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Disparity in CEO compensation extends to ag sector: Head of food processing company pockets more than combined net income of more than 3,300 farmers

(Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- Keith Dittrich, president of the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) and a corn farmer from Tilden, Neb., today revealed that the disparities in CEO compensation, when compared to the incomes of ordinary American workers, extends well past the financial, communications and manufacturing sectors. "It has been reported by several news organizations the that annual compensation of current CEO of ConAgra Foods Inc. exceeded $11 million. That is about equal to the combined average net income from farming operations for farm households that will be realized by over 3,300 American farmers this year. We are not opposed to anyone making a decent living, but when the average American farm household can expect less than $10 a day this year for their labor, management and investment, we must ask where are the priorities of this nation?"

According to reports by the Associated Press, ConAgra's CEO, Bruce Rhode, made four times more in total compensation this year than last. ConAgra's profits reportedly increased by 23 percent over the same period. "While at the same time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has projected a 21-percent decrease in net farm income this year and the net income for farm households from on-farm sources is projected to be $3,274 - or about $8.97 per day."

Citing an economic analysis by Dr. Daryll E. Ray, Institute of Agriculture, University of Tennessee, Dittrich said that, in constant dollars, 2002 would be the third worst year for the farm economy in 68 years. "Only twice since 1934 has net farm income been this bad, and that is just the forecast. I predict the situation could be much worse, especially for farmers and ranchers facing natural disasters for the second year in a row."

"This is why we need Congress to pass, and President Bush to enact, disaster relief for America's farm families prior to the Congressional election recess," said Dittrich. "We urge swift action on HR 5383, the 'Emergency Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2002.' This important legislative initiative would provide for emergency assistance for crop losses incurred due to drought and other natural disasters during both the 2001 and 2002 crop years, including devastating quality losses such as aflatoxin in this year's corn in multiple geographic locations."

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