Inspiration from FARM WOMEN UNITED — Reclaiming the U.S. Constitution: The 2018 Dairy Farm Crisis
Posted July 22, 2018
As a 67-year old lifelong activist, in 2018 I am finding more and more need to refer to the U.S. Constitution, only to find that the Constitution itself is outdated and unclear on many things—including public money, economic rights, women’s authority, the rights of non-humans, care-taking, etc. I am actively advocating a national book club to read the U.S. Constitution in conjunction with the Iroquois Constitution, which was much more clear on economic rights and powers, especially women’s rights and authority. For details on the Great Law of Peace and how it might inform a current study of the U.S. Constitution, see my June 2018 blog, Overcoming U.S. Political Tribalism in 2018: Are there any Models?
For a hyper-current example of why we need to re-think, re-discover, and possibly re-write the U.S. Constitution, here is some inspiration and thoughts from Brenda Cochran, President of Farm Women United.
On July 24, 2018, Farm Women United are hosting a public hearing about the current dairy farm family crisis. The hearing will be held in Lairdsville, Pennsylvania. More information is here: Farm Women United Dairy Farm Crisis Hearing.
Farm Women United—”A Citizen’s Platform of the people, by the people, and for the people”— is holding this hearing because they have not been able to get Congress and other officials to listen. They are encouraging other U.S. farmers and communities to hold their own hearings.
The Action Alert caught my attention because it cites “Constitutional rights” and “un-Constitutional inequities” as issues in the dairy farm crisis. I wanted to know the specifics, so on July 9, 2018 I sent this question to FWU: “Can you identify those specific places in the Constitution that refer to violated rights or inequities causing the dairy farm crisis?”
Here is the response that I got from Brenda Cochran, FWU President. Thanks to Brenda for taking the time to answer my question in detail and for giving me permission to post her Observations about “The Constitution” and Farmers.
For some nuts & bolts background on the dairy farm crisis, here’s one of the many news media articles: How Rural America got Milked, by Leah Douglas (New Food Economy, Jan. 18, 2018).
Here is Brenda’s answer in full. It contains two distinct parts:
— Her observations about the Constitution
— The Economic Bill of Rights, an excerpt from Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s State of the Union message (Jan. 11, 1944).
“OBSERVATIONS ABOUT ‘THE CONSTITUTION’ AND FARMERS”
by Brenda Cochran – President, Farm Women United
In email to Debbie Hillman, July 20, 2018
All red highlights are from Brenda’s original message
I have been really busy, unable to reply sooner. I am sorry for that. We face unprecedented stress in all aspects of our lives from low milk prices and the strain it is having on our family.
It was nice hearing from you. I appreciate your inquiry about my references to the Constitution in the materials published for FWU in the present situation facing dairy farmers. Like you, I am an almost 66-year old “activist”—for justice for dairy farmers.
I am not a lawyer, a Constitutional scholar, or a political science professor, just a citizen, like many, who feels “wired” and imprinted with a gut feeling that dairy farmers’ Constitutional liberties are violated every day under current federal dairy policies. I believe any Americans, who recognize their protected rights, can tell when they are being taken advantage of, abused, degraded, victimized, marginalized, disenfranchised etc. by THUGS and TYRANTS, inside and outside of government, who care nothing about other people’s rights.
My interpretation of Constitutional rights for farmers is anecdotal and specific to how dairy farmers are being treated by the federal government at all levels and by the criminals running most of the Capper-Volstead dairy co-ops and the dairy “Industry,” in general, under the protection of the government.
That is why I often tell folks that the crisis facing dairy farmers at this time in history is actually a political crisis with the socio-economic symptoms manifesting in the farmers’ lives, as we observe, a sure sign of disenfranchisement. The ensuing socio-economic abuse has stripped farmers of human dignity that is supposed to be protected by the Constitution.
I included a few themes from the Constitution below for you to review. The federal dairy and “Free Trade” policies and the revolting corruption the feds allow in the dairy co-ops have violated the liberties of farmers for decades. 90% of US dairy farmers have already been eliminated under these destructive policies. The rights may be more nuanced in the Constitution, but, I believe they apply, in the spirit of the Constitution, directly to us as citizen-dairy farmers.
“We the People” are ignored. Politicians and their aides do nothing for us but patronize us, blow us off, refuse to call us back, refuse to address what we write in our letters, refuse to meet with us at all to discuss our “issues” (e.g. through statute and regulations, special interests are allowed to steal from us literally—our milk, our land, our homes, our cattle…Under the current federal milk pricing regulations, every milk truck leaving a farm with another load of de-valued farm milk is a “get-away car” for the robbers executing grand larceny with the full support of the government, euphemistically referred to as a “federal matter.”)
There can be no “justice” for dairy farmers under these circumstances, and in every farm home and rural community this economic deprivation threatens and attacks “domestic tranquility…the general welfare…” effectively denying “blessings of liberty” to farmers and their “posterity,” with fewer farms than ever passing on to the next generation let alone functioning intact as dairy farms. The devaluation of the farmers’ milk sets up a de facto confiscation (“seizing”) of “private property” because the farmers have no way to protect their “private property” and the compromised Capper-Volstead dairy co-ops refuse to set a milk price to cover the cost of milk production to protect what the farmer owns.
Dairy farmers seemingly have no “standing” to have their “petitions for a redress…of grievances” acted upon by government authorities.
Chaos and turmoil, even violence and despair, ensue in any society or nation where lawlessness is encouraged and protected by government authority. Dairy farmers are thwarted by a government determined to surrender what farmers own to the control of others.
The co-ops use “block-voting” to silence us and “speak” for us. Many farmers are afraid to go to public meetings because they fear what the milk buyers might do to deprive them of a market for their milk if they “speak” out about the milk pricing scheme and marketing issues. Federal dairy policy requires dairy farmers to fund the “dairy check-off,” denying them the First Amendment right to “speak or not to speak” forcing farmers to finance research and development of dairy products against the best interests of the impacted dairy farmers.
This is just a layman’s assessment, but one FWU has determined will be part of our message until “justice” is returned to protect the private property of dairy farmers and their other Constitutional rights.
Thanks again for your inquiry and for allowing me to offer clarification. Please let me know if I can offer any further assistance. Thanks for your support for the ongoing and determined effort to return control of our food supply to local citizens, not at-distance politicians and government-sponsored “special interests.”
President, Farm Women United
PS I have included below another Historic Document (“The Economic Bill of Rights”) along the lines of what you and I are examining from the archives FYI. (Red used simply for selective emphasis not to exclude other “Rights” or precepts.)
We the People of the United States, …to…establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility,… promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Bill of Rights, in general, respects each person’s human dignity by safeguarding life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with the preservation of free speech,
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against… unreasonable…seizures, shall not be violated ….
…the freedom of speech, or of the press, …and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The Economic Bill of Rights
January 11, 1944
Often referred to as the “Second Bill of Rights”
Excerpted from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s message to Congress on the State of the Union. This was proposed not to amend the Constitution, but rather as a political challenge, encouraging Congress to draft legislation to achieve these aspirations. It is sometimes referred to as the “Second Bill of Rights.”
It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people — whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth — is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights — among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our nation has grown in size and stature, however — as our industrial economy expanded — these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all — regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
— The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
— The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
— The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
— The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
— The right of every family to a decent home;
— The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
— The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
— The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.