CONFRONTING FREEDOM WITH EQUALITY

"I said earlier that one aspect of the Protestant ethic . . . is a belief that each individual's value is established by his accomplishment, and that for that reason each person should be allowed to grow as wealthy and powerful as he can. But this unfettered growth of wealth and power threatens the very social framework out of which it has emerged. It is not an easy dilemma to solve, for it confronts freedom with equality --- an age-old issue . . .

"How much freedom? How much equality? Very much is at stake, not only for the farm communities, but for the whole of the American polity. If, as I have suggested, the growth of corporate control of agriculture is not a product of efficiency, intelligence and hard work --- of virtue according to the Protestant Ethic--- but a consequence of policies and manipulations, the matter takes on a different character. The task, is to reformulate policies respecting agriculture so that the competitive advantage of large scale operations are removed, so that the ordinary working farmer has an equal chance. If this is done, it may not be necessary to resolve the dilemma between freedom and equality."

--- Dr. Walter Goldschmidt, "The Rural Foundation of American Culture," Gregory Foundation Memorial Lecture, University of Missouri on January 26, 1976.

WHO IS MANUFACTURING OUR FOOD?

"I find it alarming that some of the country's largest food companies are being acquired by tobacco and liquor companies. The first line of quality control for our manufactured food has been the professional conscience of chief executives of independent food companies. Tobacco companies are by their nature indifferent to health considerations. To have our food supply in their hands is something to which the United States people and Congress should give attention."

--- .Dr. Jean Mayer, former president of Tufts University and head of the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health, 1989.


FUTURE PLANNING IN AGRIBUSINESS

"Although there are a number of food consumer groups and a variety of special-interest groups and organizations in rural America, none is really involved in anything that resembles long-term planning....Most of the concerns of farm organizations tend to be of a short-term nature. If the political process is not capable of conducting long-term planning for the food system, or for rural areas, where will that planning be done?

The only organizations in which long-term planning is being conducted regarding the food system are those large organizations which are currently gaining control of the food system in the U.S. and increasingly in the world."

--- Professor William Heffernan, University of Missouri Rural Sociologist

 

"COMMUNITIES OF ECONOMIC INTERESTS"

"Through such `communities of economic interests' revolving around powerful family and financial groups, clusters of great corporations are said to be related by interlocking directorates, intercorporate stock holdings, historical relationships, and other means.The effect of such communities, it is contended, is to bring about greater cohesiveness and unity of action than would otherwise be the case. Control is sufficient to prevent any member of a community from undertaking a course of action which, though beneficial to itself, would be harmful to other members of the community. The inevitable result is a lessening of the potential for independent, competitive behavior."

--- John D. Blair, former Chief Economist for the U.S. Senate Anti-Trust and Monopoly Subcommittee,Economic Concentration: Structure, Behavior and Public Policy (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.: 1972)

 

THE "WORLD'S BREADBASKET"

"Unfortunately you and other leaders have made some wrong assumptions. First, we don't need to feed the world. The world needs to be fed. But the U.S. and other global trade policies actually inhibit the development of vital diversified wealth creating and efficient food systems within, particularly, the developing countries. This paternal policy creates unrest, not world peace, forcing these countries to accept our imports when they either have or should have the capacity to provide for themselves. Secondly, is there really a demand for U.S. production?"

--- Herman Schumacher, a cattle producer, cattle feeder,livestock auction operator and auctioneer from Herried, South Dakota in a 1998 letter to U.S. Congressman Pat Roberts (Rep.-KS).

 

"I have heard . . . that people may become dependent on us for food. I know that was not suppose to be good news. To me that was good news, because before people can do anything they have got to eat. And if you are looking for a way to get people to lean on you and to be dependent on you, in terms of their cooperation with you, it seems to me that food dependence would be terrific."

--- Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey, in naming P.L. 480 the "Food for Peace" program, Wall Street Journal, May 7, 1982.

 

CONSEQUENCES OF 'LABOR-SAVING AGRICULTURE TECHNOLOGY'

"By increasing the area farmed by the average worker, labor-saving agriculture technology helped to absorb the reservoir of cheap, unused land. By increasing the amount of grain a single farmer could work, labor saving technology helped to glut the market with grain. As the price of grain fell, farmers' income suffered, making agriculture a less attractive venture. In short, labor-saving technology on the farm accomplished, to some extent, what employers had sought in vain to do by law and decree --- namely, shut off the escape route from the factory."

--- Michael Perelman, Chico State (California) agricultural economist on late 19th century U.S. agriculture, Farming for Profit in a Hungry World: Capital and the Crisis in Agriculture, Landmark Studies, Allanheld Osmun, Montclair, N.J., 1977.

 

THE AIM OF AGRARIAN REFORMERS

"Agrarian reformers attempted to overcome a concentrating system of finance capitalism that was rooted in Eastern commercial banks and which radiated outward through trunk-line railroad networks to link in a number of common purposes much of America's consolidating corporate community. Their aim was structural reform of the American economic system."

--- Lawrence Goodwyn, The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1978.

 

THE TRUE LIMITS OF MANUFACTURERS AND COMMERCE

"Manufacturers, sufficient for our own consumption, of what we raise the raw material (and no more). Commerce sufficient to carry the surplus produce of agriculture, beyond our own consumption, to a market for exchanging it for articles we cannot raise (and no more). These are the true limits of manufactures and commerce. To go beyond them is to increase our dependence on foreign nations, and our liability to war. These three important branches of human industry will then grow together, and be really handmaidens to each other."

--- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Jay, 1809

 

ALL COMING DOWN TO ONE WORD: PRICE

"When all was said and done, it came down to one word: Price. Other important issues were discussed at the forums sponsored by the DNCAC during the past six months, but the overwhelming consensus among participating farmers was that the other concerns --- overproduction, soil and water conservation, high interest rates, lack of credit, entry by young farmers, the depressed farm service industry, and the farm program's high cost, to name a few --- could and would be solved when farmers received a fair price for their products."

--- Jim Hightower, former Texas Agricultural Commissioner and chair of the Democratic National Committee's Agricultural Council, after holding a 1984 series of eight nationwide farm policy forums.

 

FOOD: OUR GREATEST COMMON DENOMINATOR NEXT TO LIFE ITSELF

"Food, next to life itself, has become our greatest common denominator. Its availability, quality, price, its reflection of the culture it feeds and its moral and religious significance make it quite literally history's `staff of life.' Today, in the never-ending worldwide struggle to determine who will control its production, quality and accessibility, food is no longer viewed first and foremost as a sustainer of life. Rather, to those who seek to command our food supply it has become instead a major source of corporate cash flow, economic leverage, a form of currency, a tool of international politics, an instrument of power --- a weapon!"

--- A.V. Krebs, The Corporate Reapers: The Book of Agribusiness (Essential Books: 1992)

 

PRYING APART THE FAMILY FARM CATAGORY

"The category family farm must be pried apart. It must be opened up so that its internal contradictions can be seen, not hidden, and used as a basis for identifying and comparing the relative class positions of producers. This would provide a keener awareness of the structure of agriculture (why and how policies do and do not work AND FOR WHOM?. In addition, any long term action to reform the system --- to bring about a more equitable distribution of power and income --- must rest on class-based alliances which cut across the `family farm' category and which are not coincidental with it."

--- Laura B DeLind, an agricultural specialist in the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

 

"ONLY DEMOCRACY CAN SAVE THE FAMILY FARM"

"We can expect no democratic miracles from agriculture or any other particular part of our economy. We can expect them only from democracy itself . . . The only sure source of democracy in any of these is a national well-spring that feeds all of them, not just a source among farmers, or, as we should say, among some farmers. The lesson is plain in history. Family farming cannot save democracy. Only democracy can save the family farm . . .A family farm of the type and dimensions stipulated by our theory --- one `on which the operator, with the help of his family and perhaps a moderate amount of outside labor, can make a satisfactory living and maintain the farm's productivity and assets' --- affords scope for a citizen to live and work more or less on his own terms, to develop the initiative and resourcefulness, the sense of responsibility and the self-respect that have always and everywhere been considered among the greatest assets of democracy. If we still count them as such, not symbolically, but concretely and instrumentally, like our physical resources and our geographical position, we will support family farming as we will all socially con-structive individual enterprise. The question is, do we really believe in free enterprise in these vital terms."

--- A. Whitney Griswold, a political scientist and former president of Yale University, Farming and Democracy, 1948.

 

THE FINAL VERDICT ON THE FUTURE OF THE AMERICAN FARM

"The final verdict on the future of the American farm lies no longer with the farmer, much less with the abstract thinker or even the politician, but rather with the American people themselves--and they have now passed judgment. They no longer care where or how they get their food, as long as it is firm, fresh and cheap. They have no interest in preventing the urbanization of their farmland as long as parks, Little League fields and an occasional bike lane are left amid the concrete, stucco and asphalt.

"They have no need of someone who they are not, who reminds them of their past and not their future. Their romanticism for the farmer is just that, an artificial and quite transient appreciation of his rough-cut visage against the horizon, the stuff of a wine commercial, cigarette ad or impromptu rock concert. Instinctively, most farmers know this. It's the real reason they are mad."

--- Victor Davis Hanson, a former California raisin grape grower, Fields Without Dreams (Free Press, 1996).

 

THE 'CITY' AT THE CENTER OF THE LAND CRISIS

"We begin our analysis by observing that all those who thought they owned the land, who said they owned the land, who chanted liturgies that assured them that they owned the land, they are all the people who lived in the city. The urban power elite imagined that they owned the land and on that presupposition they conducted their politics and their liturgy; and so I submit that this conference which confesses that the land is owned by Yahweh, is a doxology against urban pretensions. The fact of the city is at the center of the land crisis. It was so in ancient Israel and it is so in our farm crisis because the city is not simply a place, the city is a way of thinking about social reality. The city is a place of monopoly where everything important and valued is gathered and stored and administered and owned. The city exists by the concentration of what is valued in the hands of a few. Indeed, the city exists for the sake of concentration.

"The concentration of wealth and value is the cause of the city and the city is the result of that concentration. When the city is healthy it exists in a respectful coming and going with the country. But when the city arrives at a pathological self-importance and an imagined self-sufficiency, it fails to respect the country. When there is no coming and going, no giving and taking, but only taking, there comes death."

--- Dr. Walter Brueggemann, the eminent Protestant theologian, speaking to a National Council of Churches conference on the urban/rural land connection in November, 1986.

 

TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS

"Transnational corporations are not there to feed people, they are not there to provide jobs, they are there to make a profit. Period! That's all! So one should not expect them to be feeding people who cannot pay."

--- Susan George, Feeding the Few:

 

"The world is friendly to the trade, but unfortunately not the trade to the world."

--- Mr. Chaturanan Mishra, Union Minister for Agriculture, India

 

"THE POINT WAS FOOD, QUANTITIES OF FOOD"

"The point was food, quantities of food. It all looked so easy, that tractor driver in his air-conditioned cab, that wonderful machine crawling across the face of the same earth it would have taken my ancestors forty years to plow. What matter if a whole style of life was gone? What matter if the earth no longer served a single family, a small parcel of immortality for the common man?

"All that was lost to me, as lost as a cherry orchard in which people no longer knew the meaning of cherries, as lost as the unwritten language of a long-expired race of men. All that mattered was food, the wheat on the hill, the hay in the meadow, the mutton under my boot. Whatever method could raise them best and most efficiently would win the prizes of the earth.

"There was little beauty to it, in my mind. There was only sweat, and maybe a certain sense of unspeakable smallness in my soul in that all the generations behind me, of all the lost tribes of my forefathers who had dug potatoes, milked cows, sown grain, picked fruit from primeval gardens, it had all come down to me in a knowledge I only wished to lose."

--- Douglas Unger,Leaving the Land (Harper & Row: New York, N.Y., 1984)

 

ON INVENTING MECHANIZED HARVEST MACHINES

"I had gotten interested in the history of asparagus in California and I found that the first asparagus cutters were Chinese and the second group was Japanese. Then we had immigrating Italians and Portuguese, then the Hindus and then the Filipinos in the 1940's. And then I got to looking at the rest of our agricultural labor and I found out that most were imported nationalities and we were running out of nationalities to import."

--- G.C. Hanna, Department of Vegetable Crops, UC-Davis, on his thinking prior to the development of a tomato for processing and canning that could be harvested by a machines.

 

THE PESTICIDE TREADMILL

"Fundamentally, pest control as it is now practiced . . . is essentially not an ecological matter. It is largely a matter of merchandising. In essence, we are using the wrong kinds of material in the wrong places at the wrong times in excessive amounts and engendering problems which increase the use of these materials, adds to the pollution problem, adds to the cost of agricultural pest control, and adds to what you might describe as the concern of the general public."

Dr. Robert Van den Bosch, former University of California entomologist, 1972.

 

THE U.S. AS AN 'IMPERIAL' POWER

"We have to get away from the romantic anachronism that developing countries should strive for self-sufficiency in food."

--- John Block, former U.S. secretary of Agriculture, 1986.

 

"The U.S. today has the reach and the power of an imperial state, yet domestic perceptions have not caught up with that reality. Such lack of understanding is not healthy, but leads to isolationism."

--- Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State, Davos, Switzerland, 1999.

 ''ECONOMIC GROWTH BY MEANS OF CORPORATE PRIORITIES"

"What have we witnessed in the last 50 years?

"Well, on the one hand it's true mass levels of technological innovation, tremendous social movements able to gain some limited access to natural resources, some power and wealth. But for the most part, the deeply conservative character of American civilization is still in place; that character being twofold: one, economic growth by means of corporate priorities, which corporate elites and banking elites, not simply having a disproportionate lot of power and influence, but at the same time such power and influence rarely being part of a public discussion such that we can question it and interrogate it in a concrete way.

"Economic growth by means of corporate priorities on the one hand and on the other hand the very, very deep seated forms of xenophobia."

--- Cornell West, Harvard University scholar

 

GREATEST GUARANTEE OF THE PERPETUITY OF DEMOCRACY

"We talk about political democracy, but we cannot have it without economic democracy. We cannot have political freedom of choice for the individual without economic freedom of choice for the individual. Therefore, I say again today on the floor of the United States Senate, if I were to be asked to name one thing --- if I were limited to the naming of one thing only --- which I think is the greatest guarantee of the perpetuity of our democratic form of government, what I would name would be private home ownership in the city and family farm ownership in the country. On that type of ownership, I think, is dependent, more that we sometimes fully realize, our whole system of political and economic freedom of choice for the individual."

-- Sen. Wayne Morse (Ind.-Oregon), U.S. Senate, May 7, 1959

 

ON MAMMOTH FARMS

"The ambition for broad acres leads to poor farming, even with men of energy. I scarcely ever knew a mammoth farm to sustain itself, much less to return a profit on the outlay. I have more than once known a man to spend a respectable fortune on one; fail and leave it; and then some man of more modest aims get a a small fraction of the ground and make a good living upon it. Mammoth farms are like tools or weapons which are too heavy to be handled. Ere long they are thrown aside, at a great loss."

--- Abraham Lincoln, Address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, year unknown.

 

RIGHT OF EACH COUNTRY TO ESTABLISH ITS OWN FOOD POLCIES

"If multinational companies are successful in creating a truly global agricultural system in which they control prices and movement of commodities, the the right of each country to establish its own farm policies will have to be destroyed."

--- Jorge Calderon, Professor of Economics at the University of Mexico and one-time member of the Mexican federal Parliament.

 

A STATE PLANNED VS. CORPORATE PLANNED ECONOMY

"When fewer and fewer individuals make more and more of the economic decisions, whether those individuals are in government or big business, the result is anti-competitive, inefficient and harmful to the society as a whole; when more and more individuals make more and more of the economic decisions, the result is more competitive and more efficient and beneficial to the society as a whole. There is an even great irony in the principal advocates of centralized economic planning --- the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries --- are abandoning it as an economic failure, at the very time American industries . . . are becoming more and more centrally planned by those few firms with greater and greater economic power resulting from ever increasing industry concentration."

--- Dr. John Helmuth, Adjunct Associate Professor and Assistant Director, Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

 

EVERY TRIP TO THE GROCERY STORE IS A CRAP SHOOT

"The only time I felt truly comfortable about the food I put on my table was when I lived on the farm and grew most of my own . . . Now, I live in an apartment in the city, and am dependent on nameless, faceless strangers to grow, process and ship my food. It seems as if unethical and unsafe practices grow in direct proportion to how far we have lost the trail of accountability. So I don't always trust them to put my family's best interest over concern for their bottom line. I don't like feeling helpless, as if every trip to the grocery is a crap shoot. But I really don't know who to blame."

--- Vicki Williams, King Features columnist, USA Today, July 26, 1985.

 

FARMING MEASURED BY MONEY? TOO GOOD FOR THAT

"We were farmers, it was ours to make the farm worthwhile and be satisfied. We did not compare our lot with others. We went about our farming as the days came, the program being determined by the weather and the seasons. Nor do I recall laments about the weather; it will come out right in the end, we shall follow the Lord's will --- this was the attitude. Perhaps these practices and outlooks cannot develop the most skillful and productive farming, but farming was not a competitive business. We needed little and were never in want. We had not learned to substitute machines for men. We knew nothing about `efficiency' and cost accounting was not even in the penumbra of dreams. The men of that stripe and generation would have resented that farming can be measured by money; it was too good for that."

--- Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954), Dean, Cornell College of Agriculture

 

LOSING OUR SENSE OF MEANING IN FOOD

"We're losing our sense of meaning in food. It's something to be consumed and little more. Joy is lost when we simply equate value with cost. We complain about tasteless fruit, but we want it to be inexpensive and cosmetically clean. The produce department remains of the few parts of the marketplace where choices are impacted by a few pennies. We support the cheapest product and gamble on satisfaction.

We've detached ourselves from our food; it is no longer personal. We want our meals faster and easier; our goal is to spend little time eating. We promote convenience and speed, equating it with quality and value. We are willing to spend billions on diets, nutritional supplements and exercise gyms instead of simply eating right. We've managed to overlook the notion `you are what you eat' and reclassify it as old-fashioned thinking. Food is not a player in our information age."

--- Mas Masumoto, California family farmer, USA Today, December 9, 1992

 

WASTING THE RESOURCES OF THE EARTH AND HUMAN LIFE

"One day at our Catholic Worker farm, John Filliger, talking of drying up a cow a few months before she was about to calve, said, `the only way to do it with a good cow like this is to milk her out on the ground. She gets so mad at the waste of her milk that she dries right up.' That may be an old wives' tale --- or an old farmers' tale, in this case --- but there is a lesson in it: if we waste what we have, the sources of supply will dry up. Any long range view of the colossal waste of the resources of the earth and human life points to an exhaustion of our economy, not to speak of man himself."

--- Dorothy Day, "A Brief Flame," The Catholic Worker, November, 1965.

 

ON TECHNOLOGY

"When tractors are as big as barns --- their machinery the size of groves. Then might shall have become right . . . machines will have won. When there's one yard light in a Dakota night and one farmer waking in the morning sun. Then there by the grace of God went us and technology's logic is done."

--- Tim Ralston, "The Successful Farmer," Petersburg, North Dakota.

 

THREE WAYS FOR NATIONS TO ACQUIRE WEALTH

"There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth: the first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors --- this is robbery; the second by commerce, which is generally cheating; the third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man received a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry."

--- Benjamin Franklin, "Positions to be Examined Concerning National Health," April 4, 1769.

 

"GAMBLERS IN THE NECESSITIES OF LIFE"

"It is absolute insanity for us to lead ourselves or anybody else to believe that this nation can succeed in war when hundreds of thousands of parasites, the gamblers in the necessities of life, use the war only for the purpose of exacting exorbitant profits. We are working, not to beat the enemy, but to make more multi-millionaires."

--- A.C. Townley, co-founder of the Non-Partisan League, Jamestown, North Dakota, July 9, 1917.

 

SQUEEZING THE TOOTHPASTE

"The only way I know to get toothpaste out of a tube is to squeeze, and the only way to get people out of agriculture is likewise to squeeze agriculture. If the toothpaste is thin, you don't have to squeeze very hard, on the other hand, if the toothpaste is thick, you have to put real pressure on it. If you can't get people out of agriculture easily, you are going to have to do farmers severe injustice in order to solve the problem of allocation."

--- Kenneth E. Boulding

 

INFLUENCING NATIONAL POLICY

"It's hard to imagine a national debate on energy or oil without frequent mention of such corporate giants as Gulf or Exxon. Yet that is what has occurred in the debate on the nation's `farm crisis,' with names like Cargill, Continental and Bunge seldom mentioned and scarcely recognized as having a critical stake in and likely influence over U.S. agricultural policy."

--- Mike Dennison, Montana journalist.

 

A "RAW MATERIALS PROCUREMENT AND DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM"

"The biggest problem farmers have is that they have to sell their products through a market place that is really a `raw materials procurement and distribution system;' a system that is designed to buy raw materials as cheaply as possible and resell the products on the basis of all the traffic will bear --- regardless of cost, efficiency, supply, demand or fair market value."

--- Fred Stover, President of the U.S. Farmers Association, U.S. Farm News, October, 1985.

 

CERMONY OF THE LAND

"Speed now the day when the plains and the hills and all the wealth thereof shall be the people's own and free men shall not live as tenants of men on the earth."

--- "Ceremony of the Land," Southern Tenant Farmer's Union

 

HE IS FREE

"He is free who knows how to keep in his own hands the power to decide, at each step, the course of his life, and who lives in a society which does not block the exercise of that power."

--- Salvador de Madariaga, 16th century Spanish diplomat.

 

"POWER CONCEDES NOTHING WITHOUT A DEMAND"

"Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of the waters. This struggle may be both moral and physical, but it must be struggle.

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them. And these wrongs will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."

--- Frederick Douglass, 1857.

 

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CORPORATE AGRIBUSINESS RESEARCH PROJECT
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