Monday, April 24, 2017

Santa Fe Food Activist 'Disinvited' from Arizona Conference

The anti-hunger and community food security folks in New Mexico are quite familiar with author and activist Mark Winne. He speaks his mind, and he challenges us to look at the big picture (and sometimes urges us to examine our preconceived notions). He has spoken out on topics like food deserts, community food systems, class-related disparities in our approach to nutrition, and the incomplete and inadequate approach to addressing hunger in New Mexico.

Given his expertise in community food systems, it was a natural step for our neighbors in Arizona (specifically the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance) to invite Winne to address the Arizona Food Summit. (Sharon Thornberry, rural communities liaison for the Oregon Food Bank and a member of Bread for the World board directors, was also invited to speak at the summit).

A few weeks after the invitation was issued, Winne was disinvited from his speaking engagement. But it wasn't the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance that made this decision. It was the Arizona Department of Agriculture . He tells us why in a post in Mark's Food Policy Blog. Here is an excerpt followed by the link to the full post.

On February 23rd, I received an email from Tim Thomas of the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance asking me to speak at the Arizona Food Summit on April 28th. I enthusiastically accepted the invitation and participated two weeks later in a lengthy planning call with other speakers and conference organizers. I even bought an airline ticket for Phoenix.

On April 12th, I got a call from Laura Oxley, a staff member at the Arizona Department of Agriculture, one of the Food Summit’s sponsors. Speaking in a trembling, but practiced bureaucratic voice, Ms. Oxley told me that I was officially disinvited from speaking at the summit. According to her, some of my website’s industrial agriculture and GMO references over the past few years had offended the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association, the Arizona Farm Bureau, and her department’s director. She told me that one of the cattleman was a “third-generation rancher, and the department’s director is a fifth-generation rancher…and they think that your presence at the summit would be divisive and prevent some members of Arizona’s agriculture sector from attending.”

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