EXAMINER                            Issue # 57      December 8, 1999

Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective

A.V. Krebs

                                                                   EDITORS NOTE
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An unexplained silence from the U.S. Department of Justice relative to submitting its "Final Judgment" to presiding U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Gladys Kessler for her approval regarding the purchase of Continental Grain's merchandising division by the Cargill Inc. has descended upon the much-watched merger.

In a recent phone call to Judge Kessler's office attorney Jon Lauck was told no court date has been set for making a decision on the merger.  A Kessler law clerk also said that the Department of Justice has not forwarded the letters of opposition they received nor their response.

Before Judge Kessler can make a decision, she needs the materials from DofJ. DofJ must also publish its response to the letters of opposition in the Federal Register.

A "Complaint" that the DofJ filed at the same time it issued its "Final Judgment" revealed not only the nation's largest private corporation's audacious attempt to totally monopolize the U.S. grain trade, but how the public was deceived by the DofJ and the media as to the scope and consequences of the company’s efforts.

Originally characterized as a DofJ "investigation" into whether the purchase violated any of the nation's anti-trust laws the inquiry in fact occasioned the DofJ to charge that Cargill's purchase would "substantially lessen competition for purchases of corn, soybeans, and wheat in each of the relevant geographic markets, enabling it unilaterally to depress the prices paid to farmers. The proposed transaction will also make it more likely that the few remaining grain trading companies that purchase corn, soybeans, and wheat in these markets will engage in anticompetitive coordination to depress farm prices."

However, the DofJ totally neutralized its "Complaint" by filing it on the same day (July 8, 1999) and at the same time that it furtively filed a consented "Final Judgment,"  agreed to by all parties.

In evaluating the DofJ's current silence Lauck points out that "it is critical that concerned people contact their State Attorneys General and urge them to take action if Judge Kessler approves the merger. If the Cargill-Continental merger can be stopped it would be a turning point in this battle, a Midway Island of sorts. They also need to contact their Congressional representatives, who will be considering strengthening anti-trust laws when Congress reconvenes in January which could provide anti-trust enforcement officials with more weapons.”

[Midway Island has often been considered by World War II historians as the turning point for the United States in the war in the Pacific against the Imperial Japanese Navy.]

The DofJ is also currently studying the acquisition of Murphy Family Farms by Smithfield Foods.

Smithfield Foods Inc., of Smithfield, Virginia, currently the world's largest hog producer and processor, agreed to buy the second largest producer Murphy Family Farms of Rose Hill, North Carolina. The purchase involves about 10 million shares of Smithfield Foods plus the assumption of about $170 million in Murphy Farms debt and other liabilities.

In 1998 Smithfield Foods had sales of $3.9 billion; owned 350,000 sows, according to Successful Farming's "Pork Powerhouses;" handled a volume of 5.5 million hogs a year with operations in  in North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado, Virginia and Utah. A subsidiary, Carroll's Foods Inc., also produces hogs in Brazil and Mexico. Its products also are sold in Japan and Mexico. With six meatpacking plants capable of handling 77,100 head daily, Smithfield's more than 20 company brands include John Morrell, Smithfield Premium, Gwaltney of Smithfield.

Murphy Farms in 1998 had, according to Forbes Magazine's "Top 500 Private Corporations," had sales of $650 million, owning 325,000 sows, according to Successful Farming's "Pork Powerhouses" and handling a volume of 5.5 million hogs produced with operations in Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Missouri.

One of Smithfield's first orders of business after the sale was announced on September 2, 1999 was to file a pre-merger application with the antitrust division of the U.S. Justice Department. Spokeswoman Jennifer Rose said the department had 30 days to complete an initial review of the application, and the lawyers could take another 20 days to gather more information from the companies.

After the announcement pork industry analyst George F. Shipp of Scott & Stringfellow predicted that the antitrust review would pose no problems for Smithfield. "Everybody is asking me that, and my pat answer is, I see no reason why it would," he told the Charlotte News & Observer's Carol Frey. "Tyson owns 30% of the chicken business and [IBP] owns about 50% of beef."

In letter to Joel Klein, head of the Department of Justice's Anti-trust Division,  Iowa's Democratic Senator Tom Harkin asked the agency to take a close look at the deal.

"Without a doubt," Harkin wrote "if this merger goes forward it will drive one more nail in the coffin of this nation's independent family  pork producers --- by creating an insurmountable gap of opportunity between  farmers who are linked to vertically integrated companies and those who are not."

Harkin said the consolidation of the two top hog producers will "choke off" competition, affecting everyone in the pork industry. "As a result, not only pork producers, but consumers, other pork processing firms, and  our nation's food and agriculture sector in general will suffer the  consequences of diminished market competition."

Thwarting an attempt to enrich the corporate heads of the nation's two largest farm cooperatives and possibly creating a business enterprise that would be competing against its own members, the planned merger between Cenex Harvest States Cooperatives and Farmland Industries Inc., the nation's two largest farmer-owned cooperatives, collapsed recently when only 64% of Cenex's 325,000 members approved the plan.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of each cooperative's members. Farmland's 600,000 farmer-owners approved the merger with 89% voting in favor. Cenex and Farmland Industries Inc., however, pledged to continue working on ways to get together.

Among those voting against the merger were the North Dakota Farmers Union. The Farmers Union, long affiliated with Cenex, opposed the merger for several reasons, including Farmland's debt and the multimillion-dollar bonuses given to executives.

"Farmland's financial footing is unclear and of grave concern to our locally owned cooperatives and their producer members,"  said Robert Carlson, president of the Farmers Union. "We don't want a bad marriage to ruin the equity we have built in our  regional cooperative."  The North Dakota Cooperative Directors Association, made up of 75 Cenex-affiliated co-ops, also voted against the merger. The Farmers Union provides education and legislative services to Cenex co-ops.

Despite what its executives were heralding as the benefits of a combination, some Cenex farmers opposed the plan because they viewed it as a bailout for Farmland and disliked the large merger payments planned for top officials at the cooperatives.

Writing recently in his highly informative weekly "Farm and Food File" nationally syndicated column Alan Guebert revealed that if the merger had been approved and the two co-ops began operating as one entity by December 31, 2000, Harry Cleberg of Farmland and Noel Estenson of Cenex Harvest States each would have descended into retirement on golden parachutes estimated to be worth between $3.5 and $4.8 million, according to informed sources.

In addition, according to Guebert and according to sources familiar with the deal, 40 or so other key co-op executives would have split another $11 to $14 million in dowry had the co-ops completed the merger. In total, the $20 to $25 million shared by co-op executives would have been six million to $11 million more than Farmland earned in fiscal year 1999.

Members of the co-ops' regional boards about to "retire," or electing not to run for a seat on the proposed  fewer-member consolidated board, would have received two years' severance pay.  For retiring Cenex board members that would have amounted to a $90,000 bonus that made little financial sense for its 300,000 members. It was estimated that 12 of the 27 members on the Cenex Harvest States board would have taken the money--another $1 million--according to sources.

According to financial data compiled for the merger talks last summer, Farmland's long-term debt to equity is a banker-numbing 86.3%. When its short-term debt is folded into the equation, Farmland's total debt to equity climbs to a staggering 146.7%. It means for every $1 in equity, Farmland has $1.46 in debt.

But as Guebert goes on to show that if Farmland loses an ongoing tax fight with the
Internal Revenue Service, its debt to equity shoots to over 180% while Cenex's financials are equally "sickly" as its total debt to equity stands at 60.8%. If in fact, should the co-ops merge, the new entity, United Country Brands, would start life with $2.03 billion of combined equity and $2.01 billion of combined debt --- $1.33 billion from Farmland alone--for a total debt to equity of 99.4%.

As one North Dakota farmer said to Cenex's Noel Estenson at a recent merger meeting, "Noel, I want your banker to talk to my banker because I can't get him to let me operate like you do."

As Guebert concludes, "given those simple facts, says sources, Farmland's hard push for the fast merger is plain: Farmland is drowning and it wants Cenex to save it."

Shortly after the opposition vote was announced Moody's Investors Service said it changed the direction of its review of the (P)Baa3 long-term and "ba2"  preferred stock ratings of Farmland Industries Inc. to possible downgrade following the news of the rejection.

"It's important that we take time now to analyze the vote and the concerns raised by our members before determining how we might proceed," Cenex's Chief Executive Noel Estenson told the Wall Street Journal's Susan Carey. "Our board and management remain committed to our vision of creating an agricultural-foods system that adds value for its members and customers."

Cenex, headquartered in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, is the result of a merger in 1998 of Cenex Inc. and Harvest States Cooperatives. It is owned by farmers, ranchers and local cooperatives and provides food products, processes grain and operates oil refineries and pipelines. Farmland, Kansas City, Missouri, has interests in crops, livestock feeds, petroleum and the processing of grain, pork, beef and catfish.

The proposed merger also envisioned ventures in agronomy, feed and seeds with Land O'Lakes Inc., Arden Hills, Minnesota. Land  O'Lakes, a dairy and food cooperative, has joint ventures with Cenex in feed and agronomy, and a Cenex spokeswoman has said those ventures remain intact.

"While the Cenex  . . . vote result is disappointing, it demonstrates the unique nature of the cooperative-business structure," H.D. Cleberg, Farmland's CEO, told the Journal "and it does support the need for further efforts to continue this process."

While seeking to justify the merger by pointing to the merger wave against the likes of Cargill Inc. and Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM)  that is sweeping through the U.S. corporate agribusiness and seeking to save hundreds of millions of dollars a year by coordinating transportation and eliminating  some duplicate grain-handling operations  co-ops like Farmland and Cenex are at the same time forming “strategic alliances” with these self same corporate agribusiness behemoths.

In what was seen by Jennifer Solomon, a beverage analyst for Salomon Smith Barney as the continuation of Coca-Cola Company's "the curse on the Continent" and a blow to its image and to its chairman and chief executive, M. Douglas Ivester, French  government regulators have rejected the company's bid to buy the Orangina soft-drink brand from Pernod Ricard SA.

The acquisition was rejected for the second time, and a spokesman for Coca-Cola said after its two year struggle to expand Coca-Cola's influence in France the company regarded the decision as final.

The French government's announcement, according to the New York Times Constance L. Hays came as a surprise because Coca-Cola "had carefully reconstructed its original offer to satisfy officials of the competition council, who had turned the deal down in September of last year.

"The government's concern was that if Coke bought Orangina, it would control too much of the distribution network in France that other soft-drink makers use. Among the companies that might have been affected is Pepsico, which had lodged a complaint with the government."

Pepsico spokesman, Jeff Brown, declined to say whether his company would try to buy it, although he applauded the French government for having "again established itself as one of the foremost defenders of fair competition.Today's decision will help preserve choice and fair pricing for French consumers."

A Coca-Cola spokesman said the company accepted the decision. "We're disappointed that the ministry has rejected the sale of Orangina, but we respect the government's final decision," said the spokesman, Rob Baskin.

Thierry Jacquillat, president of Pernod Ricard, said: "We share the disappointment of the entire staff of the Orangina company. This decision deprives them of legitimate ambitions and considerable means of development on the global market, and it is detrimental to the national economy." Pernod Ricard must now seek a new buyer for Orangina, which according to the Times, it has said many times it wants to sell in order to concentrate on its  other businesses, which include wine and spirits as well as fruit processing.

French finance minister, Christian Sautter, explained that  the terms of Coca-Cola's $733 million bid, in which it offered to exclude the distribution of Orangina in restaurants and other public places, did not do enough to allay concerns about  market dominance. "The modifications of Coca-Cola's bid were not judged sufficient to meet all the guarantees needed in terms of competition," he said in Paris.

For Coke "the curse on the Continent" has seen a huge recall of its beverage in June which  cost the company and its bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises, more than $100 million in revenue and is currently spending heavily on marketing to rebuild its  reputation with consumers.

Coke was forced to issue its largest recall ever last summer --- 17 million unit cases were pulled --- due to contamination from a bad batch of carbon dioxide in Belgium and a foul odor from a chemical substance used on storage pallets at a cannery in France.

It has also had problems with European Commission regulators that eroded part of its purchase of the Cadbury Schweppes brands in most of the world outside the United States for $1.1 billion, and there are continuing investigations of Coca-Cola's dealings in Italy, Germany and other parts of Europe.

On Monday, after a grueling year of falling profits, scuttled acquisitions and its biggest           product recall in company history, Ivester said that he would step down in April.


In a long anticipated "life sciences" corporate maneuver Novartis, the large Swiss pharmaceutical company and its British-Swedish rival AstraZeneca announced last week that they would spin off and merge their agricultural-chemical units.

According to company officials the  deal will allow for major cost-cutting as the companies plan to eliminate approximately 3,000 jobs worldwide over three years, or one-eighth of the 23,500 people who work for the two agricultural units.
Novartis said the new firm, to be called Syngenta AG and based in Basel, Switzerland, and will  would move past Aventis SA to become the world's largest agrochemical company with a market share of roughly 23% and No. 3 in seeds, with combined annual sales of $7.9 billion in a $30-billion-a-year agrochemical industry. Novartis will own 61% of Syngenta and AstraZeneca the remaining 39%.

Heinz Imhof, currently head of Novartis Agribusiness, will become chair of Syngenta, and Michael Pragnell, current chief executive officer of Zeneca Agrochemicals, will be chief executive of the new company, the announcement said.

Not only will the combining of the two units leave Novartis and AstraZeneca more focused on pharmaceutical operations after divesting their cyclical agriculture businesses, but it will also will free the parent groups from the highly controversial genetically engineered food market.

While the initial cost to Syngenta is expected to be $850 million in restructuring costs and severance payments, Novartis notes that it will also provide pretax savings of around $525 million annually for three years.

Denise Anderson, an analyst at Bank Sarasin in Zurich, said the deal might help start a chain reaction. U.S. companies Monsanto Co. and American Home Products Corp. are among those toying with divestments, analysts said.


Spice giant McCormick & Co., who currently controls nearly 40% of the nation's spice market may soon be charged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with paying hefty fees that amounted to discounts to some retailers but not others, according to lawyers familiar with the agency's plans.

USA TODAY's Jayne O’Donnell has reported that FTC staff attorneys will recommend a price discrimination lawsuit against McCormick, subject to the approval of the five- member commission.

The lawsuit would charge that while companies are allowed to offer selective discounts only if they are justified by a cost savings or are intended to meet competitors' prices, neither would apply in this case for in this case the focus would be on the effect the fees have had on competition among retail stores because they were paid selectively. Antitrust enforcers also are concerned that consumers may be paying higher prices at stores that don't get the discount fees.

Manufacturers often pay fees to retailers to assure shelf space, good visibility or for promotion and marketing expenses.

After a 2 1/2-year investigation, O’Donnell reports, the FTC is expected to base its case on violations of the Robinson-Patman Act -- a rarely used, Depression-era law that prohibits manufacturers from charging different prices to different retailers.

Some economists believe the law is anti-competitive because it can discourage discounts that might benefit consumers. Antitrust enforcers, however, claim that  unjustified price discrimination can distort competition and actually lead to higher consumer prices.

Antitrust lawyer Steven Sunshine, a former top antitrust official in the Justice Department, told USA TODAY that the FTC has a "good shot at prevailing on the legal theory," but "the trick will be enforcing it in a way that's helpful" to competition. Tefft Smith, an antitrust lawyer with Kirkland & Ellis, says the FTC's enforcement of the controversial law "certainly will rattle the cages of American retailers and manufacturers."


Some 60 environmental, health, farming and consumer groups, representing over two million Americans, recently raised concerns about the regulation and lack of safety testing of genetically engineered (GE) plants and animals.  In a November 12 letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), public interest leaders called on the agency to label and test GE foods

"This is an historic moment," said Marc Lappe, Ph.D., director of the California-based Center for Ethics and Toxics.  "Today's actions represents the first coordinated act between environmental and health Non Government Organizations (NGOs) in the U.S. in response to the complex issues genetic engineering poses to the environment, human health and society."

The "Pacific Declaration," prepared during a three-day meeting this summer of U.S. activists in California, lists ten specific demands.  The signers join numerous groups abroad, including the British Medical Association, asking for a moratorium on new GE foods. The declaration also demands that practitioners of genetic engineering be liable for any adverse consequences of their products.

"This declaration summarizes our concerns over the risks posed by the current trajectory of genetic engineering," said Laurel Hopwood, chair of the Sierra Club Biotechnology Task Force.  "Genetic engineering is not a mere extension of traditional breeding practices.  It is a radical new technology and today its regulation is totally inadequate or non-existent."

Congress has passed no environmental laws specifically regulating GE crops.  The current FDA policy regarding GE foods holds them as "substantially equivalent" to non-GE foods and therefore, requires no special testing, regulation or labeling.  Co-signers of the letter and declaration challenge this assumption.

The letter to the FDA called upon the agency to label and test GE foods. The U.S. currently has no requirements for labeling GE foods.  The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act (H.R. 3377), a bill to require labeling has been introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Dem.-Ohio).  A November 5 letter signed by 47 Representatives and introduced by Rep. David Bonior (Dem.-Michigan) called the FDA policy of not requiring labels for these foods "flawed."

"The FDA is regulating GE products based on a policy that they are presumed safe, even though they have not done adequate testing to determine that," said Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety.  "Our message today is clear.  It's time for the FDA to stop talking and start doing what they are legally required to do ­-- test and label these products."

"We are asking that safety be the prevailing concern in this issue. Today that does not appear to be the case," said Richard Caplan of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.  "We call on the FDA to immediately institute detailed protocols to assess allergenicity, toxicity and nutritional changes through long-term studies of GE foods."

A New York Times article recently revealed that the biotechnology industry is about to spend tens of millions of dollars on advertising, public relations and marketing to counter growing public concerns about genetically engineered food.

"We do not want to raise irrational fears in the American public," said Joe Mendelson. "We are calling it like it is. Clearly, there has been a dearth of testing.  The reasonable assumptions of protections of human health demand that safety testing be done before there is wide spread consumption of products whose long-term affects are not known.”

Lappe, along with researcher Britt Baily, has tested GE soybeans and found they contained fewer phytoestrogens, an important cancer fighting ingredient in soybeans, than conventional soybeans. This difference was not reported to the FDA by the Monsanto Corporation, the manufacturer of the soybeans.

"You can't find things by not looking for them," said Laurel Hopwood of the Sierra Club. "It is unsatisfactory when regulatory agencies fail to test for the basic health and environmental impacts.  It is not sufficient to simply say these products are substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts and leave it at that."


"When fewer and fewer individuals make more and more of the economic decisions, whether those individuals are in government or big business, the result is anti-competitive, inefficient and harmful to the society as a whole; when more and more individuals make more and more of the economic decisions, the result is more competitive and more efficient and beneficial to the society as a whole."

Those words, written for an introduction to a booklet authored by myself on the meat packing industry, by Dr. John Helmuth rang ever true for those thousands of us family farm advocates as we marched through the streets of downtown Seattle on December 2 as part of the "democracy in the streets"  demonstrations accompanying the World Trade Organization's recent ministerial meetings in that Pacific Northwest city.

Earlier in the day, to the sorrow of the entire family farm community, Dr. Helmuth, 55, died of a massive heart attack. He is survived by two daughters. A memorial gathering will be held December 22nd, 1999 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. with a memorial service from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Jo Ann Gallery in the Reston Community Center in Lake Ann at the Lake Ann Plaza in Reston, Virginia.

As chief economic counsel to former Iowa U.S. Congressman Neal Smith's Committee on Small Business, John Helmuth in the late 1970's documented and exposed not only the already monopolistic conditions of the U.S. meat packing industry, but also their blatant manipulation of the Chicago futures market (See "HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON'S $99,537 MIRACLE: IT'S THE PITS!!! " The AgBiz Tiller ) ).

In recent years he has served as an agricultural economic advisor to Ukrainian farmers as they struggle with the end of communism and begin their struggle with capitalism, as Adjunct Associate Professor and Assistant Director, Center for Agriculture and Rural Development at Iowa State University, as an officer of the newly formed Organization for Competitive Marketing and a wise counsel to many of us on the evils of corporate concentration.

Recently he authored a novel, "Voices Rise from the Land," a compelling story of the power of the human spirit in the struggle and triumph against impossible odds in U.S. and Ukrainian agriculture. The book went to press the week of John's death. "Voices" will be available soon on the Callimuth Press website:

Reflecting on Dr. Helmuth's work, Mike Callicrate, a St. Francis, Kansas feedlot owner and one of the principal litigants in the current price fixing suit against IBP, the nation's largest meat packer, quotes the sixth century B.C. Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu.

"When the effective leader is finished with his work, the people say it happened naturally."

That  quote, Callicrate notes, describes John Helmuth's quiet style of leadership. "John was a good man. He lived everyday for the betterment of people, especially the hardworking people on the land, his favorite people, farmers and ranchers.Because of John's forensic approach to economics, he did the hard work of searching for what he termed the "finger print and DNA" evidence. John often espoused the legal approach as the most effective method of attaining justice in his "David vs Goliath" struggles. As an economist and expert witness in numerous court cases, John's side always prevailed.

"John knew twenty-five years ago what the rest of us are now beginning to understand about the failures of unregulated capitalism without antitrust enforcement. It has been, in large part, John's untiring dedication that has brought us to recognize and deal with today's abusive market power of the big meat packer monopoly and its devastating impact on all of America. John was an important member of the legal team in the ongoing court case Pickett vs IBP." (See Issue #32)

Dr. John Helmuth, R.I.P.


Rose Bird, whose "total passion for, and commitment to, justice" while serving as California's Secretary of Agriculture and Services (1975-77) and Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court (1977-86) earned her the enmity of corporate agribusiness, the advocates of "cruel and unusual punishment" and pro-business lobbies at the same time earning her the admiration of farm workers, opponents of the death penalty, environmentalists and consumers, died last Saturday after a long battle with breast cancer.

As the San Francisco Chronicle's Mark Simon rightfully notes "It was said that while serving as [Jerry] Brown's agriculture secretary, she was the only adult on board during much of his first term --- the only one with a political philosophy underpinning her policy positions and the drive to work toward specific goals on a daily basis. Brown, by all appearances, ran the state with a whim of iron."

During her years as Ag secretary, a post in California traditionally held by a grower, Bird emphasized consumer protection and worker health and safety, moving to ban the use of the torturous short-handled hoe that forced farm workers to spend long hours bent painfully in the fields. She also drafted and shepherded through the legislature a landmark farm labor bill which established the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board designed to guarantee workers' rights to hold secret-ballot union elections.

Unfortunately, the major flaw in the bill, allowing the Board members to be appointed by the governor, would come back to haunt the state's farm workers in subsequent Republican administrations as the Board soon became yet another of the state's large growers’ arsenal of means to deny farm workers the right to organize.

Bird,  the first woman hired by the Santa Clara County public defender's office in Northern California, the first woman to hold a cabinet-level post in state government when Brown named her his secretary of agriculture, was a pioneering liberal lawyer who had never been a judge. After becoming the State's Chief Justice she would become one of the most controversial figures in the history of California politics.

After leading a liberal majority that strengthened the state's environmental laws and consumer rights, voters in 1986, angry at her unswerving opposition to the death penalty removed her and two other Brown-appointed justices --- Joseph Grodin and Cruz Reynoso --- by refusing to extend their terms. They were the first such removals in California history.

The effort, however,  to unseat her was initiated by corporate agribusiness still harboring deep resentments against her, as the early funding for the campaign to deny her the court seat came largely from the large growers of the southern San Joaquin Valley, a fact that even Brown was evidently unaware of when confronted with such facts by this reporter years later.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who knew her for years, described Bird to the New York Times as having "a total passion for, and commitment to, justice. In some ways, she was just too good to be a judge," he said. "As I said, she had a total passion and commitment, and that's not always the best way to function and get along in this world, in a political environment. From the day she got to the Supreme Court, she never really had a chance."

After California reinstated the death penalty in the late 1970's, Bird never upheld a death sentence, voting to vacate such sentences 61 times. She survived repeated efforts to recall her, but was ousted after Republican Gov. George Deukmejian led an aggressive campaign against her.

The Chronicle's Mike Weiss, a friend a neighbor of Bird, recalls "it shocked her that when her right-wing enemies recalled her and two colleagues from the California Supreme Court in 1986, the attacks on her were personal. She had refused to uphold a single death penalty because, as a matter of constitutional law, she thought it was wrong.

"It is hard to believe that the consequences of the attacks by conservatives such as Pete Wilson, and big business, were not psychologically brutal. She stood for ideas; her opponents wanted to vanquish a person. And a person they knew almost nothing about. They made her into a symbol," he adds.

"It is not easy to be a pariah. But politically speaking, she lived in a cowardly age without ever succumbing."

Rose Bird, R.I.P.


The famous journalist Ambrose Bierce once defined a corporation as "that inglorious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility." In another era they were called "the robber barons." Today, the ADMs, the Cargills, the Chiquitas, the ConAgras, the IBPs, the Smithfield Foods, the Tysons and others have become the merchants of greed.

These merchants of greed see the Wo Trade Organization as a wholly owner subsidiary, raw agricultural commodities as the coin of the realm, food as an international weapon, a means by which they can enrich themselves while the poor go hungry, family farmers as "excess human resources," farm and food workers and peasants as the slaves they rent, politicians, regulatory agencies and academics as corporate instruments to be bought, borrowed and brown nosed, and finally these merchants of greed believe, in the immortal words of ADM ("Supermarkup to the World"),"the competitor is our friend and the consumer is our enemy."

My good friend former U.S. Senator Fred Harris, is fond of saying that corporations can't be made responsible because they have no soul to save nor butt to kick, but they can be made accountable. That is our task here today, to make these merchants of greed accountable.

Food next to life itself is our greatest common denominator, literally history's staff of life. We cannot, we must not relinquish its vital role in our lives --- its control --- to the merchants of greed. We cannot accept when it comes to agriculture and our food supply what University of Missouri economist John Ikerd describes as the four pillars of the industrial paradigm --- specialization, simplification, routinization and mechanization. Rather as family farmers, workers and environmentalists our belief is in what Virginia farmer Joel Salatin has described as nature's four pillars --- diversification, complexity, flexibility and biology.

We here today must recognize that eating has become a political act. What we eat, where we eat, why we eat tells us whether we want McDomination or community sustainable agriculture, whether we want untested genetically engineered foods or whether we want healthy, nutritious naturally grown food, whether we want family farmers to receive a fair price for what they produce or whether we want to see the merchants of greed get richer and richer.

Former Yale University chaplain William Sloan Coffin once observed "it is one thing to say with the prophet Amos `let justice roll down like mighty waters,' and quite another to work out the irrigation system."

Well, we are here today because we believe just as Thomas Jefferson did, just as the agrarian populists of a century ago and just as the prairie populists and peasants of the world of today believe, you can not have political democracy without economic democracy. So we are here in Seattle to fashion that irrigation system and just like the mighty waters of the nearby Columbia river, let the mighty waters of democracy roll down. Yes, Woody Guthrie told us right, "roll along Columbia, roll along."

---  Remarks by A.V. Krebs, Director, Corporate Agribusiness Research Project, WTO Food & Ag Day Rally, Seattle, Washington, December 2, 1999


The Corporate Agribusiness Research Project (CARP) web site is now posted on the World Wide Web featuring: 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. Its initial essay concerns one Hillary Rodham Clinton, the now  declared candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in New York State.

In "HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON'S $99,537 MIRACLE: IT'S THE PITS!!!" now available through THE AGBIZ TILLER you'll learn some of the messy details behind her cattle futures "miracle." You will also find in this section the archives for past editions of the THE AGBIZ TILLER.

By popular reader demand THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER  section includes not only an issue-by-issue and verbose index of this weekly e-mail newsletter, but an archive of all the past issues.

In "Between the Furrows" there is a wide range of pages designed to inform and educate readers on the inner workings of corporate agribusiness. In addition to CARP's "Mission Statement," "Overview" and the Project director's "Publication Background," the viewer will find a helpful "Fact Sheet" on agriculture and corporate agribusiness; a "Fact Miners" page which is an effort to assist the reader in the necessary art of researching corporations; a "Links" 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 design and  produced by ElectricArrow of Seattle, Washington.

Simply by clicking on either of the addresses below all the aforementioned features and information are yours to enjoy, study, absorb and sow.