EXAMINER                                                 Issue # 100       December 21, 2000

Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective

A.V. Krebs


It has been alleged that In 1555, Nostradamus wrote:

"Come the millennium, month 12,
In the home of greatest power,
The village idiot will come forth
To be acclaimed the leader"

Ancient predictions and\or urban myths aside what we have witnessed in the U.S. of A. since November 7 would in most nations beyond our borders and shores rightfully be called a political coup d'etat by the right wing of our country's solitary Republicrat Party.

Not only have we witnessed the woeful spectacle of a presidential election being decided by a state that suffers from chronic "electile dysfunction," but we have seen one-quarter of our nation's population troop to the polls and vote for the lesser of two evils, while another one-quarter choose to invest the country's future in  the evil of the two lessors.

It is bad enough that George W. Bush stole the election through lamentable legal sophistry with his final act of larceny being aided and abetted by a U.S.Supreme Court decision which occasioned even dissenting justice John Paul Stevens to write, "The position by the majority of this court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges." But then to add insult to injury the Republicrat Party and the political pundits that grovel at its feet are now calling for "healing and closure," attempting to festoon such ordure in the cloak of "bipartisanship."

As my good friend and colleague Bob Schildgen writes in the Winter issue of Mindfield: "But there is absolutely no reason for healing and closure. To pretend that there should be healing and closure is insane. Terrible Supreme Court decisions have divided the country bitterly before, as well they should have. The Dred Scott Decision, when the court declared in 1857 that a black person was not a citizen and had no legal rights as one, is the classic example. It took a civil war and a whole century of fighting to undue the evil works of that historic case."

Unfortunately, Election 2000 was also not one of the prouder moments of our republic, for not only did the electorate embrace the corporate chosen two, but they rejected, save for some 2.7 million of them, a genuine opportunity to affirm economic and political democracy and elect a President and Vice-President  --- Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke --- committed to those democratic ideals and the common, not the corporate, good.

Neither did rural America and our farm communities do themselves proud in this election, for looking at a map of the national results one can see where George W. Bush gained a great measure of his electoral college vote. Some pundits have observed that the votes in rural America reflected disgust concerning the morals, values and life style of the current president. If that is true, and with no effort here to condone or justify such behavior, our rural communities and family farmers who based their vote on such criteria may well have written their own death notice as family farmers, by voting for Republicrat Bush.

For while they seemed preoccupied with Republicrat Clinton's corpus morality they were ignoring the fact that it is was this same Republicrat President  and his Congressional brethren who enacted, passed and signed the disastrous Freedom to Farm bill legislation; which stood by while one large corporate agribusiness after another sucked up their lesser rivals; while self-serving corporate hemispheric and international trade agreements were destroying a domestic family farm economy, while a Republicrat administration kept the revolving door between it and genetic engineering corporations well oiled at the same time attempting to cram down the throats of the American public unsafe and improperly tested products.

Immorality has many faces!

What makes this whole matter sadder, is that family farmers had a clear choice, a choice that could have led to an unprecedented revival of rural America, competitive markets for their goods and at same time providing consumers with healthy, nutritious, safe, available and affordable food while caring for and protecting an already fragile life-giving environment.

By rejecting the Nader\LaDuke candidacy and the well-thought out and positive populist farm policy initiatives that the Nader\LaDuke campaign presented, family farmers seemed to be saying that they preferred self-flagelation to self-preservation.

By way of example, in the months prior to election an effort was made to form a Family Farmers National Alliance for Nader\LaDuke, which would be a group of national recognized family farmers and rural activists who would issue a simple statement of support ( Issue #92) for the Nader\LaDuke candidacy and why they felt such support was necessary for the survival of family farm agriculture. Then, in whatever means available to the Alliance and its individual members, they would promulgate the statement  to their neighbors, colleagues and communities.

Some 90 family farmers and rural activists were invited to join the Alliance with 49 accepting the invitation and 41 either refusing or failing to respond to said invitation. Disappointingly, the vast majority of those either refusing or not responding were family farmers. Some of those who declined did so because either they planned to vote for the lesser of two evils Gore or due to organizational sensitivities, despite the fact that it was made very clear that they were being asked to join the Alliance as individuals with any affiliation they so choose being for identification purposes only. Also, of  these 41 who were invited into the Alliance and who did not sign the statement, over half of those individuals failed to even respond to the invitation.

Lest that one thinks this is an isolated example reflect back to when the U.S. Department of Justice issued their consent decree for public comment prior to approving the merger of Cargill, the nation's largest grain trader and private corporation, and its chief rival the commodity division of Continental Grain, at the time the nation's fifth largest private corporation.

According to the DofJ 67 individuals, eight public officials, 65 individual farmers, and nineteen organizations expressed their views on the proposed Final Judgment. While it is true that organizations such as the National Farmers Union and American Farm Bureau Federation submitted comments it is somewhat shocking that out of 1.9 million farmers in the U.S. only 65 individual farmers sought to express their thoughts on this historic merger.

Now faced with the grim prospect of a Republicrat Party intent on fashioning not only a "bipartisan"  farm policy in the coming years, but an increasingly corporate-friendly U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal bureaucracy, family farm agriculture is on the threshold of witnessing its complete demise, UNLESS family farmers are politically willing to individually and collectively boldly step forward and fight for their survival.

In doing so it is time that they put aside such corporate self-serving, elitist-entrenched  bureaucrat's political shibboleths as "healing and closure" and hail and promote division, division that separates people who vote their conscience and who believe in economic and political democracy from the corporate interests and their minions who vote their pocketbooks and believe that government is merely another commodity to be bought and possessed.

Such an effort will not be easy, for as Frederick Douglass's words from 1857 constantly remind us: "Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of the waters. This struggle may be both moral and physical, but it must be struggle.

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them. And these wrongs will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."


Demonstrations organized by Italy's largest farmers association, Coldiretti, in opposition to the European Union (EU) and national agricultural policies, recently saw one million farmers and 100,000 tractors joining in a protest that took place throughout the country's main cities.

In Turin, more than 1,500 tractors and 3,000 farmers demonstrated and poured hundreds of hectoliters of milk on the roads, as did farmers in Parma, and assaulted a McDonalds, while in Veneto, almost 1,000 tractors were on the roads. In Bergamo, the city was surrounded by 300 tractors that blocked the traffic and Trento was invaded by 500 tractors while in Verona, both the city and the province was paralyzed with 1000 tractors and 3000 farmers.

The Marche region was assaulted by 10,000 farmers and more than 2,000 tractors (out of these, 500 tractors and 3000  farmers blocked the city center in Ancona) while in Siena traffic was blocked by 600 tractors and 2000 farmers. In Taranto, 500 tractors and 2000 farmers poured into the city at dawn.

Both in Milan and Naples, the police allowed only a tiny delegation of tractors to move in the city, but in Palermo, due to the ongoing United Nations summit on organized crime, farmers decided to "behave" and distributed 5000 tractor models, together with a leaflet.

Among the demands that the farmers presented were:

* Changing the current EU aid system which supports farmers with criteria based on extension and not on productivity ---  for Italy it means that yearly, about 400 million Euro dollars are given to just 300 farms. The other 800,000 farms receive less than 500 Euro each;
* Changing the milk quota system (currently Italy is entitled to produce half of what Holland produces);
* Easing the possibility to hire immigrants because of lack of labor force;
* Stop GMO (genetically manipulated organisms)

Meanwhile, in France Greenpeace activists dumped tons of genetically modified soy meal onto an American flag during a protest outside a biotechnology conference claiming that the American exports of genetically modified crops pose health risks. The protest was held in Montpellier, in southern France, where representatives from 177 countries were meeting to discuss international biosafety regulations adopted in  January.

Lionel Jospin, France's prime minister, Lionel Jospin, said  that the French government would continue its moratorium on the production of modified crops.


Letters to the Editor
Wichita Eagle
Monday, November 27, 2000

I had to laugh and shake my head when I read that Farm Bureau has created a legal fund to "defend what it said were growing Sierra Club attacks on farmers"("Kansas Farm Bureau president says agency is `weathering the storm,'" November 18 Business & Farm).

Here in Oklahoma, many of the farmers in our groups were hostile to the Sierra Club until we watched that organization go to bat for independent agriculture again and again. Now we realize it is Farm Bureau that is waging war on family farmers.

We have watched Farm Bureau on both sides of the state line mount a misinformation campaign on various issues such as nonpoint source pollution, the Arkansas shiner and concentration in the agricultural marketplace. Farm Bureau has remained unconcerned about the deterioration of quality of life faced by family farmers surrounded by industrial animal-feeding operations.

In our state, we saw a very aggressive Farm Bureau attempt to throw out surface-water-monitoring data obtained by the United States Geological Survey that clearly showed pollution from corporate chicken production. Farm Bureau says, "Show us the science," but then dismisses data sets that don't support its position.

It's time for Farm Bureau to either face the truth and change policy or  . . . perhaps family farmers will have to create a legal fund to defend against Farm Bureau attacks on independent agriculture.

Coordinator,  Oklahoma Family Farm Alliance,  Oklahoma City


I can't say this often enough . . . when you go to bed with snakes, you are going to get bit. The Sierra Club passed national policy this fall to do away with grazing on federal lands. Anyone who thinks that once they accomplish that they won't come after private lands is a fool.

Yes, they may be going to bat for "independent agriculture" and they may let us grow enough food to feed ourselves, but didn't we fight a war with Mother England over this very issue?

I hope that you will pass this on to your list. I have simply run out of patience with folks that don't understand that we are in a war for our lives  . . . .



[In] response to Caren Cowen's angry reply to the Sierra Club and observation that "we are in a fight for our lives." We are in a fight for our lives, but where is the real danger coming from? To put it into perspective, I had a bad year with coyotes. They killed at least 50 lambs. That cost me about three thousand dollars. If the government trapper had been allowed to poison coyotes and reduce their numbers to something manageable, I would have been much happier. 

My calves sold pretty well this year, but captive supplies and market manipulation by the big packers depressed feeder prices by at least ten cents.  That cost me fifty dollars per calf. On top of that, beef imports have depressed cull cow prices by at least twenty cents.That cost me another two hundred dollars per cull.  By that count, big transnational corporations cost me many thousands of dollars: a lot more than did the environmental organizations.

Nothing seems to get farmers and ranchers madder than interference by outside environmental groups. Our response, as a class, has been to analyze this meddling in our rural prerogatives as a political attack and in a search of redress, we have shifted our politics to the far right. The far right is very happy to embrace us and our cause, and works diligently to polarize the issue. Hence, the "god-damned environmentalists" have become the embodiment of evil. We feel righteousness in our anger and revel in its glory.

Meanwhile, with the aid and encouragement of the far right, big transnational corporations have passed trade treaties beneficial to them and not you and me. Again with the help of the far right, big transnational corporations influence our government, bend our anti-trust laws, and emasculate our regulatory protections. This year the transnational corporations got an extra few thousand dollars that was rightfully mine.

Next year they'll get more and soon I will no longer be an independent rancher --- but a serf in a corporate feudal system. In perspective, next year I might again lose 50 lambs to coyotes, but probably a few less since last year had higher than normal coyote attacks. So which is costing me more, the Sierra Club or the Farm Bureau?

I see something encouraging in the Sierra Club's acceptance that cattle should graze the rangelands and that these cows should be owned and managed by independent producers. I see something there to talk about: perhaps an alliance is possible. I have given up entirely the notion that the Farm Bureau will stand up for a free and independent agriculture rather than continue to be a pawn and apologist for global corporations. So you may wish to feel your righteous anger towards the "god damned environmentalists" and revel in the glory of that anger, however, you should simultaneously accept the fact that you will soon be either another rural refugee looking for a big city job, or a serf in a corporate feudal system.

Grass Range, Montana


U.S. farmers, who thnk that George W. Bush will have them yearning for a Bill Clinton, may want to reevaluate that wish in light of a recent address the current President gave in Coventry, England before an audience that included the United Kingdom's Prime Minister Tony Blair and faculty and students at the University of Warwick.

"We do have to answer those who fear that the burden of open markets will fall mainly on them," Clinton remarked.  "Whether they're farmers in Europe or textile workers in America, these concerns fuel powerful political resistance to the idea of open trade in the developed countries.

"We have to do better in making the case not just on how exports create jobs, but on how imports are good, because of the competition they provide; because they increase innovation and they provide savings for hard-pressed working families throughout the world.  And we must do more to improve education and job-training so that more people have the skills to compete in a world that is changing very rapidly."

Clinton then noted:

"If the wealthiest countries ended our agricultural subsidies, leveling the playing field for the world's farmers, that alone would increase the income of developing countries by $20 billion a year," he said. Clinton also suggested that Third World farmers might be able to produce food "more cheaply than we. . . . "

One news report said this statement "drew a gulp from Blair."

Clinton, who signed the Freedom to Farm Act in 1996 has seen the transfer of in excess of $30 billion from taxpayers to American farmers --- seeking to help farmers cope with low prices and provide consumers with cheaper food. --- over the last four years in the costly USDA program in history.


Just in time for that Christmas Day turkey dinner Cargill, the nation's largest private corporation, has announced that it has recalled some 16.7 million pounds of its cooked products, including sliced turkey breast,  Cajun-fried turkey and smoked turkey, after the Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention revealed that  there have been 28 cases of Listeria monocytogenes  bacteria contamination involving Cargill  products since July causing four deaths as well as three miscarriages or stillbirths.

The recalled food was produced from May 1 to December 11 at a Cargill's Turkey Products' facility in Waco,  Texas.and distributed to grocery stores, restaurants and other institutions in the U.S., Iceland  and Venezuela and is marked with the establishment number "P-635." USDA is urging consumers to check to see if they purchased any of the poultry products.

Bacteria found in the contaminated turkey products produce flu-like symptoms and can be especially dangerous to pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

The USDA said sliced products customers may have bought at retail include:

*  Owen's Hickory Smoked Pre-Sliced Turkey Breast, fresh Plantation
*  Fiesta Pre-Sliced Turkey Breast, fresh
*  Mesquite Smoked Pre-Sliced Turkey Breast, fresh and frozen
*  Pre-Sliced Smoke banquet-style Turkey Breast, fresh and frozen
*  Black Forest Turkey Ham, fresh
*  Pre-Sliced Turkey Pastrami, fresh and frozen
*  Pre-Sliced Star Turkey Breast

* Riverside
* Pre-Sliced Hickory Smoked Turkey Breast, fresh and frozen
* Pre-Sliced Oven Prepared Turkey Breast, frozen
* Honeysuckle White Pre-Sliced Oven Prepared Turkey, fresh and frozen

 The USDA said unsliced products include:

* Dine Rite Picnic Dark Turkey, fresh and frozen
* Old South Turkey Ham, fresh
* Plantation Cajun Fried Turkey, frozen
* Honeysuckle White Cajun-Style Fried Whole Turkey, frozen

 The USDA said the following products may have been distributed at deli counters, restaurants or institutions:

* Boar's Head

* Our Premium Low Salt Turkey, frozen
* Golden Catering Skin-on Turkey Breast, fresh
* Carmel Colored Our Premium Turkey Breast, fresh
* Our Premium Low Salt Skinless Turkey Breast, fresh
* Smoked Turkey Breast, fresh
* Oil Browned Chicken Breast, fresh
* Oven Prepared Skinless Turkey Breast, fresh
* Smoked Chicken Breast, fresh

 The USDA said other products were sold in bulk and would not be labeled at  point of purchase.


Ann Veneman, 51, no stranger to "free trade," genetic engineered crops and corporate agribusiness, has been named by George W. Bush to be his administration's new Secretary of Agriculture.

Beginning with the USDA's  Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in 1986, she rose to deputy undersecretary for international affairs and commodity programs. She also was one of the early negotiators of the North American FreeTrade Agreement (NAFTA) and from 1991 to 1993 served as the deputy undersecretary which at the time was the highest post at the department ever held by a woman.

In 1995 California Governor Pete Wilson selected the Modesto, California native to head California's Department of Food and Agriculture, after the previous director resigned over charges he did not report hundreds of thousands of dollars in farm income.

Numerous press reports on Veneman's nomation to be USDA Secretary have claimed that she was the first woman in California to hold that high position in the state, however, such claims are erroneous and dishonor the memory of Rose Bird.

Appointed to that position by former Governor Jerry Brown, Bird served with distinction until being named Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. Later, she was denied further service on the court due to a well-financed corporate agribusiness recall campaign in retaliation, due in large part for her progressive initiatives while heading the state's Food and Agriculture department.

While Veneman has considerable experience within the USDA bureaucracy, her appointment is also a political reward for the Central Valley, where Bush concentrated his California campaign and received much of his financial support. She was an early Bush supporter and was among six California Republicans named in mid-1999 to his exploratory committee in the state. At the GOP convention last summer, she was on the national steering committee of Farmers and Ranchers for Bush.

Veneman's parents were peach growers in Stanislaus County in the San Joaquin Valley south of Sacramento. Her father, John Veneman, was a Republican state assemblyman and undersecretary of health, education and welfare in the Nixon administration. Currently she is an attorney with Nossaman, Guthner, Knox and Elliott in Sacramento where she specializes in food, agriculture, environment, technology, and trade related issues.

Regarded by many as a protege of Richard Lyng, who was agriculture secretary during President Ronald Reagan's second term, Veneman will now oversee the department's 42 agencies, with a budget of more than $60 billion and a workforce of 111,000 employees.

Between her service with the FAS, during which time she help negotiate the Uruguay round talks for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT),  and California's Department of Food and Agriculture she worked for the influential lobbying and law firm of Patton, Boggs and Blow. Among her clients was Dole Foods Co., the world's largest producer of fruits and vegetables.

She also has served on the board of directors of Calgene, a Davis, California company, later acquired by Monsanto, which pioneered genetically altered tomatoes and, in 1987, was the first company to obtain a USDA permit to field test a genetically engineered crop.

Veneman is a strong advocate of high tech's role in farming, from e-commerce over the Internet to genetic engineering. She told an agricultural biotechnology conference this year: "We simply will not be able to feed the world without biotechnology."

Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Consumer Federation of America's Food Policy Institute and former lobbyist for Monsanto, has praised the pick of Venemen as "a really good start" for the Bush administration. She said Venemen "will bring a modern view of the Department of Agriculture into that job."

Venemanís emphasis on trade has drawn strong praise from individuals like Bill Pauli, president of the 90,000-member California Farm Bureau Federation. "What we're really encouraged by is not only does she understand California agriculture, which is really important to us, but she understands national agriculture," Pauli told the Associated Press.

"When you talk to agriculture people about what government can do to help, it's `help us open markets that are closed to us,'" Veneman said in a 1995 interview. "I think that's a real legitimate role that we can play."

Veneman is expected to be easily confirmed as the new USDA Secretary owing to the fact that she enjoys "bipartisan" support in the Congress and because of her known expertise in international agricultural  trade.


With the 100th edition of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER the editor and publisher wishes to thank those readers who have over the past three years sent their most welcomed well-wishes and contributions of support to this modest effort to monitor corporate agribusiness from a public interest perspective. It is our hope with the first year of the new century we can offer readers continued and additional insight and perspective. And as you prepare for what lies ahead we hope that the spirit of joy and peace that is the hallmark of this holiday season will continue to bless you throughout the coming year.

Due to an upgarde in our equipment and distribution process the next issue of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER  (Issue #101) will appear the week of January  8-12, 2000.


The Corporate Agribusiness Research Project (CARP) web site now contains a
streamlined search engine which will not only allow viewers to  find needed
information by  simply using key words, but they will be able to also access
Issues #1 through  #77 of THE  AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER.

The CARP web site, which is now posted on the World Wide Web, features:

THE AGBIZ TILLER, the progeny of the one-time printed newsletter, now
becomes an on-line news feature of the Project. Its initial essay concerns one
Hillary Rodham  Clinton,  now the junior U.S. Senator-elect from New York State.

available  through THE AGBIZ TILLER you'll learn some of the messy details
behind her cattle  futures "miracle.' You will also find in this section the archives
for past editions of  the THE  AGBIZ TILLER.

In "Between the Furrows" there is a wide range of pages designed to inform
and  educate  readers on the inner workings of corporate agribusiness. In
addition to CARP's  "Mission  Statement," "Overview" and the Project director's
"Publication Background," the  viewer will  find a helpful "Fact  Miners" page
which is an effort  to assist the reader in the necessary art of researching
corporations; a  page of  "Quoteable Quotes" periaing to agribusiness and
corporate  power; a  "Links" page  which  allow the reader to survey various
useful public interest,  government and  corporate  web sites; a "Feedback" page
for reader input, and  a page  where readers can  order  directly the editor's The
Corporate Reapers: The Book of  Agribusiness.

The CARP web site was designed and  produced by ElectricArrow of Seattle,

Simply by clicking on either of the addresses below all the aforementioned
features and  information are yours to enjoy, study, absorb and sow.