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Lawsuits Over Pesticides, Herbicides Allowed

(Friday, May 6, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. Lawsuits Over Pesticides, Herbicides Allowed
2. NFU Supports Captive Supply Reform Act
3. The folly of free trade with Central America
4. Honda May Set Record, in Soybean Exports
5. One Reporter's Opinion - 'NADA' to CAFTA
6. Corn Growers Announce Recall of Awards: ACGA Offers to Reissue Agriculture Journalist Awards to Comply With Trademark Restrictions

1. Lawsuits Over Pesticides, Herbicides Allowed: The Supreme Court rules against the White House's pro-business reading of a 1972 law.

David G. Savage, LA Times Staff Writer, April 28, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The makers of pesticides and weedkillers can be sued and forced to pay damages if their products cause harm, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, rejecting the view of the Bush administration and reversing a series of lower courts.

The 7-2 ruling permits lawsuits by farmers whose crops are damaged by pesticides, as well as suits by consumers who are hurt by bug sprays.

In its first ruling on the scope of the 1972 federal law regulating pesticides and related chemicals, the justices said the requirement that chemical companies submit their products for approval by the Environmental Protection Agency did not "give pesticide manufacturers virtual immunity" from being sued if those products proved to be harmful to people, plants or animals.

Wednesday's ruling restores the law to what it had been before the 1990s.

During most of the 20th century, Americans who were hurt or killed by toxic chemicals could sue the maker of the product in state court. But more recently, lawyers for the chemical industry convinced courts in much of the nation, including California, that the federal law regulating the pesticides barred such lawsuits in state courts.

Four years ago, the Bush administration adopted this pro-industry position, saying that once a pesticide or weedkiller had won EPA approval, it had a federal shield against being sued -- even if the product did not work as advertised.

The case of 29 Texas peanut farmers illustrated the issue. Five years ago, they were persuaded by agents of Dow Chemical Co. to try Strongarm, a powerful, newly approved weedkiller. The farmers say Strongarm killed not just their weeds, but also their peanut plants.

"They just plain withered away," said Ronnie Love, 63, who said he applied Strongarm to 150 acres when he seeded his fields that spring. Despite a summer of heavy watering, the peanut plants were stunted and failed to produce a crop, he said.

Love and the other farmers say Dow reneged on a promise to compensate them for millions of dollars in crop losses. They notified the company that they intended to sue in a Texas court under the terms of the state's consumer protection law, which allows suits for products that are defective or are deceptively marketed.

But before they could file their claims, lawyers for Dow went to a U.S. district court in Lubbock and asserted it was shielded from such suits.

A federal judge agreed with Dow and dismissed the farmers' suit. And the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans agreed as well, saying federal law that regulates pesticides preempts or bars lawsuits in a state court. The California Supreme Court handed down a similar ruling five years ago.

But the Supreme Court took up the case of the peanut farmers â¤" Bates vs. Dow AgroSciences -- and ruled Wednesday that the lower courts were wrong to throw out such claims.

Justice John Paul Stevens noted that the EPA did not test products to see if they were effective. It simply relies on information supplied by the manufacturer.

After the peanut crops in Texas failed, Dow changed Strongarm's product label to say the weedkiller should not be used in regions with high-alkaline soils, which are common in Texas and Oklahoma.

The company did not acknowledge liability for the earlier damage.

Stevens described the 1972 law as an effort by Congress to impose grea ter regulation on "poisonous substances." Converting it into a shield against lawsuits would "create not only financial risks for consumers, but risks that affect their safety and environment as well," he said.

"This is a huge win for farmers, and I think it will have a big impact in the agriculture industry," said David C. Frederick, the Washington lawyer who represented the peanut farmers. "Pesticide makers and farmers have to work together. And if something goes wrong with a pesticide, the farmers deserve to be compensated. Now the courthouse door is open to them again after being closed for the past 15 years."

Patti Goldman, a lawyer in Seattle for the environmental group Earthjustice, said the ruling would help consumers and workers harmed by pesticides.

She and other lawyers cited cases of children sickened by pesticides that had drifted from fields into residential areas and that of a young man who died after riding a horse that had been sprayed with a pesticide. Recently, such lawsuits had been dismissed prior to a trial.

Wednesday's ruling does not mean the plaintiffs will always win, the lawyers said, noting that they would have to prove the product was defectively made or inadequately tested to prevail in court.

"This just means that people will be allowed to sue for compensation when they are harmed by a pesticide," Goldman said. "The court recognized that these [EPA-approved] labels are written by the manufacturers."

The Bush administration, the chemical industry and other business groups joined the case on the side of Dow Chemical Co., arguing that the court should erect a barrier to such lawsuits.

"This is a complete loss and a big disappointment," said Steve Bokat, general counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Our concern is that this gives an opening for the plaintiffs' bar to bring more tort claims against large companies."

In his opinion, Stevens pointed out that the Clinton administration believed that the federal pesticide registration law did not shield manufacturers from all lawsuits. The Bush administration reversed course in 2001 and said the law as originally written did block such claims.

Stevens called the new interpretation "particularly dubious" and not entitled to much deference from the high court. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer joined the court's opinion.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented in part, criticizing the court for "tipping the scales in favor of the states and against the federal government" by allowing lawsuits in state courts.

Thomas said most of the legal claims raised by the peanut farmers should have been thrown out of court.

2. NFU Supports Captive Supply Reform Act

Contact: Emily Eisenberg
202-314-3104, eeisenberg@nfudc.org

WASHINGTON (May 2, 2005) - The National Farmers Union applauds legislation introduced by Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., that would restrict the percentage of captive supplies allowed by meat packers.

The Captive Supply Reform Act is cosponsored by Senators Byron Dorgan, D- N.D., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Craig Thomas, R-Wyo. The bill addresses the problem of captive supply in the livestock industry by amending the Packers and Stockyards Act to require that livestock producers have a fixed base price in their contracts. It would also require packers to put contracts up for bid in the open market. National Farmers Union President Dave Frederickson said the bill will help encourage competition.

"Competition is what the American free market economy was founded on," said Frederickson. "Without competition, cattle producers are faced with a 'take it or leave it position.' Meanwhile, consolidation within the livestock industry continues to increase."

NFU's February 2005 Concentration of Agricultural Markets update shows that four companies are now controlling 83.5 percent of the beef market. Increasingly, independent producers are finding it increasingly difficult to participate in a fair, open and competitive market.



3. The folly of free trade with Central America

Alan Tonelson
Akron Beacon Journal, May 2, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration promises that its Central American Free Trade Agreement will ''promote U.S. exports to a large and important market.'' Instead, CAFTA shows U.S. trade policy has become completely divorced from the main needs of the U.S. economy and turned into an instrument for outsourcing.

Significant new markets for U.S. products would greatly benefit our still fragile economy and still shaky manufacturing sector. But the idea that the six Central American signatories of CAFTA can become these new markets doesn't pass the laugh test.

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Dominican Republic are among the world's poorest countries. They're among its smallest economies, too. Measured by their ability to buy U.S. products, their combined economic output in 2002 (latest available) totaled only $85 billion.

In Ohio terms, that's about Cleveland's size ($82 billion) and about a third larger than Columbus ($64 billion) or Cincinnati ($63 billion).

Here's another way for Ohioans to view the Central America market. The six CAFTA economies combined don't even equal three Dayton-Springfields ($32 billion) or four Akrons ($23 billion) or Toledos ($21.5 billion). Indeed, the biggest economy of the CAFTA 6 -- Dominican Republic, $23.2 billion -- is about Toledo- or Akron-sized, about twice as big as Canton-Massillon.

Such tiny, impoverished economies can't possibly import enough to drive growth for the $11 trillion U.S. economy. But they can become major suppliers to America -- especially if trade deals attract export-oriented investment seeking penny-wage work forces. For example, from 1997 to 2004, U.S. imports from the six CAFTA nations rose by 38.8 percent, to $17.6 billion. Yet U.S. exports to these six rose by slightly less, to $14.98 billion, during this period.

Aggregate export numbers, however, are misleading. The biggest share of U.S. exports to the CAFTA 6 isn't the traditional, job-creating kind. These products aren't consumed in the purchasing nations. Instead, it consists of fabric sent to the region, stitched into final apparel and home furnishings, and shipped back to the United States.

Rather than serving new foreign markets, these ''exports'' serve the same domestic market once supplied by U.S.-based factories. The only difference is that American workers are removed from the equation. Thus, CAFTA isn't a trade agreement -- it's an outsourcing agreement.

More than 30 percent of U.S. exports to the CAFTA 6 consists of such round-trip exports; 5 percent more are an electronic version of these fabric shipments -- exports of semiconductor and related products sent to Costa Rica for testing and assembly at an Intel plant and then re-exported.

The results? No new markets for U.S.-made products, tens of thousands of lost American jobs and trade patterns bound to enlarge U.S. trade deficits. Neither has the American textile industry benefited noticeably.

Since CAFTA's precursor, the 2000 Caribbean Basin trade agreement, the U.S. trade deficit in textiles has jumped 73.4 percent. With manufacturing employment still feeble, America's foreign debts reaching alarming levels and the dollar weakening steadily, these are the last outcomes South Carolina or America need.

The CAFTA 6 will lose out, too. The U.S. market for the labor-intensive goods they need to sell is saturated with imports from Third World regions that have expanded trade with America, notably China. Worse, according to U.S. government and World Trade Organization reports, the expiration of global textile and apparel quotas in January will expose Central Americans to more competition from even lower-wage Asia.

The Bush administration could help U.S. workers and at least some of their Third World counterparts by setting meaningful trade policy priorities and limiting overall Third World import growth. That way, trade expansion's benefits could be channeled to nations of special interest -- such as our hemispheric CAFTA 6 neighbors or Mexico. But influenced by utopian economic ideologies and pressured by retailers and other importing lobbies, the White House is staying the indiscriminate trade liberalization course.

To revive American manufacturing and all the economic and national security benefits it generates, the United States urgently needs new trade policies. Defeating CAFTA is the place to start.

The writer is a columnist for the americaneconomicalert.org Web site and a research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council. His recent book on globalization, The Race to the Bottom, is out in paperback from Westview Press.

4. Honda May Set Record, in Soybean Exports

By JAMES HANNAH, The Associated Press

Apr. 17, 2005 - Honda Motor Co. expects to set an export record this year in the soybeans it returns to Japan in containers that arrived in the U.S. filled with spare parts.

In the shadow of its Marysville auto plant, the company processes 550 bushels of soybeans each hour that end up as tofu and soy sauce. The automaker expects to sell a record 1 million bushels this year and is hunting new markets in Australia. The company says potential customers in Europe and Thailand have expressed interest.

Honda began shipping soybeans in 1986 as a way to reuse cargo containers that were returning to Japan empty. The crop was plentiful in Ohio, there was a market for them in Japan, and the shipments were a way for the automaker to invest in a state it has operated in since 1983.

Between 250 and 280 farmers grow the soybeans for Honda on 22,000 acres in Ohio and Michigan. The region produces soybeans that are especially high in protein, a quality desired by Honda's Japanese customers because soybeans are a substitute for meat.

The growers are paid as much as $1.10 more a bushel than the $6.15 they would get on the open market.

Some of the soybeans are grown on Honda property, including in the infield of an auto test track. Honda leases the land there to area farmers, who grow the soybeans.

At the 18-employee processing plant, pods, stems and weed seed are removed and the soybeans are cleaned, separated by size and shape and polished. A $1 million dust-collection system keeps soybean dust from migrating to Honda's nearby paint plant, where Accords are painted in colors such as Desert Mist, Satin Silver and Nighthawk Black.

"It's like a vacuum sweeper with a 75-horsepower motor on it," said Joe Hanusik, manager of the processing plant. "It would clean your house in about 15 seconds."

Once processed, the soybeans are shot into 66-pound bags. A robotic arm plucks each bag from the conveyor belt, wheels around and gently stacks it on wooden pallets.

Honda exports the soybeans along with auto parts, aluminum and steel under Honda Trading America, a subsidiary founded in 1972. HTA had $2 billion in gross revenues last year, up from $1.3 billion five years ago.

The automaker got its start in the soybean business in the mid-1980s following a chance meeting at an airport between Honda executive Hitochi Morimoto and a Japanese soybean supplier who was looking to expand the export of U.S. soybeans to Japan. Morimoto set up the business and later became president of Honda's soybean-exporting operation.

At first, Hanusik's family-run business, Madison Seed Co., processed soybeans for Honda in modest amounts. He now processes soybeans exclusively for the automaker, doing about twice the business of the seed company, which since has been sold.

Honda built its processing plant in 1999. It shipped between 750,000 and 800,000 bushels of soybeans in 2004 and had $10 million in soybean sales from March 2004 and March 2005. That compares with $20 billion in auto-related sales for Honda in just the last three months of 2004.

Other automakers have also stepped outside their core business when opportunities arose. General Motors Corp. disposes of used sand from its foundries by selling it to make concrete. The company also sells sludge generated from the paint process at its assembly plants for use in making plastics for park benches and playground equipment.

Soybeans account for about 23 percent of all the grain grown in Ohio. Honda's exports accounted for only a fraction of the 207 million bushels of soybeans grown last year in the state. But Melanie Wilt, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, calls the company's effort significant.

"Any time that we can easily facilitate the export of grain commodities directly from Ohio, that's a great thing for Ohio's economy," she said. http://www.hondatrading.com

5. One Reporter's Opinion - 'NADA' to CAFTA

George Putnam
Friday, April 29, 2005

It is this reporter's opinion that we should have listened to Sir James Goldsmith, former member of the British Parliament and internationally recognized economist, when he warned us of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the New World Order.

Sir James, speaking before our own Senate Commerce Committee hearings on Nov. 15, 1994, stated that NAFTA, GATT, WTO and the New World Order were the "most destructive proposal presented to the American people." He based his statement on the experience of Europe - loss of jobs, unemployment and a host of other attendant problems. But we wouldn't listen.

A few critics argued that NAFTA would be bad for U.S. workers. Others said it would hurt Mexican workers. But they were shouted down by the proponents, who optimistically predicted that a rising tide of profits and productivity would result. Look at the results today - north and south - and you'll see that the benefits of NAFTA add up to NADA. But the globalists will not give up.

On July 18, 1993, Council on Foreign Relations member and trilateralist Henry Kissinger wrote: "With NAFTA, the U.S. creates a New World Order. What Congress has before it is not a conventional trade agreement but the architecture of a new international system. The trade agreement with Mexico is the vital first step for a new kind of community of nations, a first step toward THE NEW WORLD ORDER."

There you have it! In their own words: NAFTA is an important step in the globalists' plan for a New World Order.

Now here we come with the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). President Bush is obsessively pushing for CAFTA as an enlargement of the ill-fated NAFTA. And now President Bush is urging Hispanics to support CAFTA.

In a warning from my friend Rob Sanchez in the "Job Destruction Newsletter" (April 2005), he states that Bush is appealing to the Hispanic businessmen, the rich ruling elite of Mexico. Sanchez warns: "NAFTA is a very bad deal, especially for Mexican farmers. ... NAFTA was partly responsible for the massive economic problems in Mexico that has left their impoverished farmers with no choice but to sneak across our border in order to survive."

He believes Bush is unlikely to convince rank-and-file Hispanics to support CAFTA because so many of them are victims of NAFTA.

But Bush's public relations ploy is a deliberate attempt to shift attention away from the ones who will support CAFTA (the wealthy families who control almost all of the wealth in Latin America, along with the multinational corporations that want to exploit Central America's chief labor pool).

To find out how NAFTA fuels the illegal invasion from Mexico, there's no better authority than Philip Martin at the University of California, Davis. He says: "CAFTA is a danger to our nation. If Congress approves CAFTA, we will not only suffer massive job loss, our sovereignty will be threatened."

NewsWeek Editor Fareed Zakaria explains why: "Unlike the United Nations, the WTO can actually require that a country change its laws, regulations and precedents - not simply national laws but often state and local laws - that its rulings on disputes between nations are binding. It is undemocratic and filled with technicrats."

Surprisingly, most members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and others in the Hispanic community are either against or appear to be leaning against CAFTA. "There are great concerns about how it will affect the Latino community," says Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., chairwoman of the 21-member caucus. Napolitano says she would vote against CAFTA.

The administration would need at least 20 House Democratic votes to pass the measure and faces some opposition from Republicans worried about provisions related to sugar and textiles. Democrats cite labor-related concerns. Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., a member of the caucus, has said, "CAFTA does little to protect workers' rights, including the right to organize and collective bargaining." He says that CAFTA would leave Central Americans vulnerable to exploitation and drive down wages.

Napolitano's and Becerra's concerns are echoed elsewhere. But Bush is obsessively pushing for CAFTA, an enlargement of the ill-fated NAFTA, and the president is determined to press for a plan that would extend amnesty to a million Mexican agricultural workers in the U.S., his totalization agreement plan that would extend Social Security benefits to Mexican workers, and his determination to reform Social Security - all but ignoring our own No. 1 crisis: Medicare (with 50 million Americans struggling without health protection).

David Bacon, a labor journalist and author of "The Children of NAFTA," says: "The Bush administration, not satisfied with the current economic chaos under NAFTA, now hopes to establish a free trade area in the Americas, which would export NAFTA's principles to Central and South America and the Caribbean. But Bush may be in trouble. He has found, in dealing with the trade ministers of Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, and Venezuela, they are not willing to repeat our experiences with Mexico and follow NAFTA's path to mass unemployment and poverty."

Has the president forgotten this nation's real priorities? As I said before, concerning NAFTA and CAFTA, we should have listened to Sir James Goldsmith. As for CAFTA and NAFTA - a great big NADA!


  • Bacon, David. "The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the US/Mexico Border," University of California Press (February 23, 2004)
  • Grigg, William Norman. "CAFTA implications for our Nation," http://www.stopcafta.com
  • Martin, Philip. "Mexico-US Migration," http://www.iie.com/publications/papers/nafta-migration.pdf
  • Martin, Philip. "Trade and Migration: NAFTA and Agriculture," http://bookstore.iie.com/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=73
  • Sanchez, Rob. "Job Destruction Newsletter," April 21, 2005, No. 1238,
  • http://www.zazona.com/contacts.htm

6. Corn Growers Announce Recall of Awards: ACGA Offers to Reissue Agriculture Journalist Awards to Comply With Trademark Restrictions

WASHINGTON ­ May 6, 2005­ Larry Mitchell, American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) Chief Executive Officer, today announced his organization will recall eleven awards presented since 1995 to agricultural electronic and print journalists. The action is a result of a request made by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) due to a trademark violation.

"The issue in question is this," said Mitchell. "Since 1995, ACGA has identified and presented an award, titled the ‘American Corn Growers Association Voice of Agriculture Award,’ to an outstanding agricultural journalist at our annual convention. AFBF contends that ‘Voice of Agriculture’ is a Registered Service Mark protected by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. AFBF is sensitive to the possibility that members of the public and agricultural community will mistakenly believe that the ACGA award is sponsored by or associated with AFBF."

"ACGA understands the legal responsibility to AFBF and will extend the courtesy of complying with the cease and desist request, even though AFBF filed for the government protection a full ten months after ACGA presented its first award," added Mitchell. "ACGA finds it a amazing, if not a bit amusing, that an organization such as AFBF, which spends hundreds of thousands of dollars and untold quantities of political capital to advance a free market, unburdened by the mandates of government regulation and government intervention, would call upon a federal agency to protect its intellectual property."

"We will expand upon the courtesy by offering an immediate, voluntary and public recall to all of our previous recipients of our previously known ‘Voice of Agriculture’ awards and offer each of them a replacement award if they should request one," according to Mitchell. "These replacement awards, as well as all future awards, will be renamed "The ACGA True Voice of Agriculture Award." ACGA is offering the replacement awards to the following recipients;

1995 ­ Larry DeSha
1996 ­ Gary Wulf
1997 ­ High Plains Journal
1998 ­ Kelly Lenz
1999 ­ Susan Risinger
2000 ­ Tom Brand
2001 ­ Rod Thorson
2002 ­ Cheryl Tevis
2003 -- Alan Guebert
2004 -- Cheri Zagurski
2005 ­ Jerry Hagstrom

"It was not our intention to mislead the public or agricultural community in this matter," concluded Mitchell. "We are indeed regretful if we have caused any misfortune to AFBF, but it is even more regrettable that time and resources were expended on this issue when there are so many more important challenges facing our nation’s farm families."

The American Corn Growers Association represents 14,000 members in 35 states. See http://www.acga.org