Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective
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FOX NEWS HIRES CLINTON IMPEACHMENT LAWYERS
TO FIGHT TV REPORTERS JANE AKRE & STEVE WILSON
Justice delayed is justice denied, as investigative reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson are learning from their suit against their former employer Rupert Murdoch's FOX 13 TV station in Tampa Bay, Florida in which they are claiming they were fired for refusing to broadcast statements which they considered to be untrue about bovine growth hormone (rBGH),which is manufactured by Monsanto, a major FOX advertiser.
Despite a trial court judge Gaspar Ficcarotta, who clearly does not want to preside in the case, a battery of high-priced Washington, D.C. lawyers defending FOX, and the nation's media which refuses to report their story, much less support their freedom of speech rights, Akre and Wilson have scored some welcome preliminary victories in their suit.
While they have managed to win a series of continuances, FOX has nevertheless three times unsuccessfully sought to have the suit dismissed, the latest effort coming prior to the scheduled October 11 trial date which has now been again postponed indefinitely.
In August, attorney William McDaniels of the Washington firm Williams & Connolly filed a mountain of papers along with a Motion For Partial Summary Judgment in the case. He argued the journalists' whistleblower claim should be thrown out primarily because only the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the right to pass judgment on whether a broadcast licensee deliberately tried to slant the news. His motion was denied.
During the pretrial process both sides have exchanged lists of witnesses expected to testify at the trial. Included among the journalists' witnesses is consumer activist Ralph Nader who has agreed to come to Florida to testify as an expert about the public interest, stressing that broadcasters' use of the public airwaves mandate that they act in the public interest, especially in the news reports they broadcast. FOX attorneys have indicated informally that they will do their best to block Nader's testimony.
Attorney John Chamblee who represents reporter Jane Akre argued against the FOX dismissal motion and provided an equally-thorough written brief to the Court. The "weight of the evidence" submitted to the judge on this issue alone is more than 20 pounds. Wilson, who has represented himself throughout most of the pretrial proceedings, also presented an oral argument that the dispute was much more than an honest editorial disagreement as FOX has repeatedly claimed.
In Florida as in many other jurisdictions, there is a very high standard to be met before denying a party an opportunity to try a claim before a jury. A similar Motion by FOX was denied months ago by Judge Robert Bonanno as was a Motion To Dismiss the claim shortly after it was filed.
Besides Williams & Connolly attorney McDaniels (who tried the Lt. William Calley, Jr. Vietnam My Lai massacre case) and Alicia Marti, a junior member of the firm and Pat Anderson and Tom McGowan of the St. Petersburg, Florida law firm of Rahdert, Anderson, McGowan & Steele, FOX attorneys include Gary Roberts (in -house counsel) and Ted Russell (junior member). New York's Squadron, Ellenoff's Clifford Thau will represent Roger Ailes and in St. Louis, Missouri Steve Rovak with the law firm Sonnenschein, Nath, and Rosenthal will represent Monsanto.
President Clinton's personal attorney David Kendall of the Williams & Connolly firm is also representing FOX's interests in the matter. His involvement came to light at the deposition of St. Petersburg lawyer Patricia Anderson who produced a recent letter from Kendall to Monsanto lawyer John Walsh. It was Walsh's letters to FOX News chief Roger Ailes that kindled the whole dispute in early 1997.
It was also Williams & Connolly who recently represented both Bill Clinton in his Senate impeachment trial and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in the Department of Justice's anti-trust price fixing suit.
Commenting on the addition of Williams & Connolly to the FOX defense team reporter Steve Wilson observes, "I don't think you pay those kind of lawyers that kind of money to second-chair a case. I suspect the loss of their summary judgment motion was the final straw for the local team. With the case now headed for trial, it seems FOX decided it could use a little more juice. Jane and I have every confidence our own attorneys --- John Chamblee and Steve Wenzel --- will continue to do a superb job with this case."
FOX TV BOWS TO MONSANTO THREAT
SCRAPS NEWS SERIES EXPOSING USE OF rBGH
The plight of the one-time Tampa, Florida TV investigative-reporter husband-wife team Jane Akre and Steve Wilson and their unsuccessful efforts to air a carefully researched report on Monsanto's rBGH and its potential dangers to cows and the nation's milk supply vividly illustrates how the "power of the press" is rapidly being preempted by corporate America.
rBGH is a bovine growth hormone designed and produced by Monsanto to increase the milk production of cows by roughly 33%. Although approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993, the artificial hormone has been linked to cancer and is banned throughout Europe and unapproved in several other countries because of human health concerns.
The reporters never-broadcast report also revealed how Florida supermarkets quietly reneged on promises not to sell milk from treated cows until the hormone gained widespread acceptance by consumers. All major supermarkets now admit rBGH has found its way into virtually all of Florida's milk supply.
Immediately prior to their attempt to present a four-part series on the possible health dangers of rBGH on FOX Television's WTVT (Channel 13) station in Tampa Bay, Florida in February, 1997, Akre and Wilson learned that FOX had ordered the series not to be shown. The order came after the TV network received letters from Monsanto expressing "dissatisfaction" with the report.
With a certain touch of irony none other than multi-billionaire Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp. chairman, recently observed in a BBC interview that he thinks if anyone wants to take over the world, it's the man who accused him of wanting to --- media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. "He's hiding behind me. He's your man," Gates declared.
Gates says running Microsoft is "not like owning a newspaper," referring to Murdoch's News Corp. empire, which includes newspapers in the United States, England and Australia, as well as the 20th Century Fox movie studio, FOX Television, the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team and satellite TV networks on several continents.
It was when Murdoch gained U.S. citizenship he celebrated by adding 13 major U.S. stations, including Tampa Bay's WTVT, to his FOX network. FOX, which is part of Murdoch's vast conglomerate, then owned 22 U.S. stations, reaching more than 50% of American viewers
"Someone who owns a newspaper can pick up the phone to the editor and say `run headlines I like,'" Gates says.
In a stunning illustration of Gates' observation the New York Times Bernard Weinraub reported yesterday from Hollywood that 20th Century Fox has stopped all movie studio advertising indefinitely in The Hollywood Reporter, a movie trade daily, a move intended to damage the trade paper financially. While executives at the studio, which is owned by News Corp., insisted that the decision was based on long-standing unhappiness with the way the trade paper was covering FOX, editors at The Hollywood Reporter, and just about everyone else in town, according to Weinraub, said that the reason for the economic boycott was simple: studio anger at the caustic comments in the newspaper about the new FOX film "Fight Club," which opened last Friday.
The movie is a violent fantasy about men who pummel each other and go to physical extremes because they view their lives as miserable. "What enraged FOX executives were two Hollywood Reporter articles about the movie in the last two weeks. One brief article, written by Anita M. Busch, the newspaper's editor, and Thom Geier, a reporter, said that the openings of the film in Los Angeles and New York had been disastrous. Producers and agents were quoted, anonymously, as saying the big-budget movie was `loathsome,' `absolutely indefensible' and `deplorable on every level,'" Weinraub adds.
FOX 13 GENERAL MANAGER TO AKRE & WILSON:
"WE PAID $3 BILLION FOR THESE TV STATIONS.
WE WILL DECIDED WHAT THE NEWS IS.
THE NEWS IS WHAT WE TELL YOU IT IS."
What makes the Jane Akre and Steve Wilson story so outrageous is that WTVT and FOX Television did not just order the reporters' rBGH series scraped, like print and media outlets sometimes do when they deem stories not in their own best financial interests, but actually ordered Akre and Wilson to change facts in the story, omit sources, etc.
In their two-month investigation Akre and Wilson raised a number of human and animal health concerns as they found that Florida grocers had broken their pledge not to buy milk from hormone-injected herds. Akre even photographed cows being injected with the rBGH Posilac at seven out of seven local dairies chosen at random.
The news managers at WTVT, now known as FOX 13, were sufficiently impressed to buy thousands of dollars of radio advertising in the run-up to the scheduled broadcast, on February 24, 1997. At the last minute, however, Monsanto lawyer John Walsh approached Roger Ailes, head of FOX News in New York stating that the program was "inaccurate" and "unsubstantiated." Within hours, the documentary was pulled "for further review."
The journalists' court documents say that they were "concerned about the threatening nature of the Monsanto letter, particularly the part which read `There is a lot at stake in what is going on in Florida, not only for Monsanto, but also for FOX News and its owner'."
Not surprising, Monsanto is a client of Actmedia, a major advertising company owned by Murdoch. FOX stations throughout the country sell commercial time to Monsanto for products such as Roundup, its widely-used herbicide, and foods and drinks containing NutraSweet, the leading brand of aspartame artificial sweetener.
According to the journalists' lawsuit, the general manager of FOX 13, a former investigative reporter, and the station's lawyers scrutinized the broadcast frame by frame and found that "nothing in the [Monsanto] letter raised any credible claim to the truthfulness, accuracy, or fairness of the[documentary] reports." The station then set a new date for broadcast, a week after the initial one.
But Monsanto's lawyers now sent Ailes, who served as director of media relations for Republican president George Bush, a second and more hostile letter, and the Tampa station pulled the rBGH broadcast again, this time for good.
Soon afterwards, FOX fired Tampa Bay's general manager and news manager. And the new management offered Akre and Wilson more than $150,000 in exchange for their resignations and a promise not to publish details about Posilac or how the stories were handled by FOX.
The pair refused. Likewise, the journalists claim that the new managers threatened to fire them if they did not include information that they believed to be false: that milk from Posilac-injected cows is the same and as safe as milk from untreated cows.
Monsanto insisted that this statement be aired. But the journalists presented scientific evidence suggesting this was not true. FOX 13, however, having taken legal advice, eventually sided with Monsanto and when the journalists refused to back down, it suspended them for "insubordination," then terminated their contracts in December 1997. Six months later, the station hired a less experienced reporter to prepare another broadcast, one that contained the Monsanto statement.
The husband-and-wife investigative team, however, have blown the whistle on the station and FOX and its corporate bosses in a lawsuit claiming the station preferred to coverup their story rather than broadcast it honestly and accurately.
In supporting papers filed with the court, the journalists say WTVT General Manager David Boylan refused to kill the story for fear the viewing public would learn the station yielded to pressure from special interests. Instead, Wilson and Akre allege, Boylan ordered the reporters to broadcast a version which contained demonstrably false information and he threatened to fire them both within 48 hours if they refused.
Akre-Wilson relate that at one point Boylan told the reporters, "he wasn't interested" in looking at the story himself and pressured them to follow the company's lawyer's directions. "Are you sure this is a hill you're willing to die on," he told them. Later, they claim, he stressed, "We paid $3 billion for these television stations. We will decide what the news is. The news is what we tell you it is."
In their suit the reporters are charging in detail FOX television, owned by Rupert Murdoch's multi-national News Corp, ("News Corporation is the only vertically integrated media company on a global scale"- 1997 Annual Report) strongly pressured by Monsanto, violated the state's whistleblower act by firing them for refusing to broadcast false reports and threatening to report the station's conduct to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Their complaint also claims the station violated their contracts in dismissing them for those reasons and it seeks a ruling from the court to determine to what extent the reporters' contractual obligations limit their ability to speak freely about the rBGH issue. The journalists filed the suit after struggling with FOX executives for most of 1997 to get the story on the air, submitting some 73 drafts of scripts all found "unacceptable" by the station.
"Every editor has the right to kill a story and any honest reporter will tell you that happens from time to time when a news organization's self interest wins out over the public interest," said Wilson, the station's former senior investigative reporter who helped Akre produce the story and is now one of the plaintiffs.
"But when media managers who are not journalists have so little regard for the public trust that they actually order reporters to broadcast false information and slant the truth to curry the favor or avoid the wrath of special interests as happened here, that is the day any responsible reporter has to stand up and say, `No way!' That is what Jane and I are saying with this lawsuit," Wilson added.
While Akre and Wilson's situation, has been near totally ignored by the nation's major media, with the exception of articles in Penthouse and The Nation magazines, the team has nevertheless been presenting their story in full detail at a special Internet web site that can be viewed at
WHEN WILL THE CHICKENS COME HOME TO ROOST?
"Much has been made recently in the media about President Bill Clinton's efforts to bolster the Federal Government's efforts to insure the safety of the nation's food supply. He has even asked Congress to provide $101 million to deploy more food safety inspectors and new technology, expand research into the causes of and solutions to food-related illness, and educate consumers and retail food outlets on the safest food handling practices.
"Nice try Mr. President, but once again the facts of the matter suggest still more `inappropriate behavior' by the nation's chief executive and his Arkansas cohorts. For behind those recent headlines still lurks a scandal that has been conveniently obscured by Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Ken Starr, Janet Reno et. al., a scandal concerning violating the public's trust in government relative to the health and safety of the food supply.
"For while the Starr `investigation' has been the headline grabber for many months now it is the investigation by the `other' independent counsel, Donald Smaltz, that many believe has the White House more concerned than a 21-year old intern pleasuring the President of the United States in the Oval Office."
The above three paragraphs first appeared in the lead story published in the "Premiere Issue" of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER. Yet, it is now 15 months later and the major media is still intent on ignoring the facts surrounding the Smaltz investigation. But thanks to my ever-watchful colleague Sam Smith in his THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW the facts of the Smaltz investigation will not disappear. In his October 17 issue of "Undernews" Smith reports:
"Major media, led by the New York Times and Washington Post, continue to misreport the facts of the Michael Espy [former USDA Secretary] case in a way that smears the highly credible efforts of special prosecutor Dan Smaltz and his staff, including Robert Ray, who is taking over Kenneth Starr's job.
"For example, here's the latest account from the NYT:
"'Mr. Espy was indicted on charges of taking illegal gifts, but after a lengthy and expensive investigation and trial, Mr. Espy was acquitted of all charges. But Mr. Ray was the lead prosecutor in the case against Archie Schaffer, a senior employee at Tyson Foods, the huge Arkansas-based poultry producer. Mr. Schaffer was convicted of two counts of providing illegal gifts to Mr. Espy. The trial judge threw out both convictions, but an appeals court reinstated one of the counts.'
"Now here are some of the facts papers like the Post and the Times routinely omit:
" * While Espy, charged under a corrupt law that makes conviction, was acquitted, Tyson Foods copped a plea in the same case, paying $6 million in fines and serving four years' probation. The charge: that Tyson had illegally offered Espy $12,000 in airplane rides, football tickets and other payoffs. Espy got off because the law makes it easier to convict a briber than a bribee. As the Washington Times put it, `Intent by the companies who gave him the gifts did not matter in the decision.'
" * In the Espy investigation, Smaltz obtained 15 convictions and collected over $11 million in fines and civil penalties. Offenses for which convictions were obtained included false statements, concealing money from prohibited sources, illegal gratuities, illegal contributions, falsifying records, interstate transportation of stolen property, money laundering, and illegal receipt of USDA subsidies.
" * Schaffer was convicted under the stricter provisions of the Meat Inspection Act. The charge: illegal gifts of $8,500 to Espy.
" * Janet Reno blocked Smaltz from pursuing leads aimed at allegations of major drug trafficking in Arkansas and payoffs to the then governor of the state, W.J. Clinton.
" * Espy was made ag secretary only after being flown to Arkansas to get the approval of Don Tyson. In office, Espy backtracked on tougher chicken contamination standards.
" * Although the precise number of food poisoning cases is impossible to come by, U.S. officials say the reported cases of chicken poisoning rose three-fold between 1988 and 1992.
"In short, Espy received more than $20,000 in payoffs from a company that among other things, does so much business with the feds that its fine amounts to just 3% of its annual government contracts."
For a free trial subscription to both Smith's bi-monthly hard copy edition and his regular e-mail updates send e-mail and terrestrial address to firstname.lastname@example.org
THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
1312 18th St NW (5th Floor)
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Editor: Sam Smith
TYSON FOODS FINED $60,000
FOR CHILD LABOR LAW VIOLATIONS
After a teenager was killed at an Arkansas Tyson Foods plant and a young worker was injured in a company-owned Missouri plant, the U.S. Department of Labor has fined the nation's largest poultry producer nearly $60,000 for child labor law violations, according to the Dow Jones Newswire.
In the Arkansas case, Labor Department investigators said 15-year-old Juan Alderete of San Felipe, Mexico, was electrocuted when he walked into a ventilating fan while chasing chickens late one night last April. The Labor Department said he should not have been working so late or in a job that hazardous. In the Missouri case, a teenage worker seriously injured both his legs when he slipped and fell into an auger. He suffered severe nerve damage and second-degree burns.
The Labor Department also said a 15-year-old and two 14-year-olds were found to be working at the Missouri plant illegally.
Tyson Foods spokesman Archie Schaffer (see above story) said he had not heard of the fines and could not comment immediately. The company has 15 days to request a hearing before an administrative law judge.
MINNESOTA'S PAUL WELLSTONE INTRODUCES
AGRIBUSINESS MERGER MORATORIUM ACT OF 1999
Alarmed over the growing corporate concentration in agribusiness and recognizing that such concentration is seen by family farmers and farm organizations as agriculture's number one problem today, Senator Paul Wellstone (Dem.- Minnesota) has introduced the Agribusiness Merger Moratorium Act of 1999.
Wellstone's legislation, co-sponsored by Senators Byron Dorgan (Dem.- North Dakota), Tom Daschle (Dem.- South Dakota), Tom Harkin (Dem.- Iowa), Russ Feingold (Dem.- Wisconsin) and Tim Johnson (Dem.- South Dakota) would impose a moratorium on mergers and acquisitions among agribusinesses with annual net revenue or assets of more than $100 million for one party, and $10 million for the other. The moratorium would remain in effect for 18 months, or until Congress enacts legislation to address the problem of concentration in agriculture, whichever occurs first.
The legislation also establishes a federal review commission to study and make additional legislative recommendations regarding concentration in agriculture.The commission will be designed "to study the nature and the consequences of this concentration in the agricultural sector and make recommendations for reform of our antitrust laws so that we can put some free enterprise back into the food industry," Wellstone emphasizes. The commission would consist of 12 members including four farmers. Members would be appointed by the leadership of both houses.
"The current system is failing America's family farmers, that's certain," says Wellstone. "We need to restore competition to the marketplace by reversing the trend towards concentration and by putting a stop to anti-competitive practices in the agricultural sector. Until Congress develops a long-term solution to this problem, we need immediate action in the form of a moratorium on new mergers and acquisitions among large agribusinesses. While a long-term solution to the growing problem of concentration in agriculture may take time to enact, Congress can and must take action now."
The recent increase in merger and acquisition activity such as Cargill acquiring Continental Grain's grain merchandising division, Smithfield Foods buying up Murphy Family Farms and Tyson Foods Pork Group, Farmland Industries and Cenex merging, Monsanto's purchase of Dekalb and its pending acquisition of Delta Pine & Land Co., DuPont's purchase of Pioneer Hi-Bred, the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroad merger, and a pending deal between farm implement manufacturers New Holland and Case and anti-competitive practices such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) pleading guilty to price fixing in the feed additive market has all undermined the marketplace competition farmers depend upon to get a fair price for their production.
Today, a handful of firms appear at the top of the list of the largest processors for every
major commodity, and most of them are vertically integrated, e.g. Cargill and ADM ("Supermarkup to the World") own the nation's grain trade; IBP, Excel (the Cargill subsidiary) and ConAgra control 81% of the beef packing industry: Tyson Foods processes the majority of the nation's poultry and Smithfield Foods controls the nation's pork production and processing industry.
Because of the rapidly declining competition in these agricultural markets and others, the farmer's share of profit is falling as the profit share captured by farm input, marketing, and processing companies grows while agribusinesses continue to post record profits, even as depression conditions are forcing thousands of family farmers out of agriculture.
"It is clear that agricultural commodity markets have become stacked against the farmer as a result of growing concentration. The big agribusiness companies talk about efficiency, but there's more at stake here. Antitrust is key to this whole equation," Wellstone stresses.
For Sen. Dorgan, the "last straw" was the merger between the nation's two largest grain exporters, Continental Grain Co. and Cargill Inc., which left little competition in that sector. He said that the freedom to farm is becoming "the freedom to farm in a marketplace that is now controlled by monopolies." This legislation is "an attempt to see if we can't put a stop to the increased concentration," Dorgan said.
"Through the exercise of raw power and unfair tactics, corporate agribusiness interests have family farmers on the ropes," laments Sen. Harkin. "The Justice Department is supposed to be the referee, but it has not stepped in to keep the fight fair."
Justice Department officials have said it is in the interest of farmers for U.S. companies to cut their costs because they have to compete overseas. "This industry is restructuring like a lot of industries outside of agriculture in response to many economic factors," Janet Riley, a spokeswoman for the American Meat Institute, which represents packers, told the Associated Press.
At the same time the Wellstone, Dorgan, Daschle and Harkin were calling for more vigorous anti-trust action the Washington Post's Dan Morgan and Juliet Eilperin were reporting that their senatorial colleague Sen. Slade Gorton (Rep.-Washington) is "aggressively pressing" a drive on behalf of Microsoft and its "lobbyists and allies" to get Congress to reduce next year's proposed funding for the Justice Department's antitrust division.
Gorton,whose re-election campaign has received about $51,000 from Microsoft or its employees since 1997, has been an outspoken supporter of a cut in the antitrust budget.
Such an action would "express total dissatisfaction with the way Justice is handling the case against Microsoft," said a spokeswoman for Gorton. She added that Gorton, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is "pretty confident he will be able to get [the Senate] number lowered closer to the House number."
Microsoft representatives, Morgan and Eilperin note, have urged House and Senate members to cut President Clinton's proposed funding for the division by about $9 million this year. Likewise, nonprofit organizations that receive financial support from Microsoft have also urged key congressional appropriators to limit spending for the division when they begin their final negotiations on the Justice Department budget.
SEN. JOHNSON OFFERS THE R.A.N.C.H.E.R ACT
BAN MEAT PACKERS FROM OWNING LIVESTOCK
Legislation that would that would ban meat packers from owning livestock and would retroactively require Smithfield Foods to divest its ownership of livestock was introduced in the U.S. Senate last week by Sen. Tim Johnson (Dem. - South Dakota) Smithfield has announced its intention to buy Murphy Family Farms and Tyson Foods' pork production. Pork packers would be given 18 months to phase out of ownership of hogs.
The R.A.N.C.H.E.R Act (Rural America Needs Competition to Help Every Rancher) would strengthen and amend Section 202 of the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 by prohibiting packers from owning livestock prior to purchase for slaughter. It would allow, however, packers to obtain livestock within 14 days of slaughter in order to have a reasonable supply on hand.
Co-sponsored by Sen. Bob Kerrey (Dem.- Nebraska), Sen. Charles Grassley (Rep.- Iowa) and Sen. Craig Thomas (Rep.- Wyoming) the legislation would also exempt meatpackers owned by co-ops, if a majority of the interest in the co-op is held by co-op members who own livestock and supply those slaughter livestock to the co-op.
"Packer ownership of livestock increases the likelihood of price manipulation in the marketplace," Johnson said in a statement. "As a result of having slaughter livestock supplies locked up through captive supplies, meatpackers do not have to bid competitively for all of their slaughter needs."
Increasing packer ownership of livestock and a surge in industry consolidation have raised concerns about price manipulation in the market for independent producers selling their livestock. Currently, three packers --- IBP, Excel and ConAgra --- control some 81% of the cattle market and four firms control nearly 60% of the hog market.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Commerce recently issued its final determination in its continuing antidumping investigation regarding live cattle from Canada. The Department determined that Canadian cattle are being sold in the United States at dumped prices. Commerce found that the margin of dumping for five Canadian feedlots ranged from 3.86% to 15.69%, with a weighted average "all others" rate of 5.63%.
The case will conclude when the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) makes a final determination on whether the U.S. cattle industry is injured as a result of dumped Canadian cattle. If the ITC makes an affirmative determination, all cattle imported from Canada will be assessed antidumping duties. The ITC will most likely make its final determination in mid-November.
"U.S. cattle producers have known all along that Canadian cattle are being sold in the United States at dumped prices. R-CALF is pleased that the Department of Commerce has confirmed what is obvious to us," said Leo McDonnell, Jr., the President and founder of R-CALF and a rancher in Columbus, Montana.
"Commerce's action brings U.S. cattle producers one step closer toward receiving a fair price for their product. Today's decision clearly demonstrates that what R-CALF and its thousands of supporters are seeking, an end to unfair trade practices, is an attainable goal," said Kathleen Sullivan Kelley, Vice President of R-CALF and a rancher from Meeker, Colorado.
R-CALF (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Foundation) is a grassroots membership organization of cattlemen and women concerned with our country's trade laws and policies. Over 25,000 cattle producers from the majority of the states have signed letters in support of R-CALF's antidumping and countervailing duty petitions. In addition, over 100 local, state, and national cattle producer organizations have officially granted their support to R-CALF's efforts.
NFFC FARMERS' DECLARATION
ON GENETIC ENGINEERING IN AGRICULTURE
In the face of the growing controversy over genetic engineered crops and food the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), which currently consists of 33 farm, resource conservation and rural advocacy groups from 33 states bringing together farmers and others to organize national projects on preserving and strengthening family farms, is sponsoring a nine-point petition drive titled "Farmers' Declaration on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture." It declares:
"Genetic engineering in agriculture has significantly increased the economic uncertainty of family farmers throughout the U.S. and the world. American farmers have lost critical markets which are closed to genetically engineered products. Corporate control of the seed supply threatens farmers' independence. The risk of genetic drift has made it difficult and expensive for farmers to market a pure product.
"Genetic engineering has created social and economic disruption that threatens traditional agricultural practices for farmers around the world. Farmers, who have maintained the consumer's trust by producing safe, reasonably priced and nutritious food, now fear losing that trust as a result of consumer rejection of genetically engineered foods.
"Many scientists believe genetically engineered organisms have been released into the environment and the food supply without adequate testing. Farmers who have used this new technology may be facing massive liability from damage caused by genetic drift, increased weed and pest resistance, and the destruction of wildlife and beneficial insects.
"Because of all the unknowns, we, as farmers, therefore:
"1. Demand a suspension of sales, environmental releases and further government approvals of all genetically engineered seeds and agriculture products until an independent and comprehensive assessment of the social, environmental, health and economic impacts of those products is concluded.
"2. Demand a ban on the ownership of all forms of life including a ban on the patenting of seeds, plants, animals, genes and cell lines.
"3. Demand that agrarian people who have cultivated and nurtured crops for thousands of years retain control of natural resources and maintain the right to use or reuse any genetic resource.
"4. Demand that corporate agribusiness be held liable for any and all damages that result from the use of genetically engineered crops and livestock that were approved for use without an adequate assessment of the risks posed to farmers, human health and the environment.
"5. Demand that the corporations and institutions that have intervened in the genetic integrity of life bear the burden of proof that their actions will not harm human health, the environment or damage the social and economic health of rural communities. Those corporations must bear the cost of an independent review guided by the precautionary principle and conducted prior to the introduction of any new intervention.
"6. Demand that consumers in the U.S. and around the globe have the right to know whether their food is genetically engineered and have a right to access naturally produced food.
"7. Demand that farmers who reject genetic engineering should not bear the cost of establishing that their product is free of genetic engineering.
"8. Demand the protection of family farmers, farmworkers, consumers, and the environment by ending monopoly practices of corporate agribusiness through enforcement of all state and federal anti-trust, market concentration and corporate farming laws; by a renewed commitment to public interest agricultural research led by the land grant colleges; by an immediate shift of funding from genetic engineering to sustainable agriculture; and by expanding the availability of traditional varieties of crops and livestock.
"9. Demand an end to mandatory check off programs that use farmers' money to support and promote genetic engineering research and corporate control of agriculture."
To sign onto this declaration, please email to email@example.com or fax to (202) 543-0978 with your: Name, Organization, Phone and Fax number or email address.
"The Kingdom of Apples: Picking the Fruit of Immortality in Washington's Laden Orchards," by David Guterson, Harper's Magazine, October, 1999: pgs 41-56.