Wishing the happiest of birthdays to Willie Nelson – legendary musician, family farm activist, and friend of CCI
Alice Ginter, deceased mother of CCI Action board member Larry Ginter, was a small farmer near Marshalltown, Iowa. Troubled by the destruction of family farms in Iowa at the hands of factory farms, Alice was motivated to do something about it:
“Family farms are finding it hard to survive. They used to keep the little towns going… now the little towns are dying.”
In 1997, Ginter expressed her concerns to Willie Nelson – a legendary musician and activist who utilizes his fame to publicize the plight of family farmers. Ginter explained the problems associated with the recent surge in factory farms – she spoke of a neighbor who was unable to play outdoors because the smell from a factory farm next door makes him sick, and she told Willie about Iowans that are unable to sell their land due to odors from a nearby factory farm.
Alice Ginter’s concerns sprung from not only the experiences within her community – but from a nationwide controversy within the hog industry.
Ginter, like all pork farmers, payed a small amount of each hog sale to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) – called checkoff funds. These checkoff funds were meant be used for hog-related research grants, promotional material, and other mutually-beneficial expenditures.
Alice and other activists began to see the checkoff funds being used in ways that were not mutually beneficial to all hog farmers – in fact, Alice saw that the funds were being used to further one type of hog farming – corporate factory farms.
In early 1997, it was leaked that checkoff funds had been used to spy on family farm organizations that could “have an effect on the [factory farm] pork industry”. A high-powered DC consulting firm was hired by the National Pork Producers Council to spy on organizations in opposition to factory farms – CCI was one of those organizations. The PR firm monitored various activist organizations that were pro-family farm.
Following the controversy, Alice Ginter sent her letter of concern to Willie Nelson.
On March 20th, 1997, CCI and other member groups of the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment hosted an event to challenge the National Pork Producers Council for its support of factory farms and the use of checkoff money to spy on organizations that fought factory farms and the monopolization of the hog industry. After receiving 85-year-old Alice Ginter’s letter of concern, Willie confirmed he’d be at the event.
The event was powerful – Willie Nelson told the crowd “Factory farms are wrong, and they’re bad!” Willie joined CCI members and hundreds of protesters outside the National Pork Producers Council headquarters for a rally and concert demanding that the NPPC stop using pork checkoff money to spy on groups that fight factory farms. Willie was
On the heels of Willie Nelson’s powerful protest, the National Pork Producers Council reimbursed $51,300 in farmer checkoff fees that were used to spy on CCI and other groups working to defend family farmers.
16 years later, Willie Nelson continues to be a leader in the family farm movement.
Happy birthday, Willie – your friends at CCI appreciate all that you do.