"Neither rain nor sleet, nor gloom of night can keep Cargill from delivering at the appointed hour." -- Cargill advertisement
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has named Daniel Amstutz to lead the US government's agriculture reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Amstutz will serve as senior ministry adviser for agriculture in the rebuilding effort and will coordinate the US government activities in the sector.
"We are extremely pleased to be able to draw upon someone with Dan Amstutz's background and experience for this extremely important task," said Veneman. "He will help us achieve our national objective of creating a democratic and prosperous Iraq while at the same time best utilize the resources of our farmers and food industry in the effort, both in the interim and for the longer term."
Presently Amstutz is president of Amstutz & Company, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting practice, specializing in agribusiness and international trade issues. In 2000 Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Cenex Harvest States Co-op, DuPont and Louis Dreyfus all formed Pradium Inc. to offer real-time, cash commodity exchanges for grains, oilseeds and agricultural by-products as well as global information services. Amstutz became Pradium's chairman.
He has had, in USDA's words of massive understatement, "extensive experience in managing organizations and with commodity merchandising and international trading."
As an executive with Cargill, he served as assistant vice president for feed grains and then president of Cargill Investor Service (1954-1978), then as a partner at Goldman, Sachs & Company, before serving as USDA undersecretary for international affairs and Commodity Programs from 1983 to 1987 (and president of the Commodity Credit Corp.),and then as ambassador and chief negotiator for agriculture during the Uruguay Round General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) talks in 1987-1989.
After leaving his ambassador's post he was executive director of the International Wheat Council and the North American Export Grain Association. As Canadian journalist Brewster Kneen points out in his authoritative book, Invisible Giant: Cargill and Its Transnational Strategies [Pluto Press: Sterling, Va., 2002], much of Cargill's lobbying -- and that of all agribusinesses -- is carried out through such trade associations.
It was during the Ronald Reagan and George Bush administrations that efforts were being made to further weaken the US farm economy and invest even more economic control in the hands of corporate agribusiness. That effort was clearly evident in their concerted efforts to utilize GATT in eliminating necessary US farm programs and preventing Congress from exercising any future control over production or the pricing of agricultural products.
The US, for its part, sought to have all agricultural programs put "on the table," meaning that all government farm programs that impact price, production, consumption, or trade in any way be eliminated. That included dairy and commodity programs, import
restrictions on agricultural products and existing conservation programs. Throughout the '80s and early '90s these programs were the mainstay of net US farm income.
What the Reagan, Bush and Republican administrations sought and finally achieved in the 1996 "Freedom to Farm" bill was a plan to "decouple" so-called welfare-type payments to farmers for a seven year period while they "adjusted" themselves to a "free market," or more accurately what could be described as a "transition" out of agriculture.
One need look no further than the drafter of that original US proposal -- Daniel Amstutz -- to learn who its major beneficiaries were intended to be.
Yet despite the devastating effect upon the family farm system of agriculture that Amstutz is responsible for, Veneman's announcement of his new position has elicited nary a peep as of this writing from US family farm organizations.
Once again it calls into question, as did the "war" in Iraq, the often myopic view our nation's farmers have assumed when it comes to the worldwide struggles of peasant agriculture.
It would be naïve to think that the "Cargill approach" to the moral questions that post-Saddam Iraqi agriculture and food production faces will not be reflected in Amstutz's approach to his new job "of creating a democratic and prosperous Iraq while at the same time best utilize the resources of [US] farmers and food industry in the effort, both in the interim and for the longer term."
USDA, in announcing the Amstutz appointment, notes that it has "a key role in the US government's overall efforts to create a democratic, market driven economy in Iraq. Numerous experts in a wide variety of fields from both the USDA and the private sector will assist in the effort. Amstutz will serve as a liaison between Secretary Veneman and military officials overseeing the rebuilding effort." Amstutz will join other US government representatives in the region immediately and will coordinate activities with coalition trading partners.
A.V. Krebs is director of the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project, PO Box 2201, Everett, WA 98203. He publishes a free e-mail newsletter, The Agribusiness Examiner; email firstname.lastname@example.org; web site www.ea1.com/CARP/