Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Purloined Letter

Not the Poe short story, a great sample letter I boosted(with permission) from dc at Greenpa's blog. So here ya go, revise, print sign and mail. Or e-mail if that's an option with your political peeps. Or do both. We also need to get a big organization on board with this and I'm thinking about Oxfam. Any other ideas?

Dear Senator/Representative [name]:I am writing to you today to express my concern about the recent food crisis faced by people in Haiti and many other parts of the developing world. The World Bank estimates world food prices have risen 80 percent over the last three years and that at least thirty-three countries face social unrest as a result. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned the growing global food crisis has reached emergency proportions. The Food and Agriculture Organization, a branch of the UN, has identified 36 “crisis” countries. The World Food Program (WFP), another UN agency, estimates that it will need $500 million on top of what donor nations have already pledged to fill what the WFP calls the global “food gap.”Several factors are responsible for this crisis, including high fuel prices (which have made transportation more expensive), rising demand in Asia, the use of farmland and crops for biofuels, a long drought in Australia and food speculation on the futures markets. Furthermore, policies of the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have exacerbated the problem. They have effectively tied the hands of developing nations behind their backs, binding them very firmly to an international food economy. Consequently, when the price of agricultural commodities goes up on world markets, these nations have extremely few options to deal with resulting food crises.I would like to ask you and other members of Congress to take the following steps to address the food crisis:1. Appropriate the $500 million needed to fill the immediate “food gap.”2. Stop subsidizing the production of corn ethanol and other food-based biofuels. Not only does growing corn and soybeans to produce ethanol and biodiesel contribute to world hunger, but it is an extremely inefficient way to make biofuels. Developing the technology to use algae and cellulose to produce biofuels would be a much better use of taxpayer dollars. While each acre of corn produces around 300 gallons of ethanol a year and an acre of soybeans around 60 gallons of biodiesel, each acre of algae theoretically can churn out more than 5,000 gallons of biofuel each year. Enough algae-derived biodiesel to replace all petroleum transportation fuels used in the U.S. could be grown in 15,000 square miles, or roughly 12.5 percent of the area of the Sonora desert. This production method would not require the use of farmland or threaten food crops. Cellulosic ethanol production, though it faces larger technology hurdles than algae-based fuel production, also holds great promise.3. Take steps to end food speculation on the futures markets. Speculative purchases have no other purpose than to make money for the speculators, who hold their contracts to drive up current prices with the intention not of selling the commodities on the real future market, but of unloading their holdings onto an artificially inflated market, at the expense of the ultimate consumer. It is astonishing in the present crisis situation that the CFTC and other government regulators have done little to control or banish this parasitical and antisocial practice. Speculative trading of food commodities should be banned at once, and rules that promote only legitimate trading that benefits farmers and consumers should be established.4. Take steps to reform the World Bank, WTO and IMF. These institutions have created destructive polices that have increased poverty and hunger in the developing world. As first steps to reforming them, all debts of impoverished countries to the IMF should be cancelled, and the IMF’s imposition of structural adjustment policies (SAPs) on these nations should end. SAPs have required poor nations to reduce spending on health, education and development, and to make debt repayment and other activities that benefit wealthy industrialized nations a priority. The World Bank, WTO and IMF have have forced poor countries to abandon their support for farmers and to abandon things like grain supplies and grain stores that would prevent hunger starvation in times of crisis. Immediate reforms are necessary to put an end to this situation.I appreciate your immediate consideration of these issues.Sincerely,[name]

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