AFSA Legal Defence Fund

$29,305 of $100k goal

Raised by 497 people in 11 months
Tammi Jonas  Bullarto, VIC
Despite growing concerns about the nutrition, safety, and ethics of the food we eat, some regulators are making it harder for Australian small-scale farmers to produce ethical, ecologically-sound, nutritious, and delicious food for their communities.

Food producers are copping the full brunt of abuse of power by regulators. The issues include: communities who want access to raw milk from local dairies, farms doing on-farm processing facing unfair and inconsistent regulation of their facilities, and many others grappling with outdated and illogical definitions in local planning schemes.

The time to defend the growing movement of small-scale food producers has come.

That’s why the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) is asking you to support the establishment of a Legal Defence Fund for eaters and farmers across the country.

Food sovereignty asserts the right of peoples to collectively determine their own food and agriculture systems. This is essential when we’re witnessing the erosion of our rights in a multitude of stories in every state. Here follow just a few of the stories that have motivated us to establish the Legal Defence Fund, which aims to:

·      establish a legal advice hotline for farmers and eaters so that nobody is left to fight alone;

·      develop factsheets and templates for food producers and local councils around regulatory requirements and best-practice planning;

·      provide advice on public and product liability for farms and food producers who sell direct to the public;

·      provide support when small farms are caught up in a trial by media; and

·      compile and analyse casework to lobby for legal reform where necessary to support the growing fair food movement.

All funds received will go directly to support farmers and eaters in their efforts to produce and have access to ethically and ecologically grown food. Specifically:

·      25% of all funds raised will be distributed to some of the farmers in most urgent need to help pay legal costs (e.g. Mooview, Elgaar, Happy Valley);

·      68.5% will fund the development of template documents and advisory support materials as well as the establishment and maintenance of a legal hotline offering farmers case by case advice and referrals to appropriate pro bono professionals; and

·      6.5% goes to the GoFundMe and the payment portal fees.


Mooview Farm – A Case of Prohibition rather than Regulation

In 2008 Mark and Helen Tyler set up a cow-share scheme at Mooview Farm in South Australia to enable people wanting access to raw milk to own shares in a milking herd. In August 2013 Biosecurity SA charged the Tylers with “selling” raw milk to the shareholders, and a compliance order was issued. The Tylers appealed, and initially the ruling looked favourable, but the South Australian Labor Government went on to launch legal proceedings against them. The matter went as far as the Supreme Court.

Throughout this ordeal Mark and Helen have continued to care for the shareholders’ animals and to provide milk, relying solely on donations in lieu of secure income, while consistently requesting that the government work with them to establish the same safety regulations for raw milk production which support producers in England, Europe, New Zealand, and almost all of the United States.

In October 2015 the case against the Tylers was declared a mistrial in the Supreme Court due to errors made by the prosecution and the magistrate, and the Tylers were acquitted of two of three charges brought against them. The government persisted in refusing requests to work cooperatively, and recommenced legal action, requiring the Tylers to reappear in the Magistrates Court on 13 April 2016 to again face the charge of selling raw milk. The Tylers felt it was pointless to continue to battle the government, and elected to plead guilty, thus putting an end to three years of legal deadlock. On 14 April 2016 Mark and Helen received a conviction, and a fine of $18,000.

The government had been citing the legal proceedings as the reason for not wanting to discuss reforms to their current rigid and ill-informed stance on raw milk. The Tylers hope that their decision to gracefully concede a small victory in the petty matter of what technically constitutes a “sale” of raw milk will now provide opportunity for constructive discussion leading to change.

Happy Valley Free Range – A Case of Flawed Planning Schemes

In 2014, Jo Stritch of Happy Valley Free Range won Livestock Farmer of the Year.

In 2015, Jo was ordered by her local council to cease farming.

How could this happen? Because the Victorian planning scheme deems her operation ‘intensive’ due to more than 50% of the pigs’ nutritional needs being met by feed Jo imports onto the farm, and the Yarra Ranges has a ban on intensive production.

A ban on intensive agriculture is surely a welcome reflection of community sentiments that are turning against truly intensive animal agriculture. But when a small pastured pig farm is defined as intensive, something is seriously wrong. Note that all pig and poultry farms - and most dairy farms, and drought-affected cattle and sheep farms – regardless of production method or stocking density are defined as intensive under this scheme.

Jo and her family are now forced to sell their prized farm and move to a shire where she will be allowed to return to raising pigs outside on paddocks and selling her pork to the local community.

Elgaar Farm – A Case of Procedural Unfairness

In July 2014, Elgaar’s licence to produce dairy products was suspended by the Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority (TDIA).

Joe and Antonia arrived back from a trip to visit family in Germany to find out from their sons that the factory had been closed and production banned. Here’s what happened in their own words:

In the weeks leading up to our suspension, the TDIA had become upset with us for being difficult to contact, and because a staff member missed a meeting arranged with them. We were short staffed as Joe and Antonia were away and the increasing demand for our products was placing extra strain on the remaining staff, so our office person also happened to be doing deliveries and markets. We can understand that this caused the TDIA concern. A licence suspension we could have dealt with. It was the following events that demonstrated the unbridled power of the TDIA and the need for them to be reigned in.

Joe Senior recounts: "I was intimidated and bullied by the TDIA and told that we would never get our licence back. We handed in our licence, as the TDIA suggested we do, so our sons could re-apply. Looking back I cannot believe I followed that advice, because Elgaar is now seen as a new applicant – with a new set of rules to comply with because they were brought in while we were out of production.”

Numerous other dairies around the state have also been frustrated with the TDIA’s lack of professionalism, some even sending official complaint letters to Minister Rockliff, but most are afraid to speak up for fear of upsetting the authority and compromising their business.

This is not just about Elgaar. The effects of a better and fairer system on Elgaar will be small, compared to the long term change needed for the whole dairy industry and the Tasmanian brand.

At times we do wonder why anyone would want to be part of all this. Our most sincere thanks for sticking in there with us and not letting go of the belief that there is a better way.

Jonai Farms & Meatsmiths – A Case of Unchecked Power in the Regulator

In 2014, after running one of their popular salami days on the farm, PrimeSafe (the Victorian regulator for the meat industry) rolled up Tammi and Stuart Jonas’ driveway and proceeded to destroy all of their personal supply of homemade salamis. The stated reason was that they were a ‘public health risk’, though PrimeSafe did not require Tammi and Stuart to recall salamis they had allowed to leave the property in ignorance of the illegality of this act.

PrimeSafe has subsequently prohibited many small-scale butchers and producers from running salami days and teaching the traditional skills of transforming an entire pig into a range of cured products.  It should be noted that this ban appears to be beyond PrimeSafe’s jurisdiction, according to legal advice received.

The Jonai intend to continue hosting salami days until PrimeSafe can show legal justification against it, and continue to fight for the peoples’ right to share traditional knowledge and skills around local food production.

The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance

The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) is a collaboration of farmers, academics, chefs, organisations, and individuals working together towards a food system in which people have the opportunity to create, manage, and choose their food and agriculture systems from paddock to plate. Our members include peak bodies and local government agencies such as the Melbourne Farmers Markets Association, the Victorian Local Governance Association, and Southern Harvest; leading ecological organisations such as Regrarians, Food Connect, MADGE, Feather & Bone, and Milkwood; and regenerative direct-to-consumer farms such as Buena Vista, Jonai Farms, Milking Yard, Old Mill Bio, Sage, Savannah, and Southampton Homestead.

We are a part of a robust global network of farmer-led organisations involved in food security and food sovereignty policy development and advocacy. We represent Australia on the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC), and we are members of Urgenci: the International Network for Community-Supported Agriculture.

AFSA recently attended the Asia Pacific Regional Conference of the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN, where support for smallholders to control their value chains, and for agroecological farming systems are clearly stated missions.

Our vision is to enable regenerative farming businesses to thrive, free from restrictive outdated regulations that work to protect industrialised farming and food producers. Australians increasingly care about the way their food is produced including its social and environmental impacts, and food produced on small regenerative farms is in unprecedented demand.

It’s a shame when farmers have to fight their own governments for the right to feed their communities, but that time has come.

Join us as we take back control of the food system from corporate interests and educate our government about what a fair food system looks (and tastes) like!

Everyone who makes a donation will be given a one-year membership of AFSA!

Viva la revolucion!
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Update 2
Posted by Tammi Jonas
3 months ago
Thank you to the 490 people who have supported the AFSA Legal Defence Fund over these past months!

A couple of months ago we distributed some of the funds to the three farmers worst affected and described in our campaign - Moo View, Happy Valley, and Elgaar. This wouldn't have been possible without all of you!

We're now planning another ambitious event with 'the world's most innovative farmer' at Jonai Farms on 26 February, where we hope to raise even more than we have through GoFundMe to enable us to hire the legal expertise we require to amp up our campaign to support small-scale farmers and eaters facing scale-inappropriate regulation.

We'd love to see you there for a great day on the farm with our favourite heretic farmer Joel Salatin! Tickets are available:
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Update 1
Posted by Tammi Jonas
10 months ago
As we approach $14,000 raised so far, AFSA would like to thank the nearly 200 supporters who have helped us get this far. With your support, we're confident that we'll be able to work for regulatory and planning reform that supports small- and medium-scale farms and prioritises local food economies and vibrant rural communities.

All supporters receive a 12-month membership to AFSA - we just need to know what category you fall under (individual, farmer, NFP, organisational). Could you please take 2 minutes to respond to our survey monkey so we know which kind of member you are!

And please continue to share the campaign with your networks - we need all the amplifying we can get to reach our ambitious target of $100,000!

Thank you again for supporting Australia's growing population of fair food farmers!

The people, united, will never be defeated!
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$29,305 of $100k goal

Raised by 497 people in 11 months
Created May 5, 2016
1 month ago
Gina Sakic
1 month ago
2 months ago
Lynee Mathison
2 months ago
2 months ago
Jane Ambrose
2 months ago

Thank you for standing up for the farmers who care about sustainable farming!

Shellee Denigan
2 months ago
Natalie English
5 months ago
Oliver Brown
5 months ago
5 months ago
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