Never Was Heard a Discouraging Word

Once again farmers and their representatives in Washington, D.C., have shown the uncanny willingness to remain relatively silent, if not outright allying themselves in an unholy alliance whose very political and economic power seeks to drive them out of business and off the land.

The latest example of this self-flagellation came recently when the Senate Agriculture Committee approved the nomination of Nebraska governor Mike Johanns to be corporate agribusiness' and the Bush administration's new Secretary of Agriculture by a unanimous 20-0 vote.

In hearings rife with commodityism and regionalism one would have thought that agriculture's only two problems were opening the Japanese cattle market and closing the Canadian cattle market.

Not that these two controversies are of considerable importance to our cattle producers. They are, however, only a part of a much larger and perennially ignored issue relative to why this nation's ag economists are so obsessed with making trade the lynchpin of the nation's farm and food policy, rather than fashioning a policy which has fair prices and competitive domestic markets as its foundation.

Anyone expecting to hear how Gov. Johanns would address and formulate such a policy, other than spewing forth platitudes about growing up on a dairy farm and claiming, "I will always be a farmer's son with an intense passion for agriculture," came away from his confirmation hearing bereft, besotted and betrayed.

Here was to be a Secretary of Agriculture whose "intense passion for agriculture" had only recently been manifested in his own home state by taking an aggressive stance against its successful anti-corporate farming law and by cutting financing for rural development initiatives.

Yet nary a public statement or farm organization voice, let alone a challenge from a farm state legislator, was heard during his confirmation process.

Rather than incessantly compromising and seeking to subserviently ally themselves with those legislators and their corporate paymasters who are determined to rid agriculture of its human resources, those who believe in diversity, pluralism, and economic and social justice would do well to heed the words of the 19th century agrarian populist William Lamb, the leader of the Alliance radicals and perhaps populism's most articulate theoretician, in a historic 1886 open letter to the Rural Citizen.

As business became more economically concentrated, Lamb contended, farmers who continued to strive for friendship and parity with the commercial world were simply failing to comprehend "what is going on against us." Members of the Alliance, he wrote, had to put aside such naivete.

"We think all members should show the world which side they are on and we are looking forward for men that will advocate our interests; those who are working against us are no good for us ... Then for it to be said that we are unwise to let them alone, we can't hold our pens still until we have exposed the matter and let it be known what it is we are working for."

Willing a nuclear legacy

Pictures and accounts of the tragic plight of the thousands of children devastated by the South Asia tsunami have appeared in profusion on our TV screens, newspapers and national magazine covers in recent weeks.

It has been a story that has touched us all, yet there are stories concerning our nation's own childrens' general welfare that provide a perfect example of what Robert Hoyt, onetime editor of the National Catholic Reporter, once appropriately termed the farther-franker theory.

It is only right for us to be deeply troubled by the suffering of children half-way around the world, but when it comes to the potentiality of seeing our own children and their children placed in harm's way, the media and the public often, as illustrated by the disregard shown to former FBI agent Joe Lipsky's recent dire warning, tend to trust in government lies rather than the facts.

At a Jan. 5 Colorado state Capitol press conference, Lipsky, who headed the 1989 FBI raid of the nearby Rocky Flats nuclear plant reservation -- the first time one government agency had been raided by another -- openly charged the Departments of Energy and Justice of "potential criminal acts" in preventing a thorough investigation of Lockheed International's operation of the 6,420-acre site; the case ended in a plea bargain in 1992.

Equally importantly, Lipsky said he was taking an "early retirement" from the FBI so he could warn people of the government's irresponsible efforts to deceive the public about cleanup efforts at the facility and its plans to convert the site into a national wildlife refuge with recreation facilities specifically designed for children.

Lipsky further noted that there were many instances of tampering with environmental monitoring and data falsification at Rocky Flats before his investigation was cut short by federal prosecutors. Energy officials have claimed the $7 billion cleanup has been thorough, and a former federal prosecutor has defended the handling of the case.

Since the FBI raided Rocky Flats, just west of Denver, where triggers for the US atomic arsenal were made, Lipsky also charges pollution laws have been ignored on the grounds of national security, despite what a three-year convened Grand Jury considered to be evidence of serious environmental crimes of dumping and burning radioactive and toxic waste. The Department of Justice rejected such findings and allowed Rockwell to pay $18 million in fines with no criminal charges against individuals involved.

Lipsky in recent years has sought to work with Rocky Flats grand jury foreman Wes McKinley, a newly elected Colorado State legislator; former Rocky Flats worker and whistleblower Jacque Brever; and their environmental activist attorney, Caron Balkany.

Concurrent with the press conference they posted a memo detailing their allegations on the website, where McKinley and Balkany promote their book [The Ambushed Grand Jury] on the case. They are also calling for a congressional investigation.

McKinley, a cattle rancher, said he plans to introduce legislation requiring managers to warn visitors of potential dangers on the site when it becomes a wildlife refuge in 2007.

"The federal government lied to the citizens of Colorado for years about the dangers of Rocky Flats," said McKinley. "They're still lying, and now they want to take our schoolchildren out there on field trips."

While Lipsky & Co. have raised fundamental questions about the coziness between the Federal government and the nation's largest defense contractor in addition to using the cloak of national security to cover up criminal conduct, it is the endangerment of future generations by the arbitrary disposing of nuclear waste that deserves close public scrutiny.

To ignore an issue of such paramount importance to our nation and our future generation's general health and welfare would be to invite catastrophic consequences.

It is as novelist/historian E.L. Doctorow warned in his 1974 Playboy essay, "The Bomb Lives":

"Conceivably, under the right circumstances, we may someday in our nuclear industry lose to the earth just the amount of radiant material necessary to effect a chain reaction. And then the failure of our vaunted adaptation will blaze upon us that what happened to the bomb was that it became the earth, and the earth became the bomb."

A.V. Krebs is director of the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project, PO Box 2201, Everett, WA 98203. He publishes a free email newsletter, The Agribusiness Examiner; email; Web site

Home Page

News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2005 The Progressive Populist