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Justice Dept. intervenes in major poultry price-fixing case | Food and Environment Reporting Network

IS THE DOJ ANTI-TRUST DIVISION FINALLY AWAKING FROM ITS DEEP RIP-VAN-WINKLE SLUMBER? Indications are that the U.S. Dept. of Justice Anti-Trust Division is preparing criminal indictments against monopoly-concentrated Big Chicken for price fixing. A related private lawsuit has been issued a stay of 6-months in order for DOJ attorneys to move forward unimpeded.
Leah Douglas of ‘FERN (Food and Environmental Reporting Network)’ has been piecing the puzzle together. It’s been hard-working farmers and well-intended consumers who have been the real losers from the rigged system and growing monopoly control by Industrial Ag. Jim

"The Department of Justice intervened Friday in a landmark price-fixing suit against the country’s biggest poultry companies, possibly signaling that its own grand jury investigation into the chicken sector could result in criminal indictments…

"'This is significant,' said Peter C. Carstensen, a professor of law emeritus at the University of Wisconsin at Madison law school, who formerly served as an attorney in DOJ’s antitrust division. The intervention signals that the DOJ 'thinks that there’s a real serious violation–one or more violations–here that require grand jury inquiry and the potential for criminal indictment.'

"'The probability that there was not just an antitrust violation but a criminal violation is such that they now want to stay the discovery so that the grand jury gets first shot at these alleged felons,' he added…

"The landmark Maplevale lawsuit alleged that the biggest poultry companies–Koch Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms, Perdue Farms, Mountaire and other poultry giants–coordinated prices between 2008 and 2016, resulting in a 50 percent price hike for broiler chicken. They took this action “despite input costs (primarily corn and soybeans) falling roughly 20 percent to 23 percent over the same time period,' according to the complaint. The defendants in the case control about 90 percent of the country’s poultry sector…

"The poultry industry is extremely consolidated, with just two companies, Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride, controlling 40 percent of the market. The top 10 poultry companies control nearly 80 percent of the market. That economic concentration has given the companies extraordinary power over chicken pricing and also over poultry growers, who virtually all operate under contracts with strict terms about bird feed, housing, and care. Many farmers raising the nation’s 8.5 billion broiler chickens can barely stay afloat financially."

Justice Dept. intervenes in major poultry price-fixing case | Food and Environment Reporting Network

The Department of Justice intervened Friday in a landmark price-fixing suit against the country’s biggest poultry companies, possibly signaling that its own grand jury investigation into the chicken…


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AROOSTOOK COUNTY TRACKSIDE POTATO HOUSES. NEW LIMERICK, MAINE. Circa 1996. Hi…

AROOSTOOK COUNTY TRACKSIDE POTATO HOUSES. NEW LIMERICK, MAINE. Circa 1996. Highlights are the Potato House (Storage) of "D.P. Mooers and Son" and a Bangor and Aroostook Railroad locomotive.
For many generations the railroad was key to getting storage potatoes from Maine's Potato Empire to Eastern markets. This photo, shared by Shawn Duren, was taken in the waning years of the potato-hauling railroad era.
Experiencing subzero temperatures for much of the winter, boxcars were outfitted with stoves tended by local farmhands. Typically, one man would be responsible for the stoves and the safety of potatoes in three boxcars. Once the sacks of potatoes safely reached their destination, the tenders would hitch a ride back home to Aroostook County on a northbound train. Caleb, Megan & Jim




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TIME FOR A REVIEW: YES, ORGANIC MILK IS DEFINITELY WORTH IT…BUT MAKE SURE YOU&…

TIME FOR A REVIEW: YES, ORGANIC MILK IS DEFINITELY WORTH IT…BUT MAKE SURE YOU'RE NOT FOOLED BY FAKE CORPORATE CAFO MILK ILLEGALLY LABELED AS "ORGANIC." A new study out of Emory University confirms real organic milk is BEST for your family (https://www.cambridge.org/…/D1107FE30C778A73F5F601C5D3D6E572).
This article from 'Cornucopia Institute' distills results from the study.
So, how do you tell which Organic Milk brands are authentic? Again, Cornucopia is here to help: print out their DAIRY SCORECARD before you next go shopping and then buy real Organic Milk with confidence (https://www.cornucopia.org/scorecard/dairy/).
It was two years ago that 'Washington Post' investigative reporter Peter Whoriskey – in a landmark series of articles – exposed widespread Corporate Organic fraud including fake "organic" CAFO (concentrated animal feedlot operations) milk which had little in common with real organic milk and tested out comparable to conventional milk (https://www.cornucopia.org//?s=whoriskey+dairy+&x=0&y=0).
Rogue agency USDA continues its bad behavior of lax enforcement of tough National Organic Program rules. USDA is acting in collusion with powerful Industrial Ag corporate invaders out to pillage authentic organic, fool well-meaning consumers and run out of business real organic family farmers.
Organic family farmers are organizing to fight back. Stay tuned! Caleb, Megan & Jim

"If you consume dairy, a new study from Emory University suggests you are safest drinking organic milk. In their study of 35 conventional and 34 organic milk samples, 59% of the conventional products contained chlorpyrifos. Chlorpyrifos is a ubiquitous insecticide linked to lower levels of gray matter and IQ in children exposed prenatally. This toxin was nearly banned by an Obama-era decision with the backing of EPA scientists, but the current administration has called for more study. Other pesticides, including diazinon, atrazine, and permethrin, were also found in the conventional milk samples.

"Additionally, 60% of the conventional milk samples contained antibiotics. One sample contained amoxicillin residues exceeding the FDA limit, and more than one-third of the conventional milk samples contained sulfonamides, which are prohibited by law from use in cattle…

"Organic milk in the study contained no antibiotics, no pesticide residue, and no sign of synthetic growth hormone. Although it is important to know what organic dairy does not contain, the best organic producers go above and beyond organic regulations."




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Why Do Visions of Farming’s Future Never Involve Farmers?

THE ROBOTS ARE COMING! THE ROBOTS ARE COMING! Increased "productivity" has for generations been a rarely questioned, elusive shapeshifting Shangri-La for Modern Agriculture. Robots are the 'new' love interest.
This relentless dangling-carrot swaps exponentially mounting capital-investment-enslavement for the vagaries and difficulties – and now acute shortages – of human labor.
From this farmer's perspective, one of the peculiar aspects of this drama-now-playing-out is the industrialist's typical lack of familiarity with the nuances of agriculture and the resultant pooh-poohing of the value of human knowledge gained through actual experience.
Farming is real easy until there's a problem, often experienced after dinner on Day One.
A thoughtful discussion of ag robotics in this article in the 'Wire.' Jim

"Now the robots are coming for our farms. The Washington Post tells us 'farmworkers could be replaced by robots sooner than we think.' The Guardian paints a picture of 'space bots with lasers, killing plants.' The New Yorker calls ours the 'age of robot farmers,' forecasting that 'the future of fruit-and-vegetable farming is automation'…

"What boosters really mean by the robotics of 'precision agriculture' is more of an A.I. approach, with cloud-enabled, network-assisted, data-intensive autonomous machines, none of which are cheap, all of which will require maintenance that farmers may not be able to do themselves. Altogether, it will drive farmers deeper into the debt they already carry. They carry that debt, and indebtedness to off-farm suppliers because we already have a robot present and past. It’s here and has been for a long time, as so-called robot farming is another way to think about industrial agriculture and its ethos of labour-saving efficiencies…

"…This robotic farming future is not the unalloyed good the venture capitalists would have us believe. It may, in fact, take us further down the road that got us into our agricultural problems in the first place, encouraging more mono-cropping and land expansion while reducing the resilience of diversified planting schemes. What’s more, it perpetuates a long lineage of fashioning the future of farming without actual farmers or their knowledge…

"…give us a digital revolution, and we’ll give you digitally robotic farms, cloud-based, network-enabled, venture capital-supported. You say A.I.? We say farm. What could go wrong?

"Ben Scott-Robinson, co-founder of Small Robot Company, doesn’t think anything could. Of possible downsides, he told the Guardian in 2018, 'we can’t see any.' He said he 'expected farmers to be quite luddite about the adoption of new technology.' But farmers are in fact tech-savvy professionals who already use GPS-guided tractors, satellite-based systems and network-assisted crop management. Condescending to them reveals the divide between agriculture and start-up culture in ways that restate the actual problem: So much of our population is divorced from the patterns of agriculture – in part because of all the prior future visions – that we sink deeper into the same rut by suggesting that yet more distancing technologies will save the farm. The A.I. robotic future again denies farmers’ situational ingenuity, a non-robotic quality if there ever was one.

"Robotic farms are a commitment to the further separation of agriculture and humanity, to the detriment of both…"

Why Do Visions of Farming’s Future Never Involve Farmers?

A robotic approach to agriculture is nothing new – and it perpetuates problems with the existing system.


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How USDA distorted data to conceal decades of discrimination against black farmers | New Food Economy

NEW INVESTIGATION EXPOSES USDA'S JAW-DROPPING CONCERTED EFFORT TO CONCEAL DISCRIMINATION AND DENIAL OF JUSTICE TO AMERICA'S BLACK FARMERS. Decade after decade of pernicious racism at USDA crushed America's Black family farmers and has resulted in the shocking decimation of their numbers.
Nowhere has the liquidation of family farmers been more pronounced nor despicable than the systematic injustice aimed at hard-working Black farmers.
And the blame is laid squarely at USDA's feet.
A brilliant investigation of a bitter and extremely troubling subject, masterly reported in 'New Food Economy.' Jim

"For over two years, we have investigated USDA’s treatment of black farmers under the Obama administration and found a disturbing pattern: Though USDA came to enjoy a reputation among policymakers and the press as a steady force for good in the lives of historically marginalized farmers, Vilsack and others in the department made cosmetic changes, and little else.

"Under Vilsack, USDA employees foreclosed on black farmers with outstanding discrimination complaints, many of which were never resolved. At the same time, USDA staff threw out new complaints and misrepresented their frequency, while continuing to discriminate against farmers. The department sent a lower share of loan dollars to black farmers than it had under President Bush, then used census data in misleading ways to burnish its record on civil rights. And although numerous media outlets portrayed the Pigford settlement payments as lavish handouts—a narrative that originated with right-wing publisher Andrew Breitbart—USDA actually failed to adequately compensate black farmers, and many of them lost their farms.

"We came to these conclusions over the course of an investigation that combined hundreds of hours of interviews with a wide-ranging review of USDA documents and data, including a trove of previously unpublished materials we obtained through multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. We spoke to more than 150 people for this story—including more than two dozen black farmers from almost every Southern state—and made trips to North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia to meet with farmers and their advocates. We also interviewed academic specialists and dozens of current and former USDA officials, including several interviews and email exchanges with Vilsack himself.

"What emerged is the clearest depiction to date of USDA’s civil rights record under the Obama administration, one that makes it clear that—despite changes in rhetoric—black farmers faced the same challenges under Obama that they did under Bush. Yet Vilsack’s claims, backed by an array of manipulated statistics and pushed by a savvy public relations team, became widely accepted myths. These myths obscured the ways the department continued to discriminate against black farmers throughout the Obama years. They depicted a renaissance that didn’t exist, making it harder for black farmers to get the financial help they needed, often with devastating consequences. This made it easier for Vilsack to whitewash the department’s history, promote his own legacy, and deny ongoing problems through the promotion of a false claim: the suggestion that somehow, despite it all, African-American farmers were winning."

How USDA distorted data to conceal decades of discrimination against black farmers | New Food Economy

The agency promoted a narrative that falsely inflated its record on civil rights—and ultimately cost black farmers land, money, and agency.


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Nina Federoff: Mobilizing the authority of American science to back Monsanto – U.S. Right to Know

BREAKING NEWS! NEWLY REVEALED DOCUMENTS EXPOSE THE BEHIND-THE-CURTAIN MONSANTO-MANEUVERING OF DR. NINA FEDEROFF. More excellent investigative work by truth-watchdog 'US Right-to-Know.'
An eye-opening glimpse into the Industrial Ag underbelly and "mobilizing the authority of American science to back Monsanto."
Please consider this powerful expose' MUST READ.

"Key points:

"As a president and board chair of AAAS from 2011-2013, Dr. Federoff advanced agrichemical industry policy objectives. She now works for a lobbying firm.
"Documents obtained by U.S. Right to Know show how public relations and lobbying efforts are coordinated behind the scenes among the agrichemical industry, front groups and academics who appear independent.
"Dr. Federoff promotes organizations that mislead the public about science and their industry ties."

Nina Federoff: Mobilizing the authority of American science to back Monsanto – U.S. Right to Know

As president and board chair of the AAAS in 2011-2013, Dr. Federoff helped advance agrichemical industry policy objectives. She now works for a lobby firm.


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It Wasn’t the Cows After All | A Greener World

NEW STUDY CATCHES FERTILIZER INDUSTRY RADICALLY UNDER-ESTIMATING ITS METHANE EMISSIONS & CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT. The truth comes out.
In a well-funded & orchestrated fake campaign, cows have been blamed as beasts when it comes to methane emissions.
Now, Bessie and Elsie can relax. Surprise! Turns out it is Industrial Ag fertilizer plants – whose "self-reporting" GROSSLY understated actual emissions that is the real BIG polluter (https://www.elementascience.org/artic…/10.1525/elementa.358/).
Well-managed cattle on pasture – remember, grass is what a cow's four-chambered stomach was designed for – can both produce high quality protein for humans AND sequester carbon, thereby mitigating the effect of the big greenhouse gas emitters….like Industrial Ag. JIm

"While the cattle industry is repeatedly accused of being the main culprit for increased global methane emissions (and a leading cause for climate change), a new study shows that the fertilizer industry is the root cause.

"The report by researchers from Cornell and the Environmental Defense Fund, published in Elementa, shows that emissions of methane from the industrial fertilizer industry have been ridiculously underestimated (and, it turns out, based on self-reporting) and the production of ammonia for fertilizer may result in up to 100 times more emissions than previously estimated for this sector. What’s worse is that these newly calculated emission amounts from the industrial fertilizer industry are actually more than the total amount the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated for all industries to emit across the U.S…

"The team discovered that on average, 0.34 percent of the gas used in the plants is emitted to the atmosphere. Scaling this emission rate from the six plants to the entire industry suggests total annual methane emissions of 28 gigagrams, which is 100 times higher than the fertilizer industry’s self-reported estimate of 0.2 gigagrams per year. In addition, this figure far exceeds the EPA’s estimate that all industrial processes in the United States produce only 8 gigagrams of methane emissions per year.

"The fertilizer industry uses natural gas both as the fuel for its operations and as one of the main ingredients for ammonia and urea products (aka the world’s most commonly used nitrogen fertilizers). Since natural gas is largely methane, it has serious potential to be a significant contributor to climate change, and the fact that use of natural gas has grown in recent years has previously raised questions on who’s to blame for rising methane emissions. If it’s been no surprise that natural gas can contribute to climate change, and these facilities rely so heavily on natural gas for production, how could these numbers have been so egregiously underestimated in the first place? It seems this billion-dollar industry made it a point to direct the finger of blame elsewhere."

It Wasn’t the Cows After All | A Greener World

While the cattle industry is repeatedly accused of being the main culprit for increased global methane emissions (and a leading cause for climate change), a new


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How canines capture your heart: scientists explain puppy dog eyes

THE UNEXPECTED SCIENCE BEHIND THOSE SAD-PUPPY-EYES. For hundreds of generations our human family farming ancestors practiced selection and beginning with the wild grass Teosinte eventually came up with the Maize or Corn we all know today.
In another story which highlights the impact of breeding selection by our ancestors – over the course of 30,000 years – scientists can now explain how our dogs got that adorable puppy-eye-look. Interestingly it turns out, it's a feature NOT found in the wolves our faithful friends evolved from.
'The Guardian' reports. Caleb, Megan & Jim

"In a project that has all the makings of a Roald Dahl classic, scientists have hit on an answer to the mystery of how man’s best friend got its puppy dog eyes.

"The sad, imploring expression held such power over humans during 33,000 years of canine domestication that the preference for dogs that could pull off the look steered the evolution of their facial muscles, researchers have said.

"The result is that dogs gradually acquired a new forehead muscle named the levator anguli oculi medialis, or LAOM, and have used it to deploy the doleful look to devastating effect ever since…

"Puppy dog eyes are achieved by the LAOM raising the inner eyebrows, in some cases quite dramatically. The movement makes the eyes look larger and the face more babyish. Humans use different muscles to produce a similar expression when they are sad, which may explain why it brings out the caregiver in people…

"Waller does not believe dogs originally produced the expression to win humans over. More likely, she said, is that animals that happened to deploy puppy dog eyes tapped into a response humans had evolved over millennia of living in large groups, where reading facial expressions was crucial."

How canines capture your heart: scientists explain puppy dog eyes

Study finds animals developed a facial muscle to wield emotional power over humans


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HOEING POTATOES WITH A SINGLE HORSE. CARIBOU,MAINE. Circa 1930. Up this way …

HOEING POTATOES WITH A SINGLE HORSE. CARIBOU,MAINE. Circa 1930. Up this way in Maine's Potato Empire it was more common for hoeing (hilling) to be performed by a wheeled hoe pulled by a team of two horses. With minor adjustment, this more substantial implement could be used for both (earlier) cultivating (weeding) and (later) hoeing. It included a seat for the farmer to sit upon.
We have first hand experience cultivating and hoeing as depicted with a single horse. It offered quite a workout!
The work is not merely a saunter through the potato patch. There is constant physical exertion by the farmer using the handles to both guide the hoe and bear down hard to throw more soil under the potato plants.
For each acre hoed the farmer and horse would walk 2.75 miles. There is good reason this farmer is lean. Caleb, Megan & Jim




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Chinese Peasants Taught the USDA to Farm Organically in 1909 | JSTOR Daily

WHY DOES USDA HAVE SUCH A HARD TIME UNDERSTANDING THE BENEFICIAL CONCEPTS OF ORGANIC FARMING? Again, follow the money.
It's certainly not because the finer points of organic farming were recently sprung on on sad sack USDA.
The modern era of Organic Farming got its start 125 years ago as a protest movement against the dubious commercial-transaction direction of then-developing "modern agriculture." The misguided theory ran that stewarding soil had become no longer necessary because farmers could simply buy production salvation – such as fertilizer- in a sack.
USDA Ag Research pioneer FH King did his best to educate USDA's top brass BEGINNING OVER ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO. This article presents interesting historical points of the battles and sad outcomes.
USDA deafness to Dr King's lessons would not be the last time our country would be dazzled and seduced by exaggerated claims and hollow hype from fast talkers' self-profit-generating "technology." Jim

"In 1909, American agricultural scientist Franklin Hiram King embarked on a journey to Asia. Having been chief of the Division of Soil Management in the USDA Bureau of Soils from 1902 to 1904, King was concerned about the United State’s rapidly deteriorating soil health. He wasn’t alone. The 19th and 20th centuries were marked by an increasing demand for food from the growing populations in Europe and America, along with decreasing soil productivity. But in Asia, the situation was starkly different. Chinese farmers grew their crops on the same land year after year, but their soil never seemed to lose its fertility…

"Consequently, the agricultural community divided into two camps. The organic camp believed that soil nutrients should be replenished by returning the biological matter back to it. The chemical camp embraced the idea that saturating land with synthetically made fertilizer would be good enough.

"The second camp gained popularity. Farming with synthetic nitrogen was easier. Plants grew faster and bore more fruit. Using factory-made nitrates was cleaner than using manure and less labor-intensive than recycling agricultural refuse. As a result, more and more farmers switched to inorganic fertilizers and demand grew…

"Studies also found that food produced by animals raised on pastureland is more nutritious. Compared to industrially-produced animal foods, organic milk has better balanced Omega3 and Omega6 ratios, and organic eggs contains more vitamin A and E, Heckman notes. 'There’s quite a bit of evidence that organic foods from animals raised on pasture are uniquely different,' he says, adding that having animals on pasture also helps maintain healthy soils, replenishing organic matter and preventing erosion…

"In the early 20th century, Franklin Hiram King lost the battle against chemical agriculture, but can it be fought again and won in the 21st? It’s a matter of government policies, Heckman says—and often the policies favor big business while limiting small organic farms’ ability to reach consumers. 'When certain government policies make it difficult for farmers and consumers to have access to these foods,' Heckman says, 'it essentially shuts down those kinds of good farms. And by doing so, it shuts down good soil management, too.'"

Chinese Peasants Taught the USDA to Farm Organically in 1909 | JSTOR Daily

A hundred years later, we are still learning.


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