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U.S. Court to agribusiness: Go forth and make serfs of all

(Friday, Sept. 9, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. Forty-Seven Organizations Join ACGA in Opposing Privatization of Export Grain Inspection
2. Brasher: Cutting subsidies could spur exodus
3. Cargill Buys 2 Grain Elevators, Terminal In South Russia
4. USDA Secretary asked to clean up organic mess
5. Farmers united on farm bill needs
6. U.S. Court to agribusiness: Go forth and make serfs of all

1. Forty-Seven Organizations Join ACGA in Opposing Privatization of Export Grain Inspection

For Immediate Release
Contact: Larry Mitchell (202) 835-0330

WASHINGTON ­ Sept. 6, 2005 ­ As Congress returns from its summer recess, the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) and 47 other farm, labor and rural organizations, as well as many foreign customers of U.S. grain exports have advanced a letter to Congress urging the continuation of federal inspection of U.S. grain exports. The letter calls for the elimination of a provision, currently contained in the reauthorization of the U.S. Grain Standards Act, which provides new authority to the Secretary of Agriculture to use private entities to perform official U.S. grain export inspections.

"The future competitiveness of U.S. corn and other grains in world trade hinges on the credibility of the U.S. export inspection system," said Keith Bolin, President of ACGA. "Even with today’s extremely low corn prices ­ now below $1.40 a bushel in many Midwestern communities -- U.S. corn export estimates for 2004/2005 have been reduced to only 1.825 billion bushels, down 72 million bushels from 2003/2004, in the July 12 th U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) supply and demand report."

The organizations signing the letter (see attached) seek to bring attention to, "An ill-advised legislative initiative embedded into the reauthorization of the U.S. Grain Standards Act (H.R. 3421 and S. 1582) to privatize the inspection of our grain exports. We represent the nation’s farmers, ranchers, agricultural workers, federal professionals, rural communities and export customers."

The letter explains, "The export of Agricultural products from the United States forms the cornerstone of America’s success in the global export market. Our American Agricultural community functions as a successful and respected world entity, through the brilliance of their production and marketing ingenuity, unwavering persistence, and a constant eye toward the future of world Agricultural conditions and needs. The Federal Grain Inspection Service, with its 30 year history of cutting-edge inspection success and the guarantee of impartial and honest trading, is the vehicle that delivers our Agricultural products to the world."

"The last thing the U.S. export system needs is another level of uncertainty for U.S. global customers," added Bolin. "It is important that professional federal grain inspection experts, not private entities, do the official on-site sampling, inspecting, weighing and certification of export cargoes if the U.S. is to maintain its reputation as having an unbiased, neutral and credible inspection service. Inspecting the quality and safety of grain exports is the regulatory role of government."

"Privatization of grain inspections will make the U.S. less competitive in world corn trade, not more competitive as privatization proponents suggest," Bolin said, "and the result will be that, again, we will hear the same old song calling for farmers to accept lower grain prices to "compete" in world trade. This is an unacceptable strategy that has failed repeatedly. We are proud to join with so many organizations in our opposition to the privatization of our export grain inspection."

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

September 6, 2005

T0: Senate Majority Leader Frist, Senate Minority Leader Reid, House Speaker Hastert House Minority Leader Pelosi and all members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees

RE: Privatization of Export Grain Inspections Contained in the Reauthorization of the U.S. Grain Standards Act

The organizations signing this communication seek to bring your attention to an ill-advised legislative initiative embedded into the reauthorization of the U.S. Grain Standards Act (H.R. 3421 and S. 1582) to privatize the inspection of our grain exports. We represent the nation’s farmers, ranchers, agricultural workers, federal professionals, rural communities and export customers.

The export of Agricultural products from the United States forms the cornerstone of America’s success in the global export market. Our American Agricultural community functions as a successful and respected world entity, through the brilliance of their production and marketing ingenuity, unwavering persistence, and a constant eye toward the future of world Agricultural conditions and needs. The Federal Grain Inspection Service, with its 30 year history of cutting-edge inspection success and the guarantee of impartial and honest trading, is the vehicle that delivers our Agricultural products to the world.

In implementing this partnership of farmer/producer, a superior product, and the backing of impartial Federal inspection guarantees, the United States stands alone as a true and trusted leader in World Agriculture.

Continued viability and profitability for our Agricultural producers, over the long-term, is essential to the economic health of our country. Our quest for improved efficiencies and profit realization must be carefully balanced with the protection of our standing as an honest and trusted trading partner. It has taken us many years to build our market share and our solid reputation in the eyes of the world: to undermine or destroy any portion of what we’ve achieved will damage our farmers and producers for many years to come.

Privatization of the Federal Grain Inspection Service disables one of the most essential of our global marketing tools ­ the guarantee of impartial and honest, Government-backed trading. World buyers demand this promise with their purchase of American Agriculture. The proposed issuance of rubber-stamped traditional USDA certificates for inspections actually completed by industry-paid private inspectors will strike at the heart of the world’s definition of integrity and honest trading practices. No one appreciates the trickery of bait and switch, and in global trade, this dishonor will erase 30 years of solid market building, hard-earned trust and respect that now defines our marketing success.

Privatization offers no plans to save our market share, no contingency plan to salvage American Agriculture from the privatization failure, and only vague and unproven suppositions about cost savings. The risk that privatization poses for our farmers and producers is not a wise or justifiable decision when the potential for long-term damage is given serious consideration.

We, the undersigned organizations, urge you to oppose and strike Section 2 of H.R. 3421 and S. 1582 which expands the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture to authorize a person or private entity to perform official inspections of our grain exports.


  • ADM Milling, Brentwood, Essex - England
  • AFGE National Council of Federal Grain Inspections Locals
  • Agro Consulting and Trading, The Netherlands
  • American Agriculture Movement
  • American Corn Growers Association
  • American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO
  • American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO
  • Belgische Maalderij MI.I N.V. (Belgium Milling Association), Antwerp, Belgium
  • California Farmers Union
  • Community Farm Alliance
  • Edmonds Institute
  • European Flour Millers Association
  • Family Farm Defenders
  • Florent de Moor , Wommelgem , Belgium
  • Grain Inspectors Local 3157 New Orleans, La.
  • Grain Inspectors Local 3769, League City, Texas
  • Grain Inspectors Local 3781, Portland, Oregon
  • Guthrie-Hubner, Inc., Duluth, Minnesota
  • Heygates Limited/Bugbrooke Mills-Northhampton, England
  • Illinois Farmers Union
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)
  • Iowa Farmers Union
  • Kansas Farmers Union
  • Melio Flour Mills, Raisio, Finland
  • Michigan Farmers Union
  • Milford Grain LTD, Liverpool, England
  • Mostert Oilseeds, The Netherlands
  • National Family Farm Coalition
  • National Farmers Organization
  • National Farmers Union
  • National Grange
  • National Treasury Employees Union
  • Nebraska Farmers Union
  • Nordmills A.B., Malmoe, Sweden
  • Northern Plains Resource Council
  • Organization for Competitive Markets
  • Ohio Farmers Union
  • Pennsylvania Farmers Union
  • R & S Commodities, Barendrecht, The Netherlands
  • Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
  • Raisio Nutrition Ltd., Raisio, Finland
  • Soybean Producers of America
  • Utah Farmers Union
  • Unikorn (Norwegian Grain), Norway
  • V & V Commodities, Barendrecht, The Netherlands
  • Washington Farmers Union
  • Wisconsin Farmers Union


2. Brasher: Cutting subsidies could spur exodus

DesMoines Register, 09/04/05

Washington, D.C. -- There's an idea for farm policy that is getting the attention of some Iowans. No wonder. It could raise corn prices, boost farm income and bring more hog and cattle production into the state.

The policy: Phase out subsidies for farmers worldwide and eliminate tariffs and quotas on agricultural products.

Sound familiar? It's essentially the goal of the World Trade Organization's international trade talks.

Without subsidies, farmers in marginal areas like North Dakota and west Texas would simply quit growing corn, and corn prices would go up by 5 percent, according to a study commissioned by the Iowa Farm Bureau and now making the rounds of the group's membership.

"You get rid of the subsidies to grow stuff in places where it shouldn't be grown," said Dave Miller, the Iowa Farm Bureau's director of commodity services.

"You're going to feed livestock where the corn is. You start moving cattle feeding and hog production back into here."

However, it's projected that land values would drop by $400 to $800 an acre in Iowa with the removal of farm subsidies.

For farmers who rely on renting land, that drop in farm values might not be a bad deal.

But the loss of subsidies also would push many medium-size farms out of business, and the loss of population in rural Iowa not only wouldn't stop, it would accelerate, says Miller.

The Farm Bureau hasn't released the study, which was done by economists at Iowa State University, but Miller described the findings.

"What we find is that when you reduce the farm subsidy levels you accelerate the exodus from agriculture," Miller says.

The study shows the current farm program acts as a brake on people leaving farming, rather than pushing people out as many people believe, Miller says.

Another scenario that the Iowa State economists looked at has the Farm Bureau intrigued. It's basically the idea of value-added agriculture ? finding ways that farmers can make more money from the crops they grow, rather than increasing production.

In Italy, farmers are doing this by trying to control the production of products like Parma ham by stopping anyone else from using the term "Parma." In Iowa, value-added agriculture has primarily meant corn growers investing in new ethanol plants.

It's one scenario that would really stem the loss of population in rural Iowa, and that's because it would mean more jobs in handling and processing commodities, says Miller.

"The more labor intensive the policy option . . . the more people you are going to keep in agriculture," he says.

Whether it's doable or not is another question, which another, ongoing study is seeking to answer. One of the big questions is whether the laws would allow farmers to create a brand, say something like Iowa Beef, and control the marketing of the product.

It's no small question. The Bush administration has been fighting the European Union's system for protecting names like Parma ham from use by other farmers and processors in other countries.

The Farm Bureau started holding county meetings on farm policy in August and meetings will continue into the fall. -- end --

[CropChoice editor's note: A farmer and leader in the agricultural community, after reading this piece, noted that this is the same empty PR line that agribusiness has foisted on farmers and the public for the last 30 years. As the story said, the Iowa Farm Bureau is promoting a plan that will raise the price of corn by 5 percent as an answer to farmers' woes. Problem is, "5 percent of $2.00 corn is only 10 cents and 5 percent of the $1.50 per bushel corn is only 7.5 cents per bu." In his view, this is no justification for "consciously pushing farmers off of the land and further depopulating rural America. North Dakota only produced 121 mil. bu. of corn in 2004 on 1.15 mil. acres. There is more of a U.S. corn acreage variation from the 2004 to the 2005 crop than all of North Dakota's 2004 corn acreage. Trying to make the case for value-added Parma ham as the replacement for an honest price for commodities from the markets is further nonsense. It's like pretending that high oil corn or pharmaceutical corn is the answer. In the second or third year of production when a few more farmers are raising the 'value added' commodity the premium is gone and it is right back to the no. 2 yellow corn commodity price. Let us not be diverted by some scheme that says the answer is a farm policy that raises the price of corn a dime by putting farmers out of business and driving down land prices."]

3. Cargill Buys 2 Grain Elevators, Terminal In South Russia

[CropChoice editor's note: This of course means more export competition for U.S. farmers. And remember, Cargill operates around the world. It wants the lowest price possible for commodity crops to process and distribute nationally and internationally. Farmers, be they in rich or poor countries, don't export. Rather, the transnational grain trade exports.]

LONDON (Dow Jones) -- Cargill Inc. has purchased two grain elevators and a river import/export terminal in southern Russia from the Russian firm Rusagro, Cargill announced Tuesday.

The two grain elevators are currently operating in the Krasnodar region, while the terminal is in Rostov, a brand new facility on the River Don, the firm said.

The deal involves the transfer of approximately 340 workers in the elevators and 70 employees at the Rostov terminal to Cargill.

"We have decided to concentrate on our food processing activities", says Vadim Moshkovich, general director of Rusagro.

Cargill has over $300 million invested in the Russian agricultural and food processing sectors. Cargill Russia currently employs 954 people, who are nearly all Russian nationals, Cargill reports.

For the region, Cargill along with its joint venture partners now own and operate 75 grain elevators in Romania, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Hungary and Russia, representing some 2 million metric tons of storage capacity, said the firm.

4. USDA Secretary asked to clean up organic mess

September 9, 2005
Contact: Mark Kastel 608-625-2042

Washington: A letter today addressed to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns, from one of the nation's most aggressive organic food and farming watchdogs, asked the Secretary to personally intervene in rebuilding the once promising collaborative environment that existed between the organic community and its regulators.

In its letter, the Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, called the current working relationship between the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) and industry stakeholders, farmers, consumers, and processors "very unhealthy" and asked that Secretary Johanns intercede, bringing in new management from outside of the Department, to correct what the group has previously labeled a poisoned environment.

The Cornucopia Institute's letter comes on the heels of two highly critical reviews of the USDA's oversight of the organic program that were conducted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Department's own Office of the Inspector General. Both audits strongly criticized management and called for widespread changes in policies and operations.

"Unfortunately, a series of managers at the NOP have performed poorly and acted arrogantly, destroying the goodwill that had existed between the Department and stakeholders, organic farmers, consumers, marketers, and processors," said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at the Institute. "With Secretary Johanns' background and understanding of the challenges of family-scale farming, we feel this change of leadership at the USDA comes at a very opportune time for the organic program."

The Institute's letter, supported by many other farm and consumer groups, specifically requested that the Secretary, in addition to appointing a new organic program manager, open the pending appointment process for new members to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a unique public advisory body that has statutory authority to review the USDA's organic program.

"Although this has been an open process in the past, resulting in a highly qualified and diverse advisory panel, past USDA Secretary Ann Veneman chose to politicize the process by keeping the names of nominees secret. This was unpalatable to the legions of hard-working volunteers and nonprofits that lovingly helped create the now highly successful organic food segment," added the Cornucopia's Kastel.

And finally, Secretary Johanns was also asked to mediate a broiling dispute between the Department and the organic dairy industry, which has overwhelmingly backed eliminating loopholes that have permitted factory-style industrial dairy farms to market their milk as "organic" without allowing their animals to graze on pasture.

The National Organic Standards Board passed a guidance document to crack down on the factory-farm scofflaws in 2001. It went unaddressed by the USDA until this spring when The Cornucopia Institute filed formal complaints with the USDA regarding three large industrial farms in the West, bringing national media scrutiny to the issue.

"I can't imagine why this is still being questioned," said Bill Welsh, an Iowa organic livestock producer and former member of the NOSB. "As I remember, the discussion was clear and the voting members were unanimous-all ruminant animals were to have access to pasture to qualify as certified organic," explained Welsh.

Family-scale organic dairy farmers, who feel they are being put at a competitive disadvantage by the failure of the USDA to take enforcement actions against the concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)-milking thousands of organic cows-are appealing, through The Cornucopia Institute, that the hot-button issue of pasture enforcement be put back on the agenda, and acted on, during the NOSB's upcoming November meeting.

"The widespread complaints about incompetent management at the USDA's organic program have gone unaddressed for too long," Kastel said. "This is Secretary Johanns' opportunity to leave a legacy at the Department in an area that is increasingly playing an important role in the economic future of thousands of organic family-scale farmers.

- 30 -

EDITOR'S NOTE: A copy of the letter sent to USDA Secretary Johanns follows below.

September 8, 2005

Mike Johanns, Secretary
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave SW
Whitten Building - Suite 200A
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Secretary Johanns,

Many of us in the organic community welcomed your appointment as Secretary of Agriculture. Your background as governor of Nebraska and as a product of an Iowa dairy farm means that you are fully equipped to understand the challenges of family-scale farming. A change in leadership at the USDA comes at a very opportune time.

One program in particular that we are calling on you to reassess is the USDA's National Organic Program. The history of the organic program at the USDA is mixed, at best. What started out as an experiment in collaborative governance has run into bureaucratic roadblocks at a number of critical junctures over the past decade and a half.

It was obvious that many career agency officials during the Clinton administration and the first term of the current President Bush were ambivalent at best, and commonly obstructionist, when it came to helping encourage the growth in the budding organic farming and food sector. It was never clear whether the hostile environment was promulgated by political appointees at the department, but it was condoned or ignored nonetheless.

The initial draft organic rules, written during the Clinton administration, were an abomination and ignored much of the consensus that the organic community had worked so hard to reach during the long process. The response, through comments of almost 300,000 farmers and consumers, should have demonstrated that passions run deep in the organic community and are a force to be reckoned with.

Nonetheless, subsequent actions by Clinton and Bush administration officials, even if well intentioned, never seemed to change the "culture" at the National Organic Program (NOP). Here are a few, recent, poignant examples:

1. In the spring of 2004 the NOP disrespected organic stakeholders by disseminating a number of "guidance documents" that would have allowed practices, such as loosening up the prohibition on the use of antibiotics on organic farms, that are widely considered anathema in the organic community. They did this without collaborating with the organic community or the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which has statutory authority to advise them on such matters.

This dramatic misstep, by NOP staff, resulted in an outpouring of negative comments to the agency and high-profile national news coverage, including in-depth articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and New York Times. Last summer, Secretary Veneman quickly interceded, assuring the public and members of the NOSB that a new, more responsive orientation at the USDA was in the offing, and rescinding the controversial and precedent-setting guidance documents.

2. That new and collaborative environment, mandated by the Secretary, was short lived, if it even occurred at all. Last month, at the semiannual NOSB meeting, members of the board and the public were blindsided by the USDA's rejection of the language of a proposed rule change that was passed unanimously by the NOSB at their spring meeting and received overwhelming support from the organic community, organic farmers-including the biggest organic producer groups-the NOSB's own livestock subcommittee, and consumers. This rule change would have tightened loopholes that are currently being exploited by large confinement dairy farms operating without pasturing their lactating cows, as intended by the current regulations.

This rejection and the resultant delay that will now occur in addressing this controversy (which has actually languished at the NOP since first being addressed by the NOSB in 2001) will cause an unfortunate and needless holdup in enforcement activity. It was, again, disrespectful not to inform NOSB members that their proposed language was so flawed that the NOP staff would tell them at the meeting, without forewarning, to start over. If the intent was to respect the wishes of the board and organic community, the NOP could have certainly redrafted the proposed language, retaining its meaning, and presented it to the board during the week of the meeting for their potential ratification in preparation for publishing in the Federal Register. They did not take advantage of that option, and thus, because of other pressing matters before the department and board (fallout from the Harvey v Veneman legal decision), action on the pasture rule change could be delayed for another six months. Remember, the first recommendation from the board went unaddressed from 2001 until this year-justice delayed is justice denied!

3. The organic dairy community is about to lose five of the most knowledgeable and well-spoken leaders on the NOSB who have been addressing this and other critical issues. In the past, the organic community worked in concert with the USDA in order to recruit and retain the highest possible caliber members for NOSB-this is a nonpartisan body of exemplary quality. The Department, although I understand not required by law, previously released the names of candidates for the NOSB, one of the gestures that truly resulted in its earning good will from the industry's diverse stakeholders. This resulted in highly qualified candidates being appointed.

Serving on the NOSB is a tough job requiring quite a time commitment, with much more authority than the average USDA advisory panel. Last year, a large pool of candidates was nominated for open board positions, but unfortunately the entire process was done behind closed doors, breaking the precedent of transparency in the process.

Engaged members of the organic community want to be involved and want to help the USDA Secretary make the best possible choices. We call on you to intervene and have the names of all current candidates released publicly so that organic farmers, processors, marketers, and consumers can participate in the appointment process.

4. Two authoritative reports released this year offer an extremely troubling appraisal of the performance of the NOP heretofore. In January, as a mandated peer review, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) issued a critique highly critical of the Department's accreditation procedures, the most important responsibilities of the NOP. And in July, a very critical audit of the program's performance was issued by the USDA Office of the Inspector General, profiling deficiencies in the protocol the department has for working with the NOSB, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) management, oversight, and procedures including acting on complaints and reviewing and adjudicating appeals of noncompliance decisions.

Mr. Secretary, again, we look forward to your tenure at the Department and view your fresh involvement as a new beginning. Please look to us if there is any way possible that we could bring you and your staff up to speed on issues facing the organic farming and food marketing industries. We would be also more than happy to help put together a meeting between yourself and key members representing organic farmers, processors, and consumers. We hope that you will immediately address the issue areas that we have enumerated.

Most critically, from a timing standpoint, we hope that you will intervene in the appointment of a new director at the NOP. This should be someone from outside of the department thoroughly versed with the most exciting and potentially remunerative options for family-scale farmers today:

grass-based livestock production, low-input sustainable farming practices, and certified organic management. There are many good people who currently work in the program, but there is something very unhealthy with departmental "culture" and the relationship the NOP has with the organic community. We need someone appointed who is universally respected by the organic community and who respects the collaborative process that has resulted in this rapidly growing agricultural sector. This could be your opportunity to leave a legacy at the Department in an area that is increasingly playing an important role in the economic future of so many family-scale farmers.

This is the most promising trend in agriculture today-families make a decent living while protecting the environment and providing products in great demand. The fact that organic food marketing has grown to a $15 billion industry, with tremendous export potential, validates our level of our concern and justifies your intervention.

We welcome your leadership role at the USDA and invite you to meet with members of the organic community in an attempt to craft a National Organic Program that we can all truly be proud of. You have a track record of looking at potential avenues for growth in the agricultural sector. We are riding an up-escalator and we invite you to jump aboard. Your leadership could be key in delivering to farmers, and their rural communities, a wonderful, economically viable alternative that will deliver dividends for generations to come.

We hope you will take advantage of our invitation.

Sincerely yours,
Mark A. Kastel
The Cornucopia Institute

P.S.: Mr. Secretary, in reference to point #2, since originally drafting this letter, we contacted NOSB Board Chairman Jim Riddle after learning that the NOP has scheduled a special board meeting, this November, to address the sunsetting of materials approved in organic production/processing. When inquiring about whether or not the NOSB would vote to approve an updated version of their pasture rule recommendations, we were told that the acting program director was resistant to placing anything on the agenda other than the sunsetting materials. However, Mr. Riddle added that the board was quite amenable to address this time-critical issue at their November meeting, and stated, "If scheduled, we will be prepared to take final action on the rule change at the November meeting."

Having started in 2000, this process has gone on too long! We respectfully request that you intervene in this matter and have this important issue placed on November's agenda so that this controversy, which threatens to irrevocably damage the reputation and economic potential of organic farming, can finally be put to rest.


Co-chairs: House Organic Caucus
Senator Patrick Leahy
Senator Russell Feingold
Senator Olympia Snowe
Senator Tom Harkin
Senator Saxby Chambliss
Senator Thad Cochrane
Members: National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture
Lloyd Day, Administrator, USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service,
Barbara Robinson, Acting Director, USDA, National Organic Program

5. Farmers united on farm bill needs

By Gene Lucht, Lee Agri-Media
Ag Weekly, Twin Falls, Idaho

DES MOINES -- If there was a surprise during the recent farm bill forum held at the Iowa State Fair it was most farmers there -- no matter what their political affiliation -- seemed to agree on a lot of things.

"I heard a lot more open-mindedness than I expected," said Ron Heck, a farmer from Perry, Iowa, who heads the American Soybean Association.

One after another, farmers representing various groups or just speaking their minds mentioned many of the same things:

  • Many like the basic tenets of the 2002 Farm Bill.
  • Most like the idea of the Conservation Security Program.
  • Many think conservation should be a centerpiece and perhaps the centerpiece of the next farm bill.
  • Most support ethanol and alternative fuels.
  • All want the next farm bill to do more to help young farmers.
  • The vast majority think stricter payment limitations are needed.

"I thought it was great," said USDA Secretary Mike Johanns, who hosted the forum, one of a long series his agency is holding across the nation to discuss the next farm bill.

Johanns said the forums will be held until late in the year. The hope is congressional debate on the bill will be in 2006 and a bill would be passed in time to go into effect sometime in 2007. The 2002 Farm Bill is set to expire in 2007.

This debate could be different than some past farm bill debates because Johanns is not ruling out the idea the Bush administration will offer a farm bill proposal, something few past administrations have done.

"We fully expect to be a key player in the next farm bill," Johanns told reporters after the Aug. 11 forum here, adding the forums "could possibly result in a specific proposal."

However, some at the forum said there is still work to be done on implementing the present farm bill. Several speakers criticized the administration's implementation of CSP.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said the administration still has work to do in implementing farm bill provisions. He called for more broadband Internet access in rural areas and for the federal government to use more alternative fuels. He also said Congress and the administration has spent $4 billion less for CSP than was authorized in the 2002 legislation.

Amy Miller -- a farmer from Howard County, Iowa, who held her 2-month-old daughter as she spoke -- expressed her frustration with the implementation of CSP.

"I think they did a good job when they wrote it," she said. "But, the whole watershed thing is a problem."

Miller added she and her husband are certified organic producers who use a seven-year rotation. She said the farm bill isn't designed for farm businesses such as theirs. It is designed for people who grow a lot of certain commodities.

Some speakers also emphasized items that traditionally were not included in farm legislation but which affect farmers.

"Health care costs and access are problems (for farmers)," said Chris Petersen, a Spirit Lake, Iowa, farmer and president of the Iowa Farmers Union.

Even Johanns strayed from the farm bill on occasion, stressing items such as the elimination of the federal estate tax.

But, most comments dealt directly with the farm bill.

"There's a lot of lip service given to the family farm," said David Kunde, a Manchester, Iowa, dairy farmer. "Yet, we've had policies in the last 35 years that have driven family farmers out of business ... it just seems like we're on a bus without brakes."

Kunde and several other farmers said while the farm program should not guarantee farmers a profit, too often farm policy appears to be aimed more at providing a dependable and cheap supply of commodities for consumers and agribusiness than at actually helping family farmers.

Deb Ryun, a Lucas County farmer and executive director of Conservation Districts of Iowa, told Johanns conservation payments should be the centerpiece of the next farm bill. That should include a simplification and merging of the myriad existing conservation programs into a few basic ones aimed at setting aside some land, providing cost-share money and other incentives for private land improvements, and providing research and technical help for farmers, she said.

Several young or prospective farmers, including Austin Charlston, who works for a farmer near Clarion, Iowa, said the next farm bill should take into account many farm payments end up raising land prices and land rental rates, making it more difficult for young farmers to get started.

The bottom line is many of the 47 people who spoke said they wanted a simpler program that emphasizes value-added agriculture, conservation, and opportunities for young farmers.

Most also expressed strong support for measures such as stricter payment limits.


6. U.S. Court to agribusiness: Go forth and make serfs of all

By Alan Guebert, Columnist
The Prairie Star: Montana Ag Newspaper
Thursday, September 1, 2005

On Aug. 16, a three-judge panel for the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta effectively killed the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) of 1921, largely gutted the U.S. Department of Agriculture's mandate to "promote fair and competitive trading practices for the overall benefit of consumers and American agriculture," and gave agbiz giants permission to run U.S ag markets like wholly-owned subsidiaries.

And it was all done in the name of "efficiency," a word not found in either the PSA or the U.S. Constitution.

How in the world did a lawsuit against Tyson Fresh Meats - where a jury in February 2004 found Tyson's use of contracted cattle cut cash cattle prices and awarded cattlemen $1.28 billion because of it - end up granting giant meatpackers market power they could only dream of?

Simple, says Roger McEowen, an ag law professor at Iowa State University.

"The judges in this case created a standard that isn't in the Packers and Stockyards Act; a standard that says 'The PSA exists to aid efficiency so packers can compete with each other.'"

Michael Stumo, legal counsel for the Organization for Competitive Markets who participated in the original Alabama lawsuit against Tyson, called Pickett that handed Tyson a $1.28 billion lump to the head, agrees.

"The appellate court basically changed a competition enforcement statute, the PSA, into and efficiency statute." In doing so, the court said that if there is a "business justification" - here, efficiency - for violating the PSA, then no violation occurs.

This standard, adds Stumo, "is not in the Packers and Stockyards Act text nor is it in antitrust law. But the 11th Circuit believes it should be no matter that a jury has already said it's not and the actual law says it's not."

Indeed, the decision ( http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200412137.pdf ) is remarkable for not only what it includes but also what it excludes.

For example, nowhere in its 33 pages is there one reference to any of the amicus briefs submitted to the court in support of the jury's original judgment against Tyson.

Somehow, though, the court did find space - and, more importantly, a reason - to include the trial judge's snide and away-from-the-jury characterization of Auburn University's Dr. C. Robert Taylor, Pickett's expert witness who proved to the jury that Tyson's use of captive cattle led to 5 percent lower cash cattle prices.

The remark - "I'd say, Dr. Taylor, you're nuts." - is not only silly, wrong and inflammatory, it's immaterial. That's why the jury never heard it.

Also, the Aug. 16 opinion chastises David Domina, one of plaintiff Pickett's lead attorneys in the case, for his opening statement the court characterizes as "emotional."

So what? The court's view of Domina's statement has nothing to do with its task: determine if the case was decided fairly and correctly under the law, not whether an attorney reaches for a jury's heartstrings or even stands on his head in the attempt.

"This is a very hostile opinion," says Peter Carstensen, a professor at the University of Wisconsin's law school and an antitrust specialist, "that shows a profound failure on the part of the court to understand that a legal framework is absolutely essential to make markets work."

Like McEowen and Stumo, Carstensen views the decision as a gut-splitter for PSA and its overarching USDA agency, GIPSA, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.

"This opinion basically creates a lawless market because it says that if a meatpacker's conduct is consistent with some business purpose, then anything goes - even serfdom."

As such, the PSA is functionally dead, he says, and the "only thing that can salvage it is if someone pours a hardening agent into backbones at USDA so it stands up and writes tough rules on marketing contracts."

But, he adds, given the fact that USDA itself is largely a captive of meatpackers, "That's not going to happen."

Congress can make it happen, though, by resuscitating, then updating, the Packers and Stockyards Act in the 2007 Farm Bill.

Let's start by calling it the Anti-Serfdom Act.

© 2005 ag comm