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

Issue #107                                                                           March 9, 2001


“Unconscionable, dictatorial and undemocratic” are the words America's independent hog producers are using to describe USDA's recent reversal of the pork checkoff vote, according to the National Farmers Organization (NFO), a marketer of its members' hogs.

"Independent hog producers' belief in a democratically based pork promotion program was severely shaken . . . . the $54 million hog producer tax is back," said NFO President Paul Olson. "How can one individual cancel out 15,951 producer votes? I believe this confirms independent producer fears that large corporate entities are indeed exerting undue influence over the pork-producing and marketing system."

Olson declared that his organization does not support USDA's assertion that the vote is not a binding referendum, because it amounts to changing the rules of the game after its conclusion, ignoring referendum rules established before the vote. Iowa, for example, the country's largest hog producing state, voted nearly 60% to eliminate the 45-cent per $100 in pork sales producer assessment.

Key Congressional representatives in denouncing the USDA’s action are already signaling their support for family farmers and ranchers. Minnesota Senators' Paul Wellstone, and Mark Dayton promise that if USDA upholds the checkoff programs continuation, they will introduce a bill mandating another referendum to force USDA to abide by its results.

The USDA settlement with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) calls for a farmer-funded promotion of pork, however, under terms of the announced deal the council will longer receive any of the fees, which total about $54 million a year. All of the money, which is used for promotion and research, will be handled by a separate organization, the National Pork Board.

Farmers voted 15,951 to 14,396 to kill the program in a referendum last fall. But the National Pork Producers  Council, which has been partially funded through the fee, contended the referendum was unfair and convinced a federal judge in Michigan to temporarily block the department from shutting down the program.

Subsequently, USDA’s attorneys decided that last fall's referendum wasn't binding because USDA was unable to validate sufficient petition signatures while the NPPC claims former USDA Secretary Dan Glickman did not have authority to conduct the vote, and alleged that the referendum was flawed by irregularities, despite a USDA inspector general’s report that said the council's allegations were unfounded.

Glickman wrote in his final ruling, that the checkoff derived its legitimacy from the support of producers. "The preamble to the referendum rule states that the checkoff program will be terminated if termination is favored by a majority of those voting . . . 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."

USDA is giving the established board two years to build support for the program in the industry. Farmers will be surveyed by the department in 2003, and another referendum will be held if at least 15% of producers want one, the threshold under law for holding a vote.

Since the mandatory pork checkoff began in 1986, over 250,000 hog farmers have been forced out of business, hog farmers' share of the retail dollar has plummeted, and prices have hit historic lows.  The policies of the NPPC, according to its critics, which receives 91% of the checkoff money, work against independent producers who pay the checkoff.  Their pro-corporate, anti-environmental policies encouraged the expansion of
factory farms and helped drive family farmer hog producers out of business.

“The mandatory pork checkoff is not just a hog farmer issue,” according to the Land Stewardship Project and the Campaign for Family Farms who strongly oppose this settlement.  “The decision to reject a vote of the people in order to benefit corporate agribusiness is something that consumers, environmentalists, and all citizens who believe in democracy should be appalled by.  If you have made a dozen phone calls or never made a call on this issue, we need farmers and consumers alike to take action today.  There are four calls you need to make:,” the farm groups urge.

1.  Call Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman (202) 720-3631.  “Veneman needs to hear that the settlement is an outrage.  She has betrayed American hog farmers and trashed democracy.  She needs to honor the vote and terminate the mandatory pork checkoff.”

2.  FAX to USDA at (202) 720-2166 and the White House at (202) 456-2461.  “Write a short, hard-hitting statement about this issue and fax it to Secretary Veneman at her office in the USDA and to President Bush at the White House.  Many times big business and big government shunts phone calls off to machines, but thousands of faxes expressing outrage at USDA's action make a powerful statement by themselves.  If you don't get through the first time, try again.”

3.  Call Your Congressional Representatives.  U.S. Congress switchboard (202) 224-3121 (they can connect you to your Senators and Representative) “Tell your Congressional Representative and Senators that they need to call and write Ag Secretary Veneman and President Bush and tell them to honor the vote of hog farmers. The checkoff referendum was a binding referendum to end the checkoff.  Anything less than termination of the checkoff is a slap in the face to independent hog farmers and democracy.”

4.  Call President Bush (202) 456-1414.  “On Tuesday, February 27, President Bush addressed a joint session of Congress.  In his speech he said that people should be able to spend their own money for their own needs.  Hog farmers agree --- rather than pay the checkoff tax hog farmers should have the right to use that money to benefit their farms and not be forced to give it to the NPPC so they can promote more factory farms and corporate control.”


“The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced a settlement with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the Michigan Pork Producer Association that will continue the Pork Checkoff Program. Under the settlement, certain program restructuring is required. The changes, effective immediately, will ensure the separation of the National Pork Board and the NPPC and make the program more responsive to concerns of pork producers. The restructuring requires the National Pork Board to:
               “Employ its own management and staff, including the chief executive officer and chief financial officer;
               “Manage separate contracts for promotion, research, and consumer information projects;
               “Maintain separate office operations from the NPPC; and
               “Maintain separate communications from the NPPC.
Under the agreement, state pork producer associations will continue to operate independently and be accountable for checkoff funds but may cooperate on projects and communications with state affiliate organizations of the National Pork Producers Council.”

--- U.S. Department of Agriculture Press Release No. 0037.01

"The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) supports the settlement agreement announced today by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). As a result of the settlement agreement, the mandatory pork checkoff will continue. The checkoff will continue to be invested in programs that will promote pork, educate consumers and producers, and address critical research priorities for pork producers of all sizes and geographic locations.
In addition, the settlement agreement will require a distinct separation between NPPC and the National Pork Board ­ and particularly checkoff-funded programming and noncheckoff-funded policy initiatives. As a result, NPPC’s role as general contractor to implement checkoff-funded programs will be terminated. Thereafter, NPPC will focus on policy related legislative and regulatory issues. These activities will be funded with only noncheckoff or unrestricted funds. In addition, the National Pork Board will be charged with the implementation of checkoff-funded promotion, consumer education and research initiatives. NPPC has agreed to this settlement for a simple but extremely important reason. This settlement fulfills our overarching goal of continuing the highly effective pork checkoff for the benefit of every pork producer. . . . “

--- National Pork Producers Council Press Release

“I am ashamed and embarrassed by what has transpired with USDA and NPPC. I thought we lived in the greatest democracy in the world, now I find myself wondering. It is unbelievable that the results of the vote are to be disregarded. I have been praying that this new administration might actually do something about consolidation and mergers. Today's results give me absolutely no hope that anything will be different from the last administration, of which saw no merger they did not approve. I find it ironic that of all the consolidation and thus elimination of jobs our government has sought to go after one single company, Microsoft.   . . . .

“I am going to Ash Wednesday Services now and will be praying hard for the independents. God help us with Ann Venaman at the helm, we will need it. I will be attending the NFU Convention this weekend and will be pressing them for a resolution crying foul to the continuation of the check off. Remember I said no matter what the results of the vote I would honor it? I wish the other side had some honor.”

--- Sam Latchford, who has 250 sows and farms 1,500 acres near Shelbina, Missouri and a member of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

“Through this settlement we have been able to help pork producers across the U.S. maintain their access to promotion, research and education . . .the settlement shows the department had genuine concerns  regarding the referendum and the way it was conducted.”

--- Pete Blauwiekel, a Michigan farmer and vice president of the NPPC’s Michigan affiliate.

“Hog farmers voted for termination. We're seeing this basically as USDA declaring war against independent hog farmers around the country by not implementing the termination procedures.”

----  Rhonda Perry, a Missouri hog producer who has led a campaign against the fee.

“Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman blatantly ignored the will of farmers in  deciding to continue the program.  If this is an example of how the Bush administration will deal with industry, corporate hog farms, and big agribusiness, it is going to be a long four years for family farmers,''

--- Sen. Paul Wellstone, Dem-Minnesota

"USDA is keeping a tax in place that hog farmers legitimately voted
down. See this for what it really is . . . a democratic process. Our right to vote and decide our future has been blatantly overruled by a government agency (USDA) and the National Pork Producers Council."

--- Gilbert Kleaving, an Indiana hog producer and a member of the board of directors of National Farmers Organization (NFO)

"This decision illustrates the power corporate agriculture wields on today's farm policy. They have the power and the ability to apply pressure on individuals and institutions, steering policy in a direction that is best for them."

---- Brian Harris, director of livestock marketing for the NFO.

“Rather than meet with us, they sat down and cut a closed-door deal with the NPPC, trashed the democratic vote of America’s hard-working hog farmers, and declared war on the family farm. It’s shameful.  I guess this is what we can expect from Secretary Veneman.”

--- Richard Smith, a Wilmont, Minnesota hog farmer and member of the Land Stewardship Project (LSP).

“This decision flies in the face of democracy. We obviously oppose this settlement by USDA and NPPC.  We will sue if we have to, and we expect we would win. The Secretary’s bias towards the NPPC and corporate agribusiness is apparent here --- not her legal judgment nor democratic principle.

--- Paul Sobocinski, Wabasso, Minnesota hog farmer and LSP member


Alleging that California’s Governor Gray Davis was improperly influenced by political contributions from Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) which led to his ordering a state ban on the use of MTBE in gasoline in March 1999, Canada’s Methanex Corp., a major manufacturer of the fuel additive, is seeking $1 billion in damages for alleged violations under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

NAFTA prohibits unfair protection of domestic industries, and Methanex is charging that U.S. officials acted improperly to protect the American ethanol industry, which competes against methanol as a gasoline additive that reduces toxic emissions. Methanex believes that Gov. Davis and U.S. officials were improperly influenced by ADM, a rival maker of ethanol, for which it has received over the years enormous federal subsidies.

As the Wall Street Journal’s Jim Carlton reports, the Methanex charges are contained in an amendment to a previously filed damage claim against the U.S. government.

According to Methanex, Carlton continues, ADM officials improperly influenced Gov. Davis to ban MTBE by flying him from an appearance in Chicago to a secret meeting at the company's headquarters in Decatur, Illinois while he was still a gubernatorial candidate in the summer of 1998.

Methanex further alleges ADM influenced the governor by giving him contributions totaling about $200,000. ADM officials declined to comment, pending a review of the filing. Methanex, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, said it gave no contributions in the California gubernatorial contest.

Spokesmen for Gov. Davis deny he was influenced by ADM to issue the ban, although Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the governor, acknowledged to the Journal that he got the contributions. "The governor based his decisions on what was in the best interests of the state of California," according to Salazar.

Commenting on this latest effort to flood U.S. gas tanks with the corn derivative ethanol by ADM and its former CEO and board chairman Dwayne O. Andreas, the Agribusiness Council’s Nick Hollis observes, “this fits a pattern of ADM/Andreas abuses, and it should send up red flags. Several days ago three Iowa congressmen got slipped into Air Force One and lobbied President Bush on the need to expand ethanol markets into California by getting EPA to reject California's request for a waiver on the Clean Air Act oxyengated fuel requirements. Dwayne is coming on strong and if he succeeds in this latest `cattle drive’ for ethanol's expansion, American agriculture will slide further into the tank.”

The Canadian company in its complaint alleges that in this California case international trade laws under NAFTA were violated because a domestic industry was put in a position to benefit. As Carlton notes, it is rare for a company to sue the government under international-trade rules, but NAFTA unlike the World Trade Organization (WTO), does have an investment provision that allows this. "What we are seeking as a company is a level playing field," said Methanex spokesman Michael Macdonald. complaint alleges.

Methanex charges that ADM (“Supermarkup to the World”), a producer of over half the U.S.’s ethanol production, stood to gain handsomely by convincing the governor that MTBE was unsafe. Gov. Davis issued his order banning MTBE from being used to reformulate gasoline after the substance had been found in groundwater supplies. Methanex officials say the real environmental problem is with gasoline leaking into groundwater supplies, not just MTBE.


Calling for a nationwide boycott of the Taco Bell Mexican fast food chain the Coalition of Immokalee [Florida] Workers (CIW) are seeking not only to improve the living conditions of immigrant tomato pickers, but to adopt what they believe are moral trading practices.

Currently, they allege, the prices Taco bell pays for its tomatoes are keeping predominantly immigrant pickers below the poverty line and would that the company pay just one percent more per pound of tomatoes, workers could double their yearly earnings. At the present time tomato pickers in southwest Florida, the heart of the state’s $600 million tomato industry, earn an average of $7,500 a year which is well below the federal minimum wage.

The plight of the workers underscores a recent U.S. Department of Labor report which condemns the conditions facing the nation's farm workers as three out of every five laborers are living in poverty while adjusted for inflation farmworkers real wages have decreased by five percent over the last decade.

Over three-fifths of farm worker households live in poverty, according to the report. Few farm workers had assets: 49% owned a vehicle; one-third owned or were buying a house or a trailer in the U.S and despite such pervasive poverty among farm workers, few used social insurance or  social service programs.

Florida’s tomato farmers, who provide America's winter tomato crop, claim they are struggling to compete against nations with lower labor costs, insisting the wages in Florida are higher than elsewhere in the nation and point out that tomato plants nowadays produce more fruit, which makes picking easier than it was 20 years ago.

The CIW, however, has asked to meet with Taco Bell representatives to discuss the working and living conditions of the farmworkers who pick Taco Bell's tomatoes.

Farmworkers who pick tomatoes for the Immokalee-based "Six L's, Packing, Co., Inc.", one of the nation's largest tomato producers and a contractor for Taco Bell, are paid 40 cents for every 32-pound bucket they pick. That is the same per bucket rate, or "piece rate", paid in 1978. At that rate, workers must pick and haul two tons of tomatoes to make $50 in a day.

Workers picking for Six L's also have been denied the right to organize and the right to overtime pay for overtime work. They receive no health insurance, no sick leave, no paid holidays, no paid vacation, and no pension.

Meanwhile, Taco Bell has refused to discuss these conditions with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. In 1999 Taco Bell reported earnings of more than $5 billion, while Tricon, Inc., Taco Bell's parent corporation (together with Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken), earned over $22 billion in 2000.

"To a significant extent,” Coalition of Immokalee Workers leader Lucas Benitez charges, “Taco Bell's tremendous global profits are based on cheap ingredients for the food they sell, including cheap tomatoes picked by farmworkers in Florida making sub-poverty wages. Well, we as farmworkers are tired of subsidizing Taco Bell's profits by accepting starvation wages for our labor.”

Benitez points out that farmworkers do not have much political clout. "But we are forging alliances with people who do, and we are getting a lot of support."

As an example of Benitez’s optimism farmworkers from Immokalee and students from the University of Miami and Florida International University came together in a protest last Sunday at a Taco Bell restaurant located in Miami, calling for Taco Bell to join in talks with the CIW on wages and other working conditions in Florida's fields.

The farmworkers and students were joined by supporters from throughout the Miami area in what is being called "an historic moment in the movement for farmworker rights in Florida." The Miami action follows similar protests in university towns throughout Florida, with over 250 farmworkers, students, and community members attending the largest rally to date in St. Petersburg.

Those actions launched what organizers are calling a "Month of Protests" throughout the state. The protests are designed to demonstrate consumer support for a broader campaign holding Taco Bell accountable for the working conditions of the men and women that pick the tomatoes that go into Taco Bell's burritos, tacos, and chalupas.

In demonstrating how Taco Bell could double the picking piece rate paid to farmworkers by agreeing to pay just one penny more per pound for the tomatoes it buys from Six L's, the Coalition believes that Taco Bell, as part of the "world's largest restaurant system", could easily afford to pay one penny more.

But even if they passed that cost on to the consumer, they note, it would still be less than 1/4 of 1 cent more for Calupa customers. “Would you be willing to pay 1/4 of 1 penny more for your Chalupa if it meant that farmworkers could earn a living wage?” they ask.


In the wake of the StarLink scandal the Organic Consumers Association and five of their closest allies (Friends of the Earth, Rights Action Canada, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network, and Sustain) are preparing to target Starbucks, the largest gourmet coffee shop chain in the world, as their first major North American corporate target.

On March 20, 2001, while Starbucks holds their annual shareholders meeting in Seattle, the groups are organizing 'Frankenbuck$' protests in front of Starbucks cafes in up to 100 cities across the US. In a number of strategic cities there will be press conferences as well in what they claim will be the largest coordinated protest against genetically engineered foods (as well as the largest protest against agricultural sweatshops) in U.S. history.

Starbucks has over 2,500 coffee shops in the U.S. and Canada (3,300 worldwide) and sells its bottled Frappuccino coffee beverages and ice cream to several thousand additional retailers and college campuses. Twenty percent of all coffee shops in the nation are now owned by Starbucks. Starbucks has partnerships with Pepsi-Cola, Marriott, Kraft/Philip Morris, and the Albertson's supermarket chain. In addition, Starbucks now has outlets in 18 nations, making them one of the fastest growing food and beverage companies in the world.

Despite rising consumer concerns, Starbucks has stubbornly refused to guarantee that the milk, beverages, chocolate, ice cream, and baked goods they are serving or selling are free of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and other genetically engineered ingredients (including soy derivatives and corn sweeteners).

Several thousand Starbucks outlets are still using milk coming from dairies that allow cows to be injected with Monsanto's controversial Bovine Growth Hormone, a hormone often associated with higher risks for cancer in humans. rBGH is a powerful drug, which has been shown to cruelly damage the health of dairy cows, forcing them to give more milk.

Milk from rBGH injected cows is also likely to contain more pus, antibiotic residues, and bacteria. Monsanto's rBGH is banned in every industrialized country in the world except for the United States and Mexico. Starbucks is one of the largest buyers of rBGH-tainted milk in the world. Labeling its bottled coffee beverages and ice cream, which are sold in thousands of retail stores, as rBGH-free the coalition believes will send a powerful message to Monsanto and the dairy industry that consumers want rBGH taken off the market.

Although Starbucks has recently bowed to consumer pressure and begun selling certified Fair Trade, shade-grown (organic or transition to organic) coffee beans in bulk, they are refusing to brew and seriously promote Fair Trade coffee, unlike a number of other gourmet coffee shops and companies.

Only shade-grown or organic coffee, which avoids the use of the use of toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, protects the environment and preserves the forest canopy and the valuable biodiversity of plants and animals. All coffee certified as Fair Trade or organic is shade-grown, as opposed to corporate plantation coffee, which is grown in the direct sunlight, utilizing pesticides and chemical fertilizers, typically on large plantations where the surrounding forest cover has been completely chopped down.

Wages paid to impoverished farm workers on the typical sun-grown coffee plantations supplying Starbucks and other large coffee buyers average approximately $600 per year, less than the annual cost of a daily Starbucks latte in the U.S., Canada, Japan, or Europe.

Coffee is the largest agricultural export commodity on the world market, with $18 billion in annual sales. The U.S. coffee import market, the largest in the world, totals almost four billion dollars. Coffee is a widely cultivated crop that can readily be converted to or maintained as 100% shade-grown and organic. It is the most important export of dozens of developing nations, including Mexico and the nations of Central America.

There are 25 million, mainly small, coffee farmers left in the world, most of whom are growing coffee in a sustainable and organic (shade-grown as opposed to sun grown and chemical-intensive) manner. Many of these indigenous and small farmers, who inhabit the most biologically diverse and fragile areas of the world (the mountains and rainforests of Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Guatemala for example), are seeking to make a living in the face of intense economic exploitation, racial discrimination, and government repression.

It is market demand in the industrialized North that determines how much Fair Trade coffee gets sold, and in turn how many of the world's 25 million coffee growers can be enrolled in Fair Trade cooperatives and programs. Because companies like Starbucks (and institutional food vendors like Sysco) are not brewing, seriously selling, and heavily promoting  Fair Trade coffee, most coffee sold today is sun-grown, plantation coffee. Only 550,000 or two percent of the world's coffee growers now benefit from being part of the Fair Trade movement.

Currently four food giants basically control the world's coffee supply: Procter and Gamble (Folgers); Kraft/Philip Morris (Maxwell House); Sarah Lee (European brands), and Nestle (Hills Brothers). Buyers for these conglomerates have recently been paying small farmers as little as 30 cents a pound for their coffee beans, a starvation price which is equal to less than a third of what it costs these farmers to produce the coffee. Fair Trade coffee, on the other hand, guarantees producers at least $1.26 per pound, a price which will steadily increase as corporations such as Starbucks are forced to begin to brew and promote Fair Trade coffee on a major scale.

The world's millions of small coffee farmers desperately need certified Fair Trade and organic coffee (which provides these small farmers with a living wage for their coffee beans) to become the dominant force in the $18 billion world coffee market, not just a tiny niche.

Despite Starbuck's dubious claims that they have begun to fulfill their promises (dating back to 1995) to improve the wages and working  conditions of impoverished workers on the coffee plantations of suppliers in Guatemala and other nations, the company has offered little or no evidence of such action. The public relations brochures in their cafes boast about social responsibility, but they have refused to divulge to international human rights monitors specifics on where and how they have made a difference.

The coalition urges people who are concerned about genetically engineered products and the origins of Starbuck’s products to help leaflet a Starbucks outlet in their community, beginning March 20, by sending an email to <> or call 510-525-7054. Frankenbuck$ leaflets are available from the Organic Consumers website:

Concerned consumers are also being urged to call, write, fax, or email Starbucks, telling them to send a written guarantee that they will change their policies on genetically engineered foods, Fair Trade coffee, and wages and working conditions of coffee plantation workers, or else their products will not be bought. Requests for such assurances should be sent to:

Mr. Orin Smith, CEO;
Starbucks Coffee Company;
P.O. Box 34067;
Seattle, WA 98124-1067
Telephone: 800-235-2883
Fax: 206-447-3432
email: emails can be sent from the Starbucks website:


Via Campesina, the global organization of small farmers and peasants, has declared the 17th of April an International Day of Protest against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and patents.

The day was decided during the second conference of Via Campesina, 1996 in Tlaxcala, Mexico because of the massacre of 19 members of  MST from Brazil. MST is the Brazilian Landless Movement which has been actively working on GMO issues and most recently organized the 1000+ people that pulled up crops at a Monsanto research station in Brazil during the World Social Forum.

Via Campesina has also issued an invitation to concerned people throughout the world to participate in this day of protest against neo-liberal policies, and in favor of an alternative project: a dignified life for everybody. Here in the U.S., the National Family Farm Coalition is one of the members of Via Campesina

Together with other social movements and non-government organizations (NGO’s) Via campesina wants to organize a day of strong protest against the neo liberal policies, focusing on two major issues:
* Protest against GMO’s and patents and actions in favor of farmer seeds,
* Protest against dumping, the importation of cheap food that destroys food production and actions in favor of food sovereignty.

April 17th is also a day of protest against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) as the international farm group sees the two as inextricably linked.  Based on the positions and proposals that Canada and the U.S. have put forward, it is clear they say that they intend to use the FTAA to push a World trade organization (WTO) agenda that will force countries throughout the Americas to accept GMO crops and patents on life.

The intellectual property rules of the FTAA and WTO perpetuate, they add, the imposition of eurocentric, patriarchal and capitalist conceptions of property, life, nature, and social relations on the rest of the world and completely devalue the role that women and indigenous people have played over many centuries in developing and maintaining the diverse strands of grains, vegetables, and livestock varieties which nourish many communities today.  In addition, these preconceptions prioritize the profits of multinationals before achieving food security and people's self-determination.


When Ohio teenagers D.J. and Carlotta Maurer walked out of their classrooms in October to protest the compulsory viewing of Channel One, a television program with commercials which is shown in schools  across America, school officials realized they had a couple of “dangerous radicals” on their hands.

Principal Patrick Calvin invoked the truancy provision of the school's code of student conduct, and 13-year-old D.J. and 14-year-old Carlotta were whisked away to the Ohio Wood County Juvenile Detention Center, where they had all day to consider their crime.

Since then, Commercial Alert and Obligation, Inc., two national anti-media groups, have taken up the Maurers' cause. The groups wrote to Ohio Governor Bob Taft, urging him to remove Channel One from all public schools.

"When the government sends children to a juvenile detention center because they don't want to watch advertising, that is both Orwellian      and more than a little sick," reads the letter. "The public schools ought to be a sanctuary from the noxious aspects of commercial culture."

The governor has not responded to the letter.


At the request of the New York State Attorney General, the State Education
Department (NYSED) has sent a memo to all school executives (Jan 2001) regarding deceptive and misleading information mailed to schools last September by Responsible Industry for a Safe Environment (RISE).

The memo reads in part, "The materials distributed by RISE promote pesticide use with deceptive claims and irrelevant anecdotes about the health and environmental impacts of pesticides. . . . While ostensibly promoting integrated pest management (IPM) at schools, the material sent by RISE actually encourage continued excessive reliance of pesticides by schools....

“It is understandable that RISE advocates this role, given that its mission, as set forth at its web site, is to 1) provide a strong unified voice for the specialty pesticide industry; 2) positively influence public opinion and policy' and, 3) promote the use of industry products. and note that this is not the RISE web site to which recipients of the RISE letter were directed."

Last spring NYSED opposed legislation to require all school to practice least-toxic IPM and another bill to require schools to provide prior notice of school pesticide use. The prior notice bill was enacted.  The RISE info packet was mailed in September 2000.  NYS schools are currently required to have Preventive Maintenance Plans that include IPM, but neither the content of the Preventive Maintenance Plan nor IPM have been defined, nor are schools required to actually implement these undefined plans.

Prior notice regulations for schools go into effect July 1, 2001.

In this new legislative session, the NYS Assembly has reintroduced a school least toxic IPM bill; the Senate has thus far declined to do so for the first time this year (a matching IPM bill had been in the Senate for three years running), claiming that 'Prior Notice' used up all its enthusiasm for IPM and pesticide legislation last year.


A majority of citizens believe most chemicals are already tested for safety, and that the government is protecting them against harmful chemicals. But what is the true story?

A groundbreaking investigative report on the chemical industry by Bill Moyers and award winning documentary film maker Sherry Jones uncovers how the public’s health and safety have been put at risk and why corporate powerful forces don't want the truth to be known.

TRADE SECRETS: A MOYERS REPORT is currently scheduled to air on PBS on Monday, March 26 at 9 p.m. (check local listings)

This investigative report, accompanied by a PBS Web site, is based on a massive archive of secret industry documents as shocking as the "tobacco papers." In the 50 years of the chemical revolution, over 75,000 chemicals have been released into the environment. What happens as our body absorbs them? And how can we protect ourselves?

TRADE SECRETS promises to provide everyone working on toxic chemicals and environmental health issues a tremendous education and outreach opportunity.
Moyers and Jones won the Peabody Award for their last collaboration on WASHINGTON'S OTHER SCANDAL. To take advantage of this opportunity the Environmental Health Fund, the Environmental Working Group, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice and Women's Voices For the Earth are launching Coming Clean.

Coming Clean is aimed at assisting groups across the country to use the opportunity of a prime time television special to boost their ongoing work. Coming Clean is also focused on doing whatever people can to ensure that after March 26, there are more people in more communities from even more diverse backgrounds working to stop the chemical contamination of the world’s food, bodies and environment.

Viewers are being asked to consider hosting a Coming Clean viewing event. For more information, contact Charlotte Brody at (703-237-2249), Bryony Schwan at (406-543-3747), Sharyle Patton at Mark Ritchie, President,  Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy 2105 First Ave. South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404  USA 612-870-3400 (phone) 612-870-4846 (fax)

News of the program has already raised the ire of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) as it reports in a recent issue of one  of its e-mail newsletters in a story headlined  "Chemical Industry may be the next TV victim" that it is concerned about the production. It characterizes the Moyers\Jones report as being "orchestrated by a group of national environmental groups" and says that the program will be used "as the centerpiece for a national anti-chemistry campaign called "Coming Clean” and that it “does not appear that any member of the crop protection or chemical industries was contacted to provide balance to the program.”

The AFBF alert makes no mention of the fact that several multi-million dollar Farm Bureau insurance conglomerates are heavily invested in various chemical/biotech companies such as Monsanto, DOW and DuPont.


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