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News from AFSA
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March Newsletter 

Hi <<First Name>>,


With the events of the last several months, there’s a lot to talk about. In Australia and globally, we are collectively facing a host of challenges, and communities are coming together to build responses - we’re keen to share them with you.

As we all deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for food sovereignty and strong local food systems is clearer than ever. Our local farmers are keeping us fed, with regular supply through short supply chains, and they need us to #spendwiththem as much as we need their food.

Check out where and how you can buy from your local farmers and markets here.

For producers, Open Food Network is currently providing extra support for growers to respond to disruptions to their market channels or supply chains.

What have pandemics got to do with food sovereignty? A lot, and while you’re staying home and staying safe, now is a great time to learn more about pandemics and the industrial food system.

Convergence Update: In October AFSA was in Brisbane with an amazing group of growers and food sovereignty activists for the 2019 Food Sovereignty Convergence. We came out of Convergence inspired by their energy for organising and collectivising to advance food sovereignty.

Save the Date: Circumstances permitting, Convergence 2020 is scheduled for Brisbane on 2-3 November 2020, and we’ll be proudly celebrating AFSA’s 10th birthday, so lock it in your calendars now!

AFSA AGM: We welcomed our incoming National Committee for 2019/2020 elected at the AFSA AGM, where members also agreed on our priorities for action in the coming year and established an exciting new channel to help grow new growers across the country.

Farming, fire, drought: Since last year, we’ve seen farmers in many parts of the country dealing with the challenges of devastating fires and ongoing drought, alongside problems like the sudden loss of another local abattoir. We’ve seen the sobering impacts of these conditions, along with the resilience of farmers to continue caring for their land, and the power of communities when they get behind farmers in tough times.

As 2020 continues to raise new challenges, it’s a good time to remember that we still need communities to get behind their farmers. Check out how you can support them here.

Tell us what you need: AFSA Members, we want to hear from you! Join the new AFSA Members Policy Discussion Facebook page to give your views on policy changes.

We’re also conducting a survey of small-scale  "Other Poultry" producers to help inform policy changes – if you raise poultry other than chickens, we need you!

On the advocacy front, AFSA joined many others in challenging the deregulation of gene-edited foods and advocated for supporting small-scale and regenerative farming in the Great Barrier Reef Protection Bill, mobile abattoir regulations, and proposed regulations on ‘high risk’ horticultural products

In international updates, this year will see important decisions made in international spaces that will affect food systems globally. AFSA has been representing small-scale and agroecological producers at international negotiations on the Global Biodiversity Framework and the Committee on World Food Security, while challenging the increasing influence of multinational corporations in world food policy. Get the updates on the international struggle and stay tuned for more news.

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Food sovereignty, pandemics, and public health

 
Food sovereignty means having control over where our food comes from and how it’s grown. It means being able to build strong, connected local food systems with accountability and mutual support between growers, distributers, and eaters. As supply chains are disrupted and eaters face supermarket chaos, current events highlight just how necessary food sovereignty is for food security in the short- and long-term.

More than that, food sovereignty means being able to build food systems that protect the health of people and animals. Pandemics like the current one are not unrelated to globalised industrial food systems. They are closely related in some complex ways, including through intensive animal operations which increase the risk of zoonotic diseases, the expansion of industrial agriculture into previously wild habitats and the increasing incorporation of wild species into capitalist commodity chains.

While we’re staying home and staying safe, it is a good time to also learn about these roots of the current crisis – read a good summary here, and hear Rob Wallace’s excellent explanation here. Wallace also delves into the issues more deeply in Big Farms Make Big Flu.

It is also a time for Australia to re-evaluate what kind of economic and agricultural systems we want and how to build them. Times of crisis are inevitably times of change – either to adapt and continue business as usual, or to make a transformation.

Let’s make our response to this a transformational one.
 

Find your farmers

Farmers’ markets, CSAs, local veg box schemes and food hubs are all sources for buying from your local farmers. Most farmers’ markets are still operating, while many farmers and coops also have direct online order options – now is the time to be buying from them!  Here’s where to find them:

Australian Farmers Markets Association Markets – nation-wide: https://farmersmarkets.org.au/find-a-market/
Victorian Famers’ Markets: https://www.vfma.org.au/
NSW Farmers’ Markets: https://www.fmansw.org.au/
CSAs near you: http://www.csanetworkausnz.org/csa-near-you.html
 

Farmers, find your eaters!

AFSA is a compiling an updated list of farmer members with online direct order/farmers’ market options for eaters, so we can share your food with our audience. Keep an eye out for a members’ email where you can fill in your details and we can put the word out!

We know that some farms and co-ops have seen a huge increase in enquiries recently and have moved to a waitlist – that’s fine! This will be a long term resource to promote our member farms. You can still put your farm on the list, and specify that you’re currently waitlisting or when you estimate you will be taking new orders.

Meanwhile, if you’re thinking of moving online or want to share experiences with other farmers around current events, Open Food Network are running a series of webinars for growers here.

 

                           
 

Save the Date: AFSA turns 10!

 
We’re proud to say AFSA is celebrating its first decade this year, so we’re planning a big celebration alongside this year’s Convergence. While organising gatherings at present is obviously uncertain, circumstances permitting, Convergence 2020 will be scheduled from 1-3 November 2020, starting with our 10 year celebration on the Sunday evening – we hope to celebrate with you!

 

                                 


Food Sovereignty Convergence 2019

 
October saw the Food Sovereignty Convergence in Brisbane for the first time, at Food Connect’s community-owned Shed, where we welcomed a passionate group of food sovereignty activists. This year’s discussions included building farmer collectives, collaborative models for growing growers, climate resilience in farming systems, mobilising for regulatory change and barriers to farming, seed sovereignty, raw milk and ways of supporting Indigenous food sovereignty.

Convergence saw the beginnings of a local farmer collective to support better access and control over seeds for local farmers, as well as insightful inputs on supporting new and young growers into farming and build co-operative systems, and a commitment to organise for collective action on critical regulatory reforms to improve farmers’ control over their markets and practices. 

We also got to get our boots dirty with Matt and Mikah at Neighbourhood Farm, where they showed us what is possible on a small piece of land when you work collectively to feed your community.

Read the full statement from Convergence here.

 


AFSA Annual General Meeting


AFSA’s 2019/20 National Committee was elected at the Annual General Meeting on 22 October 2019. We welcome returning Committee members, along with two new members – Nick Holliday of Belvedere Farm who has taken on the role of Memberships Officer, and Amy Paggett, a young Victorian farmer. We also extend our deep thanks to departing Committee members Fraser Bayley, Anna Treasure, Katarina Munksgaard and Jess Brugmans for their work, insight, and support over the last year.

We are also excited to announce the creation at this year’s AGM of the FOOPL (Farming on Other People’s Land) Fund and subcommittee. This fund is set to support and encourage people doing just that, via knowledge and resource sharing. We’re looking forward to sharing plans for FOOPL actions soon!
 

 


A tough season for growers shows the power of community

 
While February rains have eased conditions in some areas, the extended drought on Australia’s east coast has severely impacted many farmers. We’ve seen many stories of the struggle to cope with the effects of one of the worst droughts in recent history. You can see some of those stories here and here.

Farmers along the East Coast also dealt with terrible losses to fire on top of the drought. Prana Produce shared with us their experience of trying to keep the farm going as fires burned around them for 8 weeks: read their story here. This post captured the heartbreak for farmers who have nursed their land through drought to then be hit by the fires.

"She had heard that the fires had reached her place & her main concern was not her possessions,    but her animals and her ground cover. Emily had worked so hard during the drought to maintain ground cover (grasses, mulches etc) to protect her soil. It's not easy to do in the drought - but she had done it. It was her pride & joy. And she knew it would be gone. These are people that take great care of their animals and that LOVE THEIR LAND! To see the devastation the fire has left to her pastures (let alone her home) is heartbreaking."
 
We’ve also seen the resilience and commitment of farmers to continue to steward their land as well as possible in difficult conditions, and to work to future-proof their farms with regenerative practices.

Gleneden Family Farm in Queensland is one such farm. Over the last three years, the Morrises have been practising holistic regenerative farming near Maryvale where:

“We have been working hard to regenerate the ecology, fertility, and biodiversity of our landscape, while producing ethical, organic, pasture-based food for our community.

Despite our careful, conservative pasture management and gradual destocking over the past two years, this drought has beaten us.  We are out of pasture and almost out of water, but we are not out of hope.”

Gleneden Family Farm put out a call to their community for support to drought-proof the farm – to avoid overgrazing the landscape, and to invest in water infrastructure to provide water security for both their stock and for regenerating the land. Their community responded overwhelmingly and Gleneden can start on their future-proofing work with the backing of their supporters."

This is testament to the value of farms like Gleneden to see so many investing in the people who feed their community. The Morrises’ story shows how critical it is for communities to get behind their farmers and invest in their work to nurture the land and feed us through uncertain times.
 

Supporting farm recovery and resilience

Like those affected by drought, farmers affected by the fires are working to recover and restore their farms – this is an ongoing process in which farmers still need the widespread support of their communities.

You can support a small farmer through a difficult season in many ways – #spendwiththem by buying their product, of course, but also assisting a crowdfunding campaign, investing in your CSA share, or visiting a farm for a tour, farmstay, event, or workshop.

As farmers now also deal with the impacts of COVID-19, strong local food systems are more important than ever, and small farms may be impacted by lower traffic at farmers markets. Check out the channels below to see how you can support your local growers.

ORICOOP is co-ordinating fundraising and volunteer assistance to organic & biodynamic producers here

There is also a Facebook group where organic & biodynamic farmers can connect & support each other:

This account lists various fire-affected businesses that you can support.

In Victoria, Slow Food Melbourne Farmers' Markets, Melbourne Farmers' Markets and CERES Fair Food have been fundraising and working to support their producers as is Food Connect in Brisbane and Carriageworks Farmers' Market in Sydney, along with various regional markets.

If your local producers have been affected, you may want to check with your local accredited farmers' market or food hub about how you can direct support to them.
 


Another region left without an abattoir

 
Pig farmers on the NSW Mid North Coast are also dealing with another problem – the closure of their regional abattoir. This is one of many such stories – regional abattoirs are disappearing around Australia, leaving small-scale farmers without viable options for their stock, and it’s a reminder of the pressing need for more farmer-run alternatives which give producers choice, control and security in their processing facilities.

Sarah – a regenerative, pastured pork farmer in the region shared an excellent piece that gets to the heart of what these kind of closures mean, not only for ethical livestock producers, but for our food security and sovereignty. It’s worth reading in full.

“The loss of many of the region’s small-scale regenerative pastured pork producers is devastating. The reason this is happening is because exported products (meat meal) are valued higher than local food production… it’s insane. At what point do we say, we need to protect small-scale local regenerative farmers from having the rug pulled out from underneath them like this? At what point do communities say, how can we guarantee local food security for our farmers and our local residents?

We cannot continue down this path towards increased food miles and less small-scale regenerative farms. With many local governments declaring a climate emergency, surely many now understand the urgency in supporting local regeneratively-farmed food; this can’t happen without local food security, and micro abattoirs will need to be a key part of that.

Local food security depends on local farmers supported by consumers who demand local food. We can’t do it without you.”
 

Policy updates

 

We want your input! Have your say on regulations that affect your food system


AFSA works to represent its members and their interests in consultations and submissions to a range of government bodies on regulatory issues. This work is critical to supporting small farmers and creating a system which enables them to thrive.

To help us better represent the voices of our members on submissions like the ones below, we’ve created a Facebook group where AFSA members can provide comments and input on upcoming submissions and get updates on our regulatory work. We encourage members to join and add their views to the discussion.
 

Calling all ‘Other Poultry’ producers

Over the last couple of years AFSA has been advocating for small-scale producers in the Victorian State Government’s policy review on Planning for Sustainable Animal Industries, where we’ve won some important planning reforms for small farmers. Following on from this, Agriculture Victoria agreed to conduct research to inform better regulations for non-chicken poultry production - e.g. ducks, geese, turkey, quail, squab, emu, ostriches and pheasants.

AFSA wants to make sure that small-scale producers needs are represented in these discussions, so we want to hear from you. We are seeking data on the extent and type of ‘Other Poultry’ operations among our members and audience.

This information will be de-identified and amalgamated to provide state bodies and policy researchers with data to inform policy discussions about producers' needs. The information will be kept confidential, and you do not have to provide any information you'd prefer not to.

You don’t need to be a Victorian farmer to participate, as producers from other states can also provide insight about the scale-appropriate regulations that small growers need.

If you can help out, just provide some basic details of your operations in the Google form here.
 

Gene-edited foods deregulated

In November, the Senate voted on a motion to disallow the deregulation of gene-edited foods. Along with the many civil society organisations and individuals, AFSA objected to this deregulation, and its potential to further consolidate control of food systems by private corporations.

Despite the many concerns raised, by farmers and advocates as well as Senators, the deregulation has been upheld. AFSA will continue working with allies to call for gene-edited foods to be labelled and regulated appropriately so that we all can maintain our right to choose what we eat and how it is produced.

 

Property Identification Reforms

The Department of Agriculture is considering changes to property identification regulations, in particular, expanding mandatory property identification requirements to include horticulture and propagation businesses and other actors in the supply chain, along with livestock producers.

AFSA’s submission to the Department stressed the need to avoid additional, unnecessary regulation on small-scale producers, and emphasised the lower risks and already high accountability and traceability of small producer models which sell directly from farm to customer. We called on government to ensure regulations are both scale-appropriate and do not inhibit the critical of small farms in providing access to fresh, local, nutritious produce to their communities.
 

Great Barrier Reef Protection Bill

AFSA has also addressed concerns about the potential impact on small-scale farmers of new regulations under the Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, which will require more documentation of agricultural practices and permits for changes to cropping and land use. While strongly supporting measures to protect water quality, AFSA highlighted the difference in ecological impacts between small-scale, regenerative farms and large industrial producers, calling for greater support and incentive for regenerative practices as well as scale-appropriate regulatory approaches to avoid excessive administrative burdens on small farmers.

AFSA has now been invited to give evidence to the Senate Committee's public hearing, an opportunity to advocate directly with decision-makers for small-scale farmers. You can see the full submission here
 

Licensing fees for mobile abattoirs in Victoria

In January, AFSA responded to Primesafe’s proposed fees for mobile abattoir operations in Victoria. With the closure of many regional abattoirs, small- and medium-scale farmers are increasingly faced with a lack of viable processing options for livestock. Numerous AFSA members have contacted us over the last two years to express the major challenges to their business following local abattoir closures and the need for alternatives. Several have been forced to close or pause their livestock operations due to lack of local processing facilities.

Alternatives that allow on-farm slaughter of livestock are sorely needed to support small- and medium-meat producers to sustain local economies and food systems. Such alternatives also offer potential for flow-on regional economic development. We called for Primesafe to recognise the benefits and significantly lower risks of small-scale mobile slaughtering, and to minimise the costs and inspection requirements for farms and mobile operators accordingly.

 



International food sovereignty news

 

The Committee on World Food Security and the Post-2020 Biodiversity framework

It’s been a busy and critical time in international food policy spaces, with the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) continuing to negotiate policy approaches around agroecology and other innovations in the global food system, and the second Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

Both of these processes have major implications for the direction of the world’s food systems and environments over the next decade.

As part of the International Planning Committee on Food Sovereignty and the Civil Society and Indigenous People's Mechanism for relations with the UN Committee on World Food Security,  AFSA has been advocating for the rights of small-scale farmers, peasants, and other food producers in these discussions, including the rights to land, seeds, water and healthy landscapes.

The IPC and organisations in the CSM have called for more ambitious and transformative policy targets which promote agroecological practices, reign in the destruction caused by industrial agriculture, and promote diverse, resilient, local and democratic food systems. While many governments and civil society organisations support a more transformative agenda, this has yet to be included in the draft frameworks coming out of these discussions. AFSA, along with the IPC and many grassroots movements, urged parties to adopt targets that will lead significant, widespread, and transformative action, and continue to negotiate this agenda over the coming year.

See the full statement of the IPC on the Global Biodiversity Framework and check out the work of the CSM here 

 

Growing concern over corporate capture of global institutions

Social movements and civil society organisations are increasingly concerned about the growing influence of corporate actors, in global food policy processes.

In February, hundreds of organisations objected to plans for the World Economic Forum – which represents the interests of transnational corporations – to be among the organisers of the 2021 U.N. World Food Systems Summit, amid widespread concerns that their involvement and representatives will serve to further a neoliberal, industrialised, and market-oriented agenda for world food policy, and undermine what should be a democratic, transparent and representative process. Read the petition of the IPC here.

While the WEF seeks to influence global civil society processes, the influence of corporate philanthropy is also growing at the United Nations. There is growing concern over organisations like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation being granted privileged access to policy forums and increasing influence over agricultural development programs, advocating for 'solutions' that promote international big business while further embedding industrial and undemocratic systems. Read an excellent summary of the problem here.

As we see the disastrous outcomes of industrial agriculture and food systems that are not held accountable for the wellbeing of our communities, it is more critical than ever that people-powered movements push back against this creeping capture of global institutions. We will continue to provide updates on progress in the international space and hope that our ally organisations in Australia will lend their voice to calls for a return to democratic and representative policy processes.
THE AUSTRALIAN FOOD SOVEREIGNTY ALLIANCE is a collaboration of organisations and individuals working together towards a food system in which people have the opportunity to choose, create and manage their food supply from paddock to plate.

FOOD SOVEREIGNTY asserts the right of peoples to nourishing and culturally appropriate food produced and distributed in ecologically sound and ethical ways, and their right to collectively determine their own food and agriculture systems.

OUR PURPOSE is to cooperate to create an equitable, sustainable and resilient food system for all Australians.
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