Farmers Accept Corporate Order in the Cloak of 'Bipartisanship'

While our corporate-owned national media has chosen to ignore the fact, what we have witnessed in the US of A since November 7 would in most countries beyond our borders and shores rightfully be called a political coup d'état by the right wing of our nation's solitary Republicrat Party.

Not only have we witnessed the woeful spectacle of a presidential election being decided by a state that suffers from chronic "electile dysfunction," but we have seen one-quarter of our nation's population troop to the polls and vote for the lesser of two evils, while another one-quarter choose to invest the country's future in the evil of the two lessers.

It is bad enough that George W. Bush stole the election through lamentable legal sophistry with his final act of larceny being aided and abetted by a US Supreme Court decision which occasioned even dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens to write, "The position by the majority of this court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges." But then to add insult to injury the Republicrat party and the political pundits that grovel at its feet are now calling for "healing and closure," attempting to festoon such ordure in the cloak of "bipartisanship."

As my admired colleague Bob Schildgen writes in the Winter issue of Mindfield: "But there is absolutely no reason for healing and closure. To pretend that there should be healing and closure is insane. Terrible Supreme Court decisions have divided the country bitterly before, as well they should have. The Dred Scott decision, when the court declared in 1857 that a black person was not a citizen and had no legal rights as one, is the classic example. It took a civil war and a whole century of fighting to undue the evil works of that historic case."


Election 2000 was not one of the prouder moments of our republic, for not only did the electorate embrace the corporate-chosen two, but they rejected, save for some 2.7 million of them, a genuine opportunity to reaffirm economic and political democracy and elect a president and vice-president -- Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke -- dedicated not only to those democratic ideals, but to the common, not the corporate, good.

Neither did rural America nor our farm communities do themselves proud in this election, for looking at a map of the national results one can see where George W. Bush gained a great measure of his electoral college vote. By doing so Bush only manage to fuel the argument put forth by many beltway liberals that the Electoral College should be abolished, thus further depriving rural America of any last vestiges of political power.

Some pundits have also observed that the votes in rural America reflected disgust concerning the morals, values and lifestyle of the current president. If such is true, and with no effort here to condone or justify such behavior, our rural communities and family farmers who based their vote on such criteria and voted for Republicrat Bush may well have in the process written their own death warrant as family farmers.

For while seemingly preoccupied with Republicrat Clinton's corpus morality such rural voters were ignoring the fact that it is was this same Republicrat president and his congressional brethren who enacted, passed and signed the disastrous Freedom to Farm legislation; which stood by while one large corporate agribusiness after another sucked up their lesser rivals; while self-serving corporate hemispheric and international trade agreements were destroying a domestic family farm economy; while a Republicrat administration kept the revolving door between it and genetic engineering corporations well oiled at the same time they sought to cram down the throats of the American public unsafe and improperly tested products.

Immorality has many faces!

Making this whole matter an even sadder spectacle in democracy is that family farmers had a clear choice, a choice that could have brought about an unprecedented revival of rural America, competitive markets for their goods while at same time providing consumers with healthy, nutritious, safe, available and affordable food in addition to caring for and protecting an already fragile life-giving environment.

Rejecting the Nader/LaDuke candidacy and the well-thought out and positive populist farm policy initiatives that the Nader/LaDuke campaign presented, family farmers seemed to be saying that they preferred continued self-flagellation to self-preservation.

By way of example, in the months prior to election some 90 nationally well-known family farmers and rural activists were invited to join a Family Farmers National Alliance for Nader/LaDuke, with 49 accepting the invitation and 41 either refusing or failing to respond to said invitation. Over half of those 41 failed to even acknowledge the Alliance invitation. Disappointingly, the vast majority of those either refusing or not responding were family farmers.

Some who declined did so because either they planned to vote for the lesser of two evils Gore or due to organizational sensitivities.

Lest that one thinks this is an isolated example, reflect back to when the US Department of Justice issued its consent decree for public comment prior to approving the merger of Cargill, the nation's largest grain trader and private corporation, and its chief rival, the commodity division of Continental Grain, at the time the nation's fifth largest private corporation.

According to the DofJ, 67 individuals, eight public officials, 65 individual farmers, and 19 organizations expressed their views on the proposed Final Judgment. While it is true that organizations such as the National Farmers Union and American Farm Bureau Federation submitted comments, it is somewhat shocking that out of 1.9 million farmers in the US only 65 individual farmers sought to express their thoughts on this historic merger.

Now faced with the grim prospect of a Republicrat Party intent on fashioning not only a "bipartisan" farm policy in the coming years, but an increasingly corporate-friendly US Department of Agriculture and federal bureaucracy, family farm agriculture is on the threshold of witnessing its complete demise, UNLESS family farmers are politically willing to individually and collectively boldly step forward and fight for their survival.

In doing so it is time that they put aside such corporate self-serving, elitist-entrenched bureaucratic political shibboleths as "bi-partisanship" and "healing and closure" and hail and promote division, division that separates people who vote their conscience and who believe in economic and political democracy from the corporate interests and their minions who vote their selfishness and their pocketbooks believing that the government is merely another commodity to be bought and possessed.

Such an effort will not be easy, for as Frederick Douglass' words from 1857 constantly remind us: "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 lightning. 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."

New Ag Sec'y Emphasizes 'Free Trade' and Genetic Engineering

Ann Veneman, 51, no stranger to "free trade," genetic engineered crops and corporate agribusiness, is George W. Bush choice to be his administration's Secretary of Agriculture.

Beginning with the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in 1986, she rose to deputy undersecretary for international affairs and commodity programs. She also was one of the early negotiators of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and from 1991 to 1993 served as the deputy undersecretary which at the time was the highest post at the department ever held by a woman.

In 1995 California Governor Pete Wilson selected the Modesto, Calif., native to head California's Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), after the previous director resigned over charges he did not report hundreds of thousands of dollars in farm income.

Numerous press reports on Veneman's nomination to be USDA Secretary claimed that she was the first woman in California to hold that high position in the state, however, such claims are erroneous and dishonor the memory of Rose Elizabeth Bird.

Appointed to that position by former Governor Jerry Brown, Bird served with distinction before being named Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. Later, she was denied further service on the court due to a well-financed corporate agribusiness recall campaign in retaliation, due in large part, for her progressive initiatives while heading the state's Food and Agriculture department.

While Veneman has considerable experience within the USDA bureaucracy, her appointment is also a political reward for the Central Valley, where Bush concentrated his California campaign and received much of his financial support. She was an early Bush supporter and was among six California Republicans named in mid-1999 to his exploratory committee in the state. At the GOP convention last summer, she was on the national steering committee of Farmers and Ranchers for Bush.

Veneman's parents were peach growers in Stanislaus County in the San Joaquin Valley south of Sacramento. Her father, John Veneman, was a Republican state assemblyman and undersecretary of health, education and welfare in the Nixon administration. Currently she is an attorney with Nossaman, Guthner, Knox and Elliott in Sacramento where she specializes in food, agriculture, environment, technology, and trade related issues.

Regarded by many as a protégé of Richard Lyng, who was agriculture secretary during President Ronald Reagan's second term, Veneman will now oversee the department's 42 agencies, with a budget of more than $60 billion and a workforce of 111,000 employees.

Between her service with the FAS, during which time she help negotiate the Uruguay round talks for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and California's Department of Food and Agriculture she worked for the influential lobbying and law firm of Patton, Boggs and Blow. Among her clients was Dole Foods Co., the world's largest producer of fruits and vegetables.

In California her agency fought hard to extend the use of methyl bromide when the sunset clause under the Birth Defects Prevention Act required that its registration be canceled. Eventually, the extension was approved (with the support of key votes from Democrats who represent agricultural areas of the state).

She also has served on the board of directors of Calgene, a Davis, California company, later acquired by Monsanto, which pioneered genetically altered tomatoes and, in 1987, was the first company to obtain a USDA permit to field test a genetically engineered crop.

Veneman is a strong advocate of high tech's role in farming, from e-commerce over the Internet to genetic engineering. She told an agricultural biotechnology conference last year: "We simply will not be able to feed the world without biotechnology."

Republicrat Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Consumer Federation of America's Food Policy Institute and former lobbyist for Monsanto, has praised the pick of Venemen as "a really good start" for the Bush administration. She said Venemen "will bring a modern view of the Department of Agriculture into that job."

Veneman's emphasis on trade has also drawn strong praise from individuals like Bill Pauli, president of the 90,000-member California Farm Bureau Federation. "What we're really encouraged by is not only does she understand California agriculture, which is really important to us, but she understands national agriculture," Pauli told the Associated Press.

But as Don Villarejo, former director of the public interest California Institute for Rural Studies, points out: "California crop agriculture has become even more focused on vegetables, fruit and ornamental horticultural crops in the past decade. Roughly four-fifths of cash receipts from crop marketings now come from sales of these commodities, and today amount to a total value greater than all farm commodity sales in either Texas or Iowa.

"Ann Veneman strongly promoted exports of these crops, using the limited resources of the CDFA as well as some federal resources that California members of Congress were able to score," he adds.

"It is difficult to say how she will act as Secretary of Agriculture," Villarejo cautions, "since those crops that have been the heart of California's farming boom are not directly affected by federal policy. So-called USDA program commodities, such as cotton, grains, and tobacco, are becoming far less important in the state, as farmers who can are turning to production of vegetables, fruit and ornamentals. Both the acreage harvested and number of farms producing program commodities have declined substantially in recent years."

"When you talk to agriculture people about what government can do to help, it's help us open markets that are closed to us,'" Veneman said in a 1995 interview. "I think that's a real legitimate role that we can play."

As this is written Veneman is expected to be easily confirmed as the new USDA Secretary by a Republicrat Senate, owing to the fact that she enjoys "bipartisan" support and because of her known expertise in international agricultural trade.

A.V. Krebs is author of The Corporate Reapers: The Book of Agribusiness (Essential Books: 1992) and served as the Committee Coordinator for Family Farmers National Alliance for Nader/LaDuke in the recent presidential election.

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