Auburn City Council backs farm bill protests in India

On March 15, the Auburn City Council adopted a resolution that expressed its solidarity with the cause of people protesting the passage of three farming bills in India on Sept. 20, 2020.

The resolution supports the thousands of Washington residents of Indian origin who still own farmland in their ancestral country and have been hurt by the passage of the bills, said Councilmember James Jeyaraj, who himself is of Indian origin and raised the issue last week.

The vote was 5-2, with Councilmembers Jeyaraj, Chris Stearns, Larry Brown, Robyn Mulenga and Bob Baggett voting yes, and Yolanda Trout-Manuel and Deputy Mayor Claude DaCorsi voting no.

Trout-Manuel questioned whether members of the Auburn City Council should be passing resolutions concerning foreign nations at all, given the many pressing problems demanding their attention here at home.

Why, Trout Manuel asked, should the city support concerns far from American shores when it has not done, and is not doing, the same for Native Americans, or for members of the Asian community, or for female migrant farm workers who are routinely subjected to violence and targeted as sexual slaves?

“I see that our Asian community is being targeted right now, that their businesses are being attacked, they’re being beat, and I don’t see us supporting that community,” said Trout-Manuel. “I just feel that if we’re going to be supporting other nations and nationalities in other countries, then we should stop and support the people that live here, and work with them in our state and in our cities.

“My concern,” Trout-Manuel added, “is just that we are opening up a can of worms, and we need to take care of our council duties here, in our local city and in our state.”

Mayor Nancy Backus reminded Trout-Manuel that early last summer, the city council passed a measure denouncing violence against Asians in Auburn, inflicted on them by people who blame Asians broadly for bringing COVID-19 into the United States.

Backus added that she herself is working with a staff member to create a video denouncing violence of any sort within the community.

Stearns, however, praised the resolution as “an important step we can take in the fight for justice.”

“We’re privileged to be able to exercise our voice, and I am always proud to exercise it for important reasons and important causes,” Stearns said.

“I appreciate the words by my fellow councilmember, Trout-Manuel, as well,” said Brown, “and I know there are very many important issues out there, related to social justice, violence against women, violence against indigenous women, farm workers, all sorts of issues, and I would encourage this council to identify those issues and to bring them forward if they feel strongly about them.”

DaCorsi said while he would have no problem with a generic resolution condemning acts of violence or oppression, he frets that singling out one specific nation for the attention would set a worrisome precedent.

“Council has not taken a position on international affairs in times past, and I am concerned about doing this now,” DaCorsi said. “Not that I don’t have compassion for what’s going on, or a burning sympathy for those who are affected or afflicted, because nobody should be treated this way, no matter where they live on this planet.

“But for us to take a position on this now, I think, where is it going to end? How many more international resolutions will we have to entertain or undertake, when do we do that, how do we do that, and what are the contexts of doing that as well? I am also not quite sure what impact this has in relation to only a handful of other cities in Washington state, and I don’t know if others across the nation have done this,” DaCorsi said.

Here are the three farming bills:

• The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce Act;

• The Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act; and the

• Essential Commodities Act.

Critics say the effect of those bills is to collectively dismantle minimum support prices for crops, remove restrictions on the purchase of land by corporations, remove limits on stockpiling commodities and to deregulate and privatize farmers’ markets in India.