Tag Archives: Cargill

As seen in Macleans Magazine.

An article about our project, and the book “On a Dollar a Day” was published in this week’s issue of Macleans Magazine (basically the Canadian version of Newsweek)…enjoy!

Additionally, our friends over at Food Democracy Now sent us another message this week:

The evidence is in: America’s food system is broken. Every week we read about record-breaking food safety recalls, a spiraling childhood obesity epidemic, and the continued loss of independent family farmers.

All of these problems can be traced back to one thing: excessive consolidation by Big, corporate food. But change may be on the way. Recently, the Departments of Justice and Agriculture held their first joint workshop here in Iowa to gather evidence of antitrust violations in food and agriculture.1 We were encouraged by the workshop, the first of five to be held this year,2but also concerned that the same companies that have caused these problems were well represented on the panels, while the family farmers most negatively impacted by corporate food monopolies were only given the opportunity to speak after public officials had left the building.

Even though these workshops are an important first step, real family farmers must have a seat at the table. It will take all our voices to ensure that the Justice department holds giant agribusiness accountable.

The aisles of most American grocery stores give an overwhelming illusion of choice when it comes to our food. A closer look, however, quickly reveals that most of the meat, grain, milk — and even the grocery stores themselves — are all owned and controlled by just a few corporations.

The figures are startling:

• A single company (Monsanto) controls the seeds of 93% of soybeans and 80% of the corn grown in the U.S.3

• 4 companies (Tyson, Cargill, Swift & National Beef Packing Co.) control 83% of the beef packing industry4

• 4 companies (Smithfield, Tyson, Swift & Cargill) control 66% of the pork packing industry

For too long now, food and agricultural production has been consolidated into the hands of a few agribusiness giants. These companies dictate to us how our food is produced, how much farmers are paid for their crops and livestock and how much consumers pay for food.

Food Democracy Now! participated in last week’s workshop. We heard Attorney General Eric Holder talk about the “reckless deregulation that has restricted competition in agriculture” and promise that the Department of Justice, under his watch, was committed to “vigorous enforcement” of U.S. antitrust laws.

But given the power of the companies on the other side, we know that the change we need will not come easily. We must stand together and make our voices heard in favor of a fair and democratic food system!

Please support Secretary Vilsack and Attorney General Holder as they move forward. Join them today in pushing for real enforcement of U.S. antitrust laws and an end to America’s food monopolies. It only takes a moment. And after you’ve signed the petition, please ask your friends and family to do the same.

TAKE ACTION.

Thanks!

– Christopher

1. US pledges to probe, bust agribusiness monopolies, Reuters, March 12, 2010 http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/125?akid=112.29943.NbNkYd&t=12
2. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, Public Workshops, Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/94?akid=112.29943.NbNkYd&t=14
3. Monsanto’s dominance draws antitrust inquiry, Patented seeds are go-to for farmers, who decry their fast-growing price, The Washington Post, November 29, 2009 http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/95?akid=112.29943.NbNkYd&t=16
4. 2007 Concentration of Agricultural Markets report, compiled by Mary Hendrickson and William Heffernan of University of Missouri Department of Rural Sociology.

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Stephanie Smith, Differences in Aid, and Paul Farmer.

The conversation about food has been both lively and varied this week. Last weekend the New York Times released a feature about Stephanie Smith, a 22-year-old dance teacher whose life has been ruined as a result of eating a hamburger tainted with E. Coli 0157. This moving and educational account of the horror that results from willy-nilly food safety protocols, is a powerful reminder of how far we have to go in order to protect our food supply and our citizens. When asked to comment about meat companies like Cargill, where the meat was traced back to, Smith recounts in the video feature that accompanies the article, “I don’t know how these people sleep at night.”

While Kerri and I are vegan, and don’t eat meat, both of us were moved to sorrow and anger over what happened to this young woman. At the same time, we also, as always, understand the pain and suffering endured by the animal that was served to her. This situation was a double loss, both for the cow, and for Smith as well. As a result of reading this story, it was hard to feel sympathy for the “pain” of those who see the possibility of McDonald’s moving into the Louvre. At the same time, I totally understand their fury about the fact that fast food chain could move into the home of the Mona Lisa.

Yet, towards the end of the week, there was reason to rejoice as the House of Representatives approved an agriculture bill that increased funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps) by $4.3 billion dollars, as well adding $400 million dollars to the Women, Infant, Children feeding program (WIC), and to school aid and child care nutrition programs, who saw an increase of $1.9 billion dollars. We talk about the importance of programs like SNAP in our forthcoming book, and the challenges facing those in poverty within our country. There are those who exploit these federal assistance programs, like an extraordinary example this week where booze, porn, and viagra were being purchased, but the actual fraud rate is minimal (between 2 and 4 percent).

However, while there are 36 million people in the United States who are in need of assistance (12 percent of the population), there are billions of people around the world who have it much worse. Wealthy countries like the U.S., who give the most food aid to poorer nations, have slashed the amount they’re giving to the World Food Programme, leaving the United Nations feeding program about $2 billion dollars short. This means that 40 million people will be directly affected in the coming weeks. Josette Sheeran, head of the WFP at the UN told The Observer, that this could be the “loss of a generation” of children to malnutrition, food riots and political destabilisation. “We are facing a silent tsunami,” Sheeran said. One that she says we haven’t seen since the 1970s.

While this reality is hard to comprehend, Kerri and I were reminded on Thursday that there is hope. We had the chance to hear humanitarian and physician Paul Farmer speak on Thursday, and his level of commitment to those living in poverty across the world over the last 27 years was nothing short of inspiring. For those who have the chance to read “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracy Kidder’s account of Dr. Farmer’s work in Haiti, Peru, and Russia, it is a fascinating and engaging reminder that the most important question that we can ask ourselves is this: How can I use my life to improve the world around me?

– Christopher

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