EXAMINER Issue # 47 September 21, 1999
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest
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NATIONAL EFFORT ACCELERATES
TO THWART CARGILL \ CONTINENTAL GRAIN PURCHASE
Originally characterized as a U.S. Department of Justice (DofJ) "investigation" into whether Cargill's announced purchase of the grain merchandising division of Continental Grain violated any of the nation's anti-trust laws the inquiry in fact occasioned the DofJ to file a formal "Complaint" with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The complaint charged 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. While the DofJ's "Final Judgment" now awaits the final approval of presiding U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler, the public comment period regarding the Department's decision remains open until October 12.
The "Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act" (APPA) of the U.S. Code provides that any person may submit to the United States written comments regarding the proposed "Final Judgment." Any person who wishes to comment should do so by October 12. The comments and the response of the United States will be filed with the Court and published in the Federal Register.
Written comments should be submitted to:
Roger W. Fones
Chief, Transportation, Energy & Agriculture Section
United States Department of Justice
325 Seventh Street, N.W., Suite 500
Washington, DC 20530
Legal precedent, according to the DofJ, requires that "[t]he balancing of competing social and political interests affected by a proposed antitrust consent decree must be left, in the first instance, to the discretion of the Attorney General. The court's role in protecting the public interest is one of insuring that the government has not breached its duty to the public in consenting to the decree.
"The court is required to determine not whether a particular decree is the one that will best serve society, but whether the settlement is 'within the reaches of the public interest.' [A] proposed decree must be approved even if it falls short of the remedy the court would impose on its own, as long as it falls within the range of acceptability or is `within the reaches of public interest'."
Whether or not Judge Kessler concludes that the consent decree is "within the reaches of public interest" the corporate audaciousness of Cargill in attempting to totally own this nation's grain trade with its purchase of Continental grain assets is breathtaking. One need only look at the facts brought to light in the DofJ's "Complaint" to see such covertness. (Issue #45)
Letters specifically demonstrating and\or documenting the impact of Cargill's monopoly of the grain trade and how the Continental purchase will affect that situation on one's own family farm operation or upon the rural community in which one lives will be most valuable.Copies of such letters should also be sent to the letter writer's state attorney general's office urging that office at the same time to utilize their good offices in not only calling upon the U.S. Department of Justice to revisit its "investigation" of the Cargill\Continental sale, but requesting that the deadline for comment be extended another sixty days to December 12.
In a separate notice concerning the Department of Justice's comment period on the Cargill\Continental sale it was indicated that relevant Department of Justice documents could be viewed at its web site. An extra period, however, crept into the web site's address. The correct address is:
CARGILL \ CONTINENTAL GRAIN PURCHASE:
STATE ATTORNEY GENERALS MAY SUE TO BLOCK,
OCM'S LAUCK DECRIES DofJ CONSENT DECREE
Prodded on by farm activist groups, lead by the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), a group of Midwest farm state attorney generals are nearing filing a lawsuit to prevent the U.S. Department of Justice from approving the sale of the grain merchandising division of Continental Grain to Cargill, the nation's largest private corporation.
OCM's Jon Lauck stresses that he and other activists have been meeting with both Republican and Democrat attorney generals, lining up support for a lawsuit that may be filed within a couple of weeks.
"Not too long ago," Lauck recently told The Corporate Crime Reporter, "antitrust officials would have looked at something like this and decided --- this is obviously too large, these are two dominant players. We are never going to allow something like this to go through."
In a recent letter to Roger W. Fones, Chief of the Transportation, Energy & Agriculture Section of the Antitrust Division, United States Department of Justice, Lauck wrote that Cargill's acquisition of Continental Grain Company "would unify the second and third largest grain traders in North America, which export 40% of American agricultural commodities."
Specifically, Lauck, the author of a law review article entitled Toward an Agrarian Antitrust, 75 North Dakota Law Review (August/September 1999, objected "to the analysis used by the Department of Justice when reviewing the acquisition. DofJ's analysis: (1) fails to consider the wider concentration in agricultural markets beyond grain buying; (2) fails to consider the continuing potential for anticompetitive behavior in the post-merger market; (3) fails to show that the divested remnants of Continental will be a competitive force absent a large network of elevators which buy grain; (4) fails to consider the nature of the grain selling market; (5) fails to consider the economic disorganization of farmers which can be exploited by powerful buyers; (6) fails to consider information disparities in agricultural markets; (7) fails to explain the benefits of the merger; (8) and fails to consider a range of statutes that Congress intended courts to consider when making decisions about agricultural markets.
"In recent years," he continues, "agricultural processing markets have become highly concentrated. From a top-five concentration ratio of 24% in the early 1980s, for example, the beef-packing sector's five-firm concentration ratio has grown to 85%. Similar statistics apply to several other sectors of the agricultural processing economy.
"The DofJ's analysis did not consider the wider context of consolidation in the agricultural system and instead focused on the grain buying activities of Cargill and Continental. Growing concentration in agricultural markets should have been considered by the DofJ given the continuing consolidation of agribusiness firms," he adds.
"It was the growing power of agribusiness firms that triggered concerns among farmers and inspired the passage of the Sherman Act. And it was continuing concentration in agricultural markets, particularly through merger, that prompted passage of additional antitrust statutes such as the Clayton Act. The importance of the antitrust laws to farmers is explained by the difficulties inherent in farmers bargaining with large and powerful agribusiness buyers. Legislators and courts have fully recognized these concerns in statutes and in cases, respectively, but the DOJ's merger analysis failed to weigh these considerations."
Lauck's letter goes on to warn the Department of Justice that it "must consider more that the grain buying operations of Cargill. The acquisition of Continental's seventy elevators will enhance the economic power of Cargill as a general matter. Such a result concerns farmers because Cargill's assets and economic power can be deployed across a range of agricultural sectors. For example, Cargill stands out as a top-four firm in beef packing, cattle feedlots (where Continental is the largest), pork packing, broiler production, turkey production, animal feed plants, grain elevator capacity, flour milling, dry corn milling, wet corn milling, soybean crushing, and ethanol production.
"Such a dominant position across many agricultural markets will allow Cargill to transfer resources between sectors according to the economic conditions that are prevailing at a given time. The ability to transfer assets will allow Cargill to maintain its dominant status in all of these markets irrespective of its competitive prowess. Unlike farmers, who are forced into bankruptcy after a few bad seasons, Cargill will maintain its dominant status over time regardless of economic performance over the short-term. With Continental's assets, Cargill will become an even more powerful and `sophisticated' firm, even more capable of strategic, cooperative, and anti-competitive behavior.
"The DofJ argues in its complaint that within particular draw areas very few firms buy grain. It argues that if Continental's operations were absorbed `Cargill would be in a position unilaterally, or in coordinated interaction with the few remaining competitors, to depress prices paid to producers and other suppliers because transportation costs would preclude them from selling to purchasers outside the captive draw areas in sufficient quantities to prevent the price decrease.' Divestitures in a few of these markets as proposed by the DofJ does not address this problem. Even with the divestitures, grain buying would remain heavily concentrated and susceptive to collusive and cooperative activity," Lauck's letter warns.
"Furthermore, it is unclear how Continental will remain an effective competitor with Cargill after selling almost all of its elevator capacity. The few facilities that will not be acquired by Cargill hardly constitute a legitimate competitive threat. As the DofJ emphasized in its complaint, grain buying involves a large-scale network of facilities. The few remaining Continental facilities, stripped of their internal networks which provide them with competitive flexibility and information about grain flows, will be powerless in comparison with Cargill, with its $51 billion in annual revenues and 81,000 employees in 60 different countries.
"Continental's decision to sell off its grain buying operation may also indicate that it no longer considers grain buying a priority. In short, there is no assurance that the remaining facilities will even compete in the markets that concerned the DofJ. Given the need for a network of elevators to compete in the grain buying business, it is also highly unlikely that any new firms will enter the market to challenge Cargill. The DofJ openly concedes in its complaint that it is `unlikely that Cargill's exercise of market power will be prevented by new entry, by farmers and other suppliers transporting their products to more distant markets, or by any other countervailing competitive force."
Lauck concludes his carefully documented 13-page letter to
Fones by emphasizing that "given the importance of this merger
and the constraints on state action if the consent decree is approved,
I respectfully request that the comment period for this merger
be extended another sixty days to December 12th Several
parties have expressed interest in commenting on the merger and
will not be able to do so by October 12th In the interest
of a fair hearing on this critical matter, I urge DofJ to support
a lengthening of the comment period, as allowed under the Tunney
Act. If the DofJ and the court do not see fit to extend the comment
period, I urge the court to reject the proposed consent decree
for failing to consider the factors set forth herein. "
FARMLAND INDUSTRIES \ CENEX HARVEST STATES:
CO-OPS "URGE TO MERGE" TO "COMPETE" WITH CARGILL
Two of the nation's largest farmer cooperatives --- Farmland Industries and Cenex Harvest States Cooperatives --- have formally approved the terms of a consolidation, as proposed in May, 1999 (Issue #25) that will unite them in a new $20 billion company to be called United Country Brands.
The combined boards of the cooperatives approved the merger at a Denver, Colorado meeting on September 7-8, and will reconvene on September 22 to approve and sign the formal documents that will enable them to present the consolidation to their memberships for final approval.
Farmland Industries, Inc. is the largest farmer-owned cooperative in North America with 1998 company sales of $8.8 billion in all 50 states and 90 countries. Farmland is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. When including Farmland's share of the sales of its affiliated businesses, sales were $11.9 billion. Farmland with 600,000 farmer-owners in the United States, Canada and Mexico, is a highly diversified company with major business lines in crop production and crop protection products, livestock feeds, petroleum, grain processing and marketing, and the processing and marketing of pork and beef products.
Cenex Harvest States Cooperatives based at Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, is a producer-to-consumer cooperative system owned by farmers, ranchers and their local co-ops from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Northwest and from the Canadian border to Texas where it annually transports about 1.3 billion bushels of wheat, corn and soybeans. Generating about $8 billion annually selling supplies to farmers and marketing crops, it was created in June 1998 through the merger of two cooperative systems.
A fully integrated agricultural foods cooperative it operates oil refineries/pipelines and provides a wide variety of products and services ranging from grain marketing to food processing. Through a broad range of working partnerships, Cenex Harvest States also markets and distributes petroleum products, agronomic inputs and feed to rural America, as well as grain and processed food products to customers around the world.
Together the merged grain operations would generate about $6.7 billion in annual revenue ranking them as the nation's third-biggest grain exporter behind Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland "Supermarkup to the World")
Noel Estenson, chief executive of Cenex, St. Paul, Minnesota, told the Wall Street Journal that his cooperative needs to get bigger quickly to compete with a larger Cargill grain operation. "Moving grain is expensive," he said. "We need to spread those costs over more bushels."
Estenson's defintion of "competing" against Cargill is curious.
For example, in the Pacific Northwest port range, which includes the "captive draw area" of western Minnesota, eastern North Dakota, and northeastern South Dakota the markets for corn and soybean purchases are already highly concentrated, with the top four port elevator operators accounting for 100% of all corn and soybean purchases in these markets Cargill alone accounts for about 44% of all soybean purchases and 23% of all corn purchases. Continental Grain currently accounts for about 50% of all soybean purchases and 30% of all corn purchases in the same port range.
Recently, when the U.S. Department of Justice issued its consent decree relative to Cargill's purchasing of Continental Grain's merchandising division it ordered the divestiture of Cargill's 4.2 million bushel terminal in Seattle, presently leased from the local port authority. In turn, the nation's largest grain trader will now operate in part the TEMCO three million bushel grain elevator at the nearly Port of Tacoma. TEMCO or Tacoma Export Marketing Corp. has operated the terminal as a joint venture for Continental and Cenex Harvest States Co-op.
Also, Land O'Lakes, Inc., Cenex Harvest States Cooperatives and Farmland Industries recently revealed that they are working on a proposal to form a new joint venture company that will distribute plant food and crop protection products to member cooperatives and other customers.
As part of the agreement, according to PRNewsservice, the sales, marketing and distribution of plant food, crop protection and related products will be combined in a joint venture company owned by Land O'Lakes and United Country Brands. At the effective date of the joint venture, a formula will be used to achieve 50/50 ownership of the new agronomy company.
The joint venture will include the current Cenex/Land O'Lakes Agronomy Company, Land O'Lakes eastern agronomy operations and Farmland's wholesale agronomy business. The partners in the proposed joint venture would continue to hold separate ownership in fertilizer manufacturing facilities.
Land O'Lakes, Inc., based at Arden Hills, Minnesota, is a national food and agricultural cooperative reportedly owned by farmers, ranchers and local cooperatives in 29 states. It is a leading marketer of dairy products across the U.S.; provides international customers with a variety of food products and animal feed ingredients in addition to offering family farmers and member cooperatives with an extensive line of feed, seed, plant food and crop protection products.
Farmland and Cenex's boards also approved an accelerated timetable that calls for "information meetings" in some 37 cities in October and November, with a pro forma membership vote scheduled for November 23. If the cooperatives' members approve the consolidation, United Country Brands would begin operations March 1, 2000.
Farmland's chief executive officer Bob Honse has been
selected to lead United Country Brands as chief executive
officer through December 31, 2003. Cenex Harvest States president
John Johnson will serve as president of United Country Brands
until January 1, 2004, when he will take over as chief executive
officer. Current chief executive officers, H.D. "Harry"
Cleberg of Farmland and Noel Estenson of Cenex Harvest
States, will serve the new company in an advisory capacity
until their planned December 31, 2000 retirement.
THE DANFORTH-THOMAS-RALSTON PURINA CONNECTION
Thanks to my always vigilant colleague Sam Smith, editor of The Progressive Review we learn of the "Things that John Danforth [former U.S. Senator from Missouri and recently appointed to head up the government's inquiry of the Waco, Texas tragedy] Clarence Thomas [U.S. Supreme Court Justice], and Ralston Purina [corporate agribusiness giant] have in common."
* DANFORTH hired THOMAS out of law school as an assistant attorney
general in Missouri.
* DANFORTH brought THOMAS to Washington as a legislative assistant when elected to the Senate.
* DANFORTH helped THOMAS get appointed to the Reagan transition team, the Department of Education, and the Equal Economic Opportunity Council (EEOC).
* DANFORTH helped THOMAS get appointed to the US Court of Appeals, calling him my "personal friend."
* DANFORTH played a crucial role in getting THOMAS appointed to the Supreme Court.
* DANFORTH, during the time in question, owned Ralston Purina stock worth more than $7.5 million.
* Two brothers of DANFORTH were on the board of directors of Ralston Purina
* One brother of DANFORTH was a member of the board of trustees of Washington University, which had large holdings in Ralston Purina.
* Alpo and Ralston Purina were sued on charges of false advertising.
* U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin fond both companies in the wrong, but found that Ralston Purina alone had acted willfully in having "perpetrated a cruel hoax" on dog owners in its claims that it dog food could cure a serious ailment. He assessed a $10 million fine against Ralston Purina.
* A few weeks after being confirmed, THOMAS heard the Ralston Purina appeal and wrote an opinion for the court overturning the $10 million fine against Ralston Purina.
* This was good news for his friend DANFORTH and his $7.5 million in Ralston Purina stock, but appears to be a clear violation of 28 USC 455 which requires a federal judge to disqualify himself in proceedings in which the judge's impartiality "might" reasonably be questioned.
Smith notes that this information appeared in the August 24, 1991, edition of Legal Times in an article by Monroe Freedman, professor of legal ethics at Hofstra University Law School. Freedman wrote that "Thomas showed no regard for his ethical obligations as a judge and no respect for the statutory mandate that he recuse himself. On both counts, Thomas is unfit to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States." The media, Smith correctly adds, more interested in stray hairs on Coke cans, ignored the story.
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MONSANTO'S MICKEY KANTOR
SEPARATING THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF???
Perpetuating his reputation of servicing corporate agribusiness, internationally known trade attorney and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce (1996-97), U.S. Trade Representative (1993-96) and National Chairman for the Clinton/Gore Campaign, 1992, Mickey Kantor will represent the grain trade's industry oriented U.S. Wheat Associates at the forthcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle, Washington.
Wheat industry advocates claim their trade needs are too "diverse" to be handled by just the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"We want to make sure U.S. negotiators understood them and knew they were a top priority," Chris Shaffer, a Walla Walla farmer and chairman of the U.S. Wheat Associates, told the Spokane Spokesman-Review."Our trade needs are much larger than just one facet of our government."
Kantor, for representing the 17 wheat-producing states, will be paid $20,000 a month with money from many of the wheat commissions.
"Some are not participating because of their financial straits," said Tom Mick, executive director of the Washington Wheat Commission. But the Washington commission figured Kantor's fee into its budget ahead of time.
Idaho's wheat commission also is contributing to Kantor's fee. "We took a look at the last time the WTO process was conducted and realized we pretty much left everything up to the government," said David Sparrow, commission administrator. "I don't think the producers were particularly happy with the results."
Sparrows remarks left one WTO observer puzzled since it was Kantor, the U.S. trade negotiator, who played such a large role in formulating the WTO "process" and how it was "conducted" for one of his more notable achievements as trade representative was restarting the stalled WTO round in Uruguay several years ago. There the existing trade rules for the 134 WTO member nations were set.
"When it comes to understanding and negotiating trade, Kantor's qualifications are top-notch. He knows the people within the U.S. Trade Representatives office. A lot of them used to work for him," Shaffer said.
It was Kantor, as U.S. Trade Representative, who also helped his long-time friend Bill Clinton pay off a 1996 campaign debt to Chiquita International's Carl O. Lindner.
According to a March 31, 1997 report by Michael Weisskoff in Time Magazine two years prior "Lindner wanted U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor to help him pry open European markets, which rely on various tariffs and trade barriers effectively to shut out Lindner's bananas. Though hundreds of companies ask Washington to investigate unfair trade practices, the U.S. Trade Representative accepts only about 14 cases each year. Even fewer are taken to Geneva for resolution by the World Trade Organization. And only rarely do such cases make the cut when hardly any U.S. jobs are at stake; Chiquita employs most of its 45,000 workers in Honduras and Guatemala. And yet Kantor took the case."
But, as Weiskoff adds,"You wouldn't know how grateful Lindner was by checking records at the Federal Election Commission; he gave the Democratic National Committee only $15,000 in the final 15 months of the campaign. Instead, D.N.C. officials instructed Lindner to give directly to state-party coffers, which are subject to far less public scrutiny than federal-election accounts. On April 12, 1996, the day after Kantor asked the WTO to examine Chiquita's grievance, Lindner and his top executives began funneling more than $500,000 to about two dozen states from Florida to California, campaign officials told Time."
"He has a lot of connections and a lot of reputation," said Neal Fisher, administrator for North Dakota's wheat commission. "We think he's very well-placed and well-respected."
Currently Kantor is a partner in the law firm of Mayer, Brown & Platt since 1997 and serves on the board of directrors of "life sciences" corporation Monsanto where he owns 6255 shares of company stock.
"There has been this close time between corporate agribusiness advocacy and the Trade Representative's office," notes Beth Burrows of the Edmonds Institute, a nonprofit, public interest group that focuses on legally binding international policy and biotechnology and agriculture issues.
She points out that the man who once formulated trade
policy is now working for groups whose economics were affected
by the laws he helped create. And as a member of the board
for Monsanto, one of the world's largest agriculture and
chemical companies, he was paid $90,000 last year.
DID THE CHICKEN CROSS THE ROAD?
TO GET ELECTRICALLY ZAPPED BY TYSON FOODS
Joining the ever-increasing number of food processing companies who are turning to irradiation as a corporate panacea for ridding their assembly-line manufacturing of harmful food bacteria, Tyson Foods Inc., the nation's largest poultry producer, has announced that it will begin using electron beams generated from regular electrical currents to treat some of its food products for contamination.
Tyson says the process will eliminate pathogens and extend shelf life of some of its refrigerated products.
Some methods for similarly treating food involve radioactive sources but Tyson has contracted with Titan Corp. to use electron beams. Tyson and Titan are to spend the next several months testing products and developing packaging and labeling. Tyson says a market test could come early next year.
Titan Corp., a small San Diego, California defense company, which depends on the U.S. government for 80% of its revenue, has in the past year drawn the attention of stock investors by the applying its military technology to zapping the food supply with irradiation.
By applying the expertise it acquired in developing electron-beam technology for Ronald Reagan's Star Wars missile-defense program the company hopes to establish itself as a major provider of the necessary means to irradiate food products.
Already, the company found in 1981, has sold its SureBeam technology to Hawaii Pride LLC, Hilo, Hawaii, to X-ray fruit-fly infestations of fruit and flowers and in April it entered into exclusive agreements with IBP Inc. of Dakota City, Nebraska, and Cargill Inc.'s Excel Corp. unit in Wichita, Kansas, for irradiating ground beef. The two latter contracts, whose value was not disclosed, will cover the producers of about 75% of the ground beef sold in the U.S.
In a statement, Tyson said that it does not regard irradiation as a cure-all for eliminating harmful bacteria from food and that consumers using its irradiated products will still have to handle the meat safely and make sure it is fully cooked. The process sterilizes bacteria so it cannot reproduce and therefore won't sicken the person who ate it.
Titan vice president for investor relations Rochelle Bold told the Associated Press that the system is easy to implement at a processing plant. "That's one of the beauties," she said. "You're talking about electricity you plug into a wall. It has none of the environmental effects of Cobalt 60 and gamma rays" used in other methods of irradiation.
Titan's SureBeam electron accelerator was originally
developed in the 1980s, when Reagan, Edward Teller, the Pentagon
& Co. envisioned lasers zapping incoming enemy missiles.
Later, in 1992, the device was adapted to the sterilized packaging
of medical instruments which accounted for just $10 million of
Titan's 1998 revenue. Each machine now costs about $5 million
to $6 million, but Dr. Ray and other Titan executives now
foresee another use for the beam, which disrupts the DNA structure
of the microorganisms it hits, rendering them sterile on any food.
TO FRIENDS AND FOES ALIKE
Awards come and go, but many family farmers found themselves scratching their heads in puzzlement recently with the announcement by the National Farmers Union (NFU) of its "Presidential Awards for Leadership" to eight members of Congress and two White House officials for "extraordinary accomplishments" on key agricultural issues. It is the first time NFU has presented such awards.
"These lawmakers and administration officials have all shown great leadership to address the challenges facing family farmers and ranchers," claimed NFU President Leland Swenson. "Their leadership on these issues has been instrumental to the process. They have been outspoken advocates, going the extra mile to get the job done. We commend them for their outstanding work."
Awards were presented to:
Sen. Tim Johnson, Dem.-South Dakota, for leadership on country-of-origin labeling for food products; Sen. Kohl, Dem.-Wisconsin, for leadership in obtaining emergency payments for dairy producers; Rep. David Obey, Dem.-Wisconsin, for leadership in obtaining emergency payments for dairy producers, and Rep. Marion Berry, Dem.-Arkansas, for leadership on legislation to strengthen the farm safety net.
Senator Johnson also recently announced that he is drafting legislation to prohibit meatpackers from owning livestock. In the midst of incredible consolidation and near-monopoly by agriculture processors, especially meatpackers, "it is time to rein in the huge meatpackers and reestablish a free, fair and competitive market for independent livestock producers," Johnson said. "Just as producers demanded action in 1921, they are again demanding that Congress support free enterprise over monopoly."
With Johnson's legislation meatpackers would no longer be able to own livestock prior to purchase for slaughter in an open market, although it would provide exceptions for farmers and ranchers who own livestock in a producer owned and controlled cooperative.
Johnson points out that current anti-trust law fails to address the concerns of livestock producers in the marketplace, and instead creates an imbalance in bargaining power between huge meatpackers and independent livestock sellers. "We face a crossroads in the structure of agriculture. We face a choice between the corporatization of agriculture and a fight for free enterprise. I gladly and proudly cast my lot with the free enterprise family agriculture that has served our country so well."
NFU awards were also surprisingly presented to Sen. Richard Lugar, Rep.-Indiana, for leadership on mandatory price reporting for livestock sales; Rep. Larry Combest, Rep.-Texas, for leadership on crop insurance reform; Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, Rep.-Missouri, for leadership on legislation to strengthen the farm safety net, and Rep. John Thune, Rep.-South Dakota, for leadership on crop insurance reform and legislation to strengthen the farm safety net.
It was Lugar, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, however, and his fellow Republicans who not only shepherd the disastrous Freedom to Farm Bill through the Congress in 1995, but are currently seeking to promote a "safety net" for farmers fashioned out of funds to "help" farmers by subsidizing the crop insurance industry.
As the Defenders of the Wildlife recently reported "not surprisingly these efforts have everything to do with the American Farm Bureau making more money and very little to do with keeping small family farmers in business. In fact, these crop insurance programs may help contribute to the decline of family farmers. . . ."
As the Defenders point out in their recent publication GREEN Rural UPdates, "with proposals before Congress the crop insurance subsidy this year will exceed $4 billion. Not a penny of that will be directly delivered to the farmer. It will go to the insurance industry. With the Farm Bureau lobbying on behalf of these proposals, the bureau's financial ties to insurance should be scrutinized carefully. Considering their intimate insurance connections, Farm Bureau's non-profit status as a farm trade group seems in conflict of interest.
"By some estimates," they point out, "factoring in underwriting gains, reinsurance schemes and administrative costs, with current expansion, the federal crop insurance could generate $7 billion in gross annual capital for the insurance industry. Of this, 24.5% goes directly to the insurance industry in administrative fees.Of the 14 companies approved by the USDA to provide crop insurance, Farm Bureau owns and controls about one-third of them. The others may be linked through re-insurance schemes."
Awards to White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, for "leadership
in working with farmers to advance policies to strengthen agriculture
and rural communities;" and White House Public Liaison Barbara
Woolley, for leadership in working with farmers to advance policies
to strengthen agriculture and rural communities, were also announced
by the NFU.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Passed on to THE AGRIBUINESS EXAMINER by a friend of a friend.
1. Only in America......can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.
2. Only in America......are there handicap parking places in front of a skating rink.
3. Only in America......do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
4. Only in America......do people order double cheese burgers, large fries, and a diet coke.
5. Only in America......do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters.
6. Only in America......do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.
7. Only in America......do we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place.
8. Only in America......do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.
9. Only in America......do we use the word "politics" to describe the "bloodsucking creatures".
10. Only in America......do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.
11. Only in America......can a homeless combat veteran live in a cardboard box and a draft dodger live in the White House.
But, if you can find a better place, move there!!