Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective
A.V. Krebs  Editor\Publisher
Issue #149                                                                    March 18, 2002


FEEDINFO NEWS SERVICE: A shipment of corn gluten that had traces of meat and bone meal conclusively came from the U.S. and not from Canada, a spokesman at an Irish government veterinary facility said Thursday. MBM is banned from animal feed in the European Union as it is believed to be a carrier of  bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad-cow disease.

Earlier this week, a senior British government veterinarian had said an incident in which MBM contaminated a shipment of feed ingredients involved a cargo from Canada. "The cargo was imported directly from the U.S. and shipped to Ireland," the Irish spokesman said. "It (the corn gluten) was manufactured in Iowa, transported by rail and barge and then to the port in the U.S.," he said, identifying the port as New Orleans.

"During the course of the investigation, Irish authorities received from the shipping agent details of the last four cargoes" on the ship that carried the corn gluten to Ireland, the spokesman said. "None of them were MBM. "While the Irish authorities have no indication of exactly where the contamination occurred, all of the evidence suggests that the contamination occurred before the shipment arrived in Ireland," he said.

Feedinfo News Service is the highly focused online provider of news and information for the feed industry worldwide. Tailored to meet the information and business requirements of manufacturers of feed additives, compound feed and premixes, Feedinfo News Service is the industry's most accessible "one-stop shop" for real time news and market data on a global basis.


"The same three grain giants -- Cargill-Continental Grain, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Zen Noh (a Japanese company) --- were shown in the study to control 81% of the corn exports and 65% of the soybean exports. ADM and Cargill were also among the top four in terminal grain handling, flour milling, soybean crushing and ethanol production.

"`Concentration of Agricultural Markets' the concentration ratio (relative to 100%) of the top four firms in specific food industries include:

* Terminal Grain Handling Facilities: 60% (Cargill, Cenex Harvest States, ADM, and General Mills)
* Corn Exports: 81% (Cargill-Continental Grain, ADM, and Zen Noh)
* Soybean Exports: 65% (Cargill-Continental Grain, ADM, Zen Noh)
* Flour Milling: 61% (ADM Milling, ConAgra, Cargill, General Mills)
* Soybean Crushing: 80% (ADM, Cargill, Bunge, and AGP)

--- National Farmers Union-commissioned study conducted by Drs. Mary Hendrickson and William Heffernan from the University of Missouri.


NICHOLAS E. HOLLIS, AGRIBUSINESS COUNCIL: This week's Federal indictment of Arthur Anderson, the giant, Chicago-based accounting firm, on obstruction of justice charges stemming from the Enron fiasco, reminds some white-collar crime researchers of the celebrated Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) price-fixing case a few years ago.

But it is really the differences that are worth noting. In the Decatur, Illinois fiasco, with top company officials caught on tape arranging price-fixing around the world on animal feed ingredients --- investigating FBI agents recorded witnesses describing "tubs of documents" shredded outside the back entrance to Dwayne Andreas' office. The shredding and possible burning of other documents at a nearby cogeneration plant took place in the days following the FBI raid on ADM corporate headquarters on June 27, 1995 .

The FBI search warrants had not targeted any executive area on the sixth floor, but any widespread destruction of documents could have been seen as justification for Federal indictments . Unlike Anderson, there were no indictments. Later that summer ADM turned the tables on the FBI/DOJ with it's accusation against the government's key informant --- Dr. Mark Whitacre, a high ranking ADM executive who assisted the FBI in collecting taped evidence on the price-fixing.

Under Clinton White House pressure, the DOJ decided not to pursue criminal issues against ADM (other than price-fixing), and focused much attention on taking down Whitacre. In 1996 ADM wrangled a plea deal for $100 million on the limited price-fixing charges which provided immunity to questioning and limited prosecution to several key executives . Dwayne Andreas and then president James Randall were taken off the hook, and the company was allowed to continue its contract business with USDA for school lunches, Food for Peace, ethanol and other significant, taxpayer funded government contracts.

ADM's deal with government --- as a confessed criminal price-fixer --- contrasts sharply with the current handling of Arthur Anderson. Indictments are one thing --- guilty convictions are another level of seriousness. Yet the long knives are out at Justice and the indicted company may now lose its government contract work as a result. Sure there may have been a few bad apples at Anderson, and it wasn't "Mary Poppins" who actually ordered and conducted the shredding of documents --- but should 20,000 jobs be put at risk at Anderson --- not to mention other inevitable dislocations --- over the actions of a few?

What a difference a bunch of political friends in high office can make!  Of course, there is no real comparison between what is essentially a large service-based company like Anderson and a political powerhouse, agribusiness giant like ADM --- except that in two towns, Chicago and Houston, there is no love for ADM or its Pied Piper chief emeritus (still calling the shots) Dwayne Andreas.

For all we know, ADM could be a major "perp" behind the scenes on the current fiasco, punishing a competitor (Enron and its accounting firm) and using connections in Washington to energize the stampede. What would ADM gain by this? Another public execution of an outfit which opposed the ethanol subsidy at the onset of their great legislative campaign to force all American motorists to use the corn-based additive? Well, sure, but perhaps more important, a distraction and possible cover against the growing prospect that it's own dealings with government and the courts may be re-examined by the Bush Administration.

American industry is in growing panic as the warfare spreads --- They can see the "Musical chairs" game unfolding in new ways . Down deep, they know that they should have stood up to the Pied Piper and his government toadies long ago.


JAMES B. LIEBER, RATS IN THE GRAIN: THE DIRTY TRICKS AND TRIALS OF ARCHER DANIELS MIDLAND THE SUPERMARKET TO THE WORLD:  . . . . Little internal opposition remained. But there was something called the ADM Shareholders Watch Committee. Beginning on July 17, 1995, it put out a newsletter that was faxed to the company's officers, directors, lawyers, accountants, and many of the employees. It also found its way into the offices of journalists, prosecutors and politicians. The Watch Letter, as it became known, infuriated Dwayne Andreas and other top mangers. On days when it arrived in Decatur, secretaries were sent scurrying to the fax machines to yank the sheer out before it could be copied and read by other employees.

 . . . The Watch Letter was the first to print that an FBI agent assigned to the fraud investigation was Michael D. Bassett. In March, 1987, using the alias "Michael McLaughlin," Bassett had gone to work as an ADM clerk in the Chicago Board of Trade's treasury bond pit. The cover and training that ADM had provided to him had been approved by Dwayne Andreas. As part of "Operation Sourmash," Bassett participated in key arrests and convictions of traders in a high publicity sting. Now out of the thousands of FBI agents in the U.S., it was Bassett who was assigned to investigate fraud at the company that had assisted him so significantly almost a decade earlier and that still had the same leadership. The Justice Department's only explanation for this assignment was that Bassett was highly qualified for the new task and that his "assignment was coincidental." The Watch Letter maintained that ADM had picked its own investigator. . . .

In 1988 the [Chicago] Board of Trade, through it Business Conduct Committee began investigating allegations that the ADM traders had manipulated the price of soy oil. The panel asked to meet with Mick Andreas [Ed. Note: ADM's heir apparent and son of Dwayne O. Andreas later would be convicted of price fixing, fined $350,000 and sentenced to three years in jail] who refused on the advice of lawyers, though he volunteered to speak with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in Washington. No evidence indicates that the weak federal agency took him up on the offer or otherwise confronted him about the allegations.

[Ed.Note: In 1988 Wendy L. Gramm became head of the CFTC. Gramm, wife of Texas Republican Phil Gramm, now serves on the audit committees of the Enron and IBP Inc. board of directors]

The Chicago Board, however responded by fining Mick Andreas $25,000. The young man gloated over it, "I was kind of proud. It was the largest fine up to then ever."

What happened next greatly added to ADM's reputation for power, vengeance, and influence with the government. For two years ADM trained FBI agents on its trading floor in Decatur in the labyrinthine practices, jargon, signals, customs, calculations, and other intricacies of the commodities business. Two of the agents assumed false identities, worked for a time at ADM Investor Services, then quit and struck out on their own. Each purchased a half million dollar seat on the Chicago Board of Trade, a lavish apartment, and the trappings of a high-rolling lifestyle, including a new Mercedes Benz and a Rolex.

In an ironic preview of [Mark] Whitacre's espionage, they used microphones imbedded in jewelry and fountain pens to record mischief, including boasting by fellow traders of overcharging clients, recording false times of deals (prices can change by the minute) and not giving clients their full share of proceeds. The sting operation known as Operation Sourmash netted forty-six indictments for racketeering and related charges. When asked of ADM's training of FBI agents amounted to a pay back for the board's treatment of his son, Dwayne Andreas responded wryly."All the FBI did was ask us to plant a couple of guys in our company. What kind of a citizen wouldn't do that?" . . . .

See also "Supply and Demand in Agriculture? Itís the Pits!," Chapter 31, The Corporate Reapers: The Book of Agribusiness, Essential Books (Washington, D.C.:1992)

A review of James B. Leiber's "Rats in the Grain" appears in Issue #85


CASSELL BRYAN-LOW, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: As recently as Tuesday, Abbott Laboratories said it planned to continue to use Arthur Andersen LLP as its auditor, according to a regulatory filing. But Thursday's decision by the Justice Department to indict the accounting firm has caused a change of heart at the Abbott Park, Illinois, drug maker.
"The indictment is clearly significant," said company spokeswoman Melissa Brotz, who added the company's audit committee will meet Friday to discuss whether or not to replace Andersen. So far this year, about 40 clients have ditched Andersen. Now, the indictment could trigger another round of defections.

"We're disappointed to learn of the indictment," said a spokesman for Smithfield Foods Inc., the nation's biggest pork concern. The Smithfield, Virginia, company is considering whether to drop Andersen, which has audited Smithfield books since 1982.

Some Andersen clients, including Abbott Laboratories, had been making        contingency plans in case Andersen was indicted. "There are a lot of companies that are Andersen clients who are actively looking to change auditors, or making preparations to find an auditor, so they can jump immediately if need be," a person familiar with the industry said Thursday before the indictment was announced. Some of Andersen's largest remaining clients, in terms of fees paid, are weighing their options . . .


DAVID ROGERS, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: A century after the great meatpacking wars of the early 1900s, ranchers and farmers are back before Congress, pleading for protection from the big processors that again dominate the industry. Internet Web sites are the new Grange halls for this modern protest movement, but emotions run as deep as when an earlier generation challenged the "Big Five" meatpackers and their influential "Diamond T" power brokers.

The Senate has voted twice this winter to force packing companies such as ConAgra Foods Inc. and Cargill Inc. to divest of millions of dollars worth of livestock. Producers still face an uphill fight in the House, which [began] talks with senators Wednesday afternoon. But the debate nonetheless will be a political force across the Great Plains and West in the run-up to elections in November.

South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson, whose own re-election contest could well decide control of the Senate, leads the charge for Democrats --- with a powerful assist from his party and state colleague, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

By their side, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley strides the floor like the famed Nebraska Sen. George Norris, another Midwest Republican, who fought the meatpackers in the 1920s. It is a case of "packer greed" vs. "producers' need," rhymes Mr. Grassley. He likens the processors to big hogs that must be isolated for fear they will crush the piglets. "Let's build a strong farrowing stall for the packers," Mr. Grassley says, "and facilitate the health and well being of our independent producers."

A Johnson-Grassley amendment to the Senate-passed farm bill tries to do just that --- penning in packers by barring them from owning livestock for more than 14 days before slaughter. The goal is to slow what has been a drastic industry consolidation. But packers say the ensuing turmoil will only chill investment and hurt the producers. "Ready, fire, aim," snaps a derisive Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, the industry trade group.

The change would be "devastating to the entire meat sector," says Charles Arnot of Missouri-based Premium Standard Farms Inc. Rep. Larry Combest, a Texas Republican who heads the House Agriculture Committee, is cool to the proposal.  . . . .

Wasting no time, the biggest pork processor, Smithfield Foods Inc., struck back by running ads in South Dakota newspapers last month aimed at Mr. Johnson. But the hardball tactics only unified Democrats. The senator's GOP challenger, Rep. John Thune, since has filed his own House bill to limit packers' livestock ownership.

What drives the fight is the shift of power during the past 20 years to a handful of huge packing companies. Four of them --- Cargill, ConAgra, Tyson Foods Inc., which acquired IBP Inc. last September, and Farmland National Beef Packing Co. -- account for 82% of the steers and heifers slaughtered, more than double the 1980 level. For pork, again just four companies --- Smithfield, Cargill, ConAgra and Tyson --- slaughtered 56% of the hogs, a 70% jump from 1980.

"We have all sorts of industries where you have just four competitors, and they are competitive," says Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Jerry Hausman, a past consultant to IBP. But what separates this fight from the march of other oligopolies, and makes it so emotional, is this: The meat industry's concentration challenges both a way of life in rural America, and the lingering romance of the West.

"Those opposed to prohibiting packer ownership of livestock simply have a profoundly different vision of what rural America ought to be about," Sen. Johnson says. "I don't believe the future of livestock production  ought to be a series of low-paid employees of the packers, on their own land, bearing all the risk and little of the profit."

Cow and calf ranchers, at the beginning of the beef-production cycle, are the most aggressive in defending their free-spirited world. Web sites with names such as have sprung up as an organizing tool. President Bush saw the ferment firsthand last month, when he spoke to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association in Colorado. The NCBA's cow-and-calf ranchers had backed the Johnson-Grassley amendment just the day before. But feedlot owners, more beholden to the packers, prevailed when the NCBA board voted to oppose the measure the day after the president's address. The outcome underscored the producers' frustration.

The range war also extends to federal court, where Montana and South Dakota ranchers are challenging the NCBA's administration of beef-promotion programs funded from a government-mandated $1 payment on each animal sold for slaughter. Independent ranchers argue that the take -- about $60 million a year --- helps foster consolidation. "This is about free speech, not beef sales," says Montana rancher Jeanne Charter.

Today's concentration among beef and pork packers rivals that of the 1920s. As processors extend their reach down into livestock production, the biggest question is whether that also depresses prices on the ever-shrinking spot market for hogs and cattle. The American Meat Institute argues that packers must be more vertically integrated --- like poultry processors --- to be efficient and provide specialty products for consumers. But the industry appears at a crossroads: choosing between protecting a competitive spot market or adopting a new pricing system that works backward from retail prices.

Pork processors own such large sow herds that only about a quarter of hogs slaughtered are sold on the spot market. The bigger, more unwieldy beef industry is less integrated, but here, too, marketing alliances and contracts create a "captive supply" of cattle for packers, thinning the once-robust spot market.

"It's radically different," says Greg Ruehle of the Nebraska Cattlemen's Association. The federal government recently estimated that more than a third of the steers and heifers slaughtered by the top four packers qualify as "captive supply" in some months. The percentage is even higher in places such as Texas and Oklahoma; from week to week, increased deliveries often are matched by a drop in spot prices.

Whether these captive sales drive down live-cattle prices is a hot subject among agricultural economists. A study of sales in Texas' Panhandle found no evidence of manipulation: "The word `captive' has a little bit of a political overtone," says Azzadine Azzam, the report's co-author and head of an agri-food industrial center at the University of Nebraska. But Richard Sexton, an economist at the University of California at Davis, says the same data show that typically no more than two or three packers were available to bid on any given lot of cattle, and producers sustained millions of dollars of losses as a result of bidding practices adopted by the packers.

"There's something here that's not quite right," says GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Certainly, the ranchers' share of the retail beef dollar has fallen significantly in the past 20 years. "No doubt there are abuses," says Texas Rep. Charles Stenholm, the senior Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. As in the 1920s, producers complain the Agriculture Department isn't capable of ensuring competition.

"It's a fascinating replay of what has been tilled over before," says Neil Harl, an Iowa University law professor.

Chandler Keys, a top lobbyist for the divided cattlemen's association, recently found old farm journals in a great-uncle's attic, describing the 1920s debate. The days are gone, he says, when "the heavy hand of the packers" can kill legislation for the long term. Processors may win in this Congress, but should see today's fight as a "wake-up call" to agree to changes in the pricing system. "Let's get to it," Mr. Keys says. "Not all cows are created equal."


JAKE THOMPSON, OMAHA WORLD-HERALD: The nation's meatpackers have pulled out the stops by hiring two widely known former House members, now big-time lobbyists, to try to defeat a legislative proposal barring meatpackers from owning cattle and hogs they slaughter.

The American Meat Institute, the meatpackers representative, recently retained the services of former Minnesota GOP conservative Vin Weber and Vic Fazio, a veteran California Democrat, meat institute spokeswoman Sara Lilygren said Tuesday. The move is the latest in a high-stakes battle between meatpackers seeking to hold down their costs and independent cattle and hog producers who complain that meatpackers are monopolizing the markets and driving their prices down.

Weber and Fazio will try to persuade House and Senate lawmakers working on a farm bill conference committee to knock out the ban championed by Sens. Charles Grassley, Rep.-Iowa, and Tim Johnson, Dem.-South Dakota.

"It's a tailor-made relationship because Weber and Fazio have so many contacts within the Senate and House agriculture committees, and agriculture in general, and they're pretty well-respected," Lilygren said. "They have relationships with many of the individuals we want to get to." The meat institute doesn't tap into such expensive lobbying help often, Lilygren said, but did so in this case to add to lobbying efforts by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, national pork groups and individual

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, Dem.-Iowa, said they won't be successful. "Farmers have made it clear that this is a priority for the new farm bill, and no amount of high-paid lobbyists can change that," he said.

Weber has played a key role in Empower America, a Republican think tank also led by former GOP vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett, a former education secretary and an author of books on virtues. Fazio was a top Democratic party leader and an influential House appropriator. The two teamed up after retiring in the 1990s at one of Washington's best known lobbying firms, Clark and Weinstock. Neither returned calls Tuesday seeking comment.

If the ban becomes law, meatpackers say they will be forced to suddenly sell off thousands of animals, flooding the market, pushing prices down further and disrupting mutually beneficial contracts between packers and those who raise livestock. . . . .

Ferd Hoefner of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said he is concerned about price manipulation by packers to the detriment of independent ranchers and farmers raising cattle and hogs. "It's a basic issue of monopoly power," he said.

Grassley told farm broadcasters Tuesday that he was somewhat complimented to be up against the likes of Weber and Fazio. "It might mean that we're on the right track and we have a chance of winning," he said.

The Senate narrowly kept the ban, voting 53-46, in the Senate's comprehensive farm overhaul it passed in February. Grassley, Harkin and Nebraska Sens. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, and Ben Nelson, Democrat, backed the ban, which is supported by the Nebraska Cattlemen but not the national cattlemen's group. The House didn't include the prohibition in the farm bill it passed last fall. . . . .


LIVESTOCK MARKETING ASSOCIATION: LMA is condemning a "back door" effort by commodity groups to insert language into the federal farm bill establishing checkoff programs as "government speech." This is a clear attempt by several major trade groups, including the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council and the National Milk Producers Federation, to try and circumvent pending litigation challenging the constitutionality of these programs.

The commodity groups are attempting to get the government speech language into the House-Senate Conference Committee's final version of the farm bill. Instead of offering the amendment in the clear light of day where it could be debated, these groups are now trying to go in the back door. They clearly do not believe in the democratic process, in which producers have a right to self-determination, free speech and taxation without representation.

Instead, they are attempting to impose on all producers their particular point of view of what constitutes what is good for all of them. LMA is contacting the Senate and House conferees and urging them to reject this blatant attempt to shelter checkoffs from any accountability for their activities.

This provision is not a small, technical amendment to existing law. It is a 4-page, 1200-word statute with considerable implications for all agricultural producers, not just cattle ranchers or even livestock producers. It deserves to be openly discussed and debated, through the Congressional hearing process, before any action is taken.

The Justice Department and the commodity groups did not raise the "government speech" argument until after their other arguments failed in the courts. Two separate cases, now in federal courts in South Dakota and Montana, are currently considering whether checkoffs constitute government speech. The Congress should permit this litigation to be played out to its conclusion, and not interfere in what has become a disputable issue in the courts.

If the checkoff programs truly are "government speech," then the courts will make that determination. The Congress, however, should not make that determination retroactively, by supporting this attempt to circumvent the law and the will of the courts. It cannot be stressed too strongly that these checkoff programs were intended to be, and have always been promoted to producers as, self-help programs, run and financed by producers.

It is only now, after the Supreme Court has struck down the mushroom checkoff, that checkoff supporters suddenly proclaim that their programs are a function of the government. To now call these programs "government speech" is more than a desperate attempt to avoid judicial review --- it is a betrayal of the producers who've believed in, and financed these programs over the years.


March 5, 2002
The Honorable Tom Harkin, Chairman
Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee
328-A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C.  20510

Dear Chairman Harkin:

The undersigned organizations represent farmers and ranchers who willingly and enthusiastically participate in commodity research and promotion programs.  Our members vote on whether to carry out these programs. They fund the programs and benefit when demand increases for the commodities they produce.

Research and promotion programs are of particular benefit to small and mid-sized farming and ranching operations. These enterprises are not large enough to advertise their own products. But by joining together with other producers, they can act together to enhance demand for their products. This opportunity for collective action gives farmers an alternative to further concentration in agriculture.

A Supreme Court decision last summer, United States v. United Foods, Inc., has put all research and promotion programs under a cloud of doubt. Although the decision applied only to the mushroom program, it threatened all similar initiatives by eliminating the ability of mushroom producers to collectively promote and advertise their products. The loss of these programs would be a huge blow to the livelihood of thousands of farm families.

It is likely that the Supreme Court will eventually be presented with another challenge to one or more promotion programs. When this happens, the Court will consider an argument that was not raised in a timely manner in the mushroom case, but might have made a difference in the outcome of that litigation. The argument is that (i) Congress mandated research and promotion programs, (ii) the programs are directed by persons appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, and (iii) each program is subject to rigorous oversight by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. Therefore, the programs --- advertising and promotion constitutes a form of speech by the government. Thus, the government has the ability to enforce the collection of funds to run the programs.

This argument is now being made by the U.S. Justice Department in cases that are pending in lower courts.  Congress can help ensure the success of this argument  --- and empower farmers and ranchers to advertise their own products --- by clarifying in statute that research and promotion programs are a form of government speech.  It is our hope that such a statutory clarification can be approved by the conferees on H.R. 2646.

Draft language that has been endorsed by a distinguished Constitutional scholar is attached to our letter.  All of our organizations support adoption of this language by the conference committee, and are ready to assist in any way we can.


Alabama Farmers' Federation
Alabama Peanut Producers Association
American Beekeeping Federation
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Mushroom Institute
Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commission for Peanuts
National Cattlemen's Beef Association
National Cotton Council of America
National Milk Producers Federation
National Pork Producers Council
National Potato Council
The Popcorn Institute
United Egg Association
United Egg Producers
Western Peanut Growers Association


DENISE O'BRIEN, IOWA FARMER TODAY: Dennis Avery again is bashing the environmental movement and the concern over pesticides in the environment. This time it is over atrazine. Atrazine is a white crystal solid farmers have used widely as a weed killer on corn fields since the early 1960s. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, atrazine is "one of the two most widely used agricultural pesticides in the U.S."

Atrazine is in the triazine herbicide family and disrupts the process by which plants use sunlight to transform water and carbon dioxide into sugar and oxygen, in other words atrazine inhibits photosynthesis.

Avery's use of inflammatory expressions such as "eco-zealots" and "certified, off-the-wall extremists" is a tactic that furthers his anti-organic agriculture cause. Dennis Avery hates organic agriculture and will do and say anything to polarize farmers and people concerned about the environment.

The use of atrazine has helped perpetuate the agribusiness, industrial complex that depends on farm policy that encourages the practice of raising one crop continuously (monoculture). Most people know that type of agriculture has led to the loss of farms and farm families, the demise of rural communities, the degradation of our soil, air and water and to tremendous profits for agribusiness.

Avery states, "eco-zealots target atrazine because traces of it are often occasionally found in our groundwater." According to a recent U.S. Geological Survey's national monitoring study, atrazine was "found in rivers and streams, as well as groundwater, in all 36 of the river basins that the agency studied." The study also stated atrazine has been found in air and rain long distances from application sites. Far from being "occasionally found in our groundwater," there have been a number of studies that show atrazine present in groundwater six to 25 years after application.

Using the argument environmentalists "make the usual cancer allegations," Avery trivializes the fact atrazine has been associated with cancer. Atrazine is known as an endocrine disrupter. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), endocrine disrupters are chemicals which interfere with endocrine system function. An endocrine system is found in nearly all animals, including mammals, non-mammalian vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds), and invertebrates (snails, lobsters, insects and other species).

The endocrine system consists of glands and the hormones they produce that guide the development, growth, reproduction, and behavior of human beings and animals. Some of the endocrine glands are the pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands, the female ovaries and male testes. Hormones are biochemicals, produced by endocrine glands, that travel  through the bloodstream and cause responses in other parts of the body.

Because of the potentially serious consequences of human exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, Congress included specific language on endocrine disruption in the Food Quality Protection Act and amended the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996. The former mandated the EPA develop an endocrine-disrupter screening program, whereas the latter authorizes EPA to screen endocrine disrupters found in drinking water sources.

Several countries in Europe have restricted, not banned, as stated by Avery. Germany, the Netherlands and several Nordic countries have taken seriously the research that proves atrazine can alter estrogen and increase women's risk of breast cancer. These nations have adopted the precautionary principle with regard to potential risk of the use of agricultural chemicals.

According to Carolyn Raffensperger, director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, "the precautionary principle calls for the humble recognition that the world is full of scientific uncertainties. The Earth is made of complex, interrelated systems, vulnerable to harm from human activities, and resistant to comprehensive understanding. Precaution is an expression of values that gives priority to these vulnerable systems, including those of our own human bodies."

In other words, "If in doubt, do no harm." Mr. Avery's attacks on organic agriculture and environmental integrity only serves to further the profits of corporate agriculture. Care and good stewardship of the land is critical to the future of this planet and to the citizens who inhabit it. He says society without atrazine will lead to the starvation of millions of people.

War is the main cause for people starving. At this time, there is plenty of food to feed all the millions who are not receiving adequate nourishment. The problem lies in who owns the resources and how food is or isn't distributed. A New York Times editorial has pointed out Mr. Avery's habit of taking information out of context and customizing it to fit his personal need of trivializing serious questions about the overuse of pesticides and herbicides in industrial agribusiness. It is time he comes to grips about his own extreme biases about sustainable/organic agriculture.

Denise O'Brien of Atlantic, Iowa is a small farmer. She is coordinator for Women, Food and Agriculture Network and a Food and Society Policy Fellow, a program of the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute in partnership with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


WASHINGTON WIRE, WALL STREET JOURNAL: An anonymous well-placed aide, whose pen name recalls a leader of a Roman slave uprising, indicts lawmakers for larding post-September 11 defense bills with pork while claiming to beef up the military. The unpublished report notes that three measures costing about $350 billion mostly changed Bush's preattack budget by adding hundreds of "irrelevancies" such as museums, chapels and gyms.

Both parties are hit. California, Texas, West Virginia and Alaska --- with members on key committees --- got most funds. The insider tells how Boeing Co. won long-term leases for 767s when purchase would be cheaper. Even pork-busters get blame: Sen. McCain for weak fights, and Pentagon's Rumsfeld because he "blinked" when Congress opposed base closings.

For lawmakers, the aide writes, "War is not Hell; it's an opportunity."


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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 an
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 range of
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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 features and
information are yours  to enjoy, study, absorb and sow.