BUSH'S VAGUE "PRODUCTIVE FARM POLICY" ???
In case you were making sure at the time that you were thoroughly digesting that pretzel snack while watching George W. Bush's "State of the Union" report to Congress last week you probably missed three words in a fly by, catch all sole sentence dealing with the nation's 1.9 million farmers.
"Members, you and I will work together in the months ahead on other issues: productive farm policy, a cleaner environment, broader home ownership, especially among minorities, and ways to encourage the good work of charities and faith-based groups."
"Productive farm policy" tells us about as much concerning Bush's vision for American agriculture as does his "passionate conservatism" tell us about his overall domestic agenda. But give Bush credit he at least devoted three words to farm policy. Rep. Dick Gephart (Dem.-Missouri), the House Minority Leader, in his televised response to Bush's address, was so lavish in praising the President's flag-waving that the plight of the nation's farmers was totally ignored.
This lack of concern by our political leaders in tandem with a generally apathetic consuming public relative as to where our abundant food supply comes from and the fate of our nationís family farmers and rural communities seems to grow correspondingly to the dire circumstances that increasingly plague our family farm system of agriculture.
Victor Davis Hanson, a former California raisin grape grower, wrote in his Fields Without Dreams (Free Press, 1996). "The final verdict on the future of the American farm lies no longer with the farmer, much less with the abstract thinker or even the politician, but rather with the American people themselves --- and they have now passed judgment. They no longer care where or how they get their food, as long as it is firm, fresh and cheap. They have no interest in preventing the urbanization of their farmland as long as parks, Little League fields and an occasional bike lane are left amid the concrete, stucco and asphalt.
"They have no need of someone who they are not, who reminds them of their past and not their future. Their romanticism for the farmer is just that, an artificial and quite transient appreciation of his rough-cut visage against the horizon, the stuff of a wine commercial, cigarette ad or impromptu rock concert. Instinctively, most farmers know this. It's the real reason they are mad."
As has been noted previously in these "Commentaries," the media, various elected representatives and environmental groups have become fixated on the so-called "farm subsidy" issue while corporate agribusiness manipulates to fashion still another self-serving farm bill in the Congress. Recently in a New York Times Op-Ed piece U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (Rep.-Indiana) urged that the current farm subsidy program be canceled.
Long-time rural organizer and family farm policy activist Lement Harris correctly challenged Lugar in a subsequent letter-to-the-editor.
"Yet few would deny that farm income levels are far below current costs. Without subsidies, most farmers would either quit or face bankruptcy. American farmers are wonderfully productive and produce immense wealth, but agribusiness controls the marketplace, resulting in farmers' receiving a pittance for their crops.
"There is a remedy. The government can intervene and gain parity prices for farmers' crops. President Franklin D. Roosevelt did this by linking federally enforced parity crop prices with more than $2 billion in nonrecourse loans, repaid when farmers sold their crops. Revival of such farm legislation is on the agenda of important farming organizations. But until farmers get more value for their crops, they must have subsidies to survive."
Underscoring Harris's concerns, Fred Kirschenmann, director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, told the House Agriculture Committee last week that 80% of Iowa's farms will be gone in a decade if policies do not change.
He was referring to the mid-sized farms that gross between $250,000 and $500,000 a year and are in the category between small farms that market their goods directly to places such as farmers' markets and those that contract-farm for corporations. Kirschenmann said farmers have been successful in increasing their gross income, but spiraling costs of operation over the past 30 years have kept their net income flat, according to figures gathered by the Leopold Center.
"If we lose them, we're going to lose a lot more than the hogs, corn and soybeans they're producing," Kirschenmann said. He said the mid-sized farms are "the backbone of rural communities." Iowans have to decide what they want their state to look like 25 years from now, he said, and then devise the public policy that will make it happen.
While legislators say they support family farmers they haven't shown that support in matters of policy, Kirschenmann said.
"I can tell you as a farmer, regulation doesn't work," Kirschenmann said. "We want the marketplace to solve the problem." He said more research needs to be done on reducing farmers' production costs and creating more diverse farms to help them do that, he said. Kirschenmann said the Leopold Center hopes to bring people together to think more creatively about public policies, which up to now have mostly consisted of supporting commodity prices.
Kirschenmann said his group's aim is to help develop a system where farmers
are able to keep more of the money they make by cutting their costs, allowing
them to reduce their need to run larger operations.
"THE NATURE OF THINGS TO COME"
AN "ENRON IN AGRICULTURE" ???
NICHOLAS E. HOLLIS, AGRIBUSINESS COUNCIL (ABC): The Enron Scandal is casting a long shadow across the land. As the top media story drives other worthy topics off the agenda for public policy consideration, virtually nothing is immune from the "Enron insight" or the "Enron angle." [Recently] at a high-powered breakfast chaired by former ag secretary Clayton Yeutter the topic was the stalemated farm legislation --- but Enron was lurking. Amidst the orange juice and muffins, lobbyist conversation turned to the latest twist in the collapse of the giant Houston energy trading company, which rose out of obscurity to become the seventh largest US corporation last year.
Policymakers are running scared and trying to distance themselves from the Enron "taint" but it runs deep. And there are rumblings of another imminent meltdown among the corporate high flyers: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) the Supermarkup to the World. Still controlled as a family fiefdom, ADM has outraged huge state pension funds in Florida and California which hold millions of shares of the company's stock, by failing to provide transparency in accounting during the long, drawn out price fixing scandal .
ADM stock prices nose-dived from the mid 20's into the single digits, missing the entire bull market, while unseen millions were spent to mount an enormous legal counterattack which aimed at stalling the government investigation and maintaining ADM's contracts with USDA (even after a guilty plea).
These contracts including Food for Peace, school lunches and other programs were maintained --- along with a campaign contribution greased subsidy for a fuel additive called "ethanol" worth hundreds of millions to ADM. Coupled with the sugar subsidy which props up a phony market for high fructose corn syrup, --- another major ADM product, the inquiring mind wonders if ADM could survive without massive government subsidy --- which is rather entangled with the larger farm subsidy issue currently before Congress. The answer on the street is "NO."
As the current debate over farm policy makes clear --- ADM and its phalanx of controlled ag groups, such as the corn and soybean growers associations, Farm Bureau and others, DO NOT want to break the subsidy-riddled status quo --- even as smaller farmers and many others, realize the current programs are dysfunctional and unsustainable. These groups have managed to infuriate the Administration and the farmers by appearing opportunistic and greedy while other Americans were willing to tighten their belts. The White House now recognizes that behind the facade of phony ag association managers pressing for more subsidy --- is the Ethanol King himself. Yep, the same miserable Pied Piper,who has practically single-handedly led American agriculture over the cliff, while enriching himself and family with grotesque offshore bonuses only slightly less generous than the "campaign finance" he doles out regularly to both sides of the political spectrum.
No one wants another tragedy to engulf the country like Enron --- but no one has really wanted to look into ADM either. When the price fixing scandal first broke in mid-1995, the Department of Justice started an investigation into multiple fraud evidence (on tape) and allegations, but this soon dissolved under political pressure into a bizarre, laser beamed criminal takedown of the government's primary informant. Key higher ups, such as Dwayne Andreas, received immunity as part of a $100 million plea agreement/fine. The public is watching Ken Lay now, but the real question may be which motorboat makes it to the Cayman Islands, or Cuba first.
If Enron's corrupting senior management had been confronted earlier --- even
by a few braver accountants --- perhaps much of this fiasco could have been
avoided. But perhaps not when you look at all those phony subsidiaries. In ADM's
case it might be less complicated --- and, maybe this Administration will take a
"big stick" to the management in Decatur. Thus averting a crisis while helping
the farmer. Timing seems propitious, but action will be needed soon to
avert an "Enron in agriculture."
ADM TO ACT AS EXCLUSIVE EXPORTER
FOR PERDUE FARMS GRAIN-RELATED FEED PRODUCTS
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES: Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) reached an
agreement to serve as the exclusive exporter of grain-related feed products for
Perdue Farms Inc. Financial terms weren't disclosed. In a press release . . . .
Archer Daniels said the products will be exported from privately-held Perdue's
Chesapeake Grain Export Terminal.
STARBUCKS USES WASHINGTON STATE
PRISON LABOR TO PACKAGE HOLIDAY BAGS
OF CHOCOLATE-COVERED COFFEE BEANS
ERICA C. BARNETT, SEATTLE WEEKLY: Most people assume that prisoners, especially those convicted of felonies like rape and murder, spend their days stamping license plates, making furniture for state offices, and digging ditches along state highways for 25 or 30 cents an hour. So it may seem a bit odd that Steven Strauss, until last August an inmate at the Twin Rivers Corrections Unit in Monroe [Washington], says he spent his last Christmas holiday packaging brightly colored bags of chocolate-covered Starbucks coffee beans and Nintendo Game Boy systems that would end up under Christmas trees across the country.
Twin Rivers, part of a four-unit prison that houses mentally ill inmates, high-security felons, and participants in the state's Sex Offender Treatment Program, is also home to one of three facilities operated by Signature Packaging Solutions, one of 15 private companies that operate within the state prison system and use inmate labor to supplement their outside workforce. "The majority of the workers are hired for big jobs, which come around holiday times," says Strauss, who was sent to Twin Rivers in 1997 on drug and firearm charges.
"We used to [package] all Starbucks' coffee for the holidays. With Nintendo, we would do all their overflow ---- everything from Game Boys to [games like] Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong." The work was dull, tedious, and repetitive, but it paid at least minimum wage (currently $6.72 an hour, a sizable increase over the state prison standard of 35 cents to $1.10 an hour).
In a statement, Starbucks public affairs director Audrey Lincoff said Starbucks is aware that Signature uses inmate labor and believes its contract with Signature is "entirely consistent with our mission statement," which says the company will respect others, contribute to the community, and embrace diversity. Nintendo did not respond to requests for comment.
Since 1983, when a commercial clothing assembly line at the Washington Corrections Center for Women marked the first private venture into the Washington prison system, the program has expanded and evolved into the largest private-sector prison employment program in the country. Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) officials bill it as a revolutionary rehabilitation and job-training program.
It's also a revenue generator, providing room and board, legal expenses, and money for crime victims that the state would otherwise be required to pay itself. "There's a benefit to the inmate, there's a benefit to the state, and there's a benefit to you and me as taxpayers," summarizes Doug Edlund, co-owner of Monroe-based Signature.
"The mission is to give offenders, if nothing else, a work ethic and experience mirroring some real world experience," says DOC's Cathy Carlson, who oversees the program. "When offenders are engaged in employment, they're mentally out of prison that eight hours a day."
The corrections department, Edlund adds, has "little or no problems with the inmates that are in this program," who must have a GED and a spotless disciplinary record to even be considered for an interview.
Others suspect that DOC's motives are more pecuniary than pure-hearted, noting that by shaving nearly 50% off the top of an inmate's paycheck, the department slashes its own expenses while subsidizing the companies in the program, which aren't required to pay for inmates' health insurance or retirement. "They figure that if somebody's sitting around, doing their time and doing nothing, they don't make any money off them," Strauss says. "They would much rather have you working, especially in a minimum-wage job."
Richard Stephens, a Bellevue property-rights attorney, is suing DOC on the grounds that the program is unconstitutional, allows businesses that use prison labor to undercut their competitors' prices, and unfairly subsidizes some private businesses at the expense of others. . . . . .
. . . . Signature has a contract for a minimum of 80 prison workers at
a time, but Carlson acknowledges that "during the holiday season, there's even
more employment." Attorney Stephens believes the system is a PR nightmare in the
making. "A majority of people don't even realize that these products are being
manufactured by prisoners," Stephens says. "They need to know that they are
buying these products from a company that is basically getting rich off
prisoners." Wright, sent to Twin Rivers for first-degree murder in 1987,
believes parents would be disturbed to know that their child's GameCube was
packaged by a murderer, rapist, or pedophile. "These companies spend a lot of
money on their public image," Wright says, "but then they're quick to make money
any way they can."
POTATO FARMERS TO SEEK 15% INCREASE
FOR THEIR CROPS FROM FRENCH FRY PROCESSORS
JASON GALE, BLOOMBERG NEWS: North American potato growers will ask French-fry makers, such as McCain Foods and Simplot, to pay as much as 15% more for their crops to stem a decline in profit from growing the vegetable.
Members of the Potato Marketing Association of North America (PMANA), which represents the majority of U.S. and Canadian suppliers of potatoes used to make fries, voted last week to push for the increase when new supply contracts are negotiated during the next two months.
The vote came after growers in the U.S., the fourth-biggest potato-producing nation, reduced plantings to boost prices by lowering supplies. Prices for fresh and processing potatoes surged 40% in November from the same month a year earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a December 14 report.
"We're cautiously optimistic that we'll be able to achieve our goal," said Dale Lathim, PMANA's president. "We know that we're fighting an uphill battle and, until the major fast-food chains pay a little bit more to the processors, they're not going to have a lot to pass along to us." As much as 80 cents of each dollar from selling fries is profit at McDonald's, Burger King and other fast-food chains, some analysts have estimated.
Last month, the Agriculture Department pegged the 2001 crop at 442 million bags, each weighing 100 pounds, down 14% from the previous year's record and the smallest since 1993. Growers are seeking a 15% return above their cost of production. That equates to 30 to 40 cents a hundredweight for farmers in Washington state, Lathim said.
"We're looking at a fairly difficult recession right now," said Fred Zerza, a spokesman for Boise-based Simplot, about 90% of whose output is French fries that are sold to fast-food chains. The economic conditions "are going to determine what we, as a processor, can afford to pay for potatoes," Zerza said.
Simplot, the second-largest U.S. French-fry maker after Lamb Weston/Meijer, paid Washington, Oregon and Idaho growers last year "in the range of $5" per 100 pounds, Zerza said."Many growers have been operating on their farm equity the past few years and cannot afford to continue to do so for much longer," Lathim said.
North American farmers were encouraged to press processors, which include
foodmaker Heinz, for higher prices after their Australian counterparts agreed to
a 16% increase from McCain, the biggest fry-maker, in August. New
Brunswick-based McCain supplies almost one-third of the world's $2 billion
frozen-fry trade, making about 1 million pounds of potato products an hour from
its 30 factories in 13 countries, the closely held company's Web site said.
CHEMICAL POISON EXPORTS ABOARD INCREASE
IN 1997-2000 BY 15% FROM 1992-1996,
INCLUDING 65 MILLION PDS. OF U.S. BANNED POISONS
PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK UPDATES SERVICE: Nearly 3.2 billion pounds of pesticide products were exported from U.S. ports between 1997 and 2000, according to a Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE) analysis of Customs records recently published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH). This average rate of almost 2.2 million pounds per day --- or 45 tons per hour --- represents a 15% increase over the rate of 936 tons per day documented for the years 1992-1996.
Nearly 65 million pounds of pesticides were exported between 1997 and 2000 that are banned or severely restricted in the United States, an average of more than 22 tons per day. Although no exports of banned products were recorded for the year 2000, shipments of several banned pesticides -- including captafol, chlordane, isazofos, monocrotophos and mirex --- were noted between 1997 and 1999.
Fifty-seven percent of these products were shipped to destinations in the developing world and almost half of the remaining 43% were shipped to ports in Belgium and the Netherlands, with possible final destinations in developing countries.
"Pesticide poisoning has long been a problem in developing countries," said Joe LaDou, the editor of IJOEH. Dr. LaDou solicited a series of papers on international pesticide use and integrated pest management (IPM) that will fill three volumes of the journal. "These researchers and public policy experts have revealed that the problem of international pesticide use has greater dimensions than most public health and public policy experts recognize. There is an urgent need for greater attention to these issues, and increased funding for research into occupational and environmental health effects," LaDou commented.
The FASE export report is the latest in an ongoing series that the foundation has published since 1990. Among the other findings:
* In the four-year period studied, at least 89 million pounds of pesticides were exported that have been designated "extremely hazardous" by the World Health Organization, an average rate of more than 30 tons per day. Exports of EPA "Class I," or highly toxic, products totaled over 140 million pounds between 1997 and 2000, or an average rate of just over two tons per hour.
* Products that have never been registered in the U.S. were exported at an average rate of at least 16 tons per day during the four years examined, with the total for such products possibly being much larger. The largest volume never-registered chemicals were butachlor (nearly 14 million pounds total) and carbosulfan (10.2 million pounds).
* Total exports of "restricted use" pesticides --- those that may only be
purchased and used by state-certified applicators in the U.S. but that are often
available to the general public in developing countries --- exceeded 284 million
pounds over the four-year period examined, an average rate of four tons per
hour. Although exports of such pesticides
totaled more than six million pounds less in 2000 than in 1997, the export of the ozone-depleting chemical methyl bromide was 68% higher in 2000 than four years earlier.
* Nearly 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides were exported that have been identified as known or suspected carcinogens, an average rate of almost 16 tons per hour.
FASE gathered the data using commercial transcriptions of U.S. Customs
records of shipments from U.S. Ports. Although this is the most comprehensive
source of export information available in the public record, FASE emphasizes
that it remains only a partial source of production and trade information since
many details are protected as
"confidential business information."
The paper's recommendations for decreasing pesticide use include prohibiting the export of banned or never registered pesticides from the U.S.; empowering the EPA to evaluate fully the hazards posed by pesticides leaving the U.S. and giving the agency the authority to act on its findings; and improving the quality and quantity of information regarding pesticide production, trade and use and putting the information in the public record.
"The fact that no banned products were exported in 2000 seems to indicate
that recent international efforts such as the PIC (Prior Informed Consent) and
POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) treaties are making a difference," said
FASE Vice President Carl Smith, who authored the IJOEH paper. "But exports of
products that cannot be safely used in developing countries remain unacceptably
high. There can be no double
standard for protecting health and the environment."
Source: Excerpted from a paper originally published in International
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (Vol. 7, No. 4). The next
two issues in IJOEH's Special Series will present the health effects of
international pesticide use (Vol. 8, No. 1, available late January 2002) and IPM
in developing countries (Vol. 8, No. 3, available August 2002). Contact IJOEH,
210 South 13th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107; phone (800) 962-1892
(U.S. only) or (215) 546-4995; fax (215) 790-9330; email
firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site
REPORT TERMS UK CURRENT FOOD POLICY
"NEITHER EFFICIENT NOR DELIVERING
GOOD HUMAN AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH"
CENTRE FOR FOOD POLICY, THAMES VALLEY UNIVERSITY: Food policy has been in crisis because of health and unless the government addresses that health crisis, farming and food will continue to cause political problems says a [recently published] Report. Written for public and environmental health organizations, it paints a damning picture of current food and farming. "Current policy is neither efficient nor delivering good human and environmental health," say the report's editors. "The Government has a golden opportunity to change tack."
The costs of coronary vascular disease alone are around £10 billion a year. Rising obesity in England suggests that the cost of such diet-related diseases will rise. These fall on the NHS, industry and society generally. These recurring annual costs dwarf the £4bn for BSE and £2.7bn for Foot and Mouth disease. Current food policy is dominated by concerns about food safety yet food poisoning costs less than £1 bn a year.
The 59 page report "Why Health" is the key for the future of farming and food provides a wealth of facts and figures about the health dimension of current policy:
* While obesity rises, retail planning makes it hard to walk or bike to the
shops; the number of people walking to shops is dropping dramatically;
* The cost of buying a healthier rather than less healthy basket of foods has now risen to 51%;
* One in five children eat no fruit in a week and three in five eat no leafy green vegetables;
* While the government wants consumers to eat more fruit and vegetables, on current trends health targets will only be met in 2047;
* And even if fruit & vegetable targets were met, on current farming practices, the import bill would merely rise. The report shows that fruit & vegetable imports account for over 40% of the current trade gap;
* The food industry spends nearly £0.5bn a year, much of it on sweet, fatty foods; £70 million a year went on biscuits, cakes and dairy products but only £3.5 on fruit.
"The current import-export trade policy isn't working and is ecologically inappropriate" say the editors. The rise of food miles (distance traveled by food) relies on non-renewable energy. "Why are we importing apples and pears when we have a perfect climate for them?" asks the report.
"Why Health" is the key for the future of farming and food is published as
the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food prepares to publish its
Report on 29th January. The government appointed the Policy Commission in August
"to advise the Government on how we can create a sustainable, competitive and
diverse farming and food sector which contributes to a thriving and sustainable
rural economy, advances
environmental, economic, health and animal welfare goals, and is consistent with the Government's aims for CAP reform, enlargement of the EU and increased trade liberalization."
According to Prof. Tim Lang and Dr Geof Rayner, the editors of "Why Health"
is the key for the future of farming and food, "health is often an afterthought in policy decisions in farming and food when it should be central. Poor nutrition is a major explanation for the UK's health inequalities. National health priorities must be reflected priorities for the farming and food sectors."
The Report argues that there should be a new set of national principles
and strategies for farming and food policy:
* Farming and food should give equal weight to both human and environmental health.
* Policy and practice should encourage diversity of foods and biodiversity in fields.
* The food supply chain should decrease its reliance on non-renewable energy.
* Food costs should more fully reflect their real costs of production, distribution and mal-consumption.
* Geo-spatial planning --- particularly for retailing and transport --- should facilitate physical activity in line with national health strategies and to reduce social exclusion.
* Food supply chains should be as local and as short as possible.
* Encouragement should be given to local food providers and suppliers to rebuild local economies.
* A reduction of diet-related inequalities to tackle social exclusion and poor access should be at the heart of farming and food systems.
The report provides five pages of recommendations and argues that the Government needs to set out a new framework. "The entire food supply chain needs new guidance. For government to reiterate a faith in the market misses the point. The issues are: what sort of market? Meeting which social and health objectives? From which food sector? With what evidence? We hope our report helps set the new debate on a proper evidential basis" say Drs Lang and Rayner.
"Whatever the Policy Commission comes up with, the Government will be judged
by health goals. It is time that the food supply chain stopped passing the costs
of ill-health onto society."
BARRY COMMONER REVEALS CRITICAL
SCIENTIFIC FLAW IN GENETIC ENGINEERING,
CHALLENGES SAFETY OF GE FOOD
REUTERS: A study released [January 15] reveals a critical, long-overlooked flaw in the science behind the multi-billion dollar genetic engineering industry, raising serious questions about the safety of genetically engineered foods.
In a new review of scientific literature reported in the February issue of Harper's Magazine, Dr. Barry Commoner, a prominent biologist demonstrates that the bioengineering industry, which now accounts for 25-50% of the U.S. corn and soybean crop, relies on a 40-year-old theory that DNA genes are in total control of inheritance in all forms of life. According to this theory -- the "central dogma" -- the outcome of transferring a gene from one organism to another is always "specific, precise and predictable," and therefore safe.
Taking issue with this view, Commoner summarizes a series of scientific reports that directly contradict the established theory. For example, last year the $3 billion Human Genome Project found there are too few human genes to account for the vast inherited differences between people and lower animals or plants, indicating that agents other than DNA must contribute to genetic complexity.
The central dogma claims a one-to-one correspondence between a gene's
chemical composition and the structure of the particular protein that engenders
an inherited trait. But Dr. Commoner notes that under the influence of
specialized proteins that carry out "alternative splicing," a single gene can
give rise to a variety of different proteins, resulting in more than a single
inherited trait per gene. As a result, the gene's
effect on inheritance cannot be predicted simply from its chemical composition -- frustrating one of the main purposes of both the Human Genome Project and biotechnology.
Commoner's research sounds a public alarm concerning the processes by which agricultural biotechnology companies genetically modify food crops. Scientists simply assume the genes they insert into these plants always produce only the desired effect with no other impact on the plant's genetics. However, recent studies show that the plant's own genes can be disrupted in transgenic plants. Such outcomes are undetected because there is little or no governmental regulation of the industry.
"Genetically engineered crops represent a huge uncontrolled experiment whose outcome is inherently unpredictable," Commoner concludes. "The results could be catastrophic."
Dr. Commoner cites a number of recent studies that have broken the DNA gene's exclusive franchise on the molecular explanation of inheritance. He warns that "experimental data, shorn of dogmatic theories, point to the irreducible complexity of the living cell, which suggests that any artificially altered genetic system must sooner or later give rise to unintended, potentially disastrous consequences."
Commoner charges that the central dogma, a seductively simple explanation of
heredity, has led most molecular geneticists to believe it was "too good
not to be true." As a result, the central dogma has been immune to the revisions
called for by the growing array of contradictory data, allowing the
biotechnology industry to unwittingly impose massive, scientifically unsound
practices on agriculture.
TYSON FOODS EXECUTIVES SURRENDER
TO FEDERAL AUTHORITIES, PLEAD NOT GUILTY
TO SMUGGLING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS INTO PLANTS
WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE: Tyson Foods Inc. pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants into the U.S. to work at its poultry-processing plants. [The] announcement came as six former company managers allegedly involved in the smuggling surrendered to federal authorities.
The Springdale, Arkansas, company also released copies of letters it received from the Department of Justice that it said contradict the government's allegations and "clearly demonstrate the company was not engaged in a corporate conspiracy to violate United States immigration laws."
The six former executives arrived separately at a U.S. marshal's office in Chattanooga, Tennessee where they were fingerprinted and photographed. They were accompanied by their attorneys, one of whom said that all of the managers would plead not guilty. "People who know me know there are two sides to the story. We need our day in court," Spencer Mabe, a former manager at a Tyson plant in Shelbyville, Tennessee, said as he left the marshal's office.
Last month, a federal grand jury in Chattanooga indicted Tyson and six executives and managers on the conspiracy charges. The 36-count indictment, which implicates 15 Tyson plants in nine states, alleges that the company condoned hiring illegal immigrants in order to meet production targets and cut costs. It also alleges that the defendants helped illegal immigrants obtain false U.S. employment documents.
The Justice Department wants Tyson and the six employees to forfeit to the
U.S. government any financial gain from the alleged conspiracy. The indictment doesn't estimate the amount of the financial gain.
Robert Hash, vice president of the division for retail fresh meat, and Gerald Lankford, former human-resources manager of the retail fresh division, are charged, as are three former managers at the Shelbyville plant: Truley Ponder, Jimmy Rowland and Mr. Mabe. Prosecutors have said that a conviction on a charge of importing illegal immigrants for commercial advantage can carry a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.
Tyson executives have said the case involves a few managers who were acting outside of company policy. A Tyson executive also said the indictment followed the company's refusal to pay the government a $100 million penalty to avoid trial. Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra called the claim about the proposed penalty "rubbish."
Tyson said . . . . that the Immigration and Naturalization Service's two-and-a-half-year undercover investigation that lead to the indictment involved 50 undocumented workers at fewer than five plants. "The individuals were paid above minimum wage and provided with full benefits, including health insurance," Ken Kimbro, Tyson's senior vice president of human resources, said in a written statement. The company also said the indictment names only 15 individuals hired at a single plant.
The letters, dated May 25, 2000, and January 11, 2002, say that the government was investigating allegations that Tyson too closely scrutinized certain employment-verification documents, the company said. The letter sent this year singles out Tyson's plant in Noel, Missouri, one of the facilities in the indictment.
"This is the ultimate Catch-22," Mr. Kimbro said. "The government is trying
to have it both ways -- they are alleging that Tyson conspired to hire
undocumented workers, but at the same time they are accusing the company of
scrutinizing workers' documents too closely."
TYSON FOODS CHARGES FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
SEEKING TO USE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT CASE
TO QUESTION PREVIOUS PROBATION RULING
AGAINST FIRM'S INFLUENCE PEDDLING ALLEGATIONS
ASSOCIATED PRESS: Tyson Foods Inc. said in court papers that federal prosecutors pursuing an immigration case want to effectively put the company on trial twice by calling for a hearing on Tyson's probation from an earlier case.
The giant food processor contended that allegations it conspired to smuggle illegal aliens are unfounded and, regardless, shouldn't influence whether the company complied with terms of its probation from its 1998 settlement of influence-peddling allegations.
The papers, filed . . . . in Washington, D.C., were in response to a government request for a hearing on whether Tyson violated its probation . . . . The company's probation in the 1988 case ended January 11, a month after Tyson and six former managers were indicted in Tennessee on the smuggling charges.
"Simply put, the prosecutors have made clear that the principal purpose for returning the Tennessee indictment . . . .was to use this court's process as additional pressure on Tyson to pay a `record' settlement in the [U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service] case," the court papers say. "In particular, the prosecution has demanded that Tyson pay a `forfeiture' in the `ballpark' of $100 million --- a demand more than 50 times larger than the previous record payment for an INS violation."
With the court papers, the company included a letter to a Tyson lawyer from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in which the $100 million figure is discussed in terms of a possible settlement with the government. Tyson argues the law doesn't support such a payment. The company has consistently denied the government's claims.
Tyson and the former managers pleaded innocent . . . . to federal charges of conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants to work at a handful of the company's poultry plants.
Tyson said last week a trial --- tentatively set for February 2003 ---
wouldn't show a company conspiracy but instead would show immigrant smuggling by
government undercover agents. The company alleges the government spent three
years working undercover and brought in about 50 undocumented workers to work at
fewer than five Tyson plants.
PROFIT MARGINS ON POULTRY,
ACQUISITION OF IBP INC.
SEE TYSON FOODS EARNINGS SOAR
BLOOMBERG NEWS: Tyson Foods Inc. said . . . . that its earnings soared in its fiscal first quarter as the company benefited from the acquisition of the beef and pork producer IBP Inc. and as profit margins on chicken improved.
Net income rose to $126.9 million, or 36 cents a share, in the three months ended December 29, compared with $27 million, or 12 cents, in the 2000 period. Revenue rose to $5.86 billion from $1.77 billion, reflecting the addition of IBP.
Cheaper hogs and cattle reduced the cost of pork and beef processing from IBP
slaughterhouses. Cattle prices fell 7.6 percent in the quarter and hog prices
fell 5.5 percent, the company said. Chicken profit grew as prices rose and Tyson
sold more to restaurants and supermarkets.
"Our pork business had a tremendous quarter, and our beef and prepared-foods segments showed solid results," Tyson's chief executive, John Tyson, said in a statement.
Results matched Tyson's January 3 estimate, and the company increased its
forecast for the current fiscal year, saying profit would be $1.10 to $1.20 a
share. Earnings in the current quarter will be 17 cents to 20 cents a share, the
The $4.4 billion purchase of IBP gave Tyson Foods control of about 28% of the nation's beef market, 23% of the chicken market and 18% of the pork market, analysts estimate. Beef accounted for 44% of the quarter's $5.86 billion in sales and 18% of operating income of $273 million, the company said. Pork accounted for 17% of operating income. The current quarter will be "much more challenging," Tyson said.
Feedlots are fattening fewer cattle, signaling reduced availability of
slaughter-ready animals and higher prices. The prospect of more expensive cattle
comes as recession and declining exports hurt demand for beef.
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