As I wrote last week, the California Farm Bureau (which lobbies for the state's farmers) struck a deal to gut the state's Right to Repair legislation, a move that will cost farmers their right to fix their own tractors and other heavy equipment.
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Farmers are the vanguard of the Right to Repair movement; accustomed as they are to fixing their own equipment (you can't wait for a repair tech when the tractor doesn't work -- as the saying goes, you have to make hay while the sun shines), they were outraged when companies like John Deere started using DRM to pick their pockets, creating tractors whose engines wouldn't recognize a new part until they paid a tech a few hundred dollars to drive out in a day or two and key an unlock code into the tractor's keyboard.
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Farming is a tough gig, made even tougher when racism and greed are plied against you.
According to WMC News, a number of African American farmers have claimed that, in March of 2017, they were sold fake seed by the Stine Seed Company. The most likely motivation for their receiving counterfeit seed, according to the farmers: money. If their fields fail to yield an adequate crop, the farmers would become insolvent, making it easy for anyone interested in their property to buy it out from under them. It’s a serious allegation but, thanks to Mississippi State University, the farmers have some serious science to back up the belief that they’d been swindled.
After testing certified Stein brand seed against the stuff that the black farmers had been sold in 2017, the University concluded that they had not been given the “certified” seed that they’d paid for. This is a huge deal. Branded seed stock from companies like Stine, does not come cheap. Farmers are willing to pay more for it because they know that the crop yields they’ll see will make it worth while at the end of the growing season. Due to the fact that the farmers spread fake seed on their fields, they suffered millions of dollars worth of losses.
From Raw Story:
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Thomas Burrell, president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, explained how black farmers were receiving one-tenth of the yield as their white neighbors.
“Mother nature doesn’t discriminate,” Burrell said. “It doesn’t rain on white farms but not black farms.
Motherboard's short documentary, "Tractor Hacking: The Farmers Breaking Big Tech's Repair Monopoly" is an excellent look at the absurd situation created by John Deere's position that you can't own your tractor because you only license the software inside it, meaning that only Deere can fix Deere's tractors, and the centuries-old tradition of farmers fixing their agricultural equipment should end because Deere's shareholders would prefer it that way.
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In "The Haribo Check," aired on German public broadcast ARD, a documentary team audits Haribo's supply chain and finds "modern day slaves" in Brazil working to harvest carnauba wax, a key ingredient in the sweets: the plantations pay $12/day, and workers (including children) sleep out of doors, drink unfiltered river water, and have no access to toilets, under conditions that a Brazilian Labor Ministry official called "modern-day slavery."
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In 2011, the Canadian Conservative government rammed through Bill C-11, Canada's answer to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, in which the property rights of Canadians were gutted in order to ensure that corporations could use DRM to control how they used their property -- like its US cousin, the Canadian law banned breaking DRM, even for legitimate purposes, like effecting repairs or using third party parts. Read the rest
With the shambolic FARC peace deal finally in place, the Colombian government is hoping to shift the country's farmers from Colombia's major cash crop: the coca leaves that are refined into the world's cocaine supply. Perhaps with the guerrillas no longer defending the crops they relied on for operating capital, Colombia can put coca behind it. Read the rest
There's really nothing not to love about vertical farms -- multi-story hydroponic operations, usually sited in dense urban areas -- they borrow their best tech from the space program, they're water-conserving, they don't have runoff, they're energy efficient, and they're super land-efficient, meaning we don't need to turn forests or wetlands into fields. Read the rest
In spring, 2015, American farmers started to spread the word that John Deere claimed that a notorious copyright law gave the company exclusive dominion over repairs to Deere farm-equipment, making it a felony (punishable by 5 years in prison and a $500K fine for a first offense) to fix your own tractor. Read the rest
The agricultural sector is increasingly a data-driven business, where the "internet of farming" holds out the promise of highly optimized plowing, fertilizing, sowing, pest-management and harvesting -- a development that is supercharging the worst practices of the ag-business monopolies that have been squeezing farmers for most of a century. Read the rest
Rick Friday has been the editorial cartoonist for Farm News for 21 years, with a weekly slot in every Friday's paper. Read the rest
With this year's "ag-gag" law, Wyoming has made it a crime to gather evidence of agricultural wrongdoing, from illegal pollution to animal cruelty, even from public land -- and also prohibits regulators from acting on information gathered in violation of the law. Read the rest