The
                  AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER
   Montioring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective
                                                A.V. Krebs  Editor\Publisher
 

Issue #102                                                            January 19, 2001
 

FDA:
LARGE NUMBER  OF ANIMAL FEED COMPANIES
NOT COMPLYING WITH REGULATIONS
TO PREVENT EMERGENCE OF "MAD COW" DISEASE
 
Concern that the U.S. could be caught in the same grip as the European continent is currently facing with the outbreak and spread of “mad cow” disease, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has called attention to the fact a large numbers of companies involved in manufacturing animal feed are not complying with regulations meant to prevent the emergence of the dreaded disease.

Much more needs to be done to ensure that “mad cow” disease does not arise in this country, Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA, emphasized to the New York Times Sandra Blakeslee. However, Dr. Sundlof sought to assure that the widespread failure of companies to follow the regulations, adopted in August 1997, does not mean that the American food supply is unsafe.

FDA regulations mandate that feed manufacturers and companies that render slaughtered animals into useful products generally may not feed mammals to cud-chewing animals, or ruminants, which can carry mad cow disease.  Manufacturers must also have a system to prevent ruminant products from being commingled with other rendered material like that from chicken, fish or pork and all companies must keep records of where their products originated and where they were sold.

Recently released results Blakeslee reports, however, demonstrate that more than three years after the imposition of the regulations different segments of the feed industry show varying levels of compliance.

Among 180 large companies that render cattle and another ruminant, sheep, nearly a quarter were not properly labeling their products and did not have a system to prevent commingling, the F.D.A. said. In addition, among 347 F.D.A.-licensed feed mills that handle ruminant materials --- those companies which tend to be large operators that mix drugs into their products --- 20% were not using labels with the required caution statement, and 25% did not have a system to prevent commingling.

With these results from feed-mill inspections, the FDA warns that companies could face seizures, shutdowns, even prosecution if they continue to violate rules meant to keep American livestock from eating slaughtered-animal parts linked to the deadly brain disease. Many companies in violation already have received warning letters, and some feed has been recalled.

Europe's mad-cow crisis "is not a result of them not having adequate regulations in place --- it was a problem of enforcement. And we don't want to end up like that," Sundlof pointed out while promising more intense inspections.

Fear over mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, came in the mid-1990s when Great Britain discovered a new version of the human Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease was apparently being caused by eating infected beef. Some 80 people have died of the new CJD disease in Britain since then, and now France, Germany and other European countries are discovering infected livestock. Such animals acquire the disease by eating the tissue of other infected animals, and British cows are thought first to have been infected by eating feed made from sheep harboring a similar illness.

U.S. scientists believe that better methods for testing cattle are needed and  that many questions remain about the disease's origin, cause and transmission. Current tests are considered too slow and they can only be done on dead cattle.

The FDA has listed "mad cow" and related diseases among its top research priorities for food safety. "We still don't know what's behind this disease," said Bernard Schwetz, the FDA's acting deputy commissioner.

Despite the increasing wariness and unknowns about "mad cow" disease, U.S. regulators continue to allow the livestock industry to feed massive amounts of antibiotics to healthy animals to spur growth and to permit chickens and hogs to be raised under factory farm conditions in which diseases can quickly spread.

This practice, according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, "can substantially reduce the efficacy of the human antimicrobial arsenal" by helping create resistant organisms that then render the drugs useless in fighting potentially devastating human diseases. Dr. Charles Benbrook, an author of the report, said the practice may increase industry profits but "it puts everyone's health at risk."
 

REVISITING ADM’S CORN GLUTTEN FEED SCANDAL
RAISES “MAD COW” DISEASE FEED QUESTIONS

In light of the recent Food and Drug Administration’s report that a large numbers of companies involved in manufacturing animal feed are not complying with regulations meant to prevent the emergence of the dreaded “mad cow” disease a little noticed story that emerged during the Archer Daniels Midland lysine price-fixing scandal takes on added significance.

When Mark Whitacre, who served as a corporate mole for the FBI and brought the Department of Justice’s attention to the scandal, was interviewed by FBI agents Michael D. Bassett and Anthony P. D’Angelo in a September 5, 1999 meeting, following the Department’s procedure the agents prepared an FBI-302 dictated the following day and transcribed on September 7, totaling 16 pages. On page 15 the agents wrote:

“Whitacre advised that ADM has illegally disposed of genetic organisms by adding the organisms to corn glutten feed. The organisms are in liquid form and are sprayed on the corn glutten feed rather than disposed of as required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The liquid spray also added weight to the feed. Whitacre advised that Jerry Weigel and Jim Randall oversee this activity.”  Weigel was ADM’s head nutritionist at ADM Biochem and Randall was the corporate president and overseer of plant process and operations.

No action, however, has been taken on Whitacre’s revelation. In an October 15, 1999 letter from David Hoech, founder of the ADM Stockholder’s Watch Committee, to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, the company stockholder activist expresses shock that the Department of Justice had chosen “to overlook” such activities “leaving the Andreas crime boss, Dwayne [Dwayne O. Andreas, the then CEO and chairman of ADM’s board], intact to continue to destroy American agriculture.”

“The creed of greed of the Andreas crime family,” Hoech charged, “found it more economical to export the poisonous waste rather than build a treatment facility.”

Hoech called Reno’s attention to the remarks of a French farmer Philippe Huesele, a member of the Agro-Brie-Champagne farmer’s cooperative in northeastern France. On a summer tour of the Central Illinois farm belt
Huesele remarked that the European public still equates traditional farming practices with quality, largely because of “mad cow” disease among British cattle herds several years ago. The Europeans blame American feed for the disease, he said. They mistrust large corporations.

It was the British scientists who isolated animal feed contaminated with meat and bone meal from cattle and other slaughtered animals as the probable cause for BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathies or “mad cow” disease) and hypothesized that humans who ate contaminated meat had contracted the fatal CJD (Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease --- BSE’s human equivalent).

“As a shareholder and American citizen,” Hoech’s letter continues, “I demand to know why the public safety is compromised to protect the Andreas crime family. Our overseas’ customers don’t trust our regulatory departments in this administration and most of all don’t trust the Justice Department who lets corporate criminals such as ADM run amok destroying what took our ancestors decades to build.”

“Do we know that ADM feed shipped to Europe caused the `mad-cow’ disease?” the letter asks. “No, we don’t, but the Europeans said it was
caused by feed containing a prion. The genetic organisms mixed with the feed is a dead protein which is a prion that was found in all the feed which the diseased cows consumed.”

A prion (pronounced PREE-on) is a deformed protein identified by biologist Stanley Prusiner as the likely infectious agent responsible for causing and transmitting transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (BSE) . The word “prion” is a hybrid of “protein” and “infectious.”

In a subsequent law suit filed by a Missouri farmer Rodger Moberly and several other Missouri cattlemen the focus was on a substance known as free gossypol, which is derived from crushing cottonseed and used in ADM’s animal feed known as 39% Protein Quanah Special. As Nicholas E. Hollis, President of the Agribusiness Council (ABC) explains, “free gossypol can be toxic to calves and even larger cattle if ingested in sufficient qualities. Often gossypol sickens an animal slowing down its ability to gain weight.”

The plaintiff’s claims were enhanced by an affidavit from Whitacre, ADM’s former head of its BioProducts Division,  who stated that ADM knew about free gossypol’s effects and intentionally sold it to enhance profits. The affidavit also repeated the charge concerning ADM’s spraying biomass residues on its corn glutten feed.

Knowing that these charges would constitute serious fraud if proven the plaintiff’s lawyers were prepared to depose CEO Andreas, his son Michael and James Randall, who was the company’s president. In ADM’s lysine price fixing case the government granted immunity to both Dwayne Andreas and Randall. In the Missouri suit ADM, however, decided to avoid such a confrontation and settled out of court, offering the plaintiff $105,000 --- roughly double the amount initially requested.

Interestingly in the preparing of the Missouri case ADM called upon experts from the nearby University of Illinois to challenge the plaintiffs veterinarians who had treated the dying animals. As Hollis points out, ADM over the years had funneled millions of dollars in grants to the university’s College of Agriculture.

“Truth can be difficult to tease out strand by strand in these cases,” Hollis adds, “but ADM’s credibility plunged when its top nutritionist `Dr.’ Gerrald Weigel , lied about his academic credentials under oath --- he had no Ph. D.”

Oklahoma State University toxicologist Dr. Sandra Morgan has noted concern for gossypol as a potential sterility agent in an article which also states “there is concern for the effects of gossypol on humans because gossypol is a biologically active compound and because gossypol in the food chain may ultimately lead to its consumption by humans.”

“If we are to regain confidence in the overwhelming majority of our food companies and their honest suppliers,” Hollis adds, “isn’t it time we stop ignoring the lessons of Moberly v. ADM and get the truth out about the Supermarkup to the World?”
 

ADM:
FINED $1.4 MILLION FOR CLEAN AIR VIOLATIONS
ORDERED TO INSTALL $1.6 MILLION SCRUBBERS

It has come to a state whereby that when one looks up the definition of corporate law violator the letters ADM almost now automatically appear.

Latest in a long list of criminal and civil law breaking by the company is the announcement that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and Illinois EPA have reached agreement with Archer Daniels Midland on alleged violations of Federal and State clean-air regulations at the company's wet corn mill plant in Decatur, Illinois.

The agreement, resolving a civil complaint, means a $1,463,500 penalty assessed against the “Supermarkup to the World” and the installation of scrubbers costing $1,600,000 to cut air pollution from the company’s two feed dryers, The complaint had also alleged that ADM made a major modification to the plant without first getting a permit to prevent significant deterioration of air quality. It also alleged ADM exceeded limits on opacity, or the amount of light obscured by emissions of particulates (dust), at the plant.

"We are pleased that ADM has agreed to install scrubbers to control pollution from the two feed dryers," said EPA Region 5 Administrator Francis X. Lyons. "This will cut particulate emissions from the plant by 80 tons per year."

"This settlement will improve air quality for the people of Decatur, because it means fewer emissions of harmful dust," said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Environment Division at the Justice Department.

Companies must get permits that restrict their emissions and prevent
significant deterioration of air quality before new air pollution sources can be built, or existing sources modified, in areas that meet national health-based air quality standards for all air pollutants. Inhaling high concentrations of particulates can affect children, the elderly, and people with heart and lung diseases the most.
 

NEW ZEALAND’S OIC REJECTS ARGUMENT
ADM IS NOT OF “GOOD CHARACTER” AS COMPANY
SEEKS STAKE IN COUNTRY’S MAIN MALT CO.

New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Commission (OIC) has rejected arguments that International Malting Company, which is owned 60% by Lesaffre and 60% by Archer Daniels Midland, should not be allowed to buy out New Zealand's main malt works, on the basis that those controlling ADM were not of good character.

The good character requirement is one of the few restrictions remaining on foreign investment in New Zealand.

“In assessing the character of the individuals exercising control over International Malting Company New Zealand Limited,” the Commission stated in a letter of inquiry to Member of Parliament, Rod Donald, “the issues concerning the previous activities of Archer Daniels Midland Company was an irrelevant consideration.”

“Even if Archer Daniels Midland Company did have a link to the directors it is unlikely our conclusion would have been different,” the letter continued. “This is because:
(a) The offenses referred to occurred prior to June 1995;
(b) The offenses involved the bio products division of Archer Daniels Midland Company, not the malt or yeast products division. It is the latter division that is the minority shareholder in International Malting Company LLC;
(c) The persons who were involved, in the bio products division, are no longer employed by Archer Daniels Midland Company.”

Currently, Mick Andreas, ADM’s former vice-president, Terrance Wilson, the head of its corn feed division, and Mark Whitacre, ADM’s former head of its BioProducts Division are all serving jail terms in Federal prison for their role in the Company’s world-wide lysine price-fixing scandal.

Based on research by New Zealand’s Bill Rosenberg, a member of the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (Aotearoa is the indigenous name for New Zealand) which takes an internationalist anti-racist position in opposition to free trade and foreign investment, International Malting Company LLC has approval to acquire Canterbury (NZ) Malting Company Ltd, the "main New Zealand producer of lager malt", for an undisclosed price.

International Malting is now owned 60% by Lesaffre Malt Corporation of France and 40% by ADM.

Prior to the OIC approval of the sale, CAFCA had written to the OIC, pointing out that ADM’s recent criminal and civil law breaking record to be in clear breach of the requirement that those controlling investments be of "good character", which is the basis on which the OIC’s approval was to be given.

Canterbury Malting's previous owners were the two main breweries in Aotearoa, both overseas companies, Lion Nathan and DB (in equal shares). Lion Nathan Ltd is 45% owned by Kirin Brewery Company Ltd of Japan, part of Mitsubishi. The DB Group is 75% owned by Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd, which is 40% owned by Heineken NV of the Netherlands and 40% by Fraser, Neave Ltd of Singapore. The remaining 20% is in small shareholdings in Singapore.

“The recent story of Canterbury Malting is a sad one,” Rosenberg notes. “One of only three surviving malthouses in Aotearoa, its primary customers were the two breweries which owned it. It even commissioned Crown Research Institute, Crop and Food Research, to develop its own high yielding, dual purpose malting and feed barley, Valetta, tailored to local conditions.

“However,” he adds, “its Achilles' heel --- which should have been a strength --- was its substantial export market to Japan. It took about one third of its output. After Kirin took control of Lion in its controversial raid in 1998, it treated Canterbury Malting's exports as a threat to its own Japanese production and stopped the exports.

“The result was the closure of one of Canterbury Malting's two production facilities, in December 1999. To add insult to injury, it was the Canterbury one, in Heathcote Valley near Christchurch, with 130 years of history. The direct loss was 18 jobs, but that followed another 20 redundancies earlier in the year as a result of the loss of the export market.  Its remaining production facility is at Marton (on five hectares of land) and a storage facility at Ashburton.

“Its new ownership may be even sadder, Rosenberg concludes. “ADM, as well as being one of the largest agribusinesses in the U.S.A. (it is that country's leading corn processor for example), has one of the dirtiest records for price fixing, and has a long history of political meddling. So much so that it has the dubious privilege of recently having had a book published about its latest price-fixing scandal: "Rats in the Grain: The Dirty Tricks and Trials of Archer Daniels Midland, The Supermarket to the World", by James Lieber (Four Walls, Eight Windows, 2000).” (See review Issue #85)

In defending its position the OIC noted that the directors of International Malting Company New Zealand Ltd are Geoffrey Peter O'Connor, Geoffrey Maccan, Maurice Lesaffre and Patrick Lesaffre. These persons are all associated with and appointed by the ultimate majority shareholder in International Malting Company LLC, Lesaffre Malt Corporation (part of the Lesaffre et Compagnie "Group" of Companies) and that ADM exercises no control or influence over the directors.

“We have received information that satisfies us that each of these persons is of good character and not a person to which section 7(1) of the Immigration Act 1987 applies,” the IOC concluded.

In their letter to MP Donald the OIC points out that the constitution of International Malting Company LLC provides the Lesaffre "Group" with control of the International Malting Company LLC Board by virtue of having a 60% voting majority.

“There is also provisions,” they add, “that in the event that Archer Daniels Midland Company is to increases its interest in International Malting Company LLC, (which is not intended at this point), that notwithstanding such an increase, for so long as either Maurice Lesaffre or Patrick Lesaffre are involved in the management of International Malting Company LLC then 60% of the votes would remain with the Lesaffre `Group.’

“The intention is that the Lesaffre `Group’ maintain control of International Malting Company LLC for an extended period. Archer Daniels Midland Company has no involvement in the operational aspects of International Malting Company LLC's business and has limited minority veto rights (such as in a situation when International Malting Company LLC is to incur substantial capital expenditure).”
 

DAN GLICKMAN:
ANNOUNCES PORK CHECKOFF DEFEAT
DOES NOT HAVE “PARTICIPANTS” SUPPORT

"Last year, I ordered a referendum on the Pork Checkoff Program. As a matter of basic fairness, I believe that producers deserve the opportunity to vote on this checkoff program. It is, after all, a mandatory assessment, akin to a tax, that all producers must pay even if they disagree with it. The checkoff derives its legitimacy from the support of producers, and pork producers have endured dramatic changes in their industry since 1988, the year the checkoff was established and the last time producers were able to vote on this issue. So, in addition to upholding the bedrock democratic principle of the right to vote, it is appropriate and necessary to determine whether a majority of pork producers do, in fact, continue to support the checkoff.

"The preamble to the referendum rule states that the checkoff program will
be terminated if termination is favored by a majority of those voting. "The
results of the referendum conducted between August 18 and September 21, 2000 are 14,396 votes for continuing the checkoff program and 15,951 votes, a majority, against continuing the checkoff program.

 "This outcome demonstrates that the Pork Checkoff Program does not have the support of the producers it serves and therefore cannot fulfill its stated purpose. Accordingly, I am directing USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service to prepare and issue a final rule to terminate the order and the program conducted under it.

"I realize that this decision is of great significance to the pork industry
and to pork producers. My decision was not reached lightly. After carefully
considering all points of view, I have concluded that a program that imposes mandatory assessments on pork producers and importers must have the demonstrable support of its participants in order to achieve the objectives of the law. The Pork Checkoff Program does not have that support."

--- Release No. 0015.01 of Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman on the Pork Checkoff Referendum, January 11, 2001.
 

SO THEY SAY!!!
NATIONAL PORK CHECKOFF POSTMORTEM

“The vote result was a major boost for independent hog farmers in their
growing dispute with pork packing houses and large corporate farms, which checkoff opponents say have benefited the most from the fees -- 45 cents per $100 on each hog sold -- along with the National Pork Producers Council. The money goes to the quasi governmental National Pork Board, which contracts promotional services through the pork council.”

--- William Claiborne, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, January 16, 2001

                                                 * * *

"For years, the NPPC has been using our money to represent the interests of corporate factory farms and meatpackers. We're sick and tired of losing money hand over fist due to consolidation of the pork industry and the ill-conceived policies of the NPPC. This referendum’s results open the door for independent producers to directly challenge the big corporations and the meatpackers they represent. It creates a situation where all commodity groups have to be much more accountable to their producers, or the producers will simply say, 'That's it.' "
--- Rhonda Perry, a Missouri farmer and spokesperson for the Campaign for Family Farms (CFF), which helped lead the campaign against the checkoff.

                                                 * * *

"Instead of a sincere attempt to capture the will of the majority of legitimate pork producers about their checkoff, USDA let political motivation decide the fate of one of the most successful commodity programs in American agriculture.”

--- Craig Jarolimek, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) president, in
announcing his group will file for a court injunction to overturn the referendum.

                                                 * * *

"This referendum is about much more than ending an unfair tax.  It's about
farmers organizing and fighting back against corporate power and money.
With the checkoff gone, the National Pork Producers Council won't be able to carry water for the agribusiness corporations while claiming to represent America's hog farmers.”

--- Jim Joens, Minnesota hog farmer and a member of the Land Stewardship Project and spokesperson for CFF.

                                                 * * *

"Family farmers are fighting back against the commodity groups that have
sold them out and the corporate agriculture system that is trying to force
them off their farms.  We took down the NPPC and we're going after their
corporate allies next."

--- Dale Leslein, Dubuque, Iowa hog farmer and a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and a spokesperson for CFF.

                                                 * * *

"This is a hard fought victory won by American hog farmers.  Throughout this campaign it was hog farmers who did the heavy lifting making sure the referendum was held and it was hog farmers who voted to end the National Pork Producer Council's million dollar a week gravy train."

--- Phil Wright, Illinois hog farmer, a member of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance and CFF spokesperson.

                                                 * * *

"Without a checkoff of some sort, the large, vertically integrated hog farms will be able to accelerate their consolidation with the industry by only promoting their own products and brand labels.”

--- Bryce Neidig, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation.

                                                 * * *

"I predict that we are likely to see an effort to form a new pork organization, one in which the voting representation is based on the number of hogs produced."

--- Ron Plain, a University of Missouri livestock economist

                                                 * * *

"I'm happy about its defeat. "It's too bad we had to lose two-thirds of the hog farmers in the U.S. before we got a chance to vote on the checkoff."

--- Mark McDowell, a Hampton, Iowa pork producer who helped organize opposition.

                                                 * * *

"This vote makes it abundantly clear that all checkoffs in this country must be responsive to the majority of producers interests. This is especially apparent given the extremely low prices many farmers have received for their production. Obviously there were problems with the way the producers' moneys were handled or these farmers would not have gone to such lengths to have the checkoff ended.

"Obviously there is a bias towards corporate agribusiness when these
checkoffs are distributed. If checkoffs are to continue in the future they must therefore fairly distribute funds and be supportive of higher market prices for producers. Using these criteria, many checkoffs in this country have failed miserably given the disastrous farm economy in this country. At the same time the general economy of this country has greatly prospered."

--- Keith J. Dittrich, Nebraska farmer and American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) president.

                                                 * * *

“I know the checkoff lost; I know NPPC lost. I know NPPC will have a
difficult time admitting to itself that it lost.  I know that if NPPC, or its members, pursue litigation to overturn this vote, it will lose again --- even if it wins. Farmers will never forget nor will they forgive NPPC for challenging the will of a duly constituted vote of pork producers.

“I know the name `National Pork Producers Council’ does not contain the
word `pig,’ but does contain the word `producers.’ I know that many NPPC members and staff are dedicated to protecting independent pork producers and independent agriculture. I also know, and they do, too, that they have been silent too long. I know they should use this grassroots vote as their clear cue to speak up. Loudly.  And I know democracy, although sometimes ugly, will never lose it beauty.”

--- Alan Guebert, Farm and Food File for the week beginning Sunday, Jan. 21, 2001
 

ALL THE KING’S MEN,
ALL THE KING’S HORSES
CAN’T SEEM TO PUT LINDNER’S
MARKET SHARES BACK AGAIN

For the past several years, Chiquita Brands International while its board chairman and majority stockholder, Carl H. Lindner, has remained a big contributor to the Republicrat Party, the Clinton administration has brought several complaints against the European Union (EU) before the World Trade Organization and won them.

The complaints came after the European nations refused to lift banana quotas, at which time the Clinton Administration was allowed to retaliate by imposing punitive duties on a broad range of European goods in April 1999.

In the meantime, Chiquita has urged Clinton to punish the nations harshly for the damages they caused. But when Clinton decided to delay a new round of measures last fall after Great Britain showed some softening of its position, Chiquita officials were keenly disappointed.

“While there are those within the government who have acted in a tireless manner to bring this case to an appropriate conclusion," Steven G. Warshaw, Chiquita's president and chief operating officer, recently told the New York Times Anthony DePalma, the continuing trade dispute and Chiquita's inability to pay its debts prove "that the political side of the process has failed."

In the last two years alone Lindner has contributed $650,000 to Republicans and $420,000 to Democrats, according to public financing records.

In recently announcing that the George W. Bush Inaugural committee would not accept any individual or corporate contribution above $100,000, it was noted that one donation exceeded that amount --- a $200,000 contribution from Lindner, head of the American Financial Group based in Cincinnati, Ohio. But committee spokesman Dirk Vande Beek said half the sum was returned to Lindner because of the limit. Lindner and his family own about 40% of Chiquita through his American Financial Group.

For over seven years Chiquita Brands International has been opposed to the EU's existing regime, which favors EU banana traders. Chiquita, prefers a system that would base how much a company can import on the size of its market share before the EU created the current regime in 1993. At the time, Chiquita's share was twice the size of its current level. Dole Foods has now drawn ahead of Chiquita in market shares.

Although the U.S. doesn't grow bananas, the Clinton Administration has been fighting for the rights of Dole and Chiquita to trade with the EU.

Clearly the facts show that there are no U.S. jobs at stake here, that there is no danger of a further imbalance of trade, and there is no economic damage about to befall the U.S. Rather the U.S. bias towards Chiquita stems from the fact that Clinton & Co. have been seeking to protect the financial interests of contributor Lindner as opposed to the interests of thousands of small banana farmers in the Eastern Caribbean and in Jamaica. Chiquita employs most of its 45,000 workers in Honduras and Guatemala.

As Michael Weiskoff reported in Time Magazine, “You wouldn't know how grateful Lindner was by checking records at the Federal Election Commission; he gave the Democratic National Committee only $15,000 in the final 15 months of the [1996] campaign. Instead, D.N.C. officials instructed Lindner to give directly to state-party coffers, which are subject to far less public scrutiny than federal-election accounts. On April 12, 1996, the day after [then U.S. Trade Representative Mickey] Kantor asked the WTO to examine Chiquita's grievance, Lindner and his top executives began funneling more than $500,000 to about two dozen states from Florida to California, campaign officials told Time.”

Meanwhile, Lindner and Chiquita’s woes have become more obvious as the company is now faced with $145 million in debt due before the end of March and is fighting for survival, according to John McMillin of Prudential Securities, a prominent Wall Street food company analyst.

McMillin, who has touted Chiquita for years as a buying opportunity even as its stock plunged to historically low levels, called the next six months crucial for the company. “I think getting through that period is a key factor,” he said. “You'd like to think Chiquita can survive this. The industry has had extraordinary problems, but you can't just keep burning $50 million to $100 million a year in cash.“

Chiquita has said it will use available cash and possibly more bank financing to make the payments, but it noted in a recent federal filing that worsening industry conditions  could adversely impact its ability to repay the $145 million of first-quarter 2001 obligations.

"We're a healthy company and a great brand. We just have too much debt."  Warshaw recently told Dow Jones Newswire. He is hoping with such an upbeat characterization Chiquita's bondholders will buy in the coming months as the fruit-and-produce concern tries to sell them on a pre-packaged bankruptcy reorganization that would convert much of the company's $862 million of public debt into equity. The objective is to get what Warshaw has called "consensual  agreement" with debtholders so as to revitalize Chiquita's deteriorating balance sheet.

At the same time, citing weaker European currencies and the impact of EU’s trade restrictions, the company announced that it will discontinue payments on its public debt and will restructure debt from its publicly held senior notes and subordinated debentures.

"It is disheartening after years of suffering from the European Union's illegal banana-import regime that Chiquita's stockholders will endure further hardship," Warshaw said in a written statement.

"However, at this point we are obliged to pursue a restructuring that will  provide a level of debt that our operations can reasonably be expected to  support, and enhance the future prospects for Chiquita's profitable growth," he added.
 

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Readers of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER are reminded that past issues of the newsletter can be found at the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project’s web site on the Internet. The CARP web site features: THE AGBIZ  TILLER, THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER and "Between the Furrows."

THE AGBIZ TILLER, the progeny of the one-time printed newsletter, now becomes an on-line news feature of the Project. In-depth essays dealing with corporate agribusiness activities are posted here periodically.

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