December 10, 2002   #207
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness
From a Public Interest Perspective

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ROBERT PORE, THE GRAND ISLAND INDEPENDENT (NEBRASKA): Continuing economic concentration in the nation's food industry, along with globalization, threatens this country's food security, said William Heffernan, a professor in the department of rural sociology at the University of Missouri.

"We have to understand that, in the name of democracy, we have to begin talking about changing it," he said. "It is not just the food system but the whole economic organization of the globe that we have set up, because it is a ridiculous system that serves a handful of people..There has to be hundreds of ways to set up alternative economic organizations of our planet compared to what we have right now. We just need to be creative and start talking about that."

Heffernan, along with Steve Cady, executive director for the Organization for Competitive Markets, based in Lincoln, spoke on Friday at the Nebraska Farmers Union convention being held in Grand Island.

With the continuing trend of concentration in U.S. agriculture and throughout the world by a handful of multinational corporations, Heffernan said, this nation must rethink its whole food system and the issue of food security.

When corporate farming begins to dominate production agriculture, he said, farmers become either hired labor for corporate farming interests or contract employees, and rural areas only see the return of labor from these large mega-farms, with the profits going to corporations. That compares to family-run farms and ranches and small businesses, where more of the returns stay within the community.

"That is why rural communities are in economic trouble," he said.

Heffernan also pointed to a University of California ag economist, Steven Blank, who has written a book called The End of Agriculture in the American Portfolio, which says this country doesn't need farmers. Heffernan said Blank advocates that the United States can buy food more cheaply from foreign countries and use farmland for "high-value uses" such as recreation and urban expansion.

"The question is whether we are going to have any farmers in this country, and if you use a narrow market view, the answer is that we don't need any," Heffernan said. "We are talking about the future of the food system for this country, and if we let our national food policy and international stuff under the World Trade Organization continue, basically all of our food system will go off shore." But reforming the system will be difficult because a number of very powerful people are benefiting from the concentration of food production. "They are making billions of dollars, and they are taking it over," Heffernan said.

The focus of the Nebraska Farmers Union convention is the 20th anniversary of Initiative 300. Cady, of the Organization for Competitive Markets, said Initiative 300 is a precursor for getting passed through Congress a national ban on packer ownership of livestock. While the Senate passed an amendment to the farm bill last year to ban corporate ownership of livestock, the House of Representatives defeated it.

With Initiative 300, Cady said, Nebraska already has a ban on packer ownership of livestock prior to slaughter, along with processor ownership of farmland. One of the problems facing producers' profitability is the control of competitive markets by a handful of large, international corporations.

Cady said that, in recent years, because of dwindling competitive markets for producers to sell their commodities, they have had to survive off government payments instead of free market enterprise and competition. He said the livestock ownership ban by corporations will be reintroduced in the Senate next year. Critics of corporate livestock ownership say that it would hurt livestock producers, Cady said.

But he noted that four large packing companies --- Tyson, Swift, Cargill and Farmland National Beef Packing Co. --- already control 81% of the beef slaughter industry. The same is true with the pork slaughter industry, with four large companies --- Smithfield, Tyson, Swift and Cargill -- controlling 60% of pork slaughter in the United States.

Cady said the big beef and pork packing companies are opposed to the corporate livestock ownership ban and are willing to pour a lot of financial resources into the issue because it would begin to limit their control of the industry. "We need to stop that game," he said. "We can't have this, but we have an uphill battle."

A lot of that uphill battle has to do with the current political climate in Washington, D.C., Cady said. "We have a president really focused on foreign relations, and the economy is hurting," he said. "Look at the disaster payments. We can't even get their attention on that. What would happen if something affects our imports? Even now we are going to start seeing food and product shortages.

"We need to be at least capable of supplying ourselves with a food supply. The pressure is only going to grow for us to think about these issues." The continuing trend of corporate control is impacting not just the agricultural industry but a lot of other industries, such as medicine, entertainment and the media, Cady said.

"We have way too much corporate power," Cady said. "It is different now because many of these large interests are multinationals. One of the issues is we have to make the consumers aware of how vulnerable they are on these issues. When we watch the farm-to-retail price spread widening," he said, "the retailers are making more money, the consumer is paying more money than they need to, and the farmer is not making enough. We need to balance that a little bit."

He said a huge factor in food production for the future is how to maintain a food system the country can actually use for its people. "The question is how much food do we want to produce for this country and how self-sufficient are we going to be," Cady said. "We need to change the direction we are headed.

"Do we like where we are going? No. Family farmers and communities need to understand that and, if they don't like it, speak up, because our elective representatives need to hear that. If we don't have people living in the country to support the infrastructure in Nebraska, we have problems. We need thriving, prospering communities out here in Nebraska."


TIMOTHY EGAN, NEW YORK TIMES: Loup County, Nebraska, the poorest county in the nation, is down to 712 people --- a third of the population it had nearly a century ago. A  four-bedroom house goes for $30,000. But building a life is much harder. In Loup County, what rides on the unrelenting winds are symptoms of despair that have taken hold there and across a large swath of rural America.

It could be Chemung County in upstate New York, which lost people and jobs even in the boom of the 90's. Or Bighorn County, Wyoming, where some high school seniors say their only choices are to move out of town or take up with people cooking methamphetamine in a rusty sink. Or Dalhart, Texas, a Panhandle town of 7,000 people where the murder rate last year was more than twice the national average.

Around the country, rural ghettos are unravelling in the same way that inner cities did in the 1960's and 70's, according to the officials and experts who have tried to make sense of a generations-old downward spiral in the countryside. In this view, decades of economic decline have produced a culture of dependency, with empty counties hooked on farm subsidies just as welfare mothers were said to be tied to their monthly checks. And just as in the cities, the hollowed-out economy has led to a frightening rise in crime and drug abuse.

But unlike the cities' troubles, which generated a national debate about  causes and solutions, the rural collapse has been largely silent, perhaps because it happened so slowly.

Crime, fueled by a methamphetamine epidemic that has turned fertilizer into a drug lab component and given some sparsely populated counties higher murder rates than New York City, has so strained small-town police budgets that many are begging the federal government for help. The rate of serious crime in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Utah is as much as 50% higher than the state of New York, the F.B.I. reported in October.

Towns of 10,000 and 25,000 people are now the most likely places to experience a bank robbery. Drug-related homicides fell by 50% in urban areas, but they tripled over the last decade in the countryside. "We have serious drug crime in places that never used to have it," said Allen Curtis, executive director of the Nebraska Crime Commission.

Poverty was held in place somewhat by the boom of the 1990's. Still, the 2000 census found that the percentage of people living below the poverty level is nearly 30% higher in rural areas than it is in cities. Of the 25 poorest counties in the nation, five are in Nebraska, five are in Texas and four are in South Dakota, the Commerce Department found. In Loup County, the dead center of Nebraska, per capita personal income is $6,606 per year, just 22% of the national average, according to a listing compiled by the Commerce Department.

Equally telling is a growing wage gap that finds people who work in rural  areas making just 70% of the average salaries of workers in urban areas. The cost of living, of course, is much lower outside the big cities. But workers in rural areas are 60% more likely to earn minimum wage than urban wage-earners.

No wonder then that the exodus from large parts of rural America is continuing, extending far beyond the long-suffering Great Plains. While the  nation as a whole grew by 13% in the 2000 census, many counties in upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and three Southern states, for example, lost nine percent or more of their population during the 1990's.

The pastoral farms of cider presses and pumpkin patches still exist, of course, but the ones that prosper are at suburban edges, or they are places with sublime scenery or an energetic college. Bonner County, Idaho, for example, grew by 38% in the last decade, hooking its fate to outdoor amenities and second homes for early-retiring baby boomers.

Though the politicians who inveighed against moral and economic decline in the big cities have yet to weigh in on rural breakdown, plenty of voices  are sounding alarms from this Other America. Some say that entrepreneurship has been stifled by central government subsidies to agribusiness, while the real problems of rural America ---- which have little to do with farm policy ---- have been ignored.

"The slide is not inevitable," said Chuck Hassebrook, director of the Center for Rural Affairs in Walthill, Nebraska, a nonprofit group that studies trends in rural areas. "We give a lot of tax breaks and direct payments to big agriculture companies that don't do much for the local economy, but rarely do we give anything to the little guy trying to start a business and stay in town."

In Nebraska, nearly 70% of all farmers rely on government largess to stay in business. Yet the biggest economic collapse is happening in counties most tied to agriculture --- in spite of the subsidies. Unaffected by the downward trends are cheap labs used to make methamphetamine, a synthetic form of speed that the White House calls the fastest-growing drug threat in America.

Nationwide, meth use has nearly tripled since 1994, and there are now far more regular users of meth than crack, according to the annual survey of drug use done for the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

In Wyoming, the least populated state, officials estimate that one out of every 100 people needs treatment for meth addiction. Users of meth tend to be white and rural. There were 300 times more seizures of meth labs in Iowa in 1999, for example, than in New York and New Jersey combined, the Drug Enforcement Agency found.

Like crack, meth drives up all the other problems in these communities.  Meth users tend to be erratic, violent and in some cases, borderline psychotic --- especially when on a sleepless binge or "tweaking" episode.  Small-fry dealers steal and war among one another. Users abandon families, lose jobs and batter spouses and loved ones. "Meth seems to be everywhere in Nebraska right now," Mr. Curtis of the Nebraska Crime Commission said. "It's mostly Beavis and Butthead labs, with poor white kids making meth out of their cars."

Whether people would be less prone to using meth if there were more good-paying jobs in rural areas is an echo of an old question --- the one  posed about crack and heroin use in gutted inner cities. But at least during the decline-of-cities phase, the topic was vigorously debated. By contrast, the problems of rural America were not discussed much in the recent national election, even in South Dakota and Missouri, which had close Senate races.

Instead, the issue was farm price supports. In South Dakota, which received $3.2 billion in farm subsidies over the last five years and stands to gain an even larger amount in the coming decade, candidates of both parties swore to uphold the status quo. Supporters of subsidies say they keep entire counties from going under and ensure a cheap and abundant food supply.

But opponents say that the biggest checks go to large corporate farms and do little to stem rural decline. The farm bill signed in May by President  Bush ---- and backed by both parties --- will, over the next ten years, distribute two-thirds of $125 billion in payments to the top ten percent of  farms, according to an analysis done by the Environmental Working Group, a conservation group.

These payments go to farm businesses that cannot make money in the global market without government help, or they are funneled to people who agree to take certain crops out of production. But farmers who are just getting by tend to be out of the subsidy loop. About 1.2 million of the nation's two million farms do less than $10,000 a year in annual sales, the Agriculture Department reports.

In any case, with barely one percent of Americans living on farms, most rural jobs are nonagricultural. About 25% of those jobs pay wages below the poverty level for a family of four, said Representative Eva Clayton, a Democrat of South Carolina who is retiring this year, and who served as chairwoman of the Congressional Rural Caucus. Or, she said, more often the rural wage-earner makes a long commute to a minimum-wage job in the nearest regional hub city.

There are some bright spots on the open map. In some regional hubs, like Fargo, North Dakota., wages and jobs have increased. Across the Midwest, a number of communities have attracted enough immigrants to show population growth. But these immigrants come to work at meatpacking plants or corporate hog farms. And recent studies have shown those jobs tend to drive out other people who might normally stay in an area for its quality of life.

Representative Tom Osborne, Republican of Nebraska, has been trying to get small "action" grants ---- somewhat similar to the ones the big cities used to go after --- as a way to jump-start businesses in western Nebraska.

In desperation, other rural politicians are looking to an earlier model.

Two major homestead acts were largely responsible for people moving to some of least populated areas to begin with. Now comes the New Homestead Economic Opportunity Act, introduced by Senators Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, and Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska. The bill would forgive student loans and provide tax credit for home purchasers in depressed rural areas and small towns.

History has provided us a model to help the communities that are hurting in the heartland, Senator Dorgan said. But history, at least since the end of the last homestead act around 1920, has also shown that people who live in depressed rural America have been going only one way --- out.


EDITORIAL, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. And you can call a factory a farm, but it's still a factory.

And no civilized society would allow a factory to sluice millions upon millions of gallons of pollution into open pits, befouling the air and threatening water supplies. Unless, of course, the people who built it called that factory a farm.

Circle Four Farms, an outfit that produces one million hogs a year at its facilities in Beaver and Iron counties, is reportedly prepared to make some concessions to reality.

No, it's not changing its name to Circle Four Factories. But it is, according to a story in Monday's Tribune, preparing to treat the unending flow of stupefyingly stinky pig poop as the industrial pollutant that it is and, dare we hope, end the cruel pretense that the operation is anything that deserves to be called agriculture.

The word "agriculture" implies a careful husbanding of the land, a process of care and renewal that makes the earth blossom and sustain us, not just now, but for generations to come. The processes that Circle Four and its parent company, North Carolina's Smithfield Foods Inc., use to produce millions of hogs a year are destructive of all the economic, social and environmental values that traditional agriculture has bestowed upon America for most of its history.

Food factories not only flood their communities with particularly ugly waste, they also flood the world market with cheap meat, driving out more environmentally friendly small farms from India to Indiana.

In announcing its "rap sheet" on the nation's dirtiest food factories earlier this year -- a list of dishonor that includes Circle Four---- The Sierra Club noted that the 2.7 trillion pounds of hog, chicken and cattle waste from such facilities have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states.

While the southwestern Utah location of Circle Four might be less of an environmental time bomb, given the area's desert climate, the operations have still accumulated $45,000 in fines for spilled, leaked and back-pumped sewage. Smithfield's operations in other states, meanwhile, have been fined some $15 million in recent years, and North Carolina officials are pressuring the company to clean up its act --- and their state.

Thus news that Circle Four is drafting plans to actually treat its hog waste in a contraption called an "anaerobic digester," rather than leaving it to fester in 60 open-air lagoons. The plan isn't perfect, as experts worry that the proposed method still might leak an unacceptable amount of ammonia into the atmosphere. Such efforts may simply be more lipstick on the pig. But, as long as our leaders lack the guts to do away with such monstrosities, some serious effort to deal with the waste these food factories create is the least we should expect.

The Dirty Tricks and Trials of Archer Daniels Midland, the Supermarket to the World.
By James B. Lieber.

ROBERT SHERRILL, THE TEXAS OBSERVER: Anyone who had the misfortune to watch the presidential debates may have noticed that the moderator, Jim Lehrer, one of the most overrated journalists of our era, went out of his way to avoid asking the candidates questions that might have led to a discussion of the poisonous effect of special-interest money in politics.

As TomPaine.commonsense, a journal of opinion, noted recently in a New York Times advertisement, "Jim Lehrer says he hasn't voted in decades. Maybe that's why he doesn't seem to care who funds campaigns. His PBS show, `The NewsHour,' rarely explores the issues."

Never mind his failure to vote. A much better guess as to why he avoids talking about money in politics is that the primary sponsor of "The NewsHour" is the agriculture conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland, which has poured millions of dollars into politics. ADM advertises itself as "Supermarket to the World." But as we are told by James B. Lieber, a  premier magazine writer and author of this panoramic review of corporate corruption, some critics believe it should be more accurately described as "Superbriber to the Political World."

Lieber does a masterful job of showing why that appellation is justified. Indeed, an observer might fairly conclude that ADM's political gifts, or bribes, are why the federal government has made it the nation's foremost recipient of corporate welfare. Money is also why, as you will learn from Rats In the Grain, the U.S. Department of Justice and various Congressional committees have repeatedly given ADM extraordinary immunity from the kind of punishment it deserved for its criminal conduct.

Here is a global corporation that committed one of the rawest and most damaging price-fixing crimes of the twentieth century. In collaboration with its Japanese competitors, ADM fixed prices for three different commodities: lysine, an amino acid used to promote growth in pigs, poultry, and cattle; citric acid, the all-purpose flavoring and preservative used in foods and detergents; and high-fructose corn syrup, the major sweetener of soft drinks.

By rigging the market, ADM and its co-criminals were enriched by millions of dollars, and consumers were impoverished by an even greater amount. The Justice Department could have, and should have, charged most of the top officials at ADM with mail fraud, as well as with violating the anti-trust laws by price-fixing. In fact, the government's investigation pinpointed 49 ADM executives for participating in the price-fixing conspiracy. But the Justice Department ignored the fraud offenses entirely and indicted only two officials for price-fixing. Even there, the Justice Department went easy on them --- paying no attention to the price-fixing that had been done with by far their largest commodity, high fructose corn syrup.

True, ADM was ultimately fined $100 million for its anti-trust rip-off of consumers. This may have been the largest anti-trust cash penalty ever imposed, but it was not --- as the Justice Department tried to make us think --- a crushing penalty. In fact, this was justice lite.

First of all, as Lieber explains, ADM made a $300 million profit from fixing the prices of lysine and citric acid alone. Attorney General Janet Reno admitted, "Because of these illegal actions, feed companies, poultry and swine producers, and ultimately America's farmers, paid millions more to buy the lysine additive. Also, manufacturers of soft drinks, processed foods, detergents and other materials, paid millions more to buy the citric-acid additive, which ultimately caused consumers to pay more for those products."

For doing that much damage, federal sentencing guidelines permitted a fine of up to $224 million. Why did the government not seek a larger  amount? And why did it give immunity to ADM for price-fixing in the far larger, nearly $3 billion, high-fructose corn syrup market that ADM dominated with nearly a one-third share? And in their allegedly hot pursuit of fraud and price-fixing by the corporation's hierarchy, why did Justice Department attorneys and FBI gumshoes agree not to even question ADM's two highest officials, Dwayne Andreas, chairman and CEO, and James Randall, president?

But perhaps the most important question of all is this: Why did the Justice Department let virtually all of ADM's price-fixing executives off with only the proverbial slap on the wrist (the two conspirators who were put on trial, one being the chairman's son, received sentences running only into months), while punishing with extreme harshness --- a sentence of nine years --- the one executive, Mark Whitacre, who was the whistleblower who enabled the government to make its case? Whitacre, under FBI supervision, wore a wire for two and a half years to record what was said at meetings in which the conspirators rigged the world markets. Without Whitacre, there would simply have been no case, and ADM would probably still be stealing millions of bucks from consumers.

Never before has a major informer been prosecuted by the government. Interestingly, the bulk of Whitacre's sentence came from conviction for fraud. He was accused of taking $9 million from ADM through under-the-table bookkeeping. He admitted doing it, but claimed it had the approval of his superiors, who were using the same technique to fill their own pockets.

The evidence that strongly suggests he may have been telling the truth?evidence that the FBI made no effort to follow up --- is a bit too complicated to go into here, but it is among the most fascinating reading in the book. If it affects you as it affected me, you will feel that Whitacre was railroaded by government officials who were under the long-term influence of ADM money, and were its agents for retaliating against the man who dealt it the worst blow in its history.

Everything about ADM is big, big, big, measured either by its annual sales --- $19 billion --- or by its material holdings, which include 355 processing plants, 500 grain elevators, 2,250 barges, 33,000 railroad cars, and more than 100 ocean-going ships. ADM's home base in Decatur, Illinois, is the largest agricultural plant complex in the world. When it comes to processing corn, America's biggest cash crop, ADM is the world's leader, as it also is in producing ethanol or grain alcohol. And it is an international contender in handling other grains.

Over the past three decades it achieved unmatched success in its field through brilliant planning, close family control of operations, and (what can't be repeated too often) political influence. Behind it all is the family's patriarch, Dwayne Andreas, whom our author describes as "a political as well as sales genius enormously skilled at listening, speaking, stroking, partying, and paying in the corridors of power. Probably no one since the trust chieftains of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has drawn more on the connection between business and politics or done as much to cultivate government officials."

The operative phrase is "paying in the corridors of power." ADM and Andreas personally have shoveled out the cash with nonpartisan generosity. It's called "slopping both hogs." Andreas loves liberals and conservatives alike, as long as they do his bidding. This book is about a corporate crime that could have resulted in crippling fines for ADM and long prison sentences for a host of men right at the top of the corporate hierarchy --- but didn't. So let us pursue further some of the money trail that perhaps explains why no such punishments were handed out.

Lieber tells us that, "from 1980 through 1995, ADM and Andreas family interests gave almost four million dollars to Democrats and Republicans with the balance tipping slightly towards the latter.

"During the 1996 presidential election, ADM gave $295,000 in soft money to Democratic party committees and $405,000 to Republican party committees. However, this didn't tell the whole story. In 1994, a $100,000 ADM check supported a Clinton presidential dinner. In 1992, ADM wrote a check for $400,000 for a Bush dinner. Dwayne Andreas and his wife gave $10,000 to Clinton's transition team after the 1992 election and $70,000 to Newt Gingrich's political action committee, which mobilized for the 1994 midterm election," in which the Republicans regained control of the House.

"Andreas built a statue of Ronald Reagan in Decatur, Illinois, ADM's corporate home; he organized Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill's retirement dinner, donated $1 million to the Nixon library, bought Jimmy Carter's floundering peanut farm for $1.5 million."

Slopping both hogs has been an ADM ritual for a long time. In 1972, Andreas and his circle poured about $400,000 --- a huge contribution for that era --- into the presidential campaigns of Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon. No one was ever closer to Andreas than the liberal Democrat icon, Humphrey. Both as senator and as vice president, Humphrey helped push through legislation that poured millions of dollars into ADM's treasury through such programs as Food for Peace (which obliged the federal government to pay for food exports when foreign buyers defaulted).

As with a lot of these programs, Food for Peace sounded benevolent. In actuality, it dumped so much wheat in India, for example, that thousands of that country's farmers went bankrupt. Andreas got a host of favors from the Nixon Administration, least of which was a bank charter, granted with suspicious speed by Nixon's comptroller of the currency.

Over the years, Dwayne Andreas' generosity has been suspect. He slipped a thousand $100 bills into the Nixon White House in 1972, the year in which the term "money laundering" entered the nation's vocabulary. In that same season a $25,000 check from Andreas somehow sneaked into the bank account of a Watergate burglar. But the old man has never tripped badly enough to earn a criminal record --- except in 1993, when he and his wife paid an $8,000 fine for exceeding federal limits on political contributions.

Considering that ADM operates in one of the world's most piratical industries, it has, like Andreas himself, led a charmed life. Until this recent conviction for price-fixing, it had suffered only a couple of legal wounds: a 1978 conviction for price-fixing grain sold to the Food for Peace program and a no-contest plea in 1976 to the charge of short-weighting and misgrading corn for export.

Politicians repay Andreas and ADM in many ways. Keeping tariffs on foreign sugar, for example, doubles the price of domestic sugar (which costs consumers about $3 billion a year). This makes our sugar farmers very happy, of course. But it also makes Andreas happy, because with the tariffs in place, ADM's high-fructose corn syrup costs about 30% less than regular sugar.

So corn sweetener has virtually replaced sugar in the soft drink industry. (This brings us to the double meaning of the book's title. "Dwayne Andreas tells a colorful story about causing Pepsi to drop sugar by describing to its chairman how rats thrive in the hold of sugar freighters and urinate in the product, turning it yellow.")

During the cold war years, when Congress threw up barriers to prevent trading with Communist countries, ADM was granted special permission to sell vast quantities of wheat (subsidized by United States taxpayers) to the Soviet Union. To Andreas, profits trumped ideology any day. "The Russians are not just another grain buyer," he said. "They've bought billions of dollars worth over the years and have never defaulted. You    get your impressions of people like them from what you experienced, not from what you dream."

Ethanol, because of federal collusion with ADM, is another rip-off of taxpayers. The rip-off began under President Carter during the gasoline shortages of the 1970's. Andreas persuaded Carter to support gasohol (a nine-to-one blend of gasoline and alcohol) with a tax-exemption subsidy that cheats the Treasury of about $770 million a year. ADM has a near-monopoly on the United States ethanol market, supported by tariffs that keep foreign ethanol out.

Every president since Carter has been behind this kind of favoritism for ADM, as a result of which "about 43% t of ADM's profits came from subsidized products. In the 1990s it surfaced that ADM had become the number one recipient of corporate welfare." Clinton (who, fittingly, hitched a ride with Andreas in his corporate plane to attend Nixon's funeral, and took a $10,000 contribution from Andreas during the height of ADM's price-fixing scandal) joined forces with Newt Gringrich to protect the ethanol tax exemption and mandated ethanol's use in order to "protect our environment, our public health, and our farmers." This rationale went against findings by the Energy Department, the Congressional Budget Office, and the National Academy of Sciences, all of which agreed that ethanol actually hurt the environment and increased pollution.

In reconstructing these crimes, Lieber got little assistance from the principals. "Famous for shaping its own message and putting off all but the most servile reporters, ADM was no help," he writes. "The Department of Justice seemed highly conflicted. On one hand, it divulged a deluge of mainly innocuous documents. On the other, it stood and continues to stand on secrecy to restrict access to matters of public concern." One part of the government seemed to want ADM to get the punishment it deserved, he says, but another part "sought to protect ADM and do its bidding."

"Whether the final results favor whistleblowers or wrongdoers, deter or tolerate price-fixing, and ultimately enhance or mock the law, are hard questions that remain for the reader."

Nonsense. Anyone who reads this book will find them very easy questions to answer.

Former Texas Observer editor and long-time contributor Robert Sherrill writes about corporate crime for The Nation.


AMY GUTHRIE, DOW JONES NEWSWIRES: The U.S. embassy in Mexico went on the defensive this week to counter protests and accusations that U.S. products have undermined Mexico's agricultural sector.

Over 3,000 Mexican farmers gathered in front of the embassy Tuesday, demanding a renegotiation of the agricultural clause of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexican farmers say they still aren't equipped to compete head to head against their U.S. counterparts.

Mexican farmers complain about the $180 billion U.S. farm bill, which became law in April and mandates the transfer of $21,000 in annual assistance to the average U.S. farmer. Mexico's farmers, by contrast, get $720 in help a year. In response to their petition, the embassy issued a six-point statement late Thursday addressing what it termed are "perceptions" and "realities."

Earlier in the same day the protesters arrived, the embassy organized a press briefing with Grant Aldonas, the U.S. Department of Commerce's top trade official for NAFTA, who said Mexico has "no reason to not comply with NAFTA. The fact is that the NAFTA has brought enormous benefits to producers as well as consumers of agricultural products in Mexico, the United States and Canada," the embassy said in its statement.

Mexican agricultural exports to the U.S. have doubled since 1994, the year that NAFTA took effect, creating jobs and increasing income in Mexico's rural areas, the embassy said. Many Mexican products, such as tomatoes, avocados and other fruits and vegetables have become quite competitive in the U.S. market.

While some areas of Mexico's agricultural sector have suffered, the country has had a "reasonable period of time" to improve conditions that put Mexico at a disadvantage, the embassy said. The embassy also dismissed the relevance of changes set to take place under NAFTA on January 1, when import tariffs on a host of U.S. products are to be eliminated. The highest barrier set to come down is a 53.5% charge on lard. However, tariffs on close to 90% of U.S. agricultural imports to Mexico are already below two percent.

Farm groups are calling for tariffs on several products to be restored to prior levels. Pork producers argue their goods need a 20% duty, as before NAFTA, and poultry producers want a 98.8% tariff on chicken thighs and drumsticks. Some warn, though, that rewriting clauses of NAFTA could open a Pandora's box, hurting sectors like Mexican manufacturing, which has benefited under the agreement.

"Once you revise one chapter, you have to open the whole thing. There are many sectors that are winning," said Armando Paredes, president of the National Agriculture Council, which represents small and large interests alike.

One member of the council, brewer Grupo Modelo SA, has seen its export sales to the U.S. surge over the last decade, making its Corona brand the top selling import beer in the U.S.

Mexico's agriculture ministry is also wary of touching the accord.

In response to the farmers' petition for a moratorium on the agricultural clause of NAFTA, Agriculture Minister Javier Usabiaga said the decision is beyond his jurisdiction, and that it "should be studied with care of the implications it could have not just for the countryside, but also for the nation's welfare."


For many of us who believed that our Catholic faith demanded that our Church take a strong stand on issues such as war, poverty, racism and social injustice Dorothy Day and Philip Berrigan were our beloved and respected mentors. They were in every sense what Catholic activists should be as their lives so amptly demonstrated. Last week Phil Berrigan died of cancer and while his loss is immeasurable those of us left to carry on the fight for peace and justice can take solice in the words of St. John Chrysostom: "He whom you love and lose is no longer where he was before. He is now wherever you are."

DANIEL LEWIS, NEW YORK TIMES: Philip F. Berrigan, the former Roman Catholic priest who led the draft board raids that galvanized opposition to the Vietnam War in the late 1960's, died on Friday in Baltimore after a lifetime of battling "the American Empire," as he called it, over the morality of its military and social policies. He was 79. His family said the cause was cancer.

An Army combat veteran sickened by the killing in World War II, Mr.  Berrigan came to be one of the most radical pacifists of the 20th century --- and, for a time in the Vietnam period, a larger-than-life figure in the convulsive struggle over the country's direction.

In the late 60's he was a Catholic priest serving a poor black parish in Baltimore and seeing nothing that would change his conviction that war, racism and poverty were inseparable strands of a corrupt economic system. His Josephite superiors had hustled him out of Newburgh, New York, for aggressive civil rights and antiwar activity there; the "fatal blow," he said, had been a talk to a community affairs council in which he asked, "Is it possible for us to be vicious, brutal, immoral and violent at home and be fair, judicious, beneficent and idealistic abroad?"

He hardly missed a beat after his transfer to Baltimore, founding an antiwar group, Peace Mission, whose operations included picketing the homes of Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk in December 1966. By the fall of 1967 Father Berrigan and three friends were ready to try a new tactic. On October 17, they walked into the Baltimore Customs House, distracted the draft board clerks and methodically spattered Selective Service records with a red liquid made partly from their own blood.

Three decades later, Mr. Berrigan remembered feeling "exalted" as the judge sentenced him to six years in prison. From then on, he would be in and out of jail for repeated efforts to interfere with government operations and deface military hardware.

Even before his sentencing for the Customs House raid, Father Berrigan  instigated a second invasion, against the local draft board office in Catonsville, Maryland. Among those persuaded to join was his older brother, the Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and poet, who had been one of the first prominent clergymen to preach and organize against the war.

The "Catonsville Nine" struck on May 17, 1968, taking hundreds of files from the draft board office. They piled the documents in the parking lot and set them burning with a mixture of gasoline and soap chips --- homemade napalm.

Reporters were given a statement that read, "We destroy these draft records not only because they exploit our young men but also because they represent misplaced power concentrated in the ruling class of America." It continued, "We confront the Catholic Church, other Christian bodies, and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country's crimes."

When the police arrived, the trespassers were praying in the parking lot. The cameras loved the Berrigans. The definitive photograph of the event is the striking image of two priests in clerical dress, one big and craggy, the other slight and puckish, serenely accepting their imminent incarceration.

The Catonsville raid inspired others around the country, the tactic becoming a sort of calling card of the "ultra-resistance." It also elevated the Berrigan brothers to the status of superstars. "Father Phil" and "Father Dan" were on the cover of Time magazine and illuminated in profiles by the smartest writers.

But many Americans saw them as communists and traitors, or at best naive dupes of the Vietcong. And among their own allies, grumbling grew about a cult of personality and a certain disdain for anyone unwilling to make the same sacrifices the Berrigans demanded of themselves.

Philip Francis Berrigan was born October 5, 1923, in Two Harbors, Minnesota, the youngest of six sons of Thomas W. Berrigan and Frida Fromhart Berrigan, a German immigrant. Thomas Berrigan was a frustrated poet and a political radical whose labor organizing activities led to his dismissal as a railroad engineer, after which he moved to Syracuse.

After high school, Philip played semiprofessional baseball before enrolling in St. Michael's College in Toronto. In January 1943, after one semester, he was drafted.

The life of black sharecroppers in Georgia, where he had basic training,  and the treatment of black soldiers on his troop ship to Europe made an indelible impression on his conscience. So did his own role in infantry and artillery battles that earned him a battlefield commission as second lieutenant. In so many words, he came to consider himself as guilty of murder as the Germans and Japanese. Along with this came the conviction that he had grown up on a diet of nationalistic propaganda in which the good --- "white Europeans" --- always triumphed over evil --- "anyone else."

After graduating from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1950, he committed himself to the priesthood and was ordained in St. Joseph's Society of the Sacred Heart in 1955. Later, he earned degrees from Loyola University and Xavier University, both in New Orleans.

The young priest became passionately involved in civil rights and antiwar activities, especially after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. He was frequently in trouble with his superiors, whom he openly criticized for supporting the status quo, and occasionally with the law. He boasted that he was the first American priest jailed for a political crime.

In the trial that resulted in his second prison term --- the trial of the  Catonsville Nine in 1968 --- the defendants were all found guilty. In April 1970, after his appeals were denied, he was to begin serving a three-and-a-half-year term for the Catonsville incident, to run concurrently with the six-year sentence from the Baltimore raid.

But the Berrigan brothers and two other Catonsville defendants reasoned that if they had been right to break the law in the first place, then it would be wrong to accept the government's punishment for it. So they went underground, and for a time two priests were among the criminals most wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Daniel eluded capture until August 11, but Philip was arrested on April 21 in St. Gregory's Church in Manhattan and began serving his sentence in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. He spent many prison hours praying and filling journals with his trademark polemical writing, which over the years condemned everything from deceptive breakfast cereal advertising (a form of "violence") to the modern church.

"The Gospel the church preaches," he wrote, "is a precise statement of the life it leads --- a degenerate stew of behavioral psychology, affluent ethics and cultural mythology, seasoned by nationalist politics."

While at Lewisburg, Father Berrigan unwittingly helped set in motion a new controversy.

He had fallen in love with a nun, Elizabeth McAlister of the Religious Order of the Sacred Heart. In a ceremony without witnesses the two had secretly declared themselves husband and wife in 1969. They smuggled love letters past the prison censors through a trusted young inmate, Boyd Douglas, who was allowed outside to attend college classes.

According to the biographers Murray Polner and Jim O'Grady in Disarmed and Dangerous, Father Berrigan's fellow inmate James R. Hoffa, the Teamsters president, warned that Mr. Douglas was an F.B.I. informant. But this expert opinion was ignored, and the exchanges ultimately became a source of great embarrassment and the basis for fresh prosecution. The letters talked of kidnapping a government official --- Henry A. Kissinger was mentioned --- and of shutting down government buildings in Washington. The result was a conspiracy trial in 1972 that ended in acquittal on all major charges.

Philip Berrigan was paroled in December 1972. He and Elizabeth McAlister legalized their marriage in 1973. They issued justifications on personal, scriptural and political grounds --- and were excommunicated. From then on the couple lived and worked in Jonah House, a small religiously oriented commune they founded in Baltimore.

Through his antinuclear Plowshares operation, Mr. Berrigan led a series of raids, among them an attack in 1980 at the General Electric plant in King  of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Two decades later he was still at it, though the world had largely stopped paying attention.

Thus citizen Berrigan, then 77, missed the 2001 premiere of a documentary film about Catonsville. He was in an Ohio prison on charges of interference with a weapons system.

In addition to his wife and brother Daniel, Mr. Berrigan is survived by three children, Frida, Jerome and Katherine; and three other brothers, John, James and Jerome.

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