Last week, over 40 Minnesota residents made a citizens’ arrest of Cargill, Inc. in front of the company’s downtown Minneapolis office at the Grain Exchange. I walked away from the event struck with inspiration and hope. Why? In addition to being amazed that so many enthusiastic people braved below-freezing weather to hold Cargill accountable for its crimes against nature, I thought that this event was particularly significant in that it demonstrated the growing unity of voices in opposition to Cargill’s destructive power.
Our Cargill campaign is bridging movements and building strong allies beyond simply environmental and human rights organizations. RAN has been running a campaign to pressure Cargill to clean up its palm oil supply chain for several years, but we’re up against the world’s largest privately held corporation. We need a larger justice army than just RAN alone. RAN is small but mighty — but Cargill’s annual revenue of $119 billion is larger than the GDP of 70% of the world’s countries. It’s one of the most secretive, sketchy operations in the world (see for yourself). We can’t expect the richest family in America — the Cargill MacMillan family — or top decision makers within the company to do right by people and the planet. We have to force them to. And when I say we, I mean a swarm of us.
And that’s exactly what we’re witnessing.
This past weekend I noticed the seeds of a national movement against Cargill begin germinating, an unstoppable swarm pursuing Cargill from all angles. This includes rural communities and farmers who are tired of Cargill’s exploitation, the Occupy movement’s growing hunger to Occupy our Food Supply and reclaim our food system from corporate control, human rights organizations demanding an end to slave labor in Cargill’s supply chain, and environmental organizations holding Cargill accountable for driving climate change and orangutans towards extinction.
We are excited to forge new alliances with groups like Family Farm Defenders, the National Family Farm Coalition, and the Land Stewardship Project. Paul Sobocinski, a Land Stewardship Project organizer and family farm livestock producer from Wabasso, MN, could not attend our citizens’ arrest of Cargill due to distance but proudly stood in solidarity with our action by offering a quote, which we read aloud to the crowd:
Cargill wants to control the livestock industry, they’d like to turn family farmers into modern day serfs who do their bidding while Cargill walks away with the lion’s share of the profits. Cargill is fully integrated and one of the largest meatpackers and factory farm hog producers in the country. It’s time to hold them accountable. It’s time to take back our food and farming system from corporate agribusiness.
Another farmer, Dena Hoff from Montana, is Vice President of NFFC. She expressed a similar sentiment:
It is outrageous that our leaders continue to promote their disastrous trade liberalization policies. The WTO and free trade have led to below-cost dumping by agribusinesses, destroying family farmers and threatening our food security. Countries have surrendered their food sovereignty to the likes of Cargill and Wall Street, who profit from the volatility that hurts farmers and consumers worldwide.
The first step to reclaiming our food system is taking control of our own food chain and eliminating as many of the corporate strings as possible. That means spending more time at your local farmers market and doing away with the packaged, processed, and refined foods that likely contain the nasty and unethical food additive called palm oil.
Palm oil is in every way a symptom of our broken food system. If you want to start tackling your own foodprint, start with palm oil. Trace its steps backwards in the food supply, and there you will find Cargill, the shady, secretive back door dealer.