Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective
A.V. Krebs  Editor\Publisher
Issue #125                                                                      Sepetmber 19, 2001


Desperate trying to shed its image as "Supermarkup to the World," rife in scandal, bribery, cover up and insidious politocal influence peddling, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) has announced a specious changing of the guard and a corporate restructuring.

Beginning with the adoption of a new corporate motto --- "The Nature of What's to Come" --- the Decatur, Illinois corporation recently announced that Dwayne O. Andreas will step down from the ADM board in November, after more than three decades with the companyís management .

Andreas, who owns 4.48 percent of the company's stock, retired as the chief executive in 1997 and was succeeded by his nephew, G. Allen Andreas. Dwayne Andreas, 83, has been chairman emeritus since 1999.

Larry Cunningham, senior vice president of corporate affairs at ADM, said Andreas will leave after the stockholders meeting in November.

"I think it's a changing of the guard," Cunningham said. "Dwayne has made a great contribution and he is at a point in his life in which he wants to enjoy his family and his leisure."

In addition, ADM announced that it will shrink its board of directors from 14 to ten, with five other current directors retiring and only two new candidates nominated, including Andreas' daughter, Sandra Andreas McMurtrie and Roger Joslin, vice chairman of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

While Andreas remains the company's single largest individual stockholder State Farm Mutual is ADM's largest corporate institutional investor. The fact McMurtrie will sit on the board along with Allen Andreas, current chairman and CEO of ADM, leads many of the company's critics to believe that the senior Andreas will still in fact control ADM's future.

Allen Andreas, who suggested the changes, called on the board to "reflect the most important constituencies of our company: our owners, the stockholders of ADM, and the world's farmers."

Those board members who had been handpicked by Andreas who will be stepping down include:

 * G. O. Coan, 63, Chief Executive Officer of Gold Kist Inc. (a farmer-owned cooperative) and a Director of SunTrust Banks Inc. and Cotton States Life Insurance Company.
Coan, President and CEO of Gold Kist Inc., one of the nation's largest agricultural cooperatives, was among the losers in a Alabama Circuit Court law suit by Gold Kist members claiming that the Georgia co-op's officers, directors and managers were guilty of diverting $120 million of Gold Kist funds to two poultry product companies that were in competition with the co-op's member farmers.

* John R. Block, 64, President, Food Distributors International, (a trade association whose members are independent wholesale grocers and food service distributors), and a Director of Deere & Company and Hormel Foods Corporation, and former USDA Secretary.

* Richard Burt, 52, Chairman of IEP Advisors, LLP (a direct investment and advisory services organization), and a Director of Hollinger International, Inc., Weirton Steel Corporation, Paine Webber Mutual Funds, Anchor Gambling, Homestake Mining Company and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany.

* Robert S. Strauss, 80, Partner in the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a Director of Hollinger International, Inc., Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation and former U.S. Ambassador to the former Soviet Union and long-time friend of Dwayne Andreas.

* F. Ross Johnson, 67, Chairman of RJM Group, Inc. (an international management and advisory organization) and a Director of American Express Company, Power Corporation of Canada and Noma Industries of Canada. Johnson, the former RJR Nabisco CEO and principal character in the book and film Barbarians At the Gate, was the author of the infamous "three rules of Wall Street --- never play by the rules, never pay in cash, and never tell the truth."

Subsequently, ADM also announced the restructuring of its Food and BioProducts Divisions to "strengthen the Company's global focus on its core food and feed operations, as well as its value-added functional foods and ingredients."

With the new restructuring, each of the three operations -- ADM Natural Health and Nutrition (value-added products), ADM Specialty Ingredients (food), and ADM BioProducts and Feed (feed) -- will function as a distinct division with its own leadership. All these divisions will report to John Rice, Senior Vice President, Food and BioProducts Divisions.

"This new alignment will enable us to capitalize more effectively on the opportunities in each of these three important product areas," said ADM President John McNamara. "Now, we have focused efforts in all three sectors, with strong leadership and well-aligned global strategies. We've brought the right people together with the right assets, and it's going to make a difference in the way they operate and add value to our customers."

In its press release announcing the restructuring DM proclaimed that is it "a world leader in agricultural processing . . .  one of the world's largest processor of soybeans, corn, wheat and cocoa . . . also a leader in soy meal and oil, ethanol, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and flour. In addition, ADM is building a position in such value-added products as food additives and nutraceuticals (such as Vitamin E and sterols) . . .  ADM has over 22,000 employees, 368 processing plants, and net sales for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2001 of $20.1 billion.


Alleging that three men who were working at DeCoster Farms of Iowa sexually assaulted women at DeCoster's four egg plants in the Clarion, Iowa area, at least one at knife point, over the course of two years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit accusing the plant supervisors of sexually assaulting Hispanic female employees at work and threatening to kill or fire them if they reported it.

The Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont further reports that one man was an egg-processing supervisor while the other two were his subordinates but acted as floor supervisors. In the lawsuit they are accused of raping women in vehicles and storage areas at the plants last year and this year, as recently as March.

Even though some victims said they complained to company officials they were ignored, according to the lawsuit. DeCoster lawyer Bob Smith told Beaumont that the company had no knowledge of the accusations and that company officials fired the men for other reasons over the past several months.

The DeCoster processing plants are among those where federal agents arrested 91 workers in April for being in the country illegally, Smith said. About 90% of the farm's employees are Hispanic, he added. Most of the farm's 200 employees pack eggs into crates for shipping.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Sioux City, was prompted by complaints from the Coalition Against Sexual Assault in Iowa City. The organization told the commission that the women were afraid to report the assaults to police out of fear of retaliation from the men they had accused.

The lawsuit names DeCoster Farms, owner Austin J. DeCoster and Iowa Ag-Construction Co. Inc., with whom DeCoster contracts for workers in his four Clarion-area egg plants.

Pointing out that DeCoster and Iowa Ag-Construction Co. could face more than $1 million in penalties if the allegations are proven true, Chester Bailey, district director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Milwaukee called the allegations of rape and intimidation at a Clarion egg farm are among "the most horrendous and egregious" he has seen.

"We may have only touched the tip of the iceberg," Bailey told Beaumont. "We just don't see this."

Wright County authorities say they will not investigate the accusations for criminal prosecution because none of the alleged victims has complained to police.

Wright County Sheriff Paul Schultz and County Attorney Michael Houser said none of the alleged victims had reported the rapes to them.

"I don't have any victims," Houser said. "I don't have any complaints. When someone comes forward with a complaint, we will deal with it in the normal course. Until then, there are no plans to start an investigation."

Dennis McBride, a lawyer for the commission, said local authorities have had no reason to investigate yet. "State authorities shouldn't be faulted for not taking action earlier," he said. "These women are hiding in shelters. They are not likely to come running forward." He added that some workers also might be working in the U.S. illegally and are afraid to identify themselves or cooperate with the investigation.

Meanwhile, DeCoster Farms officials accused the EEOC of being indifferent to public safety in its investigation. Smith said the Commission has been more interested in making his client look bad than in alerting law enforcement to the allegations. "If these people are going around brutally raping people, why is the EEOC not concerned that these people are in jail?" Smith asked.

According to Beaumont, Federal officials responded that the Clarion-area egg processing operations face such serious allegations that DeCoster officials are in no position to dictate the direction of the probe.


Recent allegations by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, filed in a lawsuit, accusing DeCoster Farms of Iowa egg plant supervisors of sexually assaulting Hispanic female employees at work and threatening to kill or fire them is only one more chapter in the sleazy history of the Iowa agribusiness firm.

In 1999 the Sierra Club issued a report --- "Corporate Hogs at the Public Trough"  -- which detailed some of the company's more nefarious operations.

"Jack DeCoster turned his small farm into one of the largest egg and pork producers in the country with the help of millions of dollars of taxpayer money. No longer a small family farm, this corporation owns a hog factory that is one of Iowa's worst polluters. Millions of gallons of spilled hog waste have polluted Iowa's waterways and drinking water supplies.

"Jack DeCoster is a legend. A hard-working entrepreneur, he started DeCoster Farms with just a few birds and built it into one of the largest egg and pork producers in the country. But that doesn't mean DeCoster did it alone --- taxpayers have helped foot the bill, and both workers and wildlife have paid a high price.

Between 1987 and 1996, DeCoster Farms received well over $15 million in subsidies from the federal government's Export Enhancement Program. The export enhancement project allows businesses to sell their wares below market price to gain foreign market share. Over the last ten years, awards to DeCoster equaled about 30% of total Export Enhancement Program funding nationally.

"DeCoster received $5 million more than the number two awardee. And while DeCoster Farms was raking in cash from federal and local governments, the company accumulated more pollution violations than any other hog producer in Iowa.

"In July, 1999, the Iowa Supreme Court let stand $59,000 in civil penalties --- the largest civil penalty Iowa has ever won from a livestock producer ---for a series of what the Court called `grossly excessive' manure spills. Though the penalties stem from a series of water-quality violations going back years, two incidents stand out. In April 1995, workers sprayed at least 300,000 gallons of liquid hog manure onto fields. It flowed through the field's drainage system and polluted a tributary of the Iowa River.

"Judge Ronald Schechtman of the Second Judicial District of Iowa concluded that the manure application was `improperly, recklessly and unprofessionally applied.' He characterized the conduct as `inexcusable.'

"In August of the same year, DeCoster allowed unsafe levels of liquid hog manure to build up in a cesspit, which then overflowed. `It was gross inattention to a potential disaster,' wrote the judge. `It was negligent.'

"Action on additional violations is still pending before the Supreme Court. In addition to the enforcement action taken by the state against DeCoster Farms, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cited the company in October 1997 for violating the Safe Drinking Water Act.

"Hog manure spread by DeCoster entered an agricultural drainage well, posing a potentially serious threat to groundwater. This is the first known incident of manure contaminating an agricultural drainage well, and the first time that the EPA has invoked the Safe Drinking Water Act against a livestock operator.

"Not only does DeCoster farms benefit from millions in corporate welfare and contaminate the environment with agricultural waste, they have a record of criminal mistreatment of their employees.

"In July 1996, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) slapped DeCoster Farms with a $3.6 million fine. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich publicly denounced DeCoster Farms as `an agricultural sweatshop' where workers were treated like animals.

Federal investigators reported finding workers living amid rats and cockroaches in company-owned mobile homes near DeCoster's Maine egg farm. The investigators also found workers handling dead chickens and manure with their bare hands.

"Blaine Nickles is a longtime farmer who lives 1.5 miles from the closest DeCoster facility in Wright County, Iowa. `When the wind is coming from the wrong direction, the smell is just terrible. We've seen fishkills, algae and more nitrates in the water. We worry about contamination of the water we use in our own well.'

"Nickles added, `I'm not opposed to livestock production --- I've raised livestock myself. But the problem comes from the concentration of so many animals in small locations. That changes the whole concept. It's no longer a family operation, it's more like a factory. Everyone's entitled to raise livestock, but when you interfere with the quality of life and the environment  --- that should not happen.'"

According to statements given to the USDA's Inspector general investigators by workers in Sara Lee's Bil Mar Foods plant and a local meat inspector, Sara Lee managers were aware that the plant had increased levels of listeria about eight months before the nationwide listeriosis outbreak that killed 15, caused six miscarriages and sickened 101 people.

In December 1998, Sara Lee recalled  35 million pounds of hot dogs and deli meats produced by the Bil Mar plant  after it was linked to an outbreak of the bacterial disease listeriosis; the food recall was one of the largest in U.S. history

A report obtained by the Detroit Free Press, under the federal Freedom of Information Act, cites one employee who said he or she knew with "virtual certainty" that meats produced and sold by the Bil Mar plant in Zeeland, Michigan were contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and that management had "a similar level of awareness."

The  Inspector General's findings, however, conflict with conclusions of federal prosecutors in Grand Rapids that the government "uncovered no evidence that Sara Lee intentionally distributed the adulterated meat product."

Subsequently, U.S. Atty. Phillip Green in June allowed Sara Lee to plead guilty to a single federal misdemeanor charge in the 1998-99 outbreak. The company agreed to pay a $200,000 fine and to make a $3 million grant to Michigan State University for food safety research.

As Knight Ridder's Jennifer Dixon points Sara Lee's plea agreement was announced ten months after investigators from USDA's Agriculture's Office of Inspector General completed their report and that report concluded that Bil Mar management knew or should have known that the Ball Park hot dogs, Sara Lee premium deli meats and other products made in 1998 were contaminated with the bacteria.

In a brief interview after the Detroit Free Press story appeared, Green said he was not familiar with the investigators' report. As the U.S. attorney for western Michigan, Green said he does not examine every report connected with each prosecution by his office. "I stand by our decision," Green said. "And to the extent that you have information you believe is contradictory, I'm happy to examine it."

USDA's investigator's report included summaries of interviews with at least three current or former Bil Mar workers and an employee of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service assigned to the plant at the time.

The report suggests the Bil Mar plant was a place where management put production --- and profits --- before safety, workers said. And, they claimed, management had to know there was a problem with listeria tainting meats that were being shipped to grocery stores, restaurants, military installations and college dormitories.

In April 1998, three months before the onset of the listeriosis outbreak, the investigators found documents that showed Bil Mar issued a credit for 218 cases of turkey breast shipped to a California business after the meat tested positive for the bacterium. According to a complaint form, "Customer in San Diego was complaining of taste & quality sent to lab & tested positive for listeria."

The food-safety inspector told investigators that plant workers became aware of a listeria problem in December 1997, a year before Sara Lee recalled 35 million pounds of meat.

The USDA worker told a Bil Mar employee at the time that the plant was running a risk of getting in trouble if it shipped contaminated foods, according to the investigators' report. The Bil Mar worker replied: "They would never know it was our product since [listeria] has about a two-week incubation period," the report said.

Workers were also instructed to keep laboratory test results in a special file "that was to be withheld from the USDA," the report said.

Another former Bil Mar employee claimed to have become aware of a listeria problem in late spring or early summer 1998. In a signed statement, the employee told investigators that "responsible members of management at Bil Mar had knowledge of a microbial problem in the plant but were not trying to cover up this fact. It is my personal belief that due to what has happened, members of Bil Mar management were criminally negligent in that they allowed product to leave the plant that could have had a bacteriological problem."


Once again, as it has done so frequently in recent years, Tyson Foods subsidiary IBP is recalling half a million pounds of hamburger meat that may be contaminated with a deadly strain of E. coli bacteria.

Affecting 36 states, IBP's recall, is the second ground beef recall by a major U.S. processor in less than a week. Due to the fact that the meat is sold in generic five and ten-pound packs to restaurants and supermarkets for repackage and sale to consumers, there is no brand name, product code or lot numbers for consumers to look for.

Because the meat was produced August 7, at the company's Dakota City, Nebraska processing plant, IBP officials on one hand were saying that they believed that since the expiration date on the meat has passed, most of it has already been consumed, yet in a prepared statement they were advising "any concerned consumer may want to ask at the store where they buy their ground beef whether it received any of the recalled product."

Meanwhile, consumer groups complain that these recalls come too late to protect consumers from illness. The E. coli 0157:H7 bacterium, the kind involved in the two beef recalls, can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and can lead to kidney failure in the very young, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

"Unfortunately these recalls demonstrate that problems aren't getting caught before they leave the plant," Felicia Nestor, food safety project director for the Government Accountability Project, a watchdog group, told the Los Angeles Times' Melinda Fulmer.

It is the second hamburger recall this year for IBP, the nation's largest meat processor. The company, which processes some one billion pounds of ground beef and trimmings a year, recalled 266,000 pounds of meat from one of its Canadian plants in April.

Kroger Inc., the nation's largest supermarket chain,  announced that one of its suppliers, American Foods Group Inc., was recalling 530,000 pounds of ground beef in 17 states because of E. coli concerns. Kroger officials said they are cooperating with the recall and are examining their policies with suppliers.

An estimated 73,000 illnesses and 61 deaths are linked to this strain in the United States each year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors discovered the latest hamburger
contamination through random samples taken at a processing plant to which IBP had shipped the beef.

As Fulmer reports "consumer groups and USDA Inspector General Roger Viadero have urged meat processors to do more testing to isolate contaminated meat before it leaves the plant. However, the meat industry says it would rather invest its money in germ-killing processes such as irradiation and surface disinfecting."

Federal regulation does not require processors to test for this strain of E.coli bacteria at the plant. But USDA officials do randomly sample meat in plants and wholesale and retail establishments for the deadly bacteria.

Failing to meet Federal inspection standards the ConAgra Corporation has been forced to close its Arkansas El Dorado poultry processing plant. The plant's 1,700 employees were told to leave the facility and not to return "until further notice." ConAgra's workers will not be paid while the plant is closed.

The El Dorado plant, the national headquarters for ConAgra's professional food systems division, employs the largest number of employees within the company's facilities.

A spokesperson with the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service  division said she didn't know how long the plant will be closed. According to Carol Blake of the USDA and Bob McKeon, a spokesman at ConAgra's headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, there is no problem with food safety at the El Dorado plant.

The problem at the plant, Blake told the Arkansas-Democrat's David Smith, was a recurring failure to properly clean the facility between shifts.

"What we've been seeing is the same recurring problems [in ConAgra's El Dorado plant]," Blake said. "Those problems get corrected before the processing of poultry starts --- so there haven't been any food safety hazards --- but they kept coming up."

As Smith reports, because ConAgra repeatedly failed to address the problem, the Food Safety and Inspection Service suspended inspection of the plant. A plant cannot operate without the regular inspections, Blake said.

Inspectors for the Food Safety and Inspection Service perform sanitation checks between shifts at 6,000 food processing plants across the nation

Blake said she did not know what specific problems inspectors were  encountering at El Dorado and she didn't know how long it will take ConAgra to correct the issue.

McKeon said ConAgra is "addressing the issue and cooperating fully with the USDA.

One ConAgra employee told the El Dorado News-Times that the plant closed because "things weren't getting clean. They tried it about a month and the USDA gave [plant management] two or three weeks to get it done," said the employee, who asked not to be identified.

"I guess they didn't finish it."

ConAgra has about 5,500 employees in a variety of operations in Arkansas, including plants in Atkins, Batesville, Clinton, El Dorado, Jonesboro and Russellville. ConAgra, which had revenues of $25.5 billion last year, has 80,000 employees nationwide.


DuPont Co., makers of the fungicide Benlate (benomyl) has been by a Florida jury to be liable for racketeering, negligence, fraud and defective product claims in a lawsuit filed by two Costa Rican-based plant nurseries. DuPont was ordered to pay $78.3 million to the nurseries.

DuPont says it will appeal the decision.

The verdict is the latest in a long line of cases against DuPont that have resulted in litigation and settlement charges totaling approximately $1.3 billion to the company over the last ten years. In April, DuPont announced that it would phase out sales of Benlate around the world by the end of 2002.

The racketeering charges were based on information gathered from internal DuPont documents showing that the company conducted tests in Costa Rica in 1992, but destroyed the records as claims against Benlate mounted. The growers' attorney maintained that DuPont had launched a corporate "damage control" program by assigning an attorney to supervise the testing, skewing some results and discarding those that were unfavorable.

A plant pathologist from Pennsylvania State University, testifying for the growers, stated that DuPont documents dating back to 1980 describe Benlate as an unstable product prone to deterioration in hot, moist conditions.

According to his testimony, some plants treated with Benlate grew to only ten percent of their expected height, miniature roses in Florida dropped all of their leaves within two days of treatment, and Hawaiian orchids treated with Benlate were too malformed to sell. The plant pathologist attributed the problems to a natural byproduct of the breakdown of Benlate that, in his opinion, turned the fungicide into an herbicide.

DuPont's attorney stated that after U.S. testing in 1992, "DuPont reached the conclusion, the inescapable biological conclusion, that Benlate could not be the cause of the damage." According to DuPont, the problem was due to a one-time incident of herbicide contamination at a Benlate mixing plant. However, growers' complaints about crop damage continued long after the contamination occurred.

In a related story, attorneys representing growers in another Benlate case five years earlier made a side deal with DuPont as part of the settlement. The attorneys, who represented 20 farmers and nurseries suing DuPont for Benlate damage, personally collected $6.4 million in return for agreeing to never bring another Benlate case against the company. The growers accepted a settlement of $59 million from DuPont, but were not told about the side agreement with their lawyers, who also received $20 million in fees for the case.

Some of the growers have since filed a malpractice suit against the lawyers and are also seeking punitive damages. DuPont defends the payment to the lawyers saying that the company didn't feel it was in its interest to bankroll the additional cases that these attorneys were threatening to pursue. DuPont maintains that while the side agreement
was confidential, the confidentiality did not apply to the lawyers' clients. Attorneys for the plaintiffs are in the discovery phase and no trial date has been announced.


"Those of us who spent time in the agricultural sector and in the heartland, we understand how unfair the death penalty is."

--- George W. Bush
Omaha, Nebraska, February 28, 2001

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"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

--- George W. Bush
Saginaw, Michigan, September 29, 2000

                                                   *  *  *
"Well, I think if you say you're going to do something and don't do it, that's trustworthiness."

--- George W. Bush
Saginaw, Michigan, September  29, 2000

                                                   *  *  *
"After there was virtually indisputable evidence that DBCP had sterilized men in every plant it had been manufactured or formulated in in the United States, and after the product was banned, Dole decided to use this product without telling their workers or providing them any more protection than is afforded by a T-shirt."

 --- Duane Miller, a Sacramento attorney and DBCP expert said in an interview that Dole bore no less responsibility than the other corporate defendants that paid $52 million to settle in a lawsuit filed on behalf of 26,000 banana workers around the world who claimed they were sterilized through exposure to the chemical poison.

Sacramento Bee, July 22, 2001

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"[I am]very confident that we can make some acquisitions in the very near future that will be immediately positive for Smithfield's earnings . . .  Food-safety issues --- particularly federal regulators' recently adopted `zero tolerance' policy toward listeria bacteria - are behind much of the move by smaller companies to look for buyers.

"That's the reason so many of these single-plant companies are on the market," he said. Listeria, which has been responsible for several widely publicized outbreaks of food poisoning in recent years, is a very common bacterium, he noted. "You'll find it in the cleanest plant in the world," he said. "You'll probably find it in the cleanest operating room in the world."

Where smaller meat processors are concerned, Luter said, "a million-dollar hit (from regulators' fines) may be a disaster for them, but it's just a bump in the road for Smithfield." Overall, Luter said,  "I do see further consolidation, and I think it will be good for the industry and good for the American consumer."

--- Joseph W. Luter III
Smithfield Foods President and Chief Executive
Dow Jones Newswires, August 23, 2001

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"I will never talk about Chandra Levy again. If you guys are going to call about ag policy,      and dairy policy and UC-Merced development, I'd be more than happy to talk."

--- Mike Dayton,
Chief of Staff for California Rep. Gary Condit
San Francisco Chronicle, August 25, 2001

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The overall picture you paint of ADM, however, leads me to wonder whether you may have misquoted the slogan. Is it:
     `The Nature of What's to Come'
 or was it:
     `What's to Become of Nature?'"
--- John Anthony La Pietra

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'. . . violence can never provide the answer. The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

--- Martin Luther King


Readers of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER are reminded that past issues of the
newsletter can be found at the Corporate Agribusiness Research Projectís web site on
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AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER and "Between the Furrows."

THE AGBIZ TILLER, the progeny of the one-time printed newsletter, now becomes an
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