Global Agricultural Domination

Setting the Record Straight ~ The New World Order ~ G.A.D. In Action ~ Deep Psychology ~ What to Do

Global Agricultural Domination (G.A.D.) is a term I apply to the unprecedented growth of corporate agribusiness. Historically in the US agricultural products were produced by independent family farms but since the Second World War there has been a new agenda.

Prior to the Second World War over 50% of the population farmed…today the estimate is less than 1%.

What has happened? I think it would be useful to have a closer look.

Setting the Record Straight

The following information was taken from the USDA NASS website.

MYTH: Farming in the U.S. is controlled by large corporations that care about profits and not about animal welfare.
FACT: Of the 2.2 million farms in the U.S., 87% are owned by an individual or a married couple responsible for operating the farm. If partnerships-typically a parent or one or more children or other close relatives- are added to this total, 97% of U.S. farms are family-owned and operated, according to the USDA…Even those farms which are legally corporations are generally family controlled, with USDA reporting only 7,000 non-family controlled corporate farms in the U.S.

We all hear this debate that America’s food comes from the family farm that constitutes most of the acreage. Let’s take a little different look at these statistics from the USDA 2002 Farm Census.

Farms are broken up into 8 different categories.

Limited Resource Farms: there are 3 criteria for this category (1) total operator household income under $20,000, (2) total farm assets under $150,000, (3) gross sales under $100,000 per year.

Retirement Farms: these are farms where the operators reported as being retired. Some of these farms still are in operation but average gross income is $14,531. Average household income was $40,500, which was from off-farm sources.

Residential/Lifestyle Farms: Operators of these farms report principle occupation other than farming or retired. Although 70% of residential/lifestyle farms had negative cash farm income (cash expenses exceeded gross cash farm income), this group had the highest household income of ($57,242) all small family farms because of off-farm income.

Low-Sales Farms: Although more than half of these farms generated positive net cash farm income, average total income was lower for households operating low-sales farms than for the above mentioned farms.

High-Sales Farms: These are truly successful family farms. The average gross cash farm income is $157,500 showing 84% with positive net cash farm income. Yet, total household income is 10% less than the average U.S. household income.

Large Farms, Very Large Farms, and Non-Family Farms make up the rest of the classifications. These farms can be family run and/or owned but usually are contracted by agribusiness or are Limited Liability Corporations or corporations.

The exception would be non-family farms. They are vertically integrated factory farms with absentee owners.

Who really produces our food? I will break the statistics down by percentage of farms and percentage of value of products from each category of farm.

  • Limited Resource Farm: 7.3% of farms
    0.8% value of product
  • Retirement Farm: 14.1% of farms
    1.8% value of product
  • Residential/Lifestyle Farm: 40.4% of farms
    6.0% value of product
  • Low-Sales Farm: 20.4% of farms
    7.8% value of product
  • High Sales Farm: 8.3% of farms
    15.9% value of product
  • Large Farm: 4.5% of farms
    16.6% value of product
  • Very Large Farm: 3.0% of farms
    36.5% value of product
  • Non-Family Farm: 2.0% of farms
    13.5% value of product

When we do the math we find that Limited Farms through High Sales Farms account for 90.5% of farms in the U.S. but only produce 32.3% of products.

Large Farms through Non-Family Farms account for only 9.5% of farms but produce 66.6% of products.
So the argument is true that families hold the majority of farms but 9.5% of the farms produce most of the food.

This may explain why 52% of federal funds are paid to the largest 8% of farms. Further information on the current and past pay out of subsidies can be found from the Environmental Working Group.

This brings us to another injustice in farming, the distribution of farm subsidies. According to the Associated Press, who analyzed 22 million checks sent out by the Department of Agriculture in fiscal year 2000, 63 percent of the money went to the top 10 percent of recipients. Who were some of these recipients? There were 20 Fortune 500 companies, more than 1,200 universities and government farms, including state prisons, real estate developers and absentee landowners in big cities. Since subsidies are based on farm acreage, rather than fiscal need people such as Ted Turner, Scottie Pippen and an heir to the Rockefeller fortune received money. Even some of the wealthiest members of Congress received aid from farm programs they voted for. David Rockefeller received $146,000, Chevron $100,770, Archer Daniels Midland $17,793, and Caterpillar received $59,184 in subsidies. All the time Farm Bureau supports and lobbies to maintain this inequity.

Former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has said only that the Bush Administration will offer Congress guidelines for “ensuring a strong income safety net, pursuing a more market-oriented U.S. farm policy and opening up new trade opportunities abroad.” This is pretty vague language to address the plight of the family farmer. Referring back to the point that subsidies are allocated according to acreage the average family farmer is on 50 acres or less. According the U.S. Bureau of the Census on Agriculture 98.4 percent of farms are 50 acres or less. Now we understand why the big agribusiness people get most of the money. The system is not structured to nurture the independent family farm or small farms, it is designed by lobbyists to favor the corporate farm.

I believe this is systemic of a larger agenda, what I call Global Agricultural Domination. After WWII there was a phenomena called the Green Revolution. For those of you that haven’t read George Orwell’s 1984, this is an Orwellian term that means something other than what it seems at first flush. The green revolution is actually chemical agriculture. Some may argue that agrochemicals allow producers to grow plants in marginal or poor soil is a green revolution. But here is the rub, the reductionist mindset of modern science focuses on the plant, its structure, and what can be delivered to it so that it can grow. The flip side of chemical agriculture is organic which practices the tried and true method of nurturing the soil rather than the plant. If the soil is healthy and has what it needs then everything thrives!

During the Green Revolution there was, and still is today, the mantra of “Get big, or get out.” As the big guys got bigger they exerted leverage in the market that forced many farmers out of business or if they were fortunate enough, to retire their farms and stay on the land. This allowed the rapid expansion of big operations into even larger operation’s, which led inevitably to incorporation as a more efficient business model.

You may have noticed that I don’t call these industrialized/corporate operations farms. I believe in calling the kettle black. The word farm has a sacred meaning and association to me. It represents an intimate relationship with the land, soil, water, animals, and everything else. A farm is a sustainable system that produces food that doesn’t, as much as possible, exploit the ecosystem, animals, or people.

I submit to you that if we truly desire peace it must start first within us and then manifest next on our dinner plate. There is more truth than you know to the old saying, “You are what you eat.”

The New World Order

There was a time when George H.W. Bush would talk about the New World Order in his speeches. As time goes by we are seeing a manifestation of this agenda in agriculture. The N.W.O. is the consolidation of global food production. I will give you a case in point.

In 2007 JBS S.A., Brazil’s largest meatpacker, bought Swift & Co. (formerly ConAgra) making it and even larger corporate entity. But it didn’t end there, in March of 2008 JBS bought the number 4 U.S. beef packer, National Beef and within 24 hours also bought Smithfield Foods beef operations. While some in the industry questioned this move others see it as inevitable, they call it the “chickenization” of the beef industry, referring to the kind of vertical integration that Pilgrim’s Pride and especially Tyson brought to the poultry industry.

This consolidation goes beyond the animal operation or packer: in 2006 the food industry had 392 merger and acquisitions with 59 under agreement. In 2007 there were 413 mergers and acquisitions with 60 under agreement. What is the core driver behind this wholesale monopolization of food production by multi-national agribusiness? Free-market capitalism. In other words we are loosing the democracy of our food.

If any other manufacturer controlled as much of the market as some of these agribusiness’ they would be in trouble under anti-trust laws. The Federal Trade Commission hardly flinched when JBS did what it did. Why? We are talking about global food production and that is a sacred cow in political circles. Corporate agribusiness cloaks itself in the flag, apple pie, and the Pilgrim work ethic and is above reproach.

G.A.D. In Action

If we pay attention to what is happening in other ‘developing’ countries we see a discernable pattern. Like JBS we see other players looking for opportunities to expand markets and influence. Free market capital ism must always be on a growth curve so it is not hard to understand the expansion of markets but influence is a little more insidious.

Biotech seed companies are probably no better place to study this. I could go on and on about the bad actor involved with this but rather than reinvent the wheel you can check out this website, http://www.organicconsumers.org/monlink.cfm

For years we have seen an influx of immigrants from other countries, particularly south of the border, and have listened to our politicians wonder why they are coming and why they are taking our jobs. It is pretty simple…because of our trade agreements like NAFTA the U.S. has created what I call agricultural refugees. Many of these folks are displaced farmers who had few or no options in their own countries because of commodity dumping or expansion of intellectual property laws that excluded them from farming. Without the ability of saving seed from season to season they were forced to buy into contracts they are not able to afford. When they did buy into the biotech contracts they tried to save seed but found out that there is a fairly new technology called Terminator technology. Terminator seed is sterile and when planted only rots in the soil.

The pattern of “Get big or get out.” took over and we are seeing the same passion play that happened here in the 20th Century manifest in other countries. This is not just about food production but also about justice. Agribusiness is expert at farming farmers…this must stop.

Deep Psychology

I have come to the conclusion that there is a deep psychology that runs through agriculture and may be the foundation for most of the ills in the industrialized world. As a matter of fact I would argue that this deep psychology permeates our culture since we are the products of a 10,000 year old herding culture.

The upshot of this mindset is that Nature is chaos and as agriculturalist, scientist, and participants in modern society our duty is to bring order to the chaos, to bend Nature to our will. We have become pretty darn good at it too. These days it is about, as evidenced by Monsanto, intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights both here and internationally. Seeds are life forms and we have to ask ourselves if it is ethical to inset a DNA marker, market the product, then sue anyone found to have inadvertently have the DNA in their field even though they never bought it? Where does the patenting of life forms stop? Monsanto has been trying to patent a pig. These are the ethical and moral problems we have to wrestle with and to not consider them seriously may be at our own peril.

What to Do

We must reclaim the democracy of our food, to send a clear message to agribusiness that exploiting the planet and its inhabitants is unacceptable. This may seem like an overwhelming task but remember, agriculture is a food supply system and it must respond to consumer’s demands. But this means that our dollar is our strongest voice and we must first be citizens then consumers.

The food industry has been very clever at creating a reality for us revolving around fast food. I have observed that folks eat for mainly two reasons, taste and convenience. Research has shown that over 90% of consumers get their nutritional information from advertising and this isn’t wasted on Madison Ave. PR firms.

Buy your food locally, go to farmers markets, food co-ops. Start a community garden, join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, plant food in your yard, learn how to can food.

We must wake up and educate ourselves on what is really good nutrition. I personally was sent on this journey after having a heart attack when I was 18 years old the watching my parents die from heart disease. I have always prescribed to the notion of cause and effect. After throwing myself into the literature concerning nutrition I realized that what was necessary to create homeostasis is this thing I call a body required me to become a vegan. A vegan for those of you than are not familiar with the word is a lifestyle that doesn’t include any animal products or by-products. Some folks may think this extreme but I think is it more extreme to have my chest split open for by-pass surgery. I reversed my heart disease, end of story. But this is also about the other animals in the world who have been marginalized by the herding culture and the deep psychology of Nature as chaos to being commodities. For more information on this you can check out the Animal Rights section of this site.

A plant based diet is not only the best diet for humans but also for the planet and Lord knows the critters that are here with us. I know you may read this and say, I can’t become a vegan.” My challenge is, “How do you know?” In all honesty if you have not tried something and given it a fair shake then no one can make the claim that they can’t do it. If I could go from beef farmer, dairy plant employee to vegan anyone can.

Check out these resources:

 How to Monopolize Food
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtJDZmwh5Bc&feature=related      

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