food Poverty Crisis: 25 Online Examples,” Brad Wilson at ZSpace, 4/18/11, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/false-on-the-food-poverty-crisis-25-online-examples-by-brad-wilson/ .

Brad Wilson, “Unique US Role in Fixing the LDC Food Poverty Crisis,” Brad Wilson at ZSpace, 2/21/16, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/unique-us-role-in-fixing-the-ldc-food-poverty-crisis/ .


Brad Wilson, “Farm Justice PRIMER: A Farm Bill Primer,” Brad Wilson at ZSpace, 8/3/14, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/farm-justice-primer-a-farm-bill-primer/ .

Brad Wilson, “PRIMER: Farm Justice Proposals for the 2012 Farm Bill,” (or “for the 2014 Farm Bill,”) Brad Wilson at ZSpace, 5/11/12, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/primer-farm-justice-proposals-for-the-2012-farm-bill-by-brad-wilson/ .

Brad Wilson, “Fact Sheet: Farm Justice Proposals for the 2012 Farm Bill,” Brad Wilson at ZSpace, 5/11/12, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/fact-sheet-farm-justice-proposals-for-the-2012-farm-bill-by-brad-wilson/ .

Brad Wilson, “Brad Wilson’s Farm Bill Proposal,” Brad Wilson at ZSpace, 2/29/16, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/brad-wilsons-farm-bill-proposal/ .


Siena Christian, “Want to Understand Trump’s Rise? Head to the Farm,” Civil Eats, 10/27/16, http://civileats.com/2016/10/27/want-to-understand-trumps-rise-head-to-the-farm/ .

Brad Wilson, “Election, Rural Vote, Donald Trump: Why and What We Need to Do,” Family Farm Justice, 11/12/16,  https://familyfarmjustice.me/2016/11/12/election-rural-vote-donald-trump-why-and-what-we-need-to-do/ .

Brad Wilson, “Rural Trump Vote:  Who’s Behind the Trauma?” Brad Wilson at Facebook, (public) Notes, 11/16/16, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1149482581772830&set=a.1149482558439499.1073741841.100001332982534&type=3&theater .

Brad Wilson, “The Election as Moby Dick: The Failure of Starbucks against Captain Ahab,” Brad Wilson at Facebook, Notes, (public,) 11/23/16, https://www.facebook.com/notes/brad-wilson/the-election-as-moby-dick-the-failure-of-starbucks-against-captain-ahab/1147218288649251


Charles Hampden Turner, “The Lethal Structure of Morality: Charles Osgood to Charles Hampden-Turner,” Map 43, pp. 152-154, in Maps of the Mind, Collier Books, 1981.

Charles Hampden Turner, “The Cybernetics of Mental Health· Charles Hampden-Turner,” Map 51, pp. 178-181, in Maps of the Mind, Collier Books, 1981.

Charles Hampden-Turner, “How Value is Created:  Two Forms of Choice,” ch. 1 in Charting the Corporate Mind, The Free Press, 1990.

Charles Hampden-Turner, “A Theoretical Appendix” in Sane Asylum, New York:  William Morrow, 1977.

Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompanaars, Building Cross Cultural Competence:  How to Create Wealth from Conflicting Values, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.


5 thoughts on “U.S. Strategy for Global Food Sovereignty

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