The Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) is a non-profit initiative to create fairness and equity in our food system through the development of social justice standards for organic and sustainable agriculture.
Project partners Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas/Farmworker Support Committee, Northeast Organic Farming Association, Florida Organic Growers/Quality Certification Services, and Fundación RENACE are leaders in the fields of sustainable agriculture policy, workers' rights, community-based food systems, and organic certification. Each of the non-profit organizations in this unique partnership is grounded in decades of grassroots change-making and community-organizing.
They came together in 1999, recognizing that organic certification, including the U.S. National Organic Program, did not address the people—farmers or farm workers—who make organic agriculture a real alternative to conventional agribusiness. This represented a significant omission since historically, progress towards social justice has been one of the basic principles of organic agriculture.
The immediate goal of the AJP was to create universal social standards for sustainable and organic agriculture; to codify in concrete terms what making a legitimate claim of "social justice" means. AJP partners knew that such a claim would be a powerful tool in the marketplace, and would need to be backed up by strong standards and a reliable verification system.
We "need to become independent of the world market economy because the world market economy is ultimately controlled by interests which seek power or profit and which do not respond to the need of the world's peoples."
— Basic Call to Consciousness, Akwesasne Notes
We believe that the current industrial model of the food system has failed small farmers, farm workers, indigenous peoples, rural communities, and the public alike. Around the world, the family farmer is rapidly disappearing, unable to compete with an agribusiness supported by various direct and hidden subsidies, including the abundance of cheap labor.
As fundamental as the economic issues are the cultural implications of the current industrial food system, which separates those who eat from the source of their food. In this alienating system, food becomes a commodity, plant varieties become genetic property, farmers become producers, farm workers become wage laborers, and members of communities are converted into individual consumers, while market forces manipulate all these elements for maximum profit by agribusiness. Communities have lost contact with the growers of their food and the soil from which it comes.
In contrast, we envision a food system that begins with stewardship of the land, that produces food with respect for the ecology of the field, the farm, the watershed, the region and the earth, that uses appropriate, non-violent technology and distributes that technology's benefits fairly. We will replace the current subsidies and pricing mechanisms with a system of full-cost accounting that gives incentives for reductions in energy use and penalizes pollution or depletion of the commons of air, water, and soil in the production and distribution of food.
A commitment to social justice and social and ecological responsibility will characterize this food system. Decisions will embody a commitment to place: the farm as an integral part of the neighborhood and landscape. This new agricultural system will be committed to the regeneration of rural and farming communities and will acknowledge that farming is a way of life, not simply a means of making a living.