NEW YORK, NY
The International Year of Family Farming kicked off at the United Nations on Friday (Nov. 22) with people who have been working on the effort for several years holding a teleconference to focus attention on the project.
Jose Osaba, with the World Rural Forum, said the effort is a project of farmer networks, non-governmental organizations, cooperatives and others who acknowledge that family farming is the main form of agriculture in the world and decided there was a need for a great event to recognize its importance.
He hopes that throughout the year, the campaign will be able to remedy some of the problems for family farmers in some parts of the world through policy engagement and the changing of laws or regulations.
One specific problem he noted was that in some parts of the world women farmers are denied certain rights and access to the marketplace.
Leaders of the various organizations that are signed on for the project joined the teleconference from the UN on Friday to express their support.
The push for an International Year of Family Farming began in 2008 when Osaba and others began seeking a United Nations declaration, which came in December 2011 when the UN General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution to create the declaration for 2014.
"Our joy is that today we have 42 countries that have national committees, which acknowledges the diversity of family farming on five continents," Osaba said.
He hopes this international campaign will create momentum for dialogue among governments, farmers, cooperatives and others about the importance of family farming — defined by these organizers as a means of production based primarily on family ownership and family labor.
More than two billion women and men are family farmers on five continents and they "bring something special, something important to the world," he said.
As the year begins in 2014, Osaba said there are still more countries that want to organize their own national committees and become part of the process.
Those national committees will be vital to diagnosing problems that family farmers may have in their countries and working on ways to remedy them, he said. "It's happening already in certain countries. It's a fantastic moment for family farmers."
Organizers hope to engage academics as well in the project.
Those who think family farming is a thing of the past will be convinced that it is still a way of organizing food production that can feed for the world and care for the earth, Osaba added.
Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, is chairman of the U.S. committee that is part of the International Year of Family Farming. His organization has a quarter million members organized in 33 state affiliates, though there are members in every state, he said.
"We agreed to chair the national committee because family farming has always been our focus."
Robert Carlson, a Farmers Union member, is the current president of the World Farmers Organization, he added, a further indication of their interest in global farming systems.
Johnson said he was delighted to be part of the project and the national committee would be rolling out themes on a month-by-month basis.
For more see the web site: www.yearoffamilyfarming.com.
Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America, a non-profit group based in Washington, DC said his group wanted to be part of the campaign because more and more consumers are coming to believe that family farmers play an important role in feeding the world.
"Consumers are concerned about where their food comes from and many of them are building new relationships with family farmers."
Alan Knapp, vice president of advocacy at National Cooperative Business Association, said his group is dedicated to supporting policies and educational programs that empower family farming, ranching and fishing.
He hopes the International Year of Family Farming will raise the profile of family farmers in the United States and around the world.
Jeremy Peters, director of federal policy at American Farmland Trust, said his organization was begun in 1980 by several groups that were concerned about the loss of farmland in the United States.
He said he is looking forward to a broad discussion of a number of issues that affect family farmers in the coming year because family farmers are crucial to protecting farmland.
Rebecca Middleton, chief operating office of Alliance to End Hunger said she was pleased to be part of the U.S. committee because family farmers are a critical piece of ending hunger.
Bart Ruth, co-chair of 25x25, a coalition dedicated to the idea that 25 percent of U.S. energy can be generated from renewable sources on American farms and forests, said his group was formed in 2004 and is happy to be part of the committee on the International Year of Family Farming.
Though the size and scale of family farming in the United States has changed over time, Ruth said it was family farmers who "encouraged the development of renewable energy and are the driving force behind it."
For more on the International Year of Family Farming see the web site: