Received: from swan.prod.itd.earthlink.net (swan.prod.itd.earthlink.net [207.217.120.123]) by electricarrow.com (8.8.7/8.8.5) with ESMTP id WAA27797; Mon, 13 Dec 1999 22:30:20 -0800 (PST) Received: from earthlink.net (sdn-ar-001walynwP116.dialsprint.net [158.252.226.76]) by swan.prod.itd.earthlink.net (8.9.3/8.9.3) with ESMTP id WAA26853; Mon, 13 Dec 1999 22:18:43 -0800 (PST) Message-ID:<3855e173.f744815b@earthlink.net>Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1999 22:20:08 -0800 From: "Albert V. Krebs"Reply-To: avkrebs@earthlink.net X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.05 (Macintosh; I; PPC) MIME-Version: 1.0 To: one@earthlink.net Subject: THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER #58 Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="------------84C8B6A0A9F20E26EE1BFDCA" Status: U X-Mozilla-Status: 8001 X-Mozilla-Status2: 00000000 X-UIDL: 31599f82bc6ff3bffaf2707bd379f2b2 --------------84C8B6A0A9F20E26EE1BFDCA Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1; x-mac-type="54455854"; x-mac-creator="4D4F5353" Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit The AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER Issue # 58 December 14, 1999 Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective A.V. Krebs Editor\Publisher EDITORS NOTE Although there is no subscription fee for THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER, donations will, as always, be gladly accepted.Checks made out to A.V. Krebs, P.O. Box 2201, Everett, Washington 98203-0201 [NOT to "Agribusiness Examiner"] will continue to be received with much gratitude. A reminder also to those who might wish to receive a weekly e-mail edition of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER, please provide your NAME and E-MAIL ADDRESS. At this time THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER is not available in printed form. JUDGE DISREGARDS SALMONELLA TAINTED MEAT ORDERS BALKING INSPECTORS BACK TO WORK CLAIMS USDA EFFORTS TO SHUT DOWN SUPREME BEEF COULD CAUSE "IRREPARABLE HARM TO THE COMPANY" Despite the U.S. Department of Agriculture withdrawing its inspectors from Supreme Beef Processors, a Dallas, Texas company which supplies 45% of the ground beef used in the national school lunch program and also supplies beef to Wal-Mart and which has consistently failed in the past eight months inspections for salmonella contamination, a federal judge has halted efforts to shut the company's plant down. Without the inspectors, the plant could not sell food legally in interstate commerce. Responding, however, to a Supreme lawsuit, Judge A. Joe Fish of Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas said withdrawing the inspectors could result in irreparable harm to the company and issued a temporary restraining order instructing the department to return its inspectors pending a hearing. Under regulations put into enacted in 1995, plants like Supreme are required to adopt the Pathogen Reduction and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points method of inspection, known as HACCP which was designed to identify critical points in the production process where contamination is likely to occur and implement plans to prevent contamination. Plants are required to perform microbial tests for the presence of salmonella, disease-causing bacteria that cause mild to severe gastrointestinal distress and, in immune-compromised populations, even death. Such tests for salmonella contamination are the government's only check to ensure that the HACCP plan is actually controlling food hazards in the plants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that there are more than one million cases of food-borne salmonella poisoning a year and 556 deaths. In its lawsuit against the USDA, Supreme said the government had no authority to regulate salmonella, arguing that "because salmonella is not an adulterant andbecause salmonella is destroyed during normal cooking, the presence of salmonella is not a public safety issue." It called the USDA's actions "arbitrary and capricious." Since the phasing in of the HACCP began in 1998 some 90% of the more than 3,000 plants covered by the regulations have met the performance standards set by the Agriculture Department. Those standards permit no more than 7.5% of a plant's ground beef to contain salmonella. In the latest analysis of the testing, covering the first half of 1999, 2.6% of the ground beef in the largest plants and 3.3% of the ground beef in the small plants was found to be contaminated. According to Supreme Beef's own documents, filed in its lawsuit against USDA, as many as 20% of its samples in the three sets of tests contained salmonella. Food safety experts predict that the outcome of the case could determine whether the HACCP science-based system for inspecting meat and poultry will remain in effect, or whether the Agriculture Department will be forced to return to a system where inspectors simply look for bumps and bruises that have no relationship to the bacteria that make people sick and that had been in effect since the beginning of the century, under which meat was not inspected for bacteria. Rosemary Mucklow, executive director of the National Meat Association, a trade association representing meat packers and processors, told the New York Times Marian Burros that the industry had had "some very serious concerns about salmonella performance standards in ground beef for about three or four months." Supreme Beef, she said, is "experiencing the consequences of a requirement that we think has some serious problems. It would have been better if U.S.D.A. had tried to work it out." Asked by Burros why Supreme Beef , which churns out 500,000 to 600,000 pounds of ground beef a day, was unable to meet the Agriculture Department's standards when 90% of the plants covered by the regulations had been able to, Mucklow replied, "I think it's true that Supreme Beef has been unlucky." Earlier this year the HACCP came under sharp attack from the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, a union representing the inspectors. The union has charged that the HACCP too often lets the meat industry regulate itself and forces inspectors to sit on the sidelines resulting in meat that is sometimes spotted with chipped paint, shards of metal and even maggots. As Donna Sewell, an inspector from Camilla, Georgia, rightfully observes "you're putting the consumer's safety at risk in processes like this." The inspectors allege that some plants don't have enough checkpoints to ensure safe meat and that the government is not allowing them to enforce the law and pull problem meat from the assembly line. Such meat is returned to the plants where it is legal to reprocess, using procedures such as heating and cooking, until it no longer poses a danger, said Felicia Nester, food safety director for the Government Accountability Project. That meat can be reused in a ready-to-eat form, Nester adds. The inspectors said they fear the government eventually will phase out the role of inspectors, opting for a system where monitors make infrequent visits to check on plants. Reflecting on Judge Fish's action, one Midwest cattleman observed: "This is an excellent example of how the government and the meat industry are jockeying for position at the same table, while the consumers are not even included. The standards are not `ougher,' they're obviously weaker. Because of HACCP, it took eight months for the USDA to shut this plant down, while the plant was busy putting out Salmonella-laced product to kids because it was more worried about the bottom line than keeping the place clean. "The USDA has stripped its own inspection staff of the ability to enforce sanitation rules, leaving that judgment up to the company itself. Can you imagine leaving kids' lives up to the judgment of people who are so cynical that they don't care if their product is loaded with poison and then turn around to say it's your fault if you don't cook it completely well-done? To top it off, the judge's remarks are lovely. `It could cause irreparable harm to the company!' He should be on the WTO judicial board." ADM DISMISSES NEW MOTHER FOR REFUSING TO WORK 12-HOUR SHIFTS In a story that U.S. Public Television viewers are not likely to see on their evening "Jim Lehrer Report," Agence France Presse reports that Lab technician Karen Barker, 30, who has been employed at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) --- "Supermarkup to the World" --- for 14 years, was recently dismissed from her job in Kent, southern England, after refusing to work 12-hour shifts when she returned from maternity leave. The British woman had asked to work eight-hour shifts to fit in with her childcare needs immediately prior to the Christmas season . With the backing of her Manufacturing Science and Finance union, Barker is taking ADM to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination."It is beyond belief that a massive multinational like ADM cannot accommodate the needs of a working mother," said Roger Lyons, general secretary of MSF, one of the most influential unions in Britain. "Sacking Karen just before Christmas suggests ADM are not a very family-friendly company," he added. ADM refused to comment. MORE LEGAL TROUBLES FOR DUPONT CO.? "FRAUDULENTLY" WITHHOLDING INFORMATION ON CONTAMINATED & CROP KILLER BENLATE FUNGICIDE Having already had to pay out over $1 billion dollars to settle legal claims arising from the sale of its contaminated and crop killer Benlate fungicide, the DuPont Co. is now facing additional claims from farmers and nursery owners who charge that the company fraudulently withheld information about Benlate, resulting in their settling for less money than they otherwise would have done. The farmers and nursery owners, in a recent ruling by the Delaware Supreme Court, can now proceed with new law suits. The ruling will apply only to suits involving settlements based on Delaware law. Stephen Cox, a San Francisco lawyer representing growers in Florida and Hawaii suing DuPont, told the Wall Street Journal that dozens of cases could be affected, which could translate into millions of dollars of additional liability for the company. Other plaintiffs in North and South Carolina may also benefit from the Delaware ruling, he said. Delaware's highest court ruling involved a Florida nursery that agreed in 1994 to drop its original lawsuit against DuPont in exchange for a $2.3 million settlement. The nursery, however, filed a new suit against DuPont in 1998 in federal court in Miami, claiming that it had been "fraudulently induced" to settle because the company had withheld vital scientific information that it should have disclosed in the initial suit. The settlement had been reached under Delaware state law, so the federal court in Florida asked Delaware's top court to decide whether that state law allowed the nursery to proceed with a new suit. DuPont, the Journal's Paul Barrett reports, had argued before the Delaware Supreme Court that the only way the nursery could have undone the settlement was to have repaid the settlement amount promptly. The nursery argued it had spent the money to repair damage caused by Benlate, on attorneys' fees and on taxes. The Delaware court concluded that fairness dictated allowing the fraud suit to go forward. "Otherwise, an unscrupulous party would have nothing to lose by defrauding a plaintiff to settle a tort claim," the court said. "A defrauded party may be entitled to punitive damages" in a subsequent fraud suit, the court added, without saying it endorsed such an outcome. A DuPont spokeswoman told the Journal that she didn't know how many cases would be affected. "Now DuPont can proceed to present its case that no fraud occurred and no damages were sustained" by the growers, she said. MONSANTO'S ROBERT SHAPIRO: TO SPLIT, OR NOT TO SPLIT, THAT IS THE QUESTION? After two of its major rivals --- AstraZeneca and Novartis --- recently announced plans to spin off and merge their agribusiness operations into the newly christened Syngenta AG, Robert Shapiro and Monsanto Co.'s board of directors met last Friday to discuss the possibility of also separating its profitable Searle pharmaceutical business from its agricultural/ "life sciences" business, which houses its genetic engineering operations Syngenta AG will be based in Basel, Switzerland, and will 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%. The Monsanto meeting, first reported by The Wall Street Journal Europe, is in response to concerned stockholders within Monsanto that the companyís $8 billion investment in genetically engineered crops has yet to pay off for investors. The company has reportedly also been holding merger talks with rivals in an attempt to revive its sagging financial situation. In addition, the Journal reports, the recent AstraZeneca and Novartis deal not only "cast doubt on Monsanto's life-science concept, but also took two potential merger candidates out of the running. Even though it's under more pressure than companies such as Rhone-Poulenc, American Home Products or BASF, Monsanto isn't the only one mulling what to do next. " The Journal's Scott Kilman and Thomas M. Burton also report that one camp on the Monsanto board is inclined to stay its current course as a combined agricultural-pharmaceutical business, but the move likely would "infuriate" Wall Street. "Wall Street portfolio managers and analysts have been telling Monsanto Chief Executive Robert B. Shapiro for months that the company's parts are worth more than the whole. `People are getting a little tired of waiting,' said Donald D. Carson, an analyst at J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., New York. `If the board doesn't do anything, the stock is going back to the low $30s.'" Monsanto shares have climbed 29% from $32.75 a share in September since several analysts put the breakup value of Monsanto at between $50 a share and $60 a share. Pressure from Wall Street investors has been increasing since Monsanto CEO Shapiro walked away from a $35 billion merger pact with American Home Products Corp. in October 1998. The deal would have offered Monsanto shareholders American Home stock worth $57 a share, a price Monsanto shares haven't touched since. The Journal also reports that "Wall Street is pushing for a Monsanto breakup because the results of its Searle drug unit are being overshadowed by a growing consumer backlash aimed at Monsanto's genetically modified seeds. Investors are worried that a three-year-long sales boom in genetically modified seeds is suddenly ending, which would make it difficult for Monsanto to recoup its $8 billion investment in crop biotechnology." Likewise, the European Union has been blocking the import of genetically engineered seed, and many countries are moving to impose warning labels on food containing ingredients from such genetically engineered crops. According to analysts the plan favored by some senior Monsanto executives is to spin off the "life sciences" division to shareholders, even as many crop-genetically engineering projects would continue, but without any financial support from the company's pharmaceutical business. "Separated from the agricultural albatross, some Wall Street analysts figure the drug business would have a market value of more than $25 billion, compared with Monsanto's current market value of about $27 billion for the total company. Some company executives think that market value for the drug-business portion alone could double within several years, thanks to a research pipeline loaded with drug prospects," the Journal reports. One big issue for Monsanto directors is whether a spinoff of the agricultural unit would leave its shareholders with a troubled business as Wall Street investors are not sure what the unit is worth since the unit includes a cash cow in the form of Roundup, the nation's largest selling weed killer, as well as the U.S.'s second-biggest seed operation. Any slowdown in producing genetically engineered crops would likely devalue many of its assets. Monsanto's agricultural unit is also being confronted with several major lawsuits as DuPont's Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. seed unit is suing Monsanto in federal district court in Des Moines, Iowa, for alleged seed theft. The suits allege that much of the corn seed being sold by Monsanto contains purloined genetic material. Monsanto is contesting the suits. How a possible spinoff would affect Monsanto's long-pending agreement to acquire Delta & Pine Land Co., the nation's leading cotton seed company is unclear. AG ECONOMIST NEAL HARL WARNS IN FIVE YEARS FAMILY FARMERS COULD BE SIMPLY "TRACTOR DRIVERS" FACE "GREATEST PERIOD OF CONSOLIDATION" Cautioning that if corporate agribusiness continues to go unchecked, family farmers in a few short years could simply become "tractor drivers," Dr. Neal Harl, Iowa State agricultural economist , warns that "we are poised on the edge of the greatest period of consolidation we've seen in our lifetimes." Securities Data Company recently reported that in the 12 years of the Reagan-Bush presidencies there were 85,064 corporate mergers valued at $3.5 trillion. In the seven years of the Bill Clinton presidency there have been 166,310 corporate mergers valued at $9.8 trillion. Harl's remarks came at the opening of a recent College of Agriculture's strategic planning process. Noting that trends such as meatpacking companies also controlling livestock production while big mergers in the seed industry are gradually weakening a farmer's ability to remain independent, Harl observed that the result of such trends could see farmers possibly remaining in business but having less and less control over farming decisions and realizing smaller profits from their operation. In January, 1999 testimony before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee hearings on concentration in agribusiness, C. Robert Taylor, Alfa Eminent Scholar and Professor of Agriculture and Public Policy at Auburn University testified about the implications for the agriculture economy of general trends in vertical integration and market concentration in agribusiness. During the 1990's, Professor Taylor pointed out, the rate of return on investment for retail food chains was 18%, for food manufacturers the rate of return was 17.2%, for agriculture banks it was 10.8% and for farming the rate of return from current income averaged 2.38%!!! Looking carefully, however, at Professor Taylor's testimony it is noted, buried in a footnote, that "the average return to farming may actually include a return to integrators and non-family corporations, thus overstating returns to farmers, per se." "I think the integrators are willing to let independent producers or family producers produce the products, but subject to a great deal of control and with limited income from production," Dr. Harl continues. Meatpackers such as IBP, Excel (the Cargill subsidiary) and ConAgra, who control 81% of the nation's meatpacking business, are rapidly realizing they can control a large percentage of their own slaughter needs by squeezing out the small producers while in the seed industry, control has been concentrated among six large companies, that can monopolize availability of seed to farmers, especially genetically engineered varieties which they claim will net the highest yields. Harl also expressed some wariness regarding the recent U.S.-China trade agreement which has some industry-oriented farm organizations ecstatic about expanding market opportunities. "There are a number of things we need to be appropriately cautious about," he said. "There is some good news," but in the long run it may not produce the buoyancy in trade that appears at first blush. He added that the Chinese have been telling people in recent months they will do everything possible to be self-sufficient. The "good trade news" should be tempered, Harl noted, with the fact that family farmers could lose their independence within a matter of five years if current trends continue. CENTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS STUDY: HEARTLAND RURAL COUNTIES HIGHER POVERTY RATES, LOWER JOB RATES AND INCOME THAN URBAN NEIGHBORS In a stark contrast to the current booming U.S. economy and to the strong urban economies throughout the nation's heartland a recent study by the Center for Rural Affairs in Walthill, Nebraska, a nonprofit rural advocacy group, reveals that during 1988-1997 in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, the least populated and most farm-dependent counties in those states exhibited higher poverty rates, lower job growth rates and lower income than their more heavily populated neighbors. The report, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis statistics in 503 counties, and bridging the end of the 1980s farm crisis and the onset of the current economic crisis affecting family farmers, showed: * While the region as a whole has a poverty rate of 10%, rural farm counties had an average poverty rate of 14%, compared with nine percent in metropolitan counties. A previous study by the Center found that of the 50 poorest counties in the United States, 28 of them are rural counties in the Great Plains. * The child poverty rate was 18% in rural farm counties, compared to 12% in metro areas. * Annual average per capita income was lowest in rural farm counties, running 17% behind the income in metro counties. Rural farm counties have populations of less than 2,500 and a heavy economic reliance on farming; "urban" farm counties also are economically reliant on farms, with populations up to 19,999. Nonfarm counties are outside metro areas and rely little on farms. Metro counties are those that make up the Census Bureau's metropolitan statistical core. The study found that residents of both kinds of Plains farm counties have lower incomes and higher rates of poverty than people who live in metro counties. * Rural farm counties in the six-state region lost on average five percent of their population during the decade, while metro county populations grew by an average of 11%. * While Midwestern population growth as a whole increased just six percent between 1988 and 1997, it still lagged behind the national average growth of 10%. * Some ten percent of the counties in the region are home to more than half its residents. By contrast, farm-dependent counties --- 52% of the total --- have just 14% of the population. "We have a two-tiered economy," Jon Bailey, a co-author of the study and an official at the Center told the Des Moines Register's Anne Fitzgerald. "We have an urban economy that mirrors the national economy. . . . Then we have a rural economy that does not mirror the national economy." The study, "Trampled Dreams: The Neglected Economy of the Rural Great Plains" points out that this situation amounts to "longstanding, chronic conditions that national and state policies have barely recognized or addressed." "This situation is terminal if we keep to the present paradigm of agricultural and rural policies," Bailey notes. Unless there are structural reforms, "it's not fixable." The Center's study was based on data gathered before the farm economy slumped last year. If low prices for Iowa's leading farm commodities, for example, had been factored in, the picture would have been worse, experts speculate. The Center's study made several recommendations, including: * Greater access to capital and technical assistance for small, rural businesses; * Increased state and federal support for the next generation of farmers and for rural entrepreneurs. Nationally, the U.S. food marketing system, with a value of $658 billion, accounts for 9.3% of the U.S. Gross National Product (down from 12% in 1972). Yet, animal and crop products value amounts to only $123 billion of that total, while the value added sector accounts for $535 billion. Likewise, the average farm value of the food we eat has gone from 49% in 1951 to 25% in 1996. "What we're concerned about is who gets the value added," Bailey said. "We need to be sure it's value added for the farmers." "The report is very discouraging," said Aaron Heley Lehman, a Polk City, Iowa farmer and executive director of the Iowa Farmers Union. Too much farm income today is leaving rural communities and filling the coffers of absentee landowners and corporations, he said. EROSION AND DEVELOPERS CLAIM INCREASING AMOUNTS OF U.S. LAND While Woody Guthrie may have been correct in singing "this land is your land," that land "from the New York island to the Redwood forests" is increasingly giving away to erosion and urban, suburban and small-town developers, according to a recent statistical snapshot produced every five years since 1982 by the USDA. More land was developed between 1992 and 1997 than in the entire decade from 1982 to 1992 -- 16 million acres compared with 13.9 million -- according to the inventory. While private property accounts for about 75% of the nation's landscape, land was converted to development at a rate of a little over 3 million acres a year from 1992 to 1997, more than double the rate from 1982 to 1992. The development rate jumped more than fivefold in Pennsylvania, from 43,110 acres a year between 1982 and 1992 to 224,640 acres a year from 1992 to 1997. Altogether, 1.1 million acres of land in the state were converted to development during the five-year period, second only to Texas' 1.2 million acres. In Texas, the annual conversion rate jumped from 139,000 acres to 243,900 acres. Texas and Pennsylvania were followed by Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, California, Tennessee and Michigan. Iowa developed 20,580 acres a year between 1992 and 1997, up from 5,230 acres annually between 1982 and 1992. That ranked the state 40th nationally. Such development has had its biggest impact on forests with more than six million acres of forest cleared for development between 1992 and 1997. Likewise metropolitan areas are losing their trees even as the urban fringe surges outward. For example, James Lyons, USDA's under secretary of agriculture for natural resources and environment, notes that about 37% of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area was covered by trees in 1973, according to a separate study, but only 13% in 1997. "We're seeing those trends elsewhere," said Lyons. "If you combine rapid expansion with deforestation of these urban and suburban areas, the quality of life we've come to appreciate is changing dramatically," he told the New York Times William K. Stevens. Likewise, cropland declined by 13 million acres, pastureland by 14 million acres and rangeland by 12 million acres. Cropland in 1997 accounted for 25% of the 1.5 billion acres of private land, forests and rangeland for 27% each and pastureland for 8 percent. Some states and cities are seeking to curb farmland development by paying family farmers to stay in business by voluntarily selling easements and allowing farmers to continue to own the land they till, however, they are barred from pursuing nonfarm activities. Supporters say the programs help channel sprawl and maintain farm clusters needed to ensure a viable agricultural supply and support network. The 1996 so-called "Freedom to Farm" law set aside $35 million over six years to supplement state and local efforts, but the money lasted only three years and met fewer than one in five requests. Bills are currently pending in Congress to renew the programs at $55 million a year. While substantial gains have been made in restoring or creating wetlands on agricultural lands, according to the inventory, with 30,000 acres a year added from 1992 to 1997, compared with only 4,000 acres a year from 1982 to 1992, wetland losses on farmland increased to about 54,000 acres a year, continuing a long-term net loss. About a third of the loss resulted from development of farmland, Lyons said. Even though soil erosion on farmland has been reduced by about 38% since 1982, according to the survey, the reduction has leveled since 1995 with almost two billion tons of soil is still being lost to erosion, according to the inventory. Thirty percent of the nation's farmland was reported to be eroding excessively The inventory also revealed that agricultural irrigation has declined in the West, where a drier climate has historically made it more prevalent, but has grown in the East. as irrigated land has declined by about 1.5 million acres in the West and expanded by about a million acres in the East in the last 15 years. FOOD AND AGRICULTURE DAY AND THE "BATTLE OF SEATTLE" While the "Battle of Seattle" and the collapse of the recent World Trade Organization ministerial talks made international headlines scant attention got paid by the media and the general public to the efforts of family farmers from around the world to make their voices heard. While the labor march drew considerable attention on the opening day of the WTO meetings other marches and rallys received frustratingly little, if any, notice from both the established media and the alternative media. An excellent example was the treatment received by family farmers and their supporters. Thursday had been designated as Food and Ag Day at WTO. Farmers from more than 30 countries participated in a day-long series of press briefings, panel discussions and workshops. One of the highlights was a noon rally to support small farmers that attracted 5,000 people to the city's historic Pike Place Market. Speakers at the rally included Jim Hightower, Ralph Nader, India's Vandana Shiva, Roger Allison, Helen Waller, Peter Rosset, Uruguay's Alberto Villarreal, Canada's Corky Evans, and yours truly. Also speaking at the rally was José Bové, the French farmer who's become a leader in efforts to stop the globalization of genetically engineered foods and the destruction of local agricultural communities. In addition to several hundred farmers from around the country and the world, the crowd included a broad spectrum of representatives from environmental, labor, and human rights organizations. None of the violence that was in evidence in the city during the previous two days marred Food & Agriculture Day. After the rally a large contingent marched over a mile along the Seattle waterfront to Pier 86 to hold a small peaceful demonstration outside the fence of a police-encased Cargill grain elevator, leased for the past 30 years by the nation's largest private corporation from the Port of Seattle. (See Issue #44) The kickoff event of the Food & Ag day activities was a Farmer Breakfast at the United Methodist Church in downtown Seattle. The breakfast, hosted by the Vashon Island Growers Association, featured an abundance of organically grown foods produced by local farmers and drew several hundred people. Following a series of press briefings, panel discussions and the noon rally, there were workshops in and near the Market on the topics that included Globalization & Food Safety, Food Security in a Global Economy, Farm Worker Issues, and Genetic Engineering. These events included farmers from England, Belgium, Norway, Finland, Japan, Korea, India, The Philippines, Thailand, Bangladesh, Senegal, Ghana, Uruguay, Mexico, Brazil, and Peru. Participants in Food & Agriculture Day included representatives of the National Family Farm Coalition, the French Farmer's Union, the Peasant Movement of the Philippines, the Japanese Independent Farmers Union, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Food First, Northern Plains Resource Council and both Seattle and Washington Tilth. Aside from two and three short paragraphs which appeared in Seattle's two daily newspapers the Food and Ag activities went virtually unreported in both the major media and the alternative media. Likewise, in the various stories coming out of the "Battle of Seattle" environmentalists, labor, consumers, sea turtles, "tree huggers," etc., etc. were all given their proper due. The hundreds of farmers from throughout the world who were present were rarely mentioned as being major participants in the demonstrations, despite the fact that agriculture was the centerpiece of the failed trade negotiations in Seattle. CORPORATE AGRIBUSINESS RESEARCH PROJECT WEB SITE POSTED ON WORLD WIDE WEB 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 almost 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 designed and produced by ElectricArrow of Seattle, Washington. http://www.electricarrow.com Simply by clicking on either of the addresses below all the aforementioned features and information are yours to enjoy, study, absorb and sow. http://www.ea1.com/CARP/ http://www.ea1.com/tiller/ --------------84C8B6A0A9F20E26EE1BFDCA Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1 Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit The Agribusiness Examiner Issue #58 The
AGRIBUSINESS
EXAMINER                            Issue # 58      December 14, 1999

Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective
 

A.V. Krebs
Editor\Publisher
 

                                                                   EDITORS NOTE
Although there is no subscription fee for THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER, donations will, as always, be gladly  accepted.Checks made out to A.V. Krebs, P.O. Box 2201, Everett, Washington 98203-0201 [NOT to "Agribusiness  Examiner"] will continue to be received with much gratitude. A reminder also to those who might wish to receive a weekly  e-mail edition of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER, please provide your NAME and E-MAIL ADDRESS. At this time THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER is not available in printed form.
 

JUDGE DISREGARDS SALMONELLA TAINTED MEAT
ORDERS BALKING INSPECTORS BACK TO WORK
CLAIMS USDA EFFORTS TO SHUT DOWN SUPREME BEEF
COULD CAUSE "IRREPARABLE HARM TO THE COMPANY" 

Despite the U.S. Department of Agriculture withdrawing its inspectors from Supreme Beef Processors, a Dallas, Texas company which supplies 45% of the ground beef used in the national school lunch program and also supplies beef to Wal-Mart and which has consistently failed in the past eight months inspections for salmonella contamination, a federal judge has halted efforts to shut the company's plant down.

Without the inspectors, the plant could not sell food legally in interstate commerce. Responding, however, to a Supreme lawsuit, Judge A. Joe Fish of Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas said withdrawing the inspectors could result in irreparable harm to the company and issued a temporary restraining order instructing the department to return its inspectors pending a hearing.

Under regulations put into enacted in 1995, plants like Supreme are required to adopt the Pathogen Reduction and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points method of inspection, known as HACCP which was designed to identify critical points in the production process where contamination is likely to occur and implement plans to prevent contamination.

Plants are required to perform microbial tests for the presence of salmonella, disease-causing bacteria that cause mild to severe gastrointestinal distress and, in immune-compromised populations, even death. Such tests for salmonella contamination are the government's only check to ensure that the HACCP plan is actually controlling food hazards in the plants.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that there are more than one million cases of food-borne salmonella poisoning a year and 556 deaths.

In its lawsuit against the USDA, Supreme said the government had no authority to regulate salmonella, arguing that "because salmonella is not an adulterant andbecause salmonella is destroyed during normal cooking, the presence of salmonella is not a public safety issue." It called the USDA's actions "arbitrary and capricious."

Since the phasing in of the HACCP began in 1998 some 90% of the more than 3,000 plants covered by the regulations have met the performance standards set by the Agriculture Department. Those standards permit no more than 7.5% of a plant's ground beef to contain salmonella. In the latest analysis of the testing, covering the first half of 1999, 2.6% of the ground beef in the largest plants and 3.3% of the ground beef in the small plants was found to be contaminated.

According to Supreme Beef's own documents, filed in its lawsuit against USDA, as many as 20% of its samples in the three sets of tests contained salmonella.

Food safety experts predict that the outcome of the case could determine whether the HACCP science-based system for inspecting meat and poultry will remain in effect, or whether the Agriculture Department will be forced to return to a system where inspectors simply look for bumps and bruises that have no relationship to the bacteria that make people sick and that had been in effect since the beginning of the century, under which meat was not inspected for bacteria.

Rosemary Mucklow, executive director of the National Meat Association, a trade           association representing meat packers and processors, told the New York Times Marian Burros  that the industry had had "some very serious concerns about salmonella performance standards in ground beef for about three or four months." Supreme Beef, she said, is "experiencing the consequences of a requirement that we think has some serious problems. It would have been better if U.S.D.A. had tried to work it out."

Asked by Burros why Supreme Beef , which churns out 500,000 to 600,000 pounds of
ground beef a day, was unable to meet the Agriculture Department's standards when 90% of the plants covered by the regulations had been able to,  Mucklow replied, "I think it's true that Supreme Beef has been unlucky."

Earlier this year the HACCP came under sharp attack from the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, a union representing the inspectors.

The union has charged that the HACCP too often lets the meat industry regulate itself and forces inspectors to sit on the sidelines resulting in meat that is sometimes spotted with chipped paint, shards of metal and even maggots.

As Donna Sewell, an inspector from Camilla, Georgia, rightfully observes "you're putting the consumer's safety at risk in processes like this."

The inspectors allege that some plants don't have enough checkpoints to ensure safe meat and that the government is not allowing them to enforce the law and pull problem meat from the assembly line. Such meat is returned to the plants where it is legal to reprocess, using procedures such as heating and cooking, until it no longer poses a danger, said Felicia Nester, food safety director for the Government Accountability Project. That meat can be reused in a ready-to-eat form, Nester adds.

The inspectors said they fear the government eventually will phase out the role of inspectors, opting for a system where monitors make infrequent visits to check on plants.

Reflecting on Judge Fish's action, one Midwest cattleman observed:

"This is an excellent example of how the government and the meat industry are jockeying for position at the same table, while the consumers are not even included.  The standards are not `ougher,' they're obviously weaker.  Because of HACCP, it took eight months for the USDA to shut this plant down, while the plant was busy putting out Salmonella-laced product to kids because it was more worried about the bottom line than keeping the place clean.

"The USDA has stripped its own inspection staff of the ability to enforce sanitation rules, leaving that judgment up to the company itself.  Can you imagine leaving kids' lives up to the judgment of people who are so cynical that they don't care if their product is loaded with poison and then turn around to say it's your fault if you don't cook it completely well-done? To top it off, the judge's remarks are lovely. `It could cause irreparable harm to the company!'  He should be on the WTO judicial board."
 

ADM DISMISSES NEW MOTHER
FOR REFUSING TO WORK 12-HOUR SHIFTS

In a story that U.S. Public Television viewers are not likely to see on their evening "Jim Lehrer Report," Agence France Presse reports that Lab technician Karen Barker, 30, who has been employed at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) ---  "Supermarkup to the World" ---  for 14 years, was recently dismissed from her job in Kent, southern England,  after refusing to work 12-hour shifts when she returned from maternity leave.

The British woman had asked to work eight-hour shifts to fit in with her childcare needs immediately prior to the Christmas season .

With the backing of her Manufacturing Science and Finance union, Barker is taking ADM to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination."It is beyond belief that a massive multinational like ADM cannot accommodate the needs of a working mother," said Roger Lyons, general secretary of MSF, one of the most influential unions in Britain.

"Sacking Karen just before Christmas suggests ADM are not a very family-friendly company," he added. ADM refused to comment.
 

MORE LEGAL TROUBLES FOR DUPONT CO.?
"FRAUDULENTLY" WITHHOLDING INFORMATION
ON CONTAMINATED & CROP KILLER BENLATE FUNGICIDE

Having already had to pay out over $1 billion dollars to settle legal claims arising from the sale of its contaminated and crop killer Benlate fungicide, the DuPont Co. is now facing additional claims from farmers and nursery owners who charge that the company fraudulently withheld information about Benlate, resulting in their settling for less money than they otherwise would have done.

The farmers and nursery owners, in a recent ruling by the Delaware Supreme Court, can now proceed with new law suits.

The ruling will apply only to suits involving settlements based on Delaware law. Stephen Cox, a San Francisco lawyer representing growers in Florida and Hawaii suing DuPont, told the Wall Street Journal that dozens of cases could be affected, which could translate into millions of dollars of additional liability for the company. Other plaintiffs in North and South Carolina may also benefit from the Delaware ruling, he said.

Delaware's highest court ruling involved a Florida nursery that agreed in 1994 to drop its original lawsuit against DuPont in exchange for a $2.3 million settlement. The nursery, however, filed a new suit against DuPont in 1998 in federal court in Miami, claiming that it had been "fraudulently induced" to settle because the company had withheld vital scientific information that it should have disclosed in the initial suit.

The settlement had been reached under Delaware state law, so the federal court in Florida asked Delaware's top court to decide whether that state law allowed the nursery to proceed with a new suit.

DuPont, the Journal's Paul Barrett reports, had argued before the Delaware Supreme Court that the only way the nursery could have undone the settlement was to have repaid the settlement amount promptly. The nursery argued it had spent the money to repair damage caused by Benlate, on attorneys' fees and on taxes.

The Delaware court concluded that fairness dictated allowing the fraud suit to go forward. "Otherwise, an unscrupulous party would have nothing to lose by defrauding a plaintiff to settle a tort claim," the court said. "A defrauded party may be entitled to punitive damages" in a subsequent fraud suit, the court added, without saying it endorsed such an outcome.

A DuPont spokeswoman told the Journal that she didn't know how many cases would be affected. "Now DuPont can proceed to present its case that no fraud occurred and no damages were sustained" by the growers, she said.
 

MONSANTO'S ROBERT SHAPIRO:
TO SPLIT, OR NOT TO SPLIT, THAT IS THE QUESTION?

After two of its major rivals --- AstraZeneca and Novartis --- recently announced plans to spin off and merge their agribusiness operations into the newly christened Syngenta AG, Robert Shapiro and Monsanto Co.'s board of directors met last Friday to discuss the possibility of also separating its profitable Searle pharmaceutical business from its agricultural/ "life sciences" business, which houses its genetic engineering operations

Syngenta AG will be based in Basel, Switzerland, and will  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%.

The Monsanto meeting, first reported by The Wall Street Journal Europe, is in response to concerned stockholders within Monsanto that the company’s $8 billion investment in genetically engineered crops has yet to pay off for investors. The company has reportedly also been holding merger talks with rivals in an attempt to revive its sagging financial situation.

In addition, the Journal reports, the recent  AstraZeneca and Novartis deal not only "cast doubt on Monsanto's life-science concept, but also took two potential merger candidates out of the running. Even though it's under more pressure than companies such as Rhone-Poulenc, American Home Products or BASF, Monsanto isn't the only one mulling what to do next. "

The Journal's Scott Kilman and Thomas M. Burton also report that one camp on the Monsanto board is inclined to stay its current course as a combined agricultural-pharmaceutical business, but the move likely would "infuriate" Wall Street.

"Wall Street portfolio managers and analysts have been telling Monsanto Chief Executive Robert B. Shapiro for months that the company's parts are worth more than the whole.  `People are getting a little tired of waiting,' said Donald D. Carson, an  analyst at J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., New York. `If the board doesn't do anything, the stock is going back to the low $30s.'"

Monsanto shares have climbed 29% from $32.75 a  share in September since several analysts put the breakup value of  Monsanto at between $50 a share and $60 a share.

Pressure from Wall Street investors has been increasing since Monsanto CEO Shapiro walked away from a $35 billion merger pact with American Home Products Corp. in October 1998. The deal would have offered Monsanto shareholders  American Home stock worth $57 a share, a price Monsanto shares haven't  touched since.

The Journal also reports that "Wall Street is pushing for a Monsanto breakup because the results of its  Searle drug unit are being overshadowed by a growing consumer backlash aimed at Monsanto's genetically modified seeds. Investors are worried that  a three-year-long sales boom in genetically modified seeds is suddenly ending, which would make it difficult for Monsanto to recoup its $8 billion investment in crop biotechnology."

Likewise, the European Union has been blocking the import of genetically engineered seed,  and many countries are moving to impose warning labels on food containing ingredients from such genetically engineered crops.

According to analysts the plan favored by some senior Monsanto executives is to spin off the "life sciences" division to shareholders, even as many crop-genetically engineering projects would continue, but without  any financial support from the company's  pharmaceutical business.

"Separated from the agricultural albatross, some Wall Street analysts figure the drug business would have a market value of  more than $25 billion, compared with Monsanto's current market value of  about $27 billion for the total company. Some company executives think that market value for the drug-business portion alone could double within several years, thanks to a research pipeline loaded with drug prospects," the Journal reports.

One big issue for Monsanto directors is whether a spinoff of the agricultural unit would leave its shareholders with a troubled business as Wall Street investors are not sure what the unit is worth since the unit includes a cash cow in the form of Roundup, the nation's largest selling weed killer, as well as the U.S.'s second-biggest seed operation. Any slowdown in producing genetically engineered crops would likely devalue many of its assets.

Monsanto's agricultural unit is also being confronted with several major lawsuits as DuPont's Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. seed unit is suing Monsanto in federal district court in Des Moines, Iowa, for alleged seed theft. The suits allege that much of the corn seed  being sold by Monsanto contains purloined genetic material. Monsanto is contesting the suits. How a possible spinoff would affect Monsanto's long-pending agreement to acquire Delta & Pine Land Co., the nation's leading cotton seed company is unclear.
 

AG ECONOMIST NEAL HARL WARNS IN FIVE YEARS
FAMILY FARMERS COULD BE SIMPLY "TRACTOR DRIVERS"
FACE "GREATEST PERIOD OF CONSOLIDATION"

Cautioning that if corporate agribusiness continues to go unchecked, family farmers in a few short years could simply become "tractor drivers," Dr. Neal Harl, Iowa State agricultural economist , warns that "we are poised on the edge of the greatest period of consolidation we've seen in our lifetimes."

Securities Data Company recently reported that in the 12 years of the Reagan-Bush presidencies there were 85,064 corporate mergers valued at $3.5 trillion. In the seven years of the Bill Clinton presidency there have been 166,310 corporate mergers valued at $9.8 trillion.

Harl's remarks came at the opening of a recent College of Agriculture's strategic planning process.

Noting that trends such as meatpacking companies also controlling livestock production while big mergers in the seed industry are gradually weakening a farmer's ability to remain independent, Harl observed that the result of such trends could see farmers possibly remaining in business but having less and less control over farming decisions and realizing smaller profits from their operation.

In January, 1999 testimony before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee hearings on concentration in agribusiness, C. Robert Taylor, Alfa Eminent Scholar and Professor of Agriculture and Public Policy at Auburn University  testified about the implications for the agriculture economy of general trends  in vertical integration and market concentration in agribusiness.

During the 1990's, Professor Taylor pointed out, the rate of return on investment for retail food chains was 18%, for food manufacturers the rate of return was 17.2%, for agriculture banks it was 10.8% and for farming the rate of return from current income averaged 2.38%!!! Looking carefully, however, at Professor Taylor's testimony it is noted, buried in a footnote, that "the average return to farming may actually include a return to integrators and non-family corporations, thus overstating returns to farmers, per se."

"I think the integrators are willing to let independent producers or family producers produce the products, but subject to a great deal of control and with limited income from production," Dr. Harl continues.

Meatpackers such as IBP, Excel  (the Cargill subsidiary) and ConAgra, who control 81% of the nation's meatpacking business, are rapidly realizing they can control a large percentage of their own slaughter needs by squeezing out the small producers while in the seed industry, control has been concentrated among six large companies, that can monopolize availability of seed to farmers, especially genetically engineered varieties which they claim will net the highest yields.

Harl also expressed some wariness regarding the recent U.S.-China trade agreement which has some industry-oriented farm organizations ecstatic about expanding market opportunities. "There are a number of things we need to be appropriately cautious about," he said.

"There is some good news," but in the long run it may not produce the buoyancy in trade that appears at first blush. He added that  the Chinese have been telling people in recent months they will do everything possible to be self-sufficient. The "good trade news" should be tempered, Harl noted, with the fact that family farmers could lose their independence within a matter of five years if current trends continue.
 

CENTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS STUDY:
HEARTLAND RURAL COUNTIES HIGHER POVERTY RATES,
LOWER JOB RATES AND INCOME THAN URBAN NEIGHBORS
 
In a stark contrast to the current  booming U.S. economy and to the strong urban  economies throughout the nation's heartland a recent study by the Center for Rural Affairs in Walthill, Nebraska,  a nonprofit rural advocacy group, reveals that during 1988-1997 in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, the least populated and most farm-dependent counties in those states exhibited higher poverty rates, lower job growth rates and lower income than their more heavily populated neighbors.

The report, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis statistics in 503 counties, and  bridging the end of the 1980s farm crisis and the onset of the current economic crisis affecting family farmers, showed:

* While the region as a whole has a poverty rate of 10%, rural farm counties had an average poverty rate of 14%, compared with nine percent in metropolitan counties. A previous study by the Center found that of the 50 poorest counties in the United States, 28 of them are rural counties in the Great Plains.

* The child poverty rate was 18% in rural farm counties, compared to 12% in metro areas.

* Annual average per capita income was lowest in rural farm counties, running 17% behind the income in metro counties. Rural farm counties have populations of less than 2,500 and a heavy economic reliance on farming; "urban" farm counties also are economically reliant on farms, with populations up to 19,999.

Nonfarm counties are outside metro areas and rely little on farms. Metro counties are those that make up the Census Bureau's metropolitan statistical core. The study found that residents of both kinds of Plains farm counties have lower incomes and higher rates of poverty than people who live in metro counties.

* Rural farm counties in the six-state region lost on average five percent of their population during the decade, while metro county populations grew by an average of 11%.

* While Midwestern population growth as a whole increased just six percent between 1988 and 1997, it still lagged behind the national average growth of 10%.

* Some ten percent of the counties in the region are home to more than half its residents. By contrast, farm-dependent counties --- 52% of the total --- have just 14%  of the population.

"We have a two-tiered economy," Jon Bailey, a co-author of the study and an official at the Center told the Des Moines Register's Anne Fitzgerald. "We have an urban economy that mirrors the national economy. . . . Then we have a rural economy that does not mirror the national economy."

The study, "Trampled Dreams: The Neglected Economy of the Rural Great Plains"  points out that this situation amounts to "longstanding, chronic conditions that national and state policies have barely recognized or addressed."

"This situation is terminal if we keep to the present paradigm of agricultural and rural policies," Bailey notes. Unless there are structural reforms, "it's not fixable."

The Center's study was based on data gathered before the farm economy slumped last year. If low prices for Iowa's leading farm commodities, for example, had been factored in, the picture would have been worse, experts speculate.

The Center's study made several recommendations, including:

* Greater access to capital and technical assistance for small, rural businesses;

* Increased state and federal support for the next generation of farmers and for rural entrepreneurs.

Nationally, the U.S. food marketing system, with a value of $658 billion, accounts for 9.3% of the U.S. Gross National Product (down from 12% in 1972). Yet, animal and crop products value amounts to only $123 billion of that total, while the value added sector accounts for $535 billion. Likewise, the average farm value of the food we eat has gone from 49% in 1951 to 25% in 1996.

"What we're concerned about is who gets the value added," Bailey said. "We need to be sure it's value added for the farmers."

"The report is very discouraging," said Aaron Heley Lehman, a Polk City, Iowa farmer and executive director of the Iowa Farmers Union. Too much farm income today is leaving rural communities and filling the coffers of absentee landowners and corporations, he said.
 

EROSION AND DEVELOPERS
CLAIM INCREASING AMOUNTS OF U.S. LAND
 
While Woody Guthrie may have been correct in singing "this land is your land," that land "from the New York island to the Redwood forests" is increasingly giving away to erosion and urban, suburban and small-town developers, according to a recent statistical snapshot produced every five years since 1982 by the USDA.

More land was developed between 1992 and 1997 than in the entire decade from 1982 to 1992 -- 16 million acres compared with 13.9 million -- according to the inventory. While private property accounts for about 75% of the nation's landscape, land was converted to development at a rate of a little over 3 million acres a year from 1992 to 1997, more than double the rate from 1982 to 1992.

The development rate jumped more than fivefold in Pennsylvania, from 43,110 acres a year between 1982 and 1992 to 224,640 acres a year from 1992 to 1997. Altogether, 1.1 million acres of land in the state were converted to development during the five-year period, second only to Texas' 1.2 million acres.

In Texas, the annual conversion rate jumped from 139,000 acres to 243,900 acres. Texas and Pennsylvania were followed by Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, California, Tennessee and Michigan. Iowa developed 20,580 acres a year between 1992 and 1997, up from 5,230 acres annually between 1982 and 1992. That ranked the state 40th nationally.

Such development has had its biggest impact on forests with more than six million acres of forest cleared for development between 1992 and 1997. Likewise metropolitan areas are losing their trees even as the urban fringe surges outward.

For example, James Lyons, USDA's under secretary of agriculture for natural resources and environment, notes that about 37% of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area was covered by trees in 1973, according to a separate study, but only 13% in 1997. "We're seeing those trends elsewhere," said Lyons.

"If you combine rapid expansion with deforestation of these urban and suburban           areas, the quality of life we've come to appreciate is changing dramatically," he told the New York Times William K. Stevens.

Likewise, cropland declined by 13 million acres, pastureland by 14 million acres and rangeland by 12 million acres. Cropland in 1997 accounted for 25% of the 1.5 billion acres of private land, forests and rangeland for 27% each and pastureland for 8 percent.

Some states and cities are seeking to curb farmland development by paying family farmers to stay in business by voluntarily selling easements and allowing farmers to continue to own the land they till, however, they are barred from pursuing nonfarm activities. Supporters say the programs help channel sprawl and maintain farm clusters needed to ensure a viable agricultural supply and support network.

The 1996 so-called "Freedom to Farm" law set aside $35 million over six years to           supplement state and local efforts, but the money lasted only three years and met fewer than one in five requests. Bills are currently pending in Congress to renew the programs at $55 million a year.

While substantial gains have been made in restoring or creating wetlands on agricultural lands, according to the inventory, with 30,000 acres a year added from 1992 to 1997, compared with only 4,000 acres a year from 1982 to 1992, wetland losses on farmland increased to about 54,000 acres a year, continuing a long-term net loss. About a third of the loss resulted from development of farmland, Lyons said.

Even though soil erosion on farmland has been reduced by about 38% since 1982, according to the survey, the reduction has leveled since 1995 with almost two billion tons of soil is still being lost to erosion, according to the inventory. Thirty percent of the nation's farmland was reported to be eroding excessively

The inventory also revealed that  agricultural irrigation has declined in the West, where a drier climate has historically made it more prevalent, but has grown in the East. as irrigated land has declined by about 1.5 million acres in the West and expanded by about a million acres in the East in the last 15 years.
 

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE DAY
AND THE "BATTLE OF SEATTLE"

While the "Battle of Seattle" and the collapse of the recent World Trade Organization ministerial talks made international headlines scant attention got paid by the media and the general public to the efforts of family farmers from around the world to make their voices heard.

While the labor march drew considerable attention on the opening day of the WTO meetings other marches and rallys received frustratingly little, if any, notice from both the established media and the alternative media. An excellent example was the treatment received by family farmers and their supporters.

Thursday had been designated as Food and Ag Day at WTO. Farmers from more than 30 countries participated in a day-long series of press briefings, panel discussions and workshops. One of the highlights was a noon rally to support small farmers that attracted 5,000 people to the city's historic Pike Place Market.

Speakers at the rally included Jim Hightower, Ralph Nader, India's Vandana Shiva, Roger Allison, Helen Waller, Peter Rosset, Uruguay's Alberto Villarreal, Canada's Corky Evans, and yours truly. Also speaking at the rally was José Bové, the French farmer who's become a leader in efforts to stop the globalization of genetically engineered foods and the destruction of local agricultural communities.

In addition to several hundred farmers from around the country and the world, the crowd included a broad spectrum of representatives from environmental, labor, and human rights organizations. None of the violence that was in evidence in the city during the previous two days marred Food & Agriculture Day.

After the rally a large contingent marched over a mile along the Seattle waterfront to Pier 86 to hold a small peaceful demonstration outside the fence of a police-encased Cargill grain elevator, leased for the past 30 years by the nation's largest private corporation from the Port of Seattle. (See Issue #44)

The kickoff event of the Food & Ag day activities was a Farmer Breakfast at the United Methodist Church in downtown Seattle. The breakfast, hosted by the Vashon Island Growers Association, featured an abundance of organically grown foods produced by local farmers and drew several hundred people.

Following a series of press briefings, panel discussions and the noon rally, there were workshops in and near the Market on the topics that included Globalization & Food Safety, Food Security in a Global Economy, Farm Worker Issues, and Genetic Engineering. These events included farmers from England, Belgium, Norway, Finland, Japan, Korea, India, The Philippines, Thailand, Bangladesh, Senegal, Ghana, Uruguay, Mexico, Brazil, and Peru.

Participants in Food & Agriculture Day included representatives of the National Family Farm Coalition, the French Farmer's Union, the Peasant Movement of the Philippines, the Japanese Independent Farmers Union, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Food First, Northern Plains Resource Council and both Seattle and Washington Tilth.

Aside from two and three short paragraphs which appeared in Seattle's two daily newspapers the Food and Ag activities went virtually unreported in both the major media and the alternative media. Likewise, in the various stories coming out of the "Battle of Seattle" environmentalists, labor, consumers, sea turtles, "tree huggers," etc., etc. were all given their proper due. The hundreds of farmers from throughout the world who were present were rarely mentioned as being major participants in the demonstrations, despite the fact that agriculture was the centerpiece of the failed trade negotiations in Seattle.
 

CORPORATE AGRIBUSINESS RESEARCH PROJECT
WEB SITE POSTED ON WORLD WIDE WEB

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 almost 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 designed and  produced by ElectricArrow of Seattle, Washington. http://www.electricarrow.com

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

http://www.ea1.com/CARP/
http://www.ea1.com/tiller/
 
 
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