Local Food Efforts Undermined by Pretenders, Predators and Corrupt Cops

Written on:December 5, 2014
 
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In today’s unhealthy, unfair and broken corporate controlled industrial food system, more and more people want to know where their food comes from and how it’s produced. The biggest food companies on the planet are well aware of this fact and the shift towards local.

hammond Farm to table and the new local food movement is being hijacked by Big Food. The world’s biggest food companies, including meat packers, processors and food distributors are carefully strategizing and planning on new ways to capture this growing market, intending to kill all possibilities of rebuilding healthy, locally based food systems that serve farmers, eaters, the environment, and livable communities. Small producers, lured by the siren call, are losing
everything they have – including federal grant money from USDA and other sources, believing the opportunity to connect to their local communities is real.

Since Ronald Reagan was President, antitrust law enforcement has been abandoned in favor of a globalized, no- rules food system. “It takes big companies to do business globally,” responded Ag Secretary Dan Glickman, when I asked him in 1999 why he didn’t enforce the Packers and Stockyards antitrust law. Captured government agencies refusing to enforce existing antitrust laws, failed litigation and legislative fixes have given Big Food the green light to continue their plundering and pillaging of the world’s farms and farmers.

Further concentrating the supply and distribution channels is crucial for Big Food to fully capture the global food system. It feels like a return to the time of the American Revolution when we rebelled against the abusive control of the British Empire and their East India Company partner.

Local producers are being pushed out of the new federally supported Farm to School programs by meat from big packers able to externalize costs, allowing them to sell below true costs of production. Some non-farmer owned further-processors of mostly commodity meat, struggling to survive in the predatory marketplace, are reprocessing and relabeling beef from these big meat packers including low grade imported meat, and stealing school lunch business from legitimate local producers. Schools, under budgetary pressures, are easily shifted away from higher cost, locally produced sources into these cheaper alternatives, which can now once again, without labeling, include additives like Pink Slime. Fake brands like JBS’s pleasant sounding Aspen Ridge or one of the infamous Koch Brother’s Seven X Ranch claim to be all the things consumers want, including locally sourced in the Colorado market.

From Chipotle to Whole Foods, Wall Street based companies continue to betray their promises to support local producers. Chipotle’s sourcing of beef from Australia is an affront to their “Food with Integrity” messaging. Their supplier of Australian beef, OSI, was caught recycling out-of- date chicken and packaging meat off the floor of their processing plant in China. Now that USDA has approved Chinese chicken imports, I wonder where Chipotle’s chicken will come from. There is no requirement to label meats by country of origin that are sold in the wholesale market. This needs to change.

Sysco, the world’s biggest food service company, is acting like their purchase of the second largest, U.S. Foods, has already been approved, but it hasn’t. For the first time since the Reagan administration, President Obama campaigned on a promise to restore fair markets in our farming and food system. He hasn’t.

If approved, Sysco’s power over both suppliers and customers will be unprecedented. Sysco will have Walmart-like buying power to dictate terms to the biggest companies on the planet, such as Cargill, JBS, Smithfield, and Tyson. And then, these powerful Sysco suppliers that cooperate rather than compete will exert even more downward pressure on already struggling and helpless farmers and ranchers around the world. Even the state-sponsored companies like Brazil’s JBS and China’s Smithfield will drop to their knees for Sysco as they currently do for Walmart. Sysco, eliminating the last local competitors with their predatory pricing, pretend labels and false claims to provide locally sourced products, will in turn force restaurant buyers to their knees and globally sourced, factory food onto their plates.

Since Reagan, the “de-reg” President, we’ve lost at least a million farmers; around 500,000, or over 42% of our ranchers; over 39,000 cattle feeding operations, including small farmer feeders; more than 90% of our hog farmers; over 80% of our dairymen; and most of our small meat and other food processors. Today, in the most concentrated, consolidated and monopolized marketplace in history, the largest companies in all three of our major meat categories are state- sponsored foreign-owned enterprises. We are unable to feed ourselves. Our valuable resources – from capital and labor to soil and water – are being extracted, our environment degraded, workers and animals abused, consumers exploited, rural communities gutted — and there is no Teddy Roosevelt in sight.


USDA Stonewalling Cattlemen – OCM Files Complaint

Written on:November 12, 2014
 
USDA Stonewalling Cattlemen – OCM Files Complaint

November 11, 2014 For Immediate Release USDA Stonewalling Cattlemen – OCM Files Complaint Today, the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) filed a complaint for injunctive relief, demanding the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Agriculture make a final determination and release all required records related to a 2013 FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request regarding Beef Checkoff audit reports. The action filed today follows an 18-month struggle…

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Courage For the World Teaches Food Sustainability

Written on:October 16, 2014
 
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Eating healthy foods from growers and ranchers using sustainable practices may seem like a daunting task but an organization called “Courage for the World” is making it easier. Using established networks, they are teaching people about food sources, the economic advantages to shoppers for buying locally even though it may cost slightly more, and the severe economic and environmental damage caused by multi-national corporate food factories and laboratories. Their message…

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A Big Controversy is Brewing

Written on:October 8, 2014
 
A Big Controversy is Brewing

October 8, 2014 For Immediate Release A Big Controversy is Brewing Secretary Vilsack has announced that he will take summary action to reform the Beef Checkoff. NCBA has dubbed the initiative “train wrecking the Checkoff”. Not surprising since the change may threaten their gravy train. The Checkoff represents more than 80% of their total revenue. The Checkoff program is a dismal failure which has been made into an NCBA slush…

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36 Groups Urge Ag Secretary to Enforce Beef Checkoff Program’s Prohibition Against Conflicts of Interest; Urge Other Reforms

Written on:September 11, 2014
 
36 Groups Urge Ag Secretary to Enforce Beef Checkoff Program’s Prohibition Against Conflicts of Interest; Urge Other Reforms

Joint News Release For Immediate Release: Contact: Bill Bullard: (406-670-8157) Fred Stokes (601-527-2459) September 11, 2014 36 Groups Urge Ag Secretary to Enforce Beef Checkoff Program’s Prohibition Against Conflicts of Interest; Urge Other Reforms Washington, DC – In the wake of this weekend’s announcement by the National Farmers Union (NFU) that it was withdrawing from the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group (working group), 36 organizations sent a joint letter today…

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Like GM, Food Companies Place Profits Over Safety and Security

Written on:September 2, 2014
 
Like GM, Food Companies Place Profits Over Safety and Security

Our nation’s food system is at risk! By Mike Callicrate Putting people at risk to save a buck isn’t isolated to the automotive industry. In today’s global economy, where the biggest cheater wins, foreign imports of beef and the recent return of Pink Slime add insult to injury for the few remaining independent producers and meat processors struggling to survive. Food companies from Walmart to Chipotle to the mom and…

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Guideline for AMS Oversight of Commodity Research and Promotion Programs

Written on:September 2, 2014
 
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Conflicts of Interest in Research and Promotion Programs As a general matter of policy, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) guidelines for oversight of all checkoff programs expressly require contracting procedures that “avoid any conflict of interest or a situation that could reasonably be perceived by a third party as a conflict of interest.”1 The Beef Order includes provisions that reflect these principles, as well. Before service on the board or…

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Center of the Road

Written on:September 2, 2014
 
RichardOswald

Driving down the middle of the road is a common practice in rural areas where back roads are marked mostly by two bare tracks. Meeting requires that passing cars yield by splitting the track. I remember once a long time ago when passing neighbors crunched bumpers on a gravel road. The law was called to establish liability for the crash. When a deputy arrived, he surveyed the scene. He determined…

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