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Brazil's rise as farming giant has a price tag

(Friday, Aug. 26, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. Our reckless chemical dependence
2. Rabobank report: U.S. farmers can compete globally
3. A 'potential gold mine': Switchgrass could be the Midwest's next big energy source
4. Brazil's rise as farming giant has a price tag
5. Citizenship when Congress is out of session

1. Our reckless chemical dependence

By Julia Olmstead
Prairie Writers Circle

Telling people to wash their faces with DDT would be like the insult "go jump off a cliff." We all know the chemical is extremely hazardous both to humans and wildlife. But it is said that 50 years ago, in the agronomy department of my university, some faculty argued the pesticide was indeed that safe.

In the same way, a fellow student in my plant breeding graduate program hurled an unintended insult last fall when he said Roundup, one of the most commonly applied weed killers in the world, was safe enough for me to drink a glass daily. I was seven months pregnant at the time. In the past few months, two published studies showed Monsanto's herbicide kills some amphibians and might cause reproductive problems in humans.

Since its introduction in 1974, Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, often have been touted as harmless to human and ecological health. Glyphosate, most often sold under the Roundup commercial name, is now the second most commonly applied herbicide in the United States. Nearly 113 million pounds of it is used annually on farms, in parks and around homes, the Environmental Protection Agency reports. From 1990 to 2000, its use increased tenfold because of Monsanto's introduction of Roundup Ready crops: corn, soybeans and cotton genetically engineered for glyphosate resistance.

Proponents say that Roundup Ready crops reduce the need for nastier herbicides. Farmers can spray their fields, kill everything but their resistant crops and not worry about causing any harm to themselves, their children or wildlife.

Roundup might be less acutely toxic than other herbicides, but safer isn't the same thing as safe. A study published in June by Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, showed that Roundup killed human placenta cells in lab culture at one-tenth its concentration for field use. At concentrations one-hundredth of intended use, the herbicide inhibited an enzyme crucial to sex hormone regulation.

And an April paper in Ecological Applications showed that Roundup, when applied at label-recommended concentrations, was "highly lethal" to amphibians, wiping out tadpoles of two species and nearly killing off a third.

Monsanto insists that the herbicide's chemical properties make it unlikely to leach from soils into groundwater or persist in surface water, a claim that might ease fears about the real-life ramifications of these papers. But several studies have detected significant concentrations of glyphosate in streams near farm fields, some up to four months after application.

Roundup's full potential to cause health problems for humans and wildlife populations is unknown. But these studies make its unbridled use and promotion as a "safe" choice terribly reckless. We don't understand enough about the effects of pesticides on human and ecological health to claim that any chemical is completely safe. Developing an agriculture that depends on large scale chemical application, like Roundup Ready crops, means we're playing a game whose outcome we cannot predict.

Rather than seek out "less harmful" pesticides, we should be making an agriculture that cuts or ends our need for such chemicals. We should look to organic agriculture and to farming techniques that use more natural systems of pest control. Crop rotations that incorporate greater diversity than just alternating between corn and soybeans are chemical-free ways to control weeds. And incorporating livestock into a farming system contributes chemical-free fertilization and can be a natural check on pests.

Our experience with DDT should have taught us long ago the fallacy of making assumptions about the safety of any agricultural chemical. And rather than spouting glib comments that discount the potential hazards of pesticides, we -- agricultural researchers, parents, consumers -- need to support safe alternatives through actions like buying organic food and promoting chemical-free farming and home landscaping.

We already have enough evidence on Roundup to be concerned about its effects on human and animal health. The time to take action is now, before the next round of studies comes out.


Julia Olmstead is a graduate student in plant breeding and sustainable agriculture at Iowa State University. She wrote this for the Land Institute's Prairie Writers Circle, Salina, Kan.

2. Rabobank report: US farmers can compete globally


According to a new research report from Rabobank, the US farming industry is well positioned to succeed in the competitive global market, thanks to ongoing consolidation and integration, as well as early adoption of new technologies.

Rabobank's US Farming report, which analyzes trends and issues in US agriculture, warns that US farmers must continue to grow, innovate and use domestic advantages to overcome high land costs, increasing environmental regulations, changes in governmental support, global competition, and other challenges.

One key trends identified in the report, which Rabobank says will help ensure the competitiveness of US farmers, is the continuation of consolidation. Also, integration and contracting with wholesalers, processors and retailers will allow smaller operations -- especially in the grains, oilseeds and specialty crops sectors -- to capture a market premium.

Other advantages that will help US farmers compete globally, according to the report, include a relatively low cost of capital, access to technology, strong managerial skills, a strong domestic market, and favorable access to Canadian and Mexican markets.

US farmers do face challenges ahead, however. The report lists key obstacles as higher land costs, changes in government support, reduced price supports and crop subsidies.

Based on the results of the research report, Rabobank is repositioning its US farm lending business. Beginning this month, Rabo AgriFinance will increase its lending platform, expand product offerings, and increase local presence in markets across the country, the company says.

3. A 'potential gold mine': Switchgrass could be the Midwest's next big energy source

By Jeff Caldwell

For better or worse, land that was taken out of production years ago as part of the Conservation Reserve Program will be kicked back into production in the coming years.

How will landowners and farm managers make use of the newly functional ground? If taken back to row crops, the perennial soil quality benefits from CRP grasses may be lost, proving the program's long term gains to be marginal at best.

What if another crop existed, one that might partially maintain the benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program, while at the same time, allow landowners to advance profits on the land that sat idle for years? Decades-worth of study and research that continues today has been brought to fruition in a crop that can successfully be grown in the Midwest and has a well-defined market, yet today lacks some of the legislative support necessary to catapult it to the level of more conventional crops: Switchgrass.

Switchgrass is a perennial warm-season grass native to the rolling prairie hills of southern Iowa and northern Missouri. Long a staple of the grasslands of the area, switchgrass has in the last decade become recognized as having a new function: Energy generation. Ground switchgrass can be burned in a coal-firing energy facility, displacing a small amount of coal used. While in its infancy, this type of energy supplementation may become another way the Midwestern U.S. can play a large role in strengthening the nation's energy independence and security.

Yet the benefits of switchgrass as a primary crop don't hedge completely toward the consumer, and John Sellers Jr., knows this. Sellers has been growing switchgrass, alongside other forage crops like Big Bluestem and Eastern Gamma grass at his southern Iowa farm and ranch in Wayne County, near Corydon, for almost 30 years. Currently in his seventh year as a state soil conservation committee member and Wayne County Soil and Water district commissioner since 1973, whose father held the latter post before him, Sellers today operates 360 acres of his own grassland in addition to managing 1,000 acres for others. To him, switchgrass is a logical crop for his area.

"When looking for what will be the most efficient and best adapted crop to grow in an area, look to what Mother Nature had there to begin with," he says. "In our case in the Midwest, it is tallgrass prairie grasses of which switchgrass was one."

Sellers, also coordinator of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture's Iowa Grassland Agriculture Program, says he recognizes that conservation and farm profitability must go hand-in-hand in order to be successful. He started planting switchgrass not in search of the next big energy source, but because of its practical applications to his operation.

"Switchgrass is highly adaptive. You can grow it from the Rocky Mountains of Canada all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. It was promoted for its wildlife benefits and all of that years ago. I started planting it in 1980 and was just interested in it at first as warm-season grazing and a wildlife habitat, and it kind of went from there," Sellers says. "Then, when switchgrass was recognized as having the best potential for energy, the focus started to shift."

That focus today, at least in southern Iowa, has blossomed into a new use for switchgrass that has fueled a whole new industry's development. Today, a cooperative group of farmers, Sellers among them, is growing switchgrass for utilization to generate energy alongside coal in the Ottumwa Generating Station in Chillicothe, just over 50 miles east of Corydon. The growers comprise the Chariton Valley Biomass Project, part of Chariton Valley Resource Conservation and Development, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded system for conservation encompassing Lucas, Wayne, Appanoose and Monroe counties in southern Iowa.

Burning switchgrass for energy

Today, more than 3,000 acres in southern Iowa is planted to switchgrass. The U.S. Department of Energy is working with the Chariton Valley group, providing periodic grant funding for research and development to help determine switchgrass' prospects for more widespread and regular use as an energy crop.

Switchgrass, which is sold through power purchase agreements directly to the energy plant, comprises 2.5 percent of the total resource input at the Ottumwa energy facility. When entering the plant, the grass is debaled and ground, yielding finely chopped dry matter that is injected into boilers much the same way powdered coal is injected in conventional plants.

"It goes into a big blower and it's transported pneumatically up into a boiler, then from its own nozzle, blown into the firebox," Sellers says. "The coal is going in on its own stream, and we're pouring in through our own stream."

To date, Sellers says no decline in the plant's energy efficiency has been observed with co-firing switchgrass and coal.

"We've had experts test every aspect of that facility's operations, and that plant hasn't shown a difference so far," he says. "We don't expect that plant to even know it's there."

At the 700-megawatt energy plant, Sellers says 55,000 3- by 4- by 8-foot square bales must be produced to consistently meet the input quota. Because of the costs associated with growing switchgrass, combined with the low cost of coal, it is a constant challenge to find ways to bolster production efficiency to cost effectively meet energy demands.

"Unfortunately, coal is dirt cheap, and it's going to stay dirt cheap. A baler costs $75,000, and you don't have an electric plant on every street corner. We have to truck it 55 miles from here to the plant," Sellers says. "We've pushed it and applied more nitrogen early in the growing season just to see what the soil is capable of. Four tons per acre is where it cash flows, but we can raise as much as six tons/acre."

Utilizing switchgrass for energy has another avenue for the future: Ethanol. With cellulose ethanol technology on the verge of reaching the mainstream, switchgrass could be an alternative to more conventional ethanol production methods, according to Sellers.

"We've got the cellulose-to-ethanol technologies in place now, so this is what you're going to start seeing spring up if we have some policy that would help a little bit," he says. "The corn people have the policy to support them. They've worked super-hard for it.

"We have seen a lot better net energy gain with a bale of switchgrass than with a bushel of corn, when making ethanol out of it."

Managing switchgrass

Switchgrass as a crop requires atypical management. For optimal output, it is harvested every other year, rather than annually. Even though it is common in CRP fields, switchgrass harvested for energy generation must be a relative monoculture, meaning derived from primarily a single seed type, rather than part of a mixture of grasses. Once the grass reaches maturity in harvest years, it is swathed and baled, much like other forage crops. Sellers says the 3- by 4- by 8-foot bales are used in the Chariton Valley project because of ease of handling and storage. Bales are currently stored in 13 buildings around the Rathbun Lake watershed area that comprises the four counties of Wayne, Lucas, Appanoose and Monroe. One building near the energy facility houses 16,000 bales and is utilized in times when weather prevents hay delivery from more outlying areas.

In terms of soil conservation and preservation, switchgrass is unique in its benefits. Much of Sellers' ground is highly erodible, yet switchgrass flourishes. This is due in part to its "sod roots," which form an interwoven layer of roots that don't penetrate extremely deep in the soil, but form a layer of solely root tissue just beneath the surface. This, in effect, stabilizes ground that might be easily eroded if planted to row crops. For this reason alone, Sellers says the value of switchgrass should be clear.

"The fields have a soil quality that's just sky high. We've got moderate to severely eroded soils from years and years of row cropping, or too short of rotations of full tillage. This is really helping this soil bring itself back," he says. "We're spending millions on soil conservation in this country so we can row crop all the land when we could rotate in switchgrass and accomplish the same thing."

Perhaps the greatest benefit of switchgrass to soil quality comes through its manipulation of nutrients. According to Sellers, switchgrass is a C4 grass, which means nutrients move throughout the plant during different times of the growing season. This culminates with the first killing frost in the fall, when nutrients like phosphorous and potassium move into the roots. As a result, nutrients stay circulating throughout the soil, rather than being removed, like they are with row crops.

"At the time of the killing frost, all the P and K in the plant goes back down to the root. So, if you wait two weeks after a killing frost, almost all of the nutrients have gone back into the roots for the next year," Sellers says. "It makes it extremely sustainable so you don't have the enormous take-out rates that you see, for example, when you cut silage and remove all of it for hay."

Current policy

Even though some say the conservation of natural resources in agriculture is a point of strength of current farm policy, when it comes to switchgrass production, a natural means of soil conservation, current law leaves much to be desired. The coming years will be pivotal for the future of growing switchgrass, as CRP contracts are fulfilled and more of that land will be released back to production. Yet, currently, CRP land must consist of polycultural grasses, meaning a mixture of different types, including switchgrass. The result is a set of requirements that works against the replacement of CRP grasses with a switchgrass monoculture for production.

"Our acres are down because of the farm program, with the renewal of CRP contracts. Guys are having good switchgrass stands, but they're having to tear it out because of CRP," Sellers says. "There are even payment reductions for harvesting it now."

Acres are down, but in the near future, around the time when the new farm bill is scheduled for approval by Congress, the reduction could turn into a landslide because of CRP requirements, like those requiring specific plantings habitats. Instead, Sellers says strict requirements should be abandoned in favor of what works in terms of conservation, sustainability and profitability, all things farmers know a great deal about.

"In 2007, we're going to have a major revolt of farmers who have perfectly good stands of both warm- and cool-season grasses, and they're going to say they've had enough of this, because they don't want to have to spend $200 to $300/acre for some exotic native grass mix that is going to be extremely difficult to establish and manage. The new seeding requirements affect farmers who have contracts expiring in the next few years--more than 1 million acres in 2007 through 2009--and wanting to renew," says Sellers. "A lot of times, you've got a wildlife specialist who lives in town, learning this stuff out of a book, and he has no idea what it takes to establish or manage a stand. I can get folks out here, show them how I can manage these grasses and how I can produce fabulous wildlife habitat."

The net effect of these misguided controls over CRP, Sellers says, are leading to an obvious outcome for him personally.

"I'm going to have to bail out of (CRP)," he says. "I'm just heartsick, because I love CRP, because it's allowing me to have the habitat out here. But, I've also got a farm that I need to make a living ."

Yet, if regulation can turn a corner towards switchgrass, and a safety net can be established under switchgrass growers, something Sellers says is the first step in fostering a healthier switchgrass industry, the crop's vast potential could be realized.

"This stuff does have a place, and is going to become more of a player, but our policy is just getting more and more difficult all the time. Some people just can't see the big picture. There are a few senators, especially in the upper Midwest, who see the potential for this, but we're not getting all the support, policy-wise, we need at this time," Sellers says. "It is a potential gold mine. But, how long can we wait? I'm going to be 60 in a few days. I can wait a little while longer. I'm still an innovator, and I'll still try anything, but how long do you wait before you just throw up your hands and look at other alternatives?"

4. Brazil's rise as farming giant has a price tag

By Jerry Hirsch and Henry Chu
Los Angeles Times, 08/22/05

RONDONOPOLIS, Brazil - This Amazon nation's drive to become the world's breadbasket hinges on farmers such as Carlos Augustin, who grows cotton and soy in an area that would cover more than half of the San Fernando Valley.

Augustin's giant agricultural complex houses a cotton gin, dormitories for 300 migrant laborers and a $3-million fleet of cotton harvesters.

Such complexes are designed with one goal: to outproduce rivals from Australia to America. The strategy appears to be working.

In the last five years, Augustin and other large farm owners have turned their nation into an agricultural superpower, making it the world's biggest exporter of many agricultural products.

The South American nation now supplies sugar for Nigeria's bakeries, chicken for Hong Kong's restaurants, tobacco for Germany's smokers and coffee for Japan.

Growing staples for the world Agricultural products make Brazil a key player worldwide

* Orange juice: 82%
* Soybeans: 38%
* Soy meal: 34%
* Sugar: 29%
* Chicken: 29%
* Coffee: 29%
* Soybean oil: 28%
* Tobacco: 23%
* Beef: 20%
* Pork: 16%

Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organization, Institute for International Trade Negotiations Soaring demand in China has fueled much of Brazil's growth. More than 60% of China's orange juice imports now come from Brazil, which also supplies a third of the Asian nation's soybean and tobacco purchases.

Brazil exported $27.6 billion in agricultural products last year and imported goods worth $3.2 billion. That agricultural trade surplus of $24.4 billion was the biggest in the world and is crucial to Brazil's efforts to pay foreign debts and keep its economy humming.

"Agribusiness is a matter of survival for Brazil," said Carlo Lovatelli, president of the Brazilian Assn. of Agribusiness in Sao Paulo.

Brazil's focus on creating large farms to grow crops for export is not without cost. Many smaller farmers are being pushed out of business. And some Brazilians worry that the country is focusing too much on commodities such as cotton and oilseeds for the global market, rather than the "foodstuffs that can actually be consumed by the local people," said Vicente Puhl, a leader of a coalition of social organizations.

The agricultural boom also is responsible for much of the deforestation occurring in the environmentally sensitive Amazon region.

Government officials acknowledge that loggers, ranchers and farmers gobbled up 10,088 square miles of Amazon rain forest in the 12-month period ending last August, an area about the size of Massachusetts.

"Their ambition is destroying nature," said Jose Tadao, a representative of Brazil's Landless Workers Movement and an advocate for small-scale farming.

Environmental groups such as Greenpeace are fighting the expansion into the rain forest.

Others are arguing that deforestation could ultimately limit Brazilian agriculture. Paulo Moutinho, research coordinator for the Amazon Institute of Environmental Studies, believes the deforestation could eventually change Brazil's - and Earth's - climate, reducing rainfall and the supply of water for irrigation.

Almost half of the deforestation is occurring north of where Augustin farms, in the state of Mato Grosso, the center of Brazil's agricultural expansion. In June, Greenpeace bestowed its "Golden Chainsaw" award, for the Brazilian voted most responsible for Amazon destruction, on Blairo Maggi, the state's governor and owner of a farming concern that controls nearly 500,000 acres of soy, cotton and corn plantings. Earlier this year, Maggi's environmental chief was arrested by Brazilian authorities investigating the relationship between government officials and loggers.

Maggi, the world's largest soy producer, defends the nation's emphasis on large agribusiness. "Small properties in Mato Grosso don't have economic viability," Maggi said during a recent meeting with foreign journalists. "You can only survive if you have large volume."

Brazil has always been rich in land and water, the two key ingredients for farming, but it took a confluence of events to turn the nation into an agricultural power. It began with a change in economic policy in the 1990s, repealing a tax that made most agricultural exports a losing proposition, said Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodriguez.

Import duties on farm equipment, seeds and fertilizer also were slashed. Farmers now pay a 14% tariff compared with 20% in 1998. And when the Brazilian currency, the real, was devalued in 1999, the export market zoomed. Agriculture accounted for about 31% of the nation's gross domestic product last year.

"What really explains the growth of Brazilian agriculture is entrepreneurship, good science, access to good land and good weather," said Mario Jales, senior researcher at ICONE, a Sao Paulo think tank.

Brazil is spending millions of dollars on research to transform arid cerrado, or savanna scrubland, into productive farmland. It is using the World Trade Organization and other international trade agreements to challenge U.S. and European subsidies and open up markets.

In a complaint brought by Brazil, the WTO ruled in June 2004 that U.S. subsidies to cotton farmers distorted world prices by encouraging overproduction. The U.S. lost an appeal in March. The Bush administration is now working with Congress to bring its farm policy into compliance with the WTO.

And in April, a WTO panel agreed with Brazil, Thailand and Australia that European Union nations illegally export subsidized sugar, driving down prices on world markets. Brazilian trade officials said they were considering taking similar action against U.S. soy subsidies.

Previously, South American nations viewed industrialization as the primary engine of economic development, said economist Mailson da Nobrega, a former finance minister.

But now, "if you look at Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, they are economic powers with strong agricultural sectors, and we can do the same," he said.

There is plenty of room to grow. Da Nobrega estimates that Brazil, which is the world's fifth- largest nation by landmass, is using only about a third of its arable real estate for farming.

And scale is the watchword here. Hundreds of farmers control vast tracts. The family of Adilton Sachetti, the mayor of Rondonopolis, farms more than 170,000 acres of cotton, soy and corn. By comparison, soy farmer Ron Heck is one of the larger growers in Perry, Iowa, but his entire farm is 3,600 acres. Most of the growers in Heck's region plant less than 3,000 acres.

"We produce a lot of soy, but none of us are on the scale of the Brazilian growers," Heck said in a telephone interview.

Some of Brazil's successes have adversely affected U.S. farmers. On Wednesday, the U.S. slapped tariffs of up to 60% on the price of orange juice concentrate imports from Brazil. The move came after Florida growers complained that Brazilian companies were selling concentrate below fair market values.

U.S. cotton growers are upset that Brazil's WTO win might cut their federal farm subsidies. And the only reason American soy producers haven't complained about the Brazilian government's low-interest loans and other support for its industry is that demand for soy is growing fast enough to absorb the output of both countries, some U.S. farmers say.

The boom is changing Brazilian agriculture.

Some Brazilian families have gained control of vast tracts of agricultural land, squeezing out thousands of other small growers. About 4.3 million Brazilians farm areas of 125 acres or less, said Luiz Vicente Facco, spokesman for the National Confederation for Agricultural Workers.

"The small producers do not have the scale" to participate in the global markets for soy, cotton and sugar, Facco said. And as they struggle to earn a living, "small farmers who are surrounded by large farms will be pressured to sell," he said.

Maggi, the soy mogul and governor of Mato Grosso, says he sees "little future" for small farmers unless Brazil begins providing subsidies, which is unlikely considering its WTO battle against U.S. and European Union farm payments.

Even large farming operations face hurdles in competing against producers in the United States who have the advantage of better infrastructure, access to credit, and modern technology.

"They have improved over in Brazil, but our yields are still better and we can compete on quality," said Cannon Michael, co-owner of Bowles Farming Co., which farms 6,000 acres of cotton near Los Banos, Calif.

Lovatelli of the Brazilian Assn. of Agribusiness agrees that "bad infrastructure" could limit Brazil's growth. "The moment we have to take our crops to the port, we have problems," he said.

The cost of transporting corn to the port, for example, can consume as much as 25% of the value of the product. Brazil has about 100 million tons of agricultural storage capacity, about 40 million tons less than it needs to reduce loss from spoilage and to take the best advantage of price fluctuations, said economist Jose Vicente Caixeta of the University of Sao Paulo's agricultural school.

Unlike in California, where multilane highways whisk cotton and other farm products to the sophisticated port complex at Los Angeles harbor, it's not unusual for Brazilian farm commodities to travel 1,200 miles or more on uneven and heavily congested roads to reach the two main ports of Santos and Paranagua. Analysts say Brazil will have to surmount these problems to protect its gains.

"The potential ... to be realized is enormous," said Jales of the Sao Paulo think tank.

5. Citizenship When Congress is Out of Session

Organization for Competitive Markets
P.O. Box 6486
Lincoln, NE 68506
Contact: Chase Carter, Executive Director
(402) 817-4443

by Keith Mudd

'Tis the season for Congressional glad-handing in the field. Congress is not in session until September 6, 2005. This means they will be listening to ordinary citizens, rather than silk-suited lobbyists, in photo-ops and coffee shops. Independent farmers and ranchers cannot afford to fly to Washington, but we can make our views known in local meetings. It is our democratic duty to protect our interests, and let our political leaders know what we really think. We need to focus them on competition in the next Farm Bill.

Producers can give the "inside-the-beltway" leaders an "outside-the-beltway" reality check. Fewer meetings and less administrative functions allow for increased attention to the issues that affect states and districts. Also, the more time a Representative or Senator has to hear the concerns of constituents, the more educated they become on the issues.

The next Farm Bill will be written in 2006, newly constrained by the WTO-world-government. USDA is holding listening sessions around the country focusing upon issues important to Cargill, Tyson and Smithfield Foods. We need to begin working today.

Activist judges, on behalf of U.S. based agribusinesses, have recently gutted antitrust and competition laws that were designed to protect producers. We must press Congress to enact stronger competition protections, in a "Competition Title," in the next Farm Bill. These elements will begin giving us the protections we need.

1. A Packer Ownership Act is needed to increase competition by prohibiting packers from owning the livestock. Packers should buy, not sell. They should be on one side of the market fence, and producers on the other. Conflicts of interest and price manipulation result without these rules.

2. A Producer Protection Act is needed to require large livestock and poultry processors to tell the truth when enticing farmers into longterm contracts which require 20 year mortgages on new buildings.

3. A Transparency/Minimum Open Market Bill would require meat packers to purchase a minimum percentage of their needs from the open market, to reduce price manipulation potential.

4. A Captive Supply Reform Act is needed to uncover large, secret sales to meat packers, pulling them into the sunlight of markets competition. Secrecy is bad for markets, transparency is essential.

5. Poultry producers need added protections in agricultural law for the unique deception and abuses inflicted upon them by poultry integrators like Tyson, Sanderson Farms and OK Foods.

6. Bargaining rights for contract farmers are needed because poultry farmers are singled out and punished for standing up for their rights. They must be able to join together without retaliation fears.

7. Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling was passed in the 2002 Farm Bill, but meat packers and their lackeys worked with USDA to delay implementation. We want consumers to know where their meat, fruits and vegetables come from.

These all have to be addressed by the lawmakers in the United States. The Farm Bill affects us all and can change the face of the agricultural industry.

So, while Congress is out of session, ask them specifically in local meetings whether they will support these principals in the next Farm Bill. They represent us, not Big Money, or so our Constitution says. Education is a lifelong pursuit, and you can help your Senators and Representatives in their pursuit by educating them.