Ag Concentration Threatens Free Market

By Leland Swenson
President, National Farmers Union

Concentration in agriculture has now come to the front burner of concerns facing producers. The Agriculture Secretary's advisory committee on concentration in agriculture was closely watched. The poultry processing industry even attempted to nullify producer impact by protesting the appointment of a poultry grower to the committee.

Once the committee's report was released in early June, congressional committees held hearings immediately and urged expedient action on the less controversial recommendations. Mike Dunn, assistant secretary for USDA's Marketing and Regulatory Programs, was assigned to evaluate and implement the advisory committee's recommendations. Even the Justice Department has gotten into the act, assigning a five-person beef monitoring group to follow up on allegations of unfair packer practices.

The National Farmers Union's fly-in on agricultural concentration was originally intended to be a small event of 30-40 participants. In the end, we had to cut it off at 150 producers. Plummeting cattle prices amid record profits by packers brought in producers who had never before participated in a fly-in.

These folks and their fellow producers are no longer buying the line that dismal market prices are due exclusively to high cattle numbers. They know that concentration is squeezing many producers out of business and that it will continue to take its toll on independent farmers and ranchers unless anti-trust laws are enforced and new legislation is enacted to combat anti-competitive forces.

The concentration issue is one that transcends traditional regional, political and species affiliations. Forward-looking producers, such as Marinell Strain, a contract poultry grower from Oklahoma, are articulating a broad-based concern with agriculture concentration. They are warning fellow producers and consumers that manipulation of America's food production system is risky business. As Marinell says so succinctly, "What worries me most is not just the hardships of growers, but the destruction of the independent market."

Another leader in this area, Kathleen Kelley, who authored a study on agriculture concentration for the NFU, sums it up well in saying that the elimination of competition in the marketplace has nearly destroyed our free enterprise system. We need to urge our lawmakers to act now and to act decisively or independent producers could go the way of the dinosaurs.

Editor's Note: With the National Farmers Union's mixed reaction to the final report of the U. S. Department of Agriculture Committee on Concentration, the organization has released its own study of corporate concentration in the livestock industry.

The USDA's 21-member panel, which released findings of its five-month study June 6, included three minority reports in its final document.

"The report contains information gathered from farmers and ranchers across the country about the financial, environmental, credit and transportation problems caused by concentration," said Leland Swenson, president of the 300,000-member NFU, which advocates on behalf of family farms. "The report is flawed, though, when it concludes that concentration may actually benefit consumers," he said."

The NFU and Kathleen Sullivan Kelly, a fourth-generation Colorado rancher, took a more academic approach to the issue. Kelly's report, titled Concentration in Agricultural Markets, is available on the Internet at the NFU web site or by calling the NFU at 303-337-5500.

Inappropriate slam

Ted Rall may have a point ("No More Mr. Nice Guy: The Rise of Profit-Driven Morality," June, 1996), but he makes it with an inappropriate slam at the '60's generation, as if we, because of our privileged (?) middle-class backgrounds, invented corporate ethics; claiming that a bunch of bomb-throwing, anarchist hippies are today's corporate leaders? ... whoa.

Nice try Ted.

I guess when we hit our 50s, we saw the error of our socialist ways, embraced the capitalist ideal, threw off the shackles of democracy, and hired Ronald Reagan to be president, just to show the world how serious we were about greed.

I am sure that those who did throw bombs are NOT running major corporations. And those of us truly on the Left, working today because our own revolution was defeated, have never made it very far up the ladder.

A very simple fact of life; we are what we are. No one becomes more conservative as they get older unless they were at least a little conservative when they were younger. The meek may inherit the earth (I don't know for sure), but the greedy have and will always inherit the CEO's job. In business, greed has always equaled ethics. Please, don't blame that on us too! George Will will become your best friend!

Ken Eidel

Raise the Brown/Nader Banner

The voters do not need another Republican presidential primary in November (i.e. Bob Dole vs. Bill Clinton)! Instead, what we need is a real progressive ticket which will bring honesty, integrity, intelligence, wisdom, vision and compassion back into American presidential politics. That's why, for over 16 months now, thousands of Wisconsin volunteers and supporters have been campaigning for a Jerry Brown/Ralph Nader independent presidential ticket in the upcoming November general election.

To make that a reality and encourage these two outspoken Americans to run together in the upcoming presidential election, our dedicated, unpaid volunteers have participated in several draft campaign rallies and other major events across the State of Wisconsin. At these events, we distributed over 300,000 copies of union-donated draft campaign literature and met with millions of American voters. Our draft campaign literature mostly consists of detailed Brown/Nader article sets on Welfare Reform, the Mexican Bailout, Counter-Terrorism and the Abuse of Power, Drugs and State Power, Crime Control, Corporations, Jobs and the Awakening Labor Movement, Corporate Power and Subsidies and the Death Penalty. In addition, we have also distributed several thousand copies of this draft campaign literature door-to-door in communities throughout the state.

As of this date, none of the declared 1996 presidential candidates have adopted the principles of economic and social justice which were brilliantly outlined in Jerry Brown's 1992 Platform in Progress. These principles include: 1) the immediate repeal of both NAFTA and GATT, 2) high-wage job creation in the United States, 3) a tough striker-replacement law, 4) raising the minimum wage, 5) strengthening worker safety laws, 6) single-payer health care reform, 7) protecting Social Security and Medicare, 8) fully funding public education, 9) real campaign finance reform, and 10) cleaning up the environment.

To ensure that these important issues will be addressed in this year's November election, our volunteers are now ready to begin obtaining the 2,000 signatures necessary to place Jerry Brown's name (along with Ralph Nader as his running mate) on Wisconsin's independent presidential ballot. Millions of citizens must now join together to fight for "real progressive change" in Washington, and we strongly believe that a Jerry Brown/Ralph Nader progressive, independent presidential ticket can be the vehicle for this much needed change. Please join us in this grass-roots effort to "Take Back America!

Jeffrey M. Gonyo
Wisconsin State Coordinator
Jerry Brown/Ralph Nader 1996 Presidential Draft Movement.
P.O. Box 161
Richfield, WI 53076

Corporate pledge struggle

Ralph Nader's column on the lack of allegiance to the United States by corporations (June 1996) neglected to mention one thing: During the General Motors annual shareholders' meeting in Wilmington, Delaware, GM CEO John Smith refused a request by a shareholder for the General Motors Corporation to pledge its allegiance. The corporate pledge struggle for corporate values is already underway.

Donna Colvin
Assistant to Ralph Nader
Washington, D.C.

Restore Sovereignty

I was asked to speak at an anti-GATT press conference in Concord (N.H. state capital) November 29, 1994. Also speaking was Mike Hammond (Republican candidate for Congress this year), who said the attorney general's office was busy identifying state laws "incompatible" with GATT (before GATT was even passed).

This was confirmed by New Hampshire Attorney General Jeffrey Howard when I questioned him on [New Hampshire] Public Radio recently. All 50 states have done the same, per Howard. The intent is to "harmonize" our laws with GATT.

This explains why Citizen Petition's effort last year in the N.H. legislature, to reinstate our waxed produce signs in New Hampshire stores, was targeted for defeat by attachment of bogus fiscal notes.

Our signs listing wax ingredients are due protection under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It's incredible, and terrifying, that multi-national corporations have dominion over our laws. The waxed produce labeling law enforced for two and a half years in New Hampshire (see story, front page, National Sunday Edition, the New York Times, May 1, 1994) has been canceled by GATT.

Sidebar: Bob Dole said on Meet the Press November 27, 1994, he had the votes to pass GATT. Asked about Kansans who protested he'd sold them out, and Nader, Buchanan, Perot and other critics of GATT, he smiled and said, "they're not voting, I am; GATT can't override American laws."

Well, it's happened, Bob. Did you really not know it would?

Mary Roy
Citizen Petition
34 Nathan Lord Rd.
Amherst NH 03031

Editor's Note: Ms. Roy is circulating a petition for complete disclosure, at point of purchase, through labeling, of all processes and additives to fresh produce and other foods, including waxes, dyes, pesticides, irradiation, hormones and genetic engineering.

Query your candidates

Finally, the final Iowa congressional candidates, 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans, have been selected. Now is not the time to sit back and wait for the November election.

Right now, today, is the time to ask each one the most important political question of all time. WHAT IS THE FOUNDATION FOR THE U.S. DOLLAR?

The Gold Standard was dropped in 1933. The U.S. Congress is responsible for the U.S. Currency but they don't talk about it. The national news won't ask, it's up to you, the American Citizens to demand an answer.

ASK: What is the foundation for the U.S. dollar?

If there is none, what do you intend to do about it?

Ask the same questions of Senators Grassley, Harkin and Senate candidate Lightfoot.

If you don't know the names of your congressional candidates you can find out at your Court House or local newspaper.

An honest dollar is the absolute number one priority for this nation. Without it, the future for your children the politicians all talk about is going down the drain. Without a congressional mandated foundation for the U.S. Dollar, we are actually operating with printing press money, which is totally illegal for a democracy.

Francis L. York
711 N. 7th St.
Indianola, Ia. 50125

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