Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective
A.V. Krebs Editor\Publisher
Issue #139 January 11, 2002
JUSTICE MUST NOT ONLY BE DONE,
BUT BE SEEN TO BE DONE
There is a certain hollowness to President-Select George W. Bush's calling for a unified coalition of cooperation throughout the world at the same time wrapping so-called "free trade" agreements in the flag all in the name of fighting terrorism.
Of course, past administrations and Congress are not entirely blameless in buying into such hypocrisy.
As for the general American public most remain in the dark when it comes to the point of their nation saying one thing and doing quite another when it comes to the world's greatest --- and only --- "super power" giving the type of genuine moral and political leadership necessary to build a "global village."
The principle that justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done is as foreign to our political leadership as is the reality that billions of people on this earth hold this nation in contempt and a road block to genuine world peace.
So while the Bush Administration and Congress profess wanting to put an end to terrorism, violence and war their actions betray their words. As proof of such one needs to examine a list put together by Z Magazine's Richard DuBoff --- America Alone !!!
1. In December 2001, the United States officially withdrew from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty. . .
2. 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention ratified by 144 nations including the United States. In July 2001 the US walked out of a London conference to discuss a 1994 protocol designed to strengthen the Convention by providing for on-site inspections. . .
3. UN Agreement to Curb the International Flow of Illicit Small Arms, July 2001: the US was the only nation to oppose it.
4. April 2001, the US was not reelected to the UN Human Rights Commission, after years of withholding dues to the UN (including current dues of $244 million)-and after having forced the UN to lower its share of the UN budget from 25% to 22% . .
5. International Criminal Court Treaty, to be set up in The Hague to try political leaders and military personnel charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Signed in Rome in July 1998, the Treaty was approved by 120 countries, with seven opposed (including the U.S.). . .
6. Land Mine Treaty, banning land mines; signed in Ottawa in December 1997 by 122 nations. The United States refused to sign, along with Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Egypt, and Turkey. . .
7. Kyoto Protocol of 1997, for controlling global warming: declared "dead" by President Bush in March 2001. . .
8. In May 2001, [the U.S.] refused to meet with European Union nations to discuss, even at lower levels of government, economic espionage and electronic surveillance of phone calls, e-mail, and faxes (the U.S. "Echelon" program),
9. Refused to participate in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development-sponsored talks in Paris, May 2001, on ways to crack down on off-shore and other tax and money-laundering havens.
10. Refused to join 123 nations pledged to ban the use and production of
anti-personnel bombs and mines, February 2001
11. Withdrew from International Conference on Racism, bringing together 163 countries in Durban, South Africa
12. International Plan for Cleaner Energy: G-8 group of industrial nations (U.S., Canada, Japan, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, UK), July 2001: the U.S. was the only one to oppose it.
13. Enforcing an illegal boycott of Cuba, now being made tighter. In the UN in October 2001, the General Assembly passed a resolution, for the tenth consecutive year, calling for an end to the U.S. embargo, by a vote of 167 to 3 (the U.S., Israel, and the Marshall Islands in opposition).
14. Comprehensive [Nuclear] Test Ban Treaty. Signed by 164 nations and ratified by 89 including France, Great Britain, and Russia; signed by President Clinton in 1996 but rejected by the Senate in 1999. . .
15. In 1986 the International Court of Justice (The Hague) ruled that the U.S. was in violation of international law for "unlawful use of force" in Nicaragua, through its actions and those of its Contra proxy army. The U.S. refused to recognize the Court's jurisdiction. A UN resolution calling for compliance with the Court's decision was approved 94-2 (U.S. and Israel voting no).
16. In 1984 the U.S. quit UNESCO and ceased its payments for UNESCO's budget, over the New World Information and Communication Order project designed to lessen world media dependence on the "big four" wire agencies (AP, UPI, Agence France-Presse, Reuters). . .
17. Optional Protocol, 1989, to the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at abolition of the death penalty and containing a provision banning the execution of those under 18. The U.S. has neither signed nor ratified and specifically exempts itself from the latter provision, making it one of five countries that still execute juveniles . . .
18. 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The only countries that have signed but not ratified are the U.S., Afghanistan, Sao Tome and Principe.
19. The U.S. has signed but not ratified the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which protects the economic and social rights of children. The only other country not to ratify is Somalia, which has no functioning government.
20. UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, covering a wide range of rights and monitored by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The U.S . signed in 1977 but has not ratified.
21. UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1948. The U.S. finally ratified in 1988, adding several "reservations" to the effect that the U.S. Constitution and the "advice and consent" of the Senate are required to judge whether any "acts in the course of armed conflict" constitute genocide. . .
22. The three best aid providers, measured by the foreign aid percentage of their gross domestic products, are Denmark (1.01%), Norway (0.91%), and the Netherlands (0.79), The three worst: USA (0.10%), UK (0.23%), Australia, Portugal, and Austria (all 0.26%).
For additional details check http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2001-12/21duboff.cfm
REPORT EXPRESSES ALARM OVER NAFTA RESULTS
AIR, WATER AND FORESTS FACE "LOOMING THREAT"
CANADIAN BROADCASTING COMPANY NEWS ONLINE: Free trade across North America is not only affecting the air, water and forests of the continent, but is creating a "looming threat" to the survival of certain plant and animal species, says a report from a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) agency. The Montreal-based Commission for Environmental Cooperation released its first "state of the environment" report Monday to the governments of Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
The person in charge of the commission believes increased trade puts pressure on plants and animals. Janine Ferretti says the trucks and ships that transport goods across continents also deliver foreign pests.
"Bio-invasion is one of the new threats that wasn't in our lexicon, say, ten years ago. The pests that we're seeing displace some of our native species, mussels and amphibians and even plants are a result of the kind of open trade that we're having," says Ferretti. And according to the study, resources are being consumed faster than they are being replaced. The report warns that new habitats "are rarely as diverse, healthy or aesthetically pleasing as their predecessors." This leads to a decline in the quality of the environment, making it less able to support a wide variety of life.
Greenhouse gases are given special mention in the report, and it warns that if "sea levels rise as expected --- storms and flooding will become much worse, causing property damage and loss in the billions of dollars." Environmental effects of the increased gases could include polarized weather events, such as droughts, floods, and intense heat waves.
The report also points to the dangers of urban sprawl and increased
traffic-related air pollution. It says public transit makes up just under five
per cent of travel in Canadian cities. Government subsidies that encourage high
energy consumption make it difficult to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions and
additional pollution sources, according to the report. But Ferretti says it's
not all negative progress. She believes NAFTA's
investment rules have brought cleaner industrial technology to Mexico.
"Believe it or not, Mexico's steel mills are cleaner than some of the steel mills that we find in the United States. Because of NAFTA, we have new investment in new modern steel technology in Mexico." She also says the environmental challenges can be faced if governments reinstate funding removed during years of cutbacks.
Full text of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC)'s first
"state of the environment" report is available at:
EPICYTE, SAN DIEGO COMPANY DEVELOPING
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED "CONTRACEPTIVE CORN"
ROBIN MCKIE, SCIENCE EDITOR, THE OBSERVER (LONDON): Scientists have created the ultimate GM crop: contraceptive corn. Waiving fields of maize may one day save the world from overpopulation. The pregnancy prevention plants are the handiwork of the San Diego biotechnology company Epicyte, where researchers have discovered a rare class of human antibodies that attack sperm.
By isolating the genes that regulate the manufacture of these antibodies, and by putting them in corn plants, the company has created tiny horticultural factories that make contraceptives. "We have a hothouse filled with corn plants that make anti-sperm antibodies," said Epicyte president Mitch Hein.
"We have also created corn plants that make antibodies against the herpes virus, so we should be able to make a plant-based jelly that not only prevents pregnancy but also blocks the spread of sexual disease."
Contraceptive corn is based on research on the rare condition, immune infertility, in which a woman makes antibodies that attack sperm. "Essentially, the antibodies are attracted to surface receptors on the sperm," said Hein. "They latch on and make each sperm so heavy it cannot move forward. It just shakes about as if it was doing the lambada."
Normally, biologists use bacteria to grow human proteins. However, Epicyte
decided to use corn because plants have cellular structures that are much more
like those of humans, making them easier to manipulate.The company, which says
it will not grow the maize near other crops, says it plans to launch clinical
trials of the corn in a few months.
MICHAEL DUFFY, LEOPOLD CENTER:
IOWA FARM STUDY SHOWS NO ECONOMIC ADVANTAGE
OF USING GE SEEDS OVER CONVENTIONAL SEEDS
JON VAN, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Genetically modified crops, which have caused considerable consumer opposition in Europe, have been gaining popularity among U.S. farmers, but not for economic reasons. An analysis among more than 300 Iowa farmers showed that those who used genetically modified seeds didn't gain any economic advantage over those who used conventional seeds.
The analysis was conducted by Michael Duffy, associate director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. Duffy's analysis, published in the center's newsletter, was drawn from information gathered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was the second time Duffy concluded the economics of genetically modified crops don't add up for farmers.
He found that, on average, farmers who grew soybeans designed to tolerate weed killer treatment did spend less on herbicides than their counterparts who planted regular soybeans. However, he found, any herbicide-related savings were counterbalanced by somewhat lower yields from the genetically altered crops and the higher cost of seeds.
Duffy also looked at farms that used corn seeds that were genetically altered to make the corn more resistant to European corn borers. While the modified corn seeds had somewhat higher yields, they also had higher fertilizer costs and higher seed costs, negating any economic advantage. If there's no clear economic benefit, why have genetically modified seeds gained popularity among farmers?
"For herbicide-tolerant soybeans, farmers answer by saying they can cover
more acres more quickly and they don't have to worry about weed management as
they did in the past," Duffy reports. Farmers who used the modified corn seed
said they viewed it as insurance against a possible insect infestation, he said.
LEADER OF ALLEGED IMMIGRANT SMUGGLING RING
FOR TYSON FOODS CONSPIRACY PLEADS GUILTY
ASSOCIATED PRESS: A man accused of being the leader of an immigrant smuggling ring for the nation's largest poultry producer pleaded guilty Monday to a conspiracy charge as part of a deal with prosecutors. Amador Anchondo-Rascon's plea carries a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and forfeiture of any gains from the alleged conspiracy with Tyson Foods Inc. that prosecutors contend started in 1994.
U.S. Attorney John MacCoon declined to say if the 43-year-old native of Mexico would testify against six Tyson executives indicted last month on charges of conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants to work at the company's poultry processing plants. Anchondo-Rascon is a former Tyson's employee who now operates a grocery store in Shelbyville, Tennessee.
U.S. District Judge R. Allen Edgar set a May 20 sentencing hearing for
Anchondo-Rascon. Edgar also told Anchondo-Rascon his sentence would depend
partly on how much he helps prosecutors. A January 24 hearing has been set for
the former Tyson executives. Convictions carry minimum five-year prison
REPUBLICANS MAY WELL LOSE HOUSE MAJORITY
IN THEIR PUSH TO PASS FAST TRACK LEGISLATION
ROBERT E. LIGHTHIZER, NEW YORK TIMES: The narrow House vote last month to extend trade promotion authority to the president may be a hollow victory for proponents of free trade. When the blush of success wears off, they may well realize that this battle, won on a 215-214 vote, has significantly weakened the chances of Republicans --- traditionally the champions of free trade --- to maintain control of the House of Representatives. And only to enact a measure that is of little practical value.
The Bush administration and the House leadership badly wanted the president to have the authority that this measure would give him: power to negotiate trade agreements that Congress must vote to approve or disapprove without amending them. To win the vote, the Republican leaders used various enticements, but in the end it came down to old-fashioned arm twisting, a sudden surge of three votes by wavering Republicans and a strike of the gavel before opponents had time to react.
Given repeated polls showing that Americans believe, rightly or wrongly, that trade agreements cost jobs, this measure is likely to be a major election issue in 2002. And with the Republican majority in the House razor-thin, this vote could have a major impact . . . .
Republicans should be asking themselves whether passing fast-track this winter, in this way, was worth the risk of losing the House. There is good reason to doubt that trade promotion authority, which is simply a procedural tool, is even necessary. It is far more significant in the Senate than in the House, since House leaders, unlike their Senate counterparts, already enjoy enormous power to limit amendments and compel votes under normal floor procedures. And given the overwhelming support for free trade measures in the Senate, there is little need there for special procedures.
The conventional wisdom about the importance of fast-track trade negotiating was shown to be flawed last year, when Congress not only passed a significant and controversial trade bill liberalizing textile tariffs, but also enacted permanent normal trade relations with China --- both in an election year and without fast-track. Even to the extent one considers fast-track essential, Republicans would not have paid such a high political price in December if they had not alienated Democrats in the past, throwing up obstacles when it was Bill Clinton who wanted this authority.
Even if the consequences of last month's vote do not alter the results of the elections in November, the trade consensus that has predominated in Congress for much of the last five decades continues to erode. Indeed, we may be seeing that consensus go from fragile to totally broken before our very eyes.
Robert E. Lighthizer, a trade lawyer, was a deputy trade representative in
the Reagan administration.
VIRGINIA FEDERAL JUDGE DISMISSES
SMITHFIELD VERTICAL INTEGRATION SUIT
DAN MURPHY, MEETING PLACE: Separate but similar allegations by independent livestock producers against IBP Inc. and Smithfield Foods met with different fates in federal courts in Montgomery, Alabama, and Norfolk, Virginia, . . . Both cases involve allegations that vertical integration of meatpackers into livestock production by direct ownership or supply contract violates the Packers & Stockyards Act, the statute governing the relationship between farmers/ranchers and meatpackers.
The Alabama court certified a national class of cattlemen who sold their livestock to IBP on a cash basis in a case pending since 1995, while the Virginia court, referred to . . . . as the "rocket docket," disposed of the Smithfield case on summary judgment after the parties conducted focused discovery and entered stipulations.
"Basically, the [cattle producer] plaintiffs in the Alabama case tried to re-tread the same argument against the hog industry," R. Noel Clinard, a partner at Richmond, Virginia-based Hunton & Williams, told the Meatingplace.com. Both cases challenged the practices of meatpackers who own or contract for livestock. The independent producers in both cases claimed that cash sales of livestock yield lower prices because of the so-called "captive supply" procurement practices of the defendants, . . . .
In the IBP case, cattlemen claimed that IBP violated the Packers & Stockyards Act by buying packer-owned cattle and livestock committed to packers under long-term contracts. In the Smithfield case, producers argued that the hog-procurement contracts or ownership practices of both IBP and of Smithfield pork had the effect of manipulating cash hog prices, or that they constituted an "unreasonable preference" to contract producers. Both plaintiff groups sought damages and asked for a court injunction ordering the return to cash, spot or auction-market livestock procurement.
"A reversal in the current evolution of pork and beef packing toward vertical integration, [which is] long accepted in the poultry industry, would be a devastating blow to packers' ability to compete for space on the American dinner plate by providing high quality meat at a reasonable price," said Thomas G. Slater, Jr., Smithfield counsel and an attorney with Hunton & Williams. Plaintiffs were represented in both cases by Joe Whatley of Whatley Drake, in Birmingham and several other law firms.
The Smithfield case was eventually transferred to the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division, near Smithfield's corporate headquarters. In the IBP case in Alabama, on December 26, 2001, Judge Lyle Strom certified a nationwide class of cattle producers and owners who sold cattle to IBP exclusively on a cash-market basis. Those plaintiffs alleged that they were adversely impacted by defendant's use of captive livestock supplies because they would have received a higher price for their cattle if the market been truly competitive. IBP is represented by Sidley & Austin in Chicago.
In contrast, Judge Henry Coke Morgan in the Eastern District of Virginia granted Smithfield's motion for summary judgment against four hog farmers purporting to represent a class of cash-basis hog producers. On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, as other courthouses across the nation closed, Judge Morgan denied Smithfield's motion to dismiss the case, but ordered both sides to agree on the undisputed facts and to conduct focused discovery to facilitate the issuance of a summary judgment.
On January 2, Judge Morgan granted summary judgment for Smithfield, finding that Smithfield's "motivation in moving toward a vertically integrated system of hog acquisition was plainly efficiency. Smithfield, in order to compete more effectively in the meat market, decided they required a more stable supply of consistently high-quality hogs," the court stated. "Basically, the judge concluded that Smithfield's vertical integration did not violate the Packers & Stockyards Act," Clinard said.
Interestingly, Clinard told the Meatingplace.com that one of the plaintiffs
in the case against Smithfield was a "big-time" contract chicken grower,
operating in a industry that is completely vertically integrated.
1996 "FARMING FOR FREE" LEGISLATION
"WORST FARM BILL IN RECENT HISTORY" FORCING
THOUSANDS OF FAMILY FARMERS OFF THE LAND
GILLES STOCKTON, GRAND FORKS HERALD: The chickens have come home to roost at the Montana Grain Growers Association. Their keynote speaker, Dan Meternach of the Sparks Cos., advised farmers to get off-farm jobs. I wonder where anyone will find those jobs? Grain Grower inspired farm policy has devastated Montana's economy.
The latest grain-grower inspired farm bill, Freedom to Farm ---perhaps more appropriately called Farming for Free --- is, by far, the worst farm bill in recent history. Past farm bills merely declared war on America's family farmers and our unparalleled beautiful land. In the words of Clayton Yuetter, former secretary of agriculture and U.S. trade representative, We must eliminate some of the human resources from agriculture. This policy was certainly effective in forcing farmers off of the land.
Farming for Free's declared purpose went one step further. It was to put farmers in the rest of the world out of business, too. The theory was that unremitting low wheat and corn prices would drive the world's farmers to the point of starvation and send them packing for the cities. America's surviving farmers would gather the spoils of unlimited export markets. BIG LIES
It didn't work that way. Other governments around the world stuck by their farmers. They understood that if they lost their farmers, they would lose their sovereignty and the ability to feed their people. Even China has increased production to the point of exporting grain. This is the same China that two years ago the Grain Growers (and our Congressional delegation) absolutely insisted had to get most favored trading status so America could sell those billion people their Wheaties and Corn Flakes. Since Farming For Free was enacted in 1996 the U.S. agricultural trade surplus has decreased by 57%.
The myth of unlimited exports wasn't the only lie in the Farming for Free bill. The other big lie was that farmers would be freed from government. Farmers would plant what and as much as they liked and markets would look after them. Five years later, government never has been more deeply entangled in the day-to-day lives of farmers. Federal farm payments have increased 200 percent. Without the government welfare check, no farmer in America would be left on the land. The Farming for Free USDA welfare program is so complicated and convoluted that even the helpful people at the Farm Services Agency often are confused.
Farmers and ranchers are embittered that urban Americans, as represented by environmental interests, appear to resent and dislike agricultural people. What else would one expect? They look at what our commodity organizations support in terms of agricultural policy and conclude that farmers and ranchers are at war with nature while surviving on their charity. Factory farms spill manure into the rivers.
Huge machinery requires huge fields, a practice that contributes to water and wind erosion. Nature isn't good enough; it must be genetically modified to enhance the power and control of transnational agribusiness. Our nation's farm policy is predicated on following an industrial model. Apply the right mix of capital, technology and labor, and corn, soybeans, wheat, beef, pork and chicken result. In industrial agriculture, nature is merely a resource to be used. After the soil is mined for its fertility and after the streams are polluted, production moves on, perhaps to another country waiting to be exploited.
Industrial agriculture is just that, a process of exploitation. The land is exploited. The watersheds are exploited. The plants and animals are exploited --- and the people are exploited. Now, the members of the Montana Grain Growers Association are finding that industrial agriculture believes that it doesn't even need them. In the thinking of the vertically integrated corporations, all they need to get their grain is someone to keep books and drive a tractor.
The sad irony is that almost all of the farmers and ranchers I know --- my friends and neighbors --- do not view their land as a resource to be abused. They reject the precepts of exploitation implicit in centralized industrial agriculture. Yet the majority of farmers and ranchers have tacitly supported farm policy designed to exploit the land and the plants and animals that grow from that land. And as part of that support comes the farm policy designed to force them from the land and the communities they love. Perhaps it is the small town culture of go along and get along that accounts for this phenomena. But there comes a time when one must take a stand on principle. When that time comes, and one fails to draw a line, then the consequences are as much your fault as it is the fault of those who actively conspire to turn agriculture into a centrally controlled system of industrial exploitation.
Naturally the proponents of industrial agriculture, including the monopoly corporations and most commodity organizations, are pushing for a continuation of the disastrous and failed precepts of Farming for Free. If you want corporations to run agriculture, and if you want to be dependent upon USDA welfare checks --- up to the day that you, too, are forced from the land --- then a continuation of Farming for Free is the farm bill for you.
If not, there are alternatives:
We can affirm that family-based farming and ranching provide a value to the land, nature and our country. We can recognize that for farmland and pastureland to be properly sustained it takes the attention of the owner, and that owner cannot properly do his job if he is trying to farm and ranch half of the county. An the old Chinese saying affirms: The best fertilizer is the footsteps of the farmer. We should resolve that our income should come from the marketplace, not the taxpayers' pocketbook. To do so, we need to curb production for a period of time, and we need to accept an honest and effective inventory management system.
We should proclaim that a vibrant, innovative, domestic agriculture is vital to America's national security and to the future well being of not only our own country, but the entire world. Domestic and local production should be favored over imports. A safe and secure food system is not only the right of our own citizens, it is the right of people everywhere. Food exports should be encouraged, but only if they enhance the diets and lives of the recipients.
We should stand up to the unbridled economic power of the agribusiness monopolies and cartels that are undermining free enterprise and destroying family-based agriculture. The best agricultural system is that where multitudes of farmers sell their products in an open, public and competitive marketplace.
Thankfully, there is farm legislation that affirms all of the above principles. A broad network of agricultural organizations, including the National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers Union, Organization for Competitive Markets, R-CALF, USA, American Corn Growers, Western Organization of Resource Councils and many others have advanced various pieces of legislation that together form the basis for a sane farm policy. If you want to fight for an alternative future for a viable, decentralized, family farm agricultural system, then consider joining these efforts.
Gilles Stockton is a rancher from Grassrange, Montana and the chairman of
the Northern Plains Resource Council's Agriculture Task Force.
ISSAC NEWTON & ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
WARNS NATION ON LOSING FAMILY FARMERS,
GROWING CORPORATE AGRIBUSINESS
"The United States are, and must always remain, an agricultural nation. For this the soil, the climate, the institutions of the country, and the age of the world, have peculiarly fitted them, and it is the duty of the government to take all possible measures to secure to the agriculturists of America the fullest benefits of its ample resources."
--- Isaac Newton, First Commissioner of Agriculture under President Abrham Lincoln, 1862
"The ambition for broad acres leads to poor farming, even with men of energy. I scarcely ever knew a mammoth farm to sustain itself, much less to return a profit on the outlay. I have more than once known a man to spend a respectable fortune on one; fail and leave it; and then some man of more modest aims get a a small fraction of the ground and make a good living upon it. Mammoth farms are like tools or weapons which are too heavy to be handled. Ere long they are thrown aside, at a great loss."
--- Abraham Lincoln, Address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society,
CHINA FEARS "DANGEROUS INSTABILITY"
IF LIVES OF NATION'S FARMERS ARE NOT IMPROVED
AFP, SINGAPORE PRESS HOLDINGS: China's leadership . . . warned that the country could face dangerous instability if efforts are not made to improve the livelihood of farmers, who face tough challenges with the country's entry into the World Trade Organisation. The People's Daily carried a front-page article and commentary urging various levels of government to help farmers increase their incomes and "give more and take less." Instability in the countryside could affect the whole nation, said the commentary.
"Caring about farmers, supporting agriculture is not only a realistic need,
but also a strategic issue, not only an economic question, but also a political
one," it said. China's entry into the WTO last month, which is forcing it to
lower tariffs on agricultural imports and limit subsidies to farmers, will bring
"crucial challenges" for farmers, the paper said.
HOW HANDFUL OF BUSINESS LEADERS HAVE EXERTED
ENORMOUS CLOUT OVER BUSH ADMINISTRATIONS
TO GET RULES CHANGED TO THEIR BENEFIT
DAVID CALLAWAY, CBS MARKET WATCH: The Enron debacle won't be President Bush's Whitewater. It will be much worse.
Unlike the financial sideshow over a 20-year-old failed land deal that dogged
the Clinton administration, the collapse of the nation's largest energy trader
into the nation's largest bankruptcy last month is set to go straight to the
heart of exposing what is wrong with the way the Bush administration is
conducting itself these days.
Once a buyer for Enron's energy-trading business is announced Thursday in New York, this story is going team. to shift in dramatic fashion to Washington, D.C., where there are already eight separate congressional probes into the collapse, one Justice Department investigation and scores of unanswered questions. Many of them concern the White House.
Don't expect to see either Bush or Vice President Cheney directly linked to the financial shenanigans that brought Enron down. They won't be. This is not about finding a smoking gun, as much as some Democrats might wish it were. What it is about, and what the public will get to hear and read about in wrenching detail over the coming months, is how business gets done down in Texas. How a small group of business leaders exert enormous clout over Bush and his team in getting the rules changed to their benefit.
It will explain why Bush has locked up presidential records, locked out any voices opposed to his pro-business agenda and rammed through an expensive economic plan that wiped out the budget surplus but to date hasn't had any positive effect on the economy. It will explain what influence Enron Chief Executive Ken Lay and his advisers had with Cheney and his energy task force when they met six times last year while the vice president was putting together the administration's energy policy.
And it will explain why Bush is now thinking about acting on a proposal from that very task force that seeks to roll back a key provision of the Clean Air Act that helps keep factory pollution down by requiring new controls when old plants are upgraded.
Business leaders have always sought favors from politicians. That's nothing new. But in the case of Enron and Lay, a night in the Lincoln Bedroom was never going to be enough. Enron cultivated Bush from the time he first decided to run for governor of Texas, with executives donating a total of $623,000 to his two gubernatorial campaigns and presidential campaign, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
The company played a major role in Bush's decision to deregulate the Texas energy markets in 1999. Enron executives played a major role in Cheney's energy task force last year, meeting with the vice president's staff right up until a week before the company's stunning October announcement that it was slashing shareholder equity by $1.2 billion to cover losses in its off-balance-sheet partnerships.
And Lay, who donated $100,000 to the Bush inaugural, remains mired in a controversy about whether a curious phone conversation he had with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission head Curtis Hebert last May had anything to do with Hebert's replacement by Bush last summer with the head of the Texas Public Utility Commission.
This is just the beginning of what is going to come out once investigators do a little more digging, and once Lay and his minions are required to testify before Congress. Expect a steady diet of revelations about the extent of the energy giant's influence --- at the state, federal and even international levels.
Enron won't bring down Bush. He remains enormously popular for his handling of the war and the rebuilding of the country's psyche after the September 11 terrorist attacks. But it will be a major thorn in his side through the rest of this presidential term, and it might even play a role in the next election, depending on what comes out. Enron, the company, will soon be gone. But Enron, the symbol of how big business and big politics sometimes conspire to fix the game, is just starting to dawn on the national consciousness.
It's an ugly story. One that explains a lot about what's going on in our nation's capital right now. And it's only just beginning.
David Callaway is executive editor of CBS.MarketWatch.com
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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 Projectís 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
on-line news feature of the Project. In-depth essays dealing with corporate agribusiness
activities are posted here periodically.
In "Between the Furrows," besides a modern search engine, there is a wide
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page which allow the reader to survey various useful public interest, government and
corporate web sites; a "Feedback" page for reader input, and a page where readers can
order directly the editor's The Corporate Reapers: The Book of Agribusiness.
The CARP web site was designed and produced by ElectricArrow of Seattle,
Simply by clicking on either of the addresses below all the aforementioned
information are yours to enjoy, study, absorb and sow.