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World Farmers Organization sets trade policy

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 05/13/2013 2:36 PM

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NAGIITA, Japan —There are more similarities than differences among farmers throughout the world, says Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson.

Peterson talked to farmers from more than 50 countries at the World Farmers Organization General Assembly in Nagiita, Japan.

"They might have a different culture and live in different climates, but we face many of the same challenges," he said.

Drawing on its similarities, the WFO passed its first international trade policy.

The policy included key objectives including the need for country-of-origin labeling requirements that allows countries to distinguish their products without distorting trade.

The WFO is the only farmer-to-farmer organization in the world, Peterson said. No multi-national conglomerates or governments are involved.

"This is an opportunity to work side-by-side with other farmers around the world,' he said. "Sharing our different viewpoints will help each individual attending gain new insights to the global agricultural community, strengthening innovation in the community."

Peterson was part of a delegation of Farmers Union presidents who attended. The U.S. delegation shared experiences on a variety of ag-related issues including trade, food security, climate change, education and awareness-raising programs.

Members said they are concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed free-trade agreement being negotiated by several countries, including the United States.

It's based on emerging trade issues in the 21st century and is an expanded version of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, which is aimed at liberalizing the economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

Congress will debate TPP in the near future, Peterson said. The WFO is concerned how farmers will fare in the trade agreement. They want any agreement to be fair and equitable for producers and not geared to the profitability of corporations.

While the farm delegations recognize the need for trade, they also discussed food security. Many countries import food. They talked aboutinvestments to build and maintain infrastructures for food production and technology in rural areas. This may not be an issue in the United States, he said.

One way to increase food security across the globe is to offer the financial support needed for women landowners and farmers, Peterson said. Building those financial resources can be part of the solution towards eliminating hunger .

Peterson said 1.1 billion farmers are women. In India alone there are 30 million dairy farmers.

Climate change is also affecting production, the members said. Temperature changes resulting in droughts and floods. Land issues including erosion are having an affect on production. In some developing countries where drought has been a problem, farmers move to forested regions to cut trees and farm the land.

Many participants shared positive stories. In Ghana, for example, a civil war and the economic woes resulting from it caused the closing of a region's rubber factory. One bank stepped in and hired extension agents to work with farmers to develop better plants and production.