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Ag Anti-Trust Action Sought From USDA-DOJ

More stress before slaughter makes animals more susceptible to being the source of foodborne illnesses and some say that is a problem particular to confined-animal operations and the industrial food chain.

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Food safety appears to be at least a secondary consideration for those concerned about consolidation in the agriculture and food industries.

Following five workshops held last year to examine antitrust issues in agriculture, more than 160 of the participating organizations now want action.

So they’ve signed a joint letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder asking USDA and the Justice Department to reveal what will happen next.

The organizations said more than a year has passed since the first antitrust hearing was held on March 12, 2010.  ”The American public now awaits the next steps the Departments will take to address excessive corporate concentration in the U.S. food and agriculture sectors and its devastating impacts on American lives and livelihoods,” the groups wrote in the letter.

Calling the antitrust meetings an “historic opportunity,” they said ”through this process hundreds of Americans — farmers, ranchers, workers and consumers — have shared stories of their struggles to cope with the unprecedented levels of concentration in the food and agricultural industries. Hundreds of thousands more showed their concern by submitting formal comments and petitions for the record.”

The groups want USDA and DOJ to issue a final report on the hearings.

“This report should include an analysis of the scope, causes and nature of the problems and identify changes necessary to begin to address current trends in agricultural consolidation, and develop appropriate antitrust approaches to curtail monopoly or monopoly power of the seed, beef, hog, poultry and dairy industries and end the harmful impacts of unrestrained corporate power on U.S. food and farming,” their letter said.

“Our rural communities, our food supply and the fate of a major portion of the American economy depend on us fixing this problem.”

If USDA, however, puts market restraints on the sale of animals for slaughter, it could cause more transfers and more stress.  Those concerns were raised late in the public comment process last year by Dr. Temple Grandin, the Colorado State University animal welfare expert whose life was depicted in an HBO movie.

The groups writing the Ag and Justice departments asked for a timeline “on a planned course of action.” Washington D.C.-based Food and Water Watch coordinated the group letter.

Signers included:

Agriculture and Land Based Training Association (CA)

Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association

Alliance for a Sustainable Future (PA)

Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) -MT

Ambler Environmental Advisory Council

American Agriculture Movement

American Corn Growers Association

American Federation of Government Employees (AFL-CIO), Local 3354, USDA-St. Louis (representing Rural Development and Farm Loan employees in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas)

American Grassfed Association

American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association

Ashtabula-Lake-Geauga County Farmers Union

BioRegional Strategies

Buckeye Quality Beef Association (Ohio)

C.A.S.A. del Llano (TX)

California Dairy Campaign

California Farmers Union

California Food & Justice Coalition

Californians for GE-Free Agriculture

Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform

Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

Cattle Producers of Louisiana

Cattle Producers of Washington

Center for Celebration of Creation

Center for Food Safety

Center for Rural Affairs

Chemung County Church Women United (NY)

Chemung County Council of Churches (NY)

Chemung County Council of Women, NY

Church Women United of Chemung County NY

Church Women United of New York State

Citizens for Sanity.Com, Inc.

Citizens for Sludge-Free Land

Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association

Community Alliance for Global Justice

Community Farm Alliance (KY)

Community Food Security Coalition

Consumers Union

Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias

Court St Joseph #139, Corning/Elmira, Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Corning, NY

Crawford Stewardship Project

Cumberland Counties for Peace & Justice

Dakota Resource Council

Dakota Rural Action

Davidson College Office of Sustainability

Ecological Farming Association

Endangered Habitats League

Family Farm Defenders

Farm Aid

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance

Farm Fresh Choice(Program of Ecology Center)

Farmworker Association of Florida

Fay-Penn Economic Development Council

Federation of Southern Cooperatives

Food & Water Watch

Food Chain Workers Alliance

Food Democracy Now!

Food for Maine’s Future

Friends of the Earth U.S.

Gardenshare: Healthy Farms, Healthy Food, Everybody Eats

Georgia Poultry Justice Alliance

Grassroots International

Heartland Center / Office of Peace and Justice for the Diocese of Gary, Indiana and the Integrity of Creation

Hispanic Organizations Leadership Alliance

Idaho Rural Council

Illinois Stewardship Alliance

Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (I-BAND)

Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska

Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Institute for Nonviolent Economics

Institute for Responsible Technology

International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC)

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

Iowa Farmers Union

Island Grown Initiative

Izaak Walton League

Just Food (NY)

Kansas Cattlemen’s Association

Kansas Farmers Union

Kansas Rural Center

Ladies of Charity of Chemung County (NY)

Land Loss Prevention Project

Land Stewardship Project

Main Street Opportunity Lab

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute

Michigan Farmers Union

Michigan Land Trustees

Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance

Midwest Environmental Advocates

Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Association

Minnesota Farmers Union

Missionary Society of St. Columban

Mississippi Assoc. of Cooperatives

Mississippi Livestock Markets Association

Missouri Farmers Union

Missouri Rural Crisis Center

National Catholic Rural Life Conference

National Family Farm Coalition

National Farmers Organization

National Farmers Union

National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Nebraska Farmers Union

Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society

Nebraska Wildlife Federation

Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility

New England Farmers Union

New England Small Farm Institute

Non-GMO Project

North Carolina Contract Poultry Growers Association

Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance

Northeast Organic Farming Association – Massachusetts

Northeast Organic Farming Association – NY

Northeast Organic Farming Association, Interstate Council

Northern Plains Resource Council

Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

Ohio Environmental Stewardship Alliance

Ohio Farmers Union

Oregon Livestock Producers Association

Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

Oregon Rural Action

Organic Consumers Association

Organic Farming Research Foundation

Organic Seed Alliance

Organization for Competitive Markets

Partners for the Land & Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples

Partnership for Earth Spirituality

Past Regents Club, Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Diocese of Rochester, NY

PCC Natural Markets

Pennsylvania Farmers Union

Pennypack Farm and Education Center (PA)

Pesticide Action Network North America

Pesticide Free Zone

Pew Environment Group

Pomona Grange #1, Chemung County NY

Powder River Basin Resource Council (WY)

Progressive Agriculture (PA)

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (RAFI-USA)

Rural Coalition

Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia

Slow Food USA

South Dakota Livestock Auction Markets Association

South Dakota Stockgrowers Association

St John the Baptist Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order, Elmira NY

Sustain LA

Sustainable Living Systems

Taos County Economic Development Corporation

Texas Farmers Union

The Cornucopia Institute

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

The Second Chance Foundation

Tilth Producers of Washington

Trappe Landing Farm & Native Sanctuary

Veteran Grange #1118, Chemung County NY

Virginia Association for Biological Farming

Washington Biotechnology Action Council

Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC)

WhyHunger

Women, Food and Agriculture Network

Women’s Environmental Institute

 

 

© Food Safety News
  • http://www.r-calfusa.com/news_releases/2011/110413-group.htm Doc Mudd

    “More stress before slaughter makes animals more susceptible to being the source of foodborne illnesses…”
    Hmmmm. This opening statement needs detailed explanation and documentation. Which foodborne illnesses, exactly? What causative pre-slaughter factors; what are the documented mechanisms, precisely?
    The fluffy food safety scare is a bit of a stretch to cleverly suck us into a pet project of Food & Water Watch (and their fawning minions over at R-CALF) — systematically driving up food prices for ordinary families.
    The gist of the article is that hobby farmers think they should be paid more for their livestock than professional farmers (costs to be passed to the consumer, of course).
    These Michael ‘food is too cheap’ Pollan disciples still won’t be happy when they’ve driven the cost of your kids’ favorite hot dogs to $10 per pound (and they’re a third of the way there, already!). Been in the supermarket lately? Notice any price inflation? Thank the elitist whackadoodles at F&WW, R-CALF, Slow Food USA, Farm Fresh Choice, PCC Natural Markets, …well, you can read the long list of fashionista activists.
    Just another lame attempt by the good ol’ girls over at R-CALF to con us into believing we owe them a living for wearing fine stetson hats while inefficiently dawbing around in the muck on their nifty hobby farms. From their goofy list of supporting cults it appears they’ve managed to get a few knitting circles and church gossip clubs fired up. “Church Women United”, “Partnership for Earth Spirituality” and “Integrity of Creation”, indeed.
    Oh, and of course there’s the dreadful “food safety” implications of all of this – be afraid, be very afraid!

  • ICBM

    Ahhhh….the hobby commenter slings more mudddd — again, all bile and invective; no substance — and with nothing better to do.
    What’s driving up prices is the failure of synthetic chemical ag systems that are delivering less and less production and requiring more and more agrochemicals to bring in a crop…. and together with increasing phosphorus scarcity, climbing nitrogen costs and increases in pesticides, GMO seed and other synthetic inputs the price of conventional food is just going to keep on climbing….
    Bottom line = it’s high time to shift to SUSTAINABLE agroecological systems…

  • http://blog.sustainablog.org/small-farms-organic/ Doc Mudd

    Yeah, higher price for less efficiency. Like that’s sustainable.
    The household grocery budget is finite. Hobby farmers demanding more and more and more erodes the grocery budget, limits the family’s food choices – Michael Pollan’s devious strategy precisely.
    Wastfully driving around to farmers flea markets burning $4 per gallon gas to pick up a simply charming $5 heirloom tomato here, an adorable $4 bunch of arugula there, maybe a dozen wonderful small eggs for $4.95 — that’s the efficiency and “sustainability” these profiteering hobby farmers are achieving.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/20/opinion/20budiansky.html
    Obviously, selling at the fringes of the vast food economy gradually loses its appeal; the grass is always greener… So, hobbyists naturally dream of selling into mainstream market channels but they have a problem. Bottom line: trendy American hobby farming is not efficient, it is not competitive, its products are substantially equivalent at best. Too often their products cannot meet minimum quality and safety specifications.
    Perhaps eccentric producers can seize special treatment for themselves in the market if they can influence DOJ and USDA, at least that is the thinking. And in demanding more pay for less efficient production they can personally prosper as they drive up food prices for your family and mine. As a sadistic bonus, they can interrupt and disrupt the efficent flow of food through the system to all of us.
    It’s shaping up to look like “agroecological” marginal farming is gonna be mighty expensive for the majority of us food consumers. How “sustainable” it is will depend entirely upon the depth of your pockets and mine, and how willing we are to be bamboozled. You know, that gradually loses its appeal, too.

  • ICBM

    Ohhh yes O’ Mudiferous Hobby Commenter…. non-competitive Corporate Oligopoly is Really efficient, all right — at harvesting consumer dollars while delivering cheap (ie low quality) food loaded with toxic ag chemicals. And the industrial model of ramping up production for cheap goods is so adept at passing along/externalizing its costs to the environment and our health — neither of which is great shape these days. And look how adept they are at screwing farmers with their nasty CAFO contracts. Now THAT’S efficiency!
    Like choice? Over 70% of food products on supermarket shelves contained unlabeled GMOs. Like all those brands — many are produced by the same handful of food corporations
    And sustainable? Last I heard all things petroleum were/are/will be much more expensive — and industrialized agriculture totally dependent on petrochemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, processing chems, food colorings, etc etc)
    And your claims that good, honest food is more expensive is also dubious — check out: or join a CSA farm (Community Supported Agriculture) where you can buy fresh local food at a wholesale rate in return for upfront payments.
    Sure looks like you’re the one who is being bamboozled (and/or is trying to bamboozle others) eh, Muddi….