Full list: Agriculture in the News

Orion Magazine: Buying the Farm

By Dean Kuipers
July/August 2015
Full Article

New players with deep pockets have appeared in farm country – investors looking to buy up prime farmland and turn a profit on the steady upward trend of land prices and farm incomes. There have always been family offices and private investors that owned farms, but the scale has changed: in the last decade, huge pension funds, university endowments, banks, sovereign wealth funds,  hedge funds, and new exchange-traded companies have sunk an estimated $25 billion into U.S. farmland.

Some activists already see a battle looming for our the control of our nation’s food production, pitting multigenerational farmers with a long-term vision of sustainability against the short-term needs of large, conventional investment funds.


Burlington Free Press: Neil Young rocks VT, talks GMOs

By Brent Hollenbeck
7/20/15
Full Article

ESSEX JUNCTION – Neil Young had barely said anything to the crowd a half hour into his sold-out concert Sunday night until he and his band got ready to play “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.”

Then he paid tribute to the state whose law requiring labeling for a controversial agricultural practice was a big part of the reason he came to Essex Junction.

“Strong Vermont — standing up while other states are lying down!” he yelled to loud cheers.

Young’s appearance — the rock legend’s first-ever headlining show in the state — was more than a concert. It was a chance for Young to spread the word about genetically modified organisms, which he worries might be harmful to the health of people who eat foods containing GMOs.

Vermont passed a law mandating labeling of foods containing GMOs, a law that food manufacturers are fighting in court. Young supports the law and references Vermont’s fight on his new album, “The Monsanto Years.”

A half-dozen booths highlighting agricultural and environmental organizations lined the midway lawn outside the Champlain Valley Exposition’s grandstand, where the concert was held. One booth was run by an organization called GMO Free USA.

Diana Reeves, executive director of GMO Free USA, said Young’s inclusion of her organization on his national tour brings the issue to music fans who might have otherwise not known about it.

“The reception has been very positive,” according to Reeves, who said people in farm-centered communities such as Lincoln, Nebraska have frequented the booth. “When people find out what’s been done to their food they’re horrified.”

Young and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin held a backstage press conference after sound check just before 6 p.m. Sunday. Young announced that he donated $100,000 to Vermont’s legal fight against the GMO-labeling lawsuit and asked the state’s “high rollers” who support the law to do the same.

“I’m just a rock-n-roller who believes people should know what they’re eating,” Young said. “There’s so much that we don’t know, and people deserve freedom of choice.”

Barbara Fitzpatrick and Scott Lynk, a couple from Vergennes, said they’ve been listening to Young’s music since the 1970s. They said they like the variety of his folk-meets-rock music and the quality of his lyrics.

“He always has something to say,” according to Lynk. He also likes that Young told presidential candidate Donald Trump to stop using Young’s song “Rockin’ in the Free World” at campaign events and instead granted use of his song to the presidential candidate Young favors, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

They’re happy that Young is addressing concerns about GMOs. “We would come anyway but we like that he’s taking it on” Fitzpatrick said at a picnic table on the fairground’s midway. She was eating garlic chicken from The Skinny Pancake and the namesake food from Al’s French Frys before the concert.

“When we shop (for food) we know what we’re buying,” she said.

“We try to buy locally” and avoid mass-produced food, Lynk added.

He expected Young’s concert to reach people unfamiliar with concerns about GMOs. “He has a lot of fans,” Lynk said. More than 10,000 of those fans were expected at Sunday’s show.

“People listen to him,” Fitzpatrick said, “and pay attention.”


Natural Products Insider: House Committee Moves Congress Closer to Stifling Vermont’s GMO Labeling Bill

By Josh Long
7/15/15
Full Article

The House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would thwart Vermont’s requirement to label genetically engineered (GE) foods, moving one step closer to a federal solution in the escalating national debate over food labeling.

If enacted into law, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 would preempt states from requiring GE labels and create a voluntary national labeling regime. The bill, first introduced by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) and G.K. Butterfield (D-North Carolina), has changed through discussions between the House Agriculture Committee and the Commerce Committee.

The legislation would create a program administered by USDA through which foods could be certified as being produced with or without genetic engineering, with a seal identifying covered products. Foods produced through genetic engineering have been in the food supply for about two decades, according to FDA.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) urged the House and Senate to pass the amended bill. The powerful trade association has been fighting Vermont’s attorney general in federal court to overturn the nation’s first GE labeling law. Vermont’s Act 120—requiring labeling of GE foods and preventing such foods from being marketed as “natural”—is set to take effect next summer. Connecticut and Maine also have labeling laws, but they won’t take effect unless neighboring states pass similar legislation.

Just Label It, an organization that favors mandatory labeling of bioengineered foods, on Monday blasted the latest version of Pompeo’s bill. Critics last year dubbed the legislation the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act.

Among other provisions that have angered critics, the House bill would prevent states and local governments from imposing any requirements regarding GE plants that are not identical to a requirement under section 461 of the Plant Protection Act (PPA). USDA is responsible for ensuring GE plants pose no risk of pests to other plants.

“The DARK Act has always been a bad bill, but these new provisions are a drastic government overreach by undermining the ability of state or local governments from placing safeguards around production of GMO crops,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of the yogurt maker Stonyfield and chairman of Just Label It, in a statement. “Moreover, we know consumers already believe so-called ‘natural’ foods are GMO-free, and this bill will write that confusion into law.”

The House legislation would require FDA to examine the safety profile of new GE foods, replacing a voluntary consultation process that is currently in effect. As of 2012, FDA had completed 95 consultations on a number of crops, including canola, corn, cottonwood and soybean.

A number of government and research bodies have not identified safety concerns with GE foods, but consumers and others continue to question the effects of genetic engineering on the environment and whether bioengineered foods are truly benign. Consumer advocacy groups say consumers have a right to know what is in their food and point to 64 countries around the world that require labels on GE foods.

FDA would have authority under the bill to require labeling on GE foods, but only if two requirements were satisfied. First, the agency would need to find “a meaningful difference in the functional, nutritional, or compositional characteristics, allergenicity, or other attributes between” the relevant food and a comparable food. Second, the labeling disclosure must be “necessary to protect public health and safety or to prevent the label or labeling of the food so produced from being false or misleading.”

In testimony last month on Capitol Hill, Vermont Assistant Attorney General Todd Daloz urged lawmakers to reject the House legislation.

The bill not only would kill Vermont’s Act 120, Daloz said, it would “provide only an incomplete federal structure for the labeling of GE foods, and one that lacks any meaningful statutory standards and places much, if not all, of the responsibility for creating the structure in the hands of a federal agency.”


WCAX: Neil Young joins Vermont GMO fight

Musician donates to Vermont Food Fight Fund
7/2/15
By Rachel Carcz
Full article and video

ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. —With less than a year until Vermont’s GMO law goes into effect, music legend, Neil Young met with Gov. Peter Shumlin to voice his opinion about the GMO labeling controversy.

“I’m just a rock and roller who believes people should know what they’re eating,” Young said.

In his first trip to the Green Mountain State in years, Neil Young had more than just singing on the agenda.

“He called me out of the blue about ten days ago and said, ‘I’m coming to Vermont. I want to help you raise money for the Vermont food fight so you can beat Monsanto, beat the big corporations,’” Shumlin said.

Young has been vocal in the past about transparency in the food industry. Many manufactured foods contain ingredients whose DNA was altered in a lab to improve efficiency. Next year, a new law will take effect that would require food manufacturers to let consumers know if their foods contain GMOs.

“We knew Monsanto and the food manufacturers would sue us. They have, we are now raising money through the Vermont food fight fund to fight back against Monsanto. This is a simple example of corporate greed against people’s right to know what’s in their food and make an informed choice,” Shumlin said.

Before Sunday, the state had raised $450,000. Young donated $100,000 from his ticket sales.

“We would like to see some of the high rollers to come out and match that. Because if you got it, break it out,” Young said.

“This food fight is so critically important because if we win in Vermont, we’ll win in America,” Shumlin said.

If things go as planned, the law will take effect July 2016.


Valley News: Small Tunbridge Dairy Farm Stays True to Its Values

 July 8, 2015
By Warren Johnston
Full Article

While growing up in urban New Jersey, Lindsay Harris dreamed of being a farmer.

“When I was young, I was always the happiest when I was with animals or out in the woods,” Harris said recently while checking on the herd of Guernsey cows pastured on the 191-acre Tunbridge farm that she and her partner, Evan Reiss, own.

“Now, I’m living the dream.”

But Harris is not naive. She knows that to keep the dream going for themselves and their two young children, she and Reiss face a long road that traverses too little sleep, not enough money and exhausting hours of physically demanding work.

They’ve done it before on a farm they rented in Hinesburg, Vt., and built it into a successful business with hundreds of customers buying their raw milk and raw dairy products.

“We wanted to own our own place,” Harris said, and they bought their farm on Bicknell Hill Road a couple of years ago, beautiful hilly land that was first cleared in 1790 with a house that dates from a few years later and a huge, aging barn. They named it Mountain Home Farm, and got to work.

They built the new certified dairy and milking parlor in the garage across the road from the house, and every evening and morning, they lead their 10 milkers into the facility, sometimes delaying an occasional vehicle that passes as the cows make their way.

Harris is 40. She has a degree in biology and worked for the state of Vermont a number of years, trying to clean up the water in Lake Champlain, before getting into farming. She and Reiss did their research before starting construction on the dairy, but they didn’t count on the extra $60,000 it would take to make their milking, processing and packaging facility “legal” in the eyes of the USDA.

“Small farmers have to play by the same rule book as huge dairy operations. It doesn’t make sense, and it really makes it difficult for small farmers to make it,” Harris said.

From the start, Harris and Reiss wanted to do thing correctly, to leave as small a footprint as possible, as well as produce superior products.

“We have a different business plan than a conventional dairy. We think a lot about being as natural as possible. We treat our animals with respect and protect things that are in the public good — air and water. … Our cows and pigs are 100 percent grass-fed, and we graze them where there is not a danger of runoff, rotating them to a different pasture every 12 hours,” Harris said, noting that if they can make the “restorative agriculture” business model work, it might become more widely used by small farmers as well as large operations.

“We’re a single-source operation. Everything is grown, produced and packaged here.”

Initially, they made butter and buttermilk to sell — products for which Guernsey milk is well-suited because it has a higher fat content — and gave the skim milk to the pigs. Because of the process they use to separate the cream from the milk, the skim milk retains about 2 or 3 percent butterfat.

The pigs were loving it, but the farm was wasting a valuable product, Harris said.

So Harris and Reiss started making ricotta with the skim milk. “The cheese is fresh and delicious with a rich flavor,” and the pigs still get the whey.

The butter is churned from cultured cream — creme fraiche or European style — which gives it a slight tang. The buttermilk also has a similar tang and a rich, buttery taste.

Therein lies t he struggle between feeding the world and feeding the world well. Large factory farms receive government subsidies, but “small farmers who are practicing restorative agriculture and trying to improve the health of the community and the natural system, don’t receive any subsidies. We’re all poor, and we’re all competing with commercial agriculture. It’s not a level playing field,” Harris said.

“I want people to be thinking about where their food comes from and what they’re paying for. You’re paying for better quality, clean air and water. You’re paying for a public benefit.”

Mountain Home butter, ricotta cheese and buttermilk are available in the Upper Valley at the South Royalton Market and the Chef’s Market in Randolph.

Harris suggests trying the ricotta with fresh tomatoes or making a creamy spread with olive oil as well as the traditional use in lasagna or for stuffing pasta shells.

“I make a really good cheesecake with it too.”


Natural Products Insider: GMO labeling fight heats up on Capitol Hill

By Josh Long
7/2/15
Full Article

The national fight over whether to require labels on genetically engineered (GE) foods has increasingly shifted from the state legislatures to the U.S. Congress.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas, last month introduced modified legislation that would not only preempt states from requiring GE labels, local governments and states would be barred from restricting crops that have been genetically modified, according to the nonprofit Center for Food Safety. Opposing legislation in Congress would create a national mandatory labeling standard for GMOs.

“Increasingly this fight has come to Washington D.C. and now legislatures are battling over whether states will retain the right to label genetically engineered foods,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs with the Center for Food Safety, in a phone interview. “We’ve seen legislation introduced on both sides of the issue.”

Debate on Pompeo Bill

In testimony June 18 before a health subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives, Vermont Assistant Attorney General Todd Daloz urged lawmakers to reject Pompeo’s Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell is charged with implementing and defending Act 120; the Vermont law requires labels on genetically engineered food and takes effect in about a year. But dietary supplements are not subject to the state requirement under a final rule that was adopted by Sorrell’s office.

“If enacted as drafted, H.R. 1599 would have two central, and in my view, negative effects,” Daloz testified, referencing Pompeo’s bill. “The first would be to immediately—upon enactment—cancel existing legislation like Vermont’s Act 120. The second would be to provide only an incomplete federal structure for the labeling of GE foods, and one that lacks any meaningful statutory standards and places much, if not all, of the responsibility for creating the structure in the hands of a federal agency.”

In introducing a version of the bill last year, Pompeo said his legislation affirmed the authority of the FDA to require a label for foods that are considered unsafe and would eliminate the potential for a patchwork of state regulations that could drive up food costs, mislead consumers and burden farmers.

Pompeo’s bill, however, may not have adequate support to get through both chambers of Congress. “This bill faces a really steep climb in the Senate,” said the Center for Food Safety’s O’Neil, “where no Senate Democrat has come out saying they are willing to cosponsor such a preemption bill.”

Vermont Litigation

Only one state in the nation has a GE labeling law that is set to take effect soon: Vermont. That is unless the judiciary finds Act 120 unconstitutional.

A number of food groups including the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have moved to overturn Act 120 in federal court. In April, a federal judge Christina Reiss denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction and indicated she would find constitutional the labeling requirement. The plaintiffs have filed an appeal and recently laid out their arguments for why Act 120 runs afoul of the First Amendment. Still, the initial ruling may have emboldened the states.

“It’s no secret a lot of legislators were waiting to see what happened in Vermont and given the judge’s initial decision, I think that gives state legislators a little more confidence to move forward on this,” O’Neil said.

Supplements and GMO Labels

Whether dietary supplements will be subject to state labeling measures remains to be seen. Under a final rule implementing Act 120, dietary supplements are excluded from the definition of food.

“Our read of the statute was that the Legislature was focused on providing consumers with information about grocery food items and not on the labeling of a tangential category like supplements,” Daloz explained in an emailed statement. “That’s not to say supplements will always be excluded from labeling, but they are currently.”

Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now, a group in favor of GMO labeling, said last year in a phone interview that the “main fight” is not over whether supplements should be labeled.

“People are going into grocery stores and really having no idea what they are feeding their families,” Murphy said. “We believe that people are eating food three times a day. Mothers and families eating their food should know how it’s produced.”

Connecticut and Maine also have passed GE labeling laws that define food broadly, but they don’t take effect unless neighboring states pass similar legislation and it’s unknown whether rules implementing the laws would bring supplements within their scope.

Still, the industry is taking interest in the labeling debate. For instance, the Natural Products Association (NPA) supports a federal solution.

“NPA supports and encourages the voluntary labeling of non GMO foods,” the trade association explains on its website. “NPA believes that consideration of federal law promoting a uniform standard is warranted to avoid separate standards for GMO labeling at the state level.”


WCAX: Milk glut leads to dumping

Jun 22, 2015
By Kyle Midura
Full Article & Video

BURLINGTON, Vt. –  In Vermont, the Northeast, and across the U.S., the answer to the iconic marketing question, “Got Milk?” is yes…  and too much.

The 400 dairy producers of the St. Albans Co-op Creamery increased production by two-percent this year, but now the product is being dumped by the truckload as market saturation is tanking prices.

“Milk is going up and your demand is going down,” said the Co-op’s Tom Gates. Gates says getting some of the value is better than none. The group is converting excess raw farm milk into cheese and other non-perishable dairy products. “And we’re one of just a few plants in the whole Northeast that has that ability to do that, so we’re working with others in the industry to try to maintain as much of the value as we possibly can.”

Thus far, the organization is only dumping skim milk, but that’s a first for the Co-op’s president, who has been with the group for more than three decades. They’re dumping milk in manure pits on farms. It’s a similar story for Massachusetts based Co-op Agri-Mark, which counts 250 Vermont dairy farms among its members.

“The 32 years I’ve been at the Co-op we’ve never had to dump milk before. We’ve always had the processing capacity to handle that milk,” said Agri-Mark’s Doug DiMento.

While the Co-op creamery could not provide an estimate of how many gallons of skim milk have been dumped, Agri-Mark officials put their group’s figure in the hundreds of thousands. They say converting its product is better than being left without a market, and estimate 95-percent of their product is still being shipped and sold despite dumps. “There’s so much milk around that there’s people undercutting other people, other co-ops, other milk handlers with cheaper milk,” DiMento said. “It’s really put the entire industry in quite the tailspin.”

Agri-Mark estimates that producers will receive about $1.57 per gallon which is down substantially compared to last year’s $2.22, especially when you deal by the truck-full.


Consumer Reports: Don’t weaken GMO labeling American consumers have the right—and overwhelmingly want—to know what’s in their food

June 26, 2015
Full Article

At Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, we strongly support labels that give consumers valuable, meaningful information about the products they purchase—whether it’s for food, cars, or any other product.

For more than 20 years, we’ve supported the labeling of genetically engineered foods, also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. And consumers agree with us about GMO labeling. Survey after survey, including our own, has shown that more than 90 percent of consumers want GMO foods to be labeled accordingly. Some 64 countries currently require GMO labeling, and several states, including Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont, have passed legislation requiring GMO labeling.

But legislation currently moving through Congress would bring these and any future efforts to an end by prohibiting GMO labeling requirements at the local, state, and federal level. The misleadingly named Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, introduced by Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) would also make current federal voluntary labeling policy permanent, even though these guidelines have not produced a GMO-labeled product in their 15-year history.

​And that’s not all. A new draft version of this anti-consumer legislation that is being discussed in the House of Representatives is far more sweeping, also barring states and local communities from regulating genetically modified crops in other ways. Several counties in California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington have measures in place that restrict where GMO crops can be grown. The bill would nullify these measures.

Moreover, this new version would also further prevent businesses from creating voluntary labels for non-engineered products that are more stringent than a yet-to-be-determined U.S. Department of Agriculture standard. For example, the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, which now appears on thousands of products, establishes a threshold of GMO contamination (0.9 percent). This legislation, however, could potentially force such​ meaningful non-GMO labeling programs to weaken their standards.

Consumers Union strongly opposes this legislation and has called on lawmakers repeatedly to reject it. In letters to Congress, we have also voiced support for other legislative efforts, such as the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act introduced by Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) that would require genetically engineered foods to be labeled and recognize consumers’ right to know what they’re buying.

And we need your help with GMO labeling. Consumers Union encourages you to make your voice heard and share your support for GMO labeling with your members of Congress. Visit NotInMyFood.org to take action and send Congress the message that you want, and have the right, to know what’s in you food.


Culture: Maine Officially Legalizes Commercial Hemp Cultivation

By Zara Zhi
June 25, 2015
Full Article

A new decree that allows for the cultivation of hemp in Maine is currently in effect after a veto by Gov. Paul LePage was superseded, according to Governing.com.

“I am absolutely thrilled that this is now law,” stated Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea. The veto was overridden by a vote of 135 in favor, 6 opposed and 10 absences on May 12 in the Maine House. The senate also chose to reverse the veto on June 16, by a vote of 28 in favor and 6 opposed.

“This was overwhelmingly overridden,” she added on Monday of the veto. “It got big support in both the House and the Senate. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle really showed their support for it.”

On Monday, Sanderson said the emergency statute would go into effect immediately so that cultivators can plant their seeds as early as possible.

The rule permits planters to buy hemp seeds from any qualified seed source, rather than only certified Canadian producers, as initially presented in the first version of the bill.

When Sanderson first introduced the bill, community members, farmers, organic growers, and agricultural researchers rallied behind the initiative. The measure will open new prospects to farmers and deliver local sourcing for many hemp-made products, according to the representatives.

Hemp fibers have many diverse uses including textile making, paper, insulation, building materials and composites for auto bodies. But hemp is also tainted in controversy because it comes from the same plant as cannabis, which is why it’s still classified as a drug under federal law.

On Feb. 10, during a public hearing on the bill in the State House, Jon Olson of the Maine Farm Bureau testified that the farming of industrial hemp was deliberated at an Aroostook County Farm Bureau meeting and said that farmers believed it would be “value added” crop to add to their rotation.

Ann Gibbs, acting Director of the Animal and Plant Health Division for the Maine Department of Agriculture, was neutral on the bill and stated that hemp is classified as a “drug” under the Federal Controlled Substance Act, and would be difficult to import for commercial use due to the restrictions. The DEA controls any hemp that is grown legally and has only given permission to the state Department of Agriculture or to universities for research so far.

The bill calls for licensing fees that should be “reasonable and necessary to cover the costs of the department” and would be set at the preference of the Maine Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

Colorado, Kentucky and Vermont have already legalized industrial hemp for cultivation and research.


VT Digger: Ben & Jerry’s agrees to negotiate ‘Milk With Dignity’ agreement

Sarah Olsen
Jun. 21 2015
Full Article

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream company is negotiating an agreement that would give migrant dairy workers in Vermont higher wages and more time off.

The undocumented workers, most of whom are from Mexico and Guatemala, say Vermont dairy farms require them to work long hours and do not pay fair wages.

Workers from local dairy farms marched in Burlington Saturday to the Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop on Church Street, as part of a campaign to “restore dignity” to dairy farming.

Migrant Justice, a workers rights group, organized the protest in Burlington as part of a nationwide campaign in 16 cities called the “Milk with Dignity Program.” The activists are demanding that Ben & Jerry’s sign a pledge guaranteeing workers minimum wage and time off.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of the company, came to an agreement with Migrant Justice, the nonprofit organization advocating for migrant workers’ rights and justice, on Friday in continuing negotiations with migrant workers.

The migrant workers that participated in the rally Saturday are work on dairy farms in Vermont that supply milk to Ben & Jerry’s. One of the workers, Victor Diez, spoke at the rally and handed a letter to Rob Michalak, global director of social mission at Ben & Jerry’s.

Diez is originally from Chiapas, Mexico, just north of the Guatemalan border and the second largest producer of cacao in Mexico. He has worked in the dairy farming industry for four years and in the Vermont dairy farm industry for three years. He currently works at a dairy farm in Vergennes.

Diez said in Spanish that workers went ahead with the rally to show Ben & Jerry’s that they will be going “all the way to the finish line with an agreement.”

A small group at the rally, including Diez and Brendan O’Neill, the founder of Migrant Justice, went into the scoop shop to hand the letter to Michalak.

“We’re here to leave a letter to encourage you to keep working with us,” Diez said, translated by O’Neill.

The letter, addressed to Jostein Solheim, chief executive officer of Ben & Jerry’s, was signed by 45 representatives of organizations that O’Neill referred to as the “Milk With Dignity Coalition.”

“We understand that many dairy farmers are also facing serious economic challenges and are in need of economic relief,” the authors of the letter wrote. “The Milk with Dignity program rewards those farms that have it right by having corporate participants pay more down the supply chain to both the farmer and the farmworker. We anticipate many farms to enthusiastically support this initiative.”

Back outside, their rally chant changed from “Si, se puede” (Yes, we can) to “Si, se pudo” (Yes, we did). One end goal for Diez is to guarantee Vermont minimum wage for all the state’s dairy farm workers.

Michalak said many of Vermont’s dairy farms pay minimum or higher wages.

Surveys conducted by Migrant Justice and the farmworkers don’t match the company’s assertion.

Diez said workers also need better housing and days off for illness, holidays and vacations.

“We have workers who don’t get a single day off a week,” Diez said.

A lot of the workers supported by the campaign work 12 to 14 hours in a day, according to the letter. Without a single day off, that could be anywhere between 84 and 98 hours in a week.

Following the agreement that was reached on Friday, Michalak said that the rally was not really necessary to get Ben & Jerry’s to continue to work with them in the contract negotiations and that the June 19 agreement was more for Migrant Justice’s benefit as “they probably believe that written commitments are more powerful than verbal commitments.”

“We’ve been working with them,” Michalak said. “I mean we’ve always been working toward social justice and economic justice. I guess it makes sense that Migrant Justice felt that it was necessary for the community to hear the voices of the migrant workers, and I can understand that.”

Michalak said that the rally happened the day after the agreement, and on Monday, June 22, they will still be working out negotiations with Migrant Justice.