America has gone through these talking points which India is debating now. What happened then? How did the small farmers fared? We thought what better way to portray it than capturing the stories of American farmers and give a comparative view. That is how this documentary came about.
Four of us brown people in the whitest of white America, traveling in the cold months of January and February through Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, met farmers who shared with us how the big companies have destroyed small farmers. They were all friendly and warm and were really eager to share their stories. It seemed they lack a platform to speak, they feel there is nobody to hear their voices.
One of the things that hit me the most was the accelerating cases of farmers suicide in America. Here we were, thinking America is the land of opportunities, milk and honey, who could have imagined that American farmers too are committing suicide because they cannot pay their debts?
American farmers are fully aware of what is going on in India and are keenly watching how things progress. They sent us messages for the Indian farmers which we would be showcasing in our film, which is still in the editing stage. They regret not being able to organise protests back in their time when big changes were happening, and are immensely inspired by the Indian farmers’ movement. We are learning from Indian farmers they said.
We always had WTO, World Bank, the IMF and other first world institutions telling India what to do, but here was a first world community learning from Indian farmers, that was the most heart-warming experience we had.
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In the mid-80s I started taking interest in the amount of subsidies that rich developed countries were giving to their farmers. We are given to understand that the rich countries are so prosperous and their farmers are in such good shape that we need to copy their model and open up our agriculture to free market.
The reality is that in America and other supposedly rich nations the Free Market economy has not benefited farmers, particularly the small ones. The population of farmers has shrunk severely. Merely one and a half percent of Americans are into farming and even then, it is not a lucrative profession. The agriculture sector is surviving upon massive government subsidies there.