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The Occupied Food System

Occupy the Food System

by Willie Nelson

Thanks to the Occupy Wall Street movement, there's a deeper understanding about the power that corporations wield over the great majority of us. It's not just in the financial sector, but in all facets of our lives. The disparity between the top 1 percent and everyone else has been laid bare -- there's no more denying that those at the top get their share at the expense of the 99 percent. Lobbyists, loopholes, tax breaks... how can ordinary folks expect a fair shake?

No one knows this better than family farmers, whose struggle to make a living on the land has gotten far more difficult since corporations came to dominate our farm and food system. We saw signs of it when Farm Aid started in 1985, but corporate control of our food system has since exploded.

From seed to plate, our food system is now even more concentrated than our banking system. Most economic sectors have concentration ratios hovering around 40 percent, meaning that the top four firms in the industry control 40 percent of the market. Anything beyond this level is considered "highly concentrated," where experts believe competition is severely threatened and market abuses are likely to occur.

Many key agricultural markets like soybeans and beef exceed the 40 percent threshold, meaning the seeds and inputs that farmers need to grow our crops come from just a handful of companies. Ninety-three percent of soybeans and 80 percent of corn grown in the United States are under the control of just one company. Four companies control up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of beef in the U.S.; four companies dominate close to 60 percent of the pork and chicken markets.

Our banks were deemed too big to fail, yet our food system's corporations are even bigger. Their power puts our entire food system at stake. Last year the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Justice (DOJ) acknowledged this, hosting a series of workshops that examined corporate concentration in our farm and food system. Despite the hundreds of thousands of comments from farmers and eaters all over the country, a year later the USDA and DOJ have taken no action to address the issue. Recent decisions in Washington make clear that corporate lobbyists have tremendous power to maintain the status quo.

In November, the Obama administration delivered a crushing blow to a crucial rule proposed by the USDA (known as the GIPSA rule), which was meant to level the playing field for independent cattle ranchers. The large meatpackers, who would have lost some of their power, lobbied hard and won to leave the beef market as it is -- ruled by corporate giants. In the same month, new school lunch rules proposed by the USDA that would have brought more fresh food to school cafeterias were weakened by Congress. Food processors -- the corporations that turn potatoes into French fries and chicken into nuggets -- spent $5.6 million to lobby against the new rules and won, with Congress going so far as agreeing to call pizza a vegetable. Both decisions demonstrate that corporate power wins and the health of our markets and our children loses.

Despite all they're up against, family farmers persevere. Each and every day they work to sustain a better alternative -- an agricultural system that guarantees farmers a fair living, strengthens our communities, protects our natural resources and delivers good food for all. Nothing is more important than the food we eat and the family farmers who grow it. Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, destruction of our soil, pollution of our water and health epidemics of obesity and diabetes.

We simply can't afford it. Our food system belongs in the hands of many family farmers, not under the control of a handful of corporations.

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See also:

State Inspectors Searching Children’s Lunch Boxes: “This Isn’t China, Is It?” 

"The mother says the girl was so intimidated by the inspection process that she was too scared to eat all of her homemade lunch. The girl ate only the chicken nuggets provided to her by the school, so she still didn’t eat a vegetable."

Money Creators by Gertrude M. Coogan details the destruction of the American farm:

Those who have the Congressional Record are referred to Page 4858, Proceedings of February 28, 1923. An account of the secret meeting will be found in Volume 64, Part 5 of the 67th Congress, Fourth Session. Hon. Finly H. Gray described the meeting:

“The manipulating financiers and bankers, the master minds of frenzied finance, engineering this gigantic secret movement, were not there, present and in person, but were pulling the wires, directing and prompting their tools, puppets and catspaws from afar. Maybe these catspaws were not fully aware of the destruction they were bringing down upon their unsuspecting fellow men. The Chairman of the meeting said:

“‘We all know that if the bankers in any community, large or small, were to clasp the screws on tight, they could bring disaster upon the community which might spread to other communities.’

“A Mr. Smith was there and said, ‘Of course, contraction of money and credits would result in low prices and an easing up of business.’ These bankers knew the effect of the contraction of money and credit upon farm values and price levels. Another Mr. Smith was there, claiming to have secured the farmers’ consent to reduce farm values and the price level, and, assuming to speak from personal conversation directly with farmers said : ‘The farmers with whom I have talked are in thorough accord with it.’

“Now this Mr. Smith had probably met these farmers standing around on the streets of New York, wearing overalls and cowhide boots, carrying their forks and scoop shovels, and there he secured their consent to reduce farm values and the price level.

“Mr. John Skelton Williams, Comptroller of the Currency, when this contraction of money was proposed, explained his efforts to stop the resolution being drawn. In relating his  efforts to the late John A. Simpson, he said : ‘I told the other members of the board, Do you know that this will break lots of little country banks ? They cold bloodedly answered me, They ought to break—there are too many of them. I then told them, Don’t you know it’s going to ruin lots of farmers, and they cold bloodedly replied to me, They ought to be ruined—they are getting so prosperous they will not work.’” Congressional Record, May 2, 1933.

I wonder if these members of the Federal Reserve Board had in mind the farmers’ “failure to work” to produce the food supplies necessary in carrying on the War by which the world money creators were enriched ?

Thus, the Federal Reserve Banks, under orders of the Federal Reserve Board, pursuant to the secret resolution of May 18, 1920, without notice or warning, began to raise the rediscount rates from 2% to 5% , to 7%, to 8% , to 9% and until, for some farm banks, the rates were much higher.

Simultaneously with this drastic increase in the rates, the Central Reserve Banks began selling Government bonds. This selling continued until the price of “Liberty” bonds dropped to 80. The people who remember their own efforts to get anything like the price they paid for Liberty Bonds, which they had to sell to live, will recall the type of purchasers who opened over-the-counter places in which these bonds were bought at bargain levels. Had these bond buyers been particularly noted for their patriotism during the War?

Falling bond prices decreased the “reserves” of the community banks. Decreasing reserves made it imperative that the community banks call in their local loans and force all borrowers to pay. This brought a terrific liquidation of all agricultural products. Almost in the twinkling of an eye, agricultural prices tumbled to ruinously low levels.

Within seven months farm prices dropped to ruinous levels. In May 1920, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics showed farm products at 244 contrasted with 100, the average price in 1913. From 244 the farm products index dropped to 136 by January 1, 1921. In eight months wheat fell from $3.00 to $1.60 per bushel. Corn fell from $1.50 to 35c.

At the same time, the finished goods which the farmer had to buy, and his interest and taxes, did not drop accordingly. By May, 1921, the index of farm products stood at 117. In other words, the farmer was getting only 17% more for his products than he was receiving in 1913 before the War. But the indices of clothing were 181; fuel and lighting 194; lumber and building material 202, and house furnishings 262. Thus, the farmer was robbed of his purchasing power. This was premeditated : the farmer had to be ruined and kept ruined if Americans were to be financially subjected and eventually bolshevized.

Rural banks could accept farmers’ deposits, but could not loan farmers’ money to farmers; such loans were “unsound” by decree of the Federal Reserve dictators. Thus the sluices were prepared for draining the rural money to industrial centers, and thus via speculation into the hands of the internationalists.

On this sudden fall of the price levels, the confiding and unsuspecting farmers and other citizens of the agricultural districts, saw their property, crops and produce sinking in a vortex of falling values, forcing down and destroying their buying power, their taxpaying power, their interest, debt and mortgage paying power. These things were done for two reasons : (1) to “cooperate” with London because London wanted low agricultural prices, and (2) to undermine the entire economic fabric of the United States; but with the knights of finance still in the saddle.

The United States is a 95% self-contained country. Thirty-five million people are directly dependent upon agriculture for purchasing power, and twenty million additional citizens of small communities are indirectly dependent upon the prices of agricultural products for purchasing power. Destroying raw material prices, and forcing them down below the cost of production drained all purchasing power of the agricultural sections, and made it impossible for those people to meet their obligations and be customers of the industrial world. This destructive policy was pursued intentionally. It was not an experiment. Hon. Finly Gray said that they knew exactly what the result would be.

It's About America by Willie Nelson

Coogan on Bernard Baruch:

The adviser to Presidents was summoned. He had already been the “adviser” to Presidents Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and now President Hoover. It’s strange, with his “great knowledge of economics and finance” that he did not advise President Wilson to properly issue new honest constitutional non-interest bearing currency, having thereon the imprint of the United States Government. Had he, in his “great wisdom” done that, America could never have suffered the terrific collapse that was brought about in 1920, and America could never have had the “farm problem” about which he concerns himself so frequently in the “respectable” press.

This adviser relates that he has devoted great mental effort since 1921 to the “solution” of the farm problem: his word must have influenced much of the farm “relief” legislation for his advice was “sought by Presidents.” Certainly his friends got the job plums. Are the farmers pleased with results? The records also show that since 1920 “the adviser” has exerted considerable influence upon legislation enacted “to regulate” the commodity exchanges which until 1920 had functioned very efficiently for the farmer.

It was also strange that with his great knowledge, he did not advise President Coolidge against allowing the United States to make unsound international loans. His great knowledge of international money movements should have enabled him to know that we were simply drawing the resources out of all of the agricultural sections, and that we were playing a magnanimous international game—manufacturing products and financing their sale to foreign countries by taking the actual money to pay for them away from our own people.

He did not appear to advise President Coolidge in August 1927, when the Federal Reserve Board decided to put new steam into the boilers and push a galloping stock market to higher and higher levels.

There were many government offices gathering statistics for him, and he certainly must have known that many stocks were already selling far in excess of the value which the earnings of the corporations warranted. Besides the Government’s able services, he might also have consulted Dr. Goldenweiser, Director of Research of the Federal Reserve Board. That able doctor could have furnished him with many valuable statistics pointing out the dangerous road ahead.

Of course, at that time, there was a great question as to whether the United States would be able to manufacture stock certificates fast enough to sup ply the great need. Perhaps he was advising President Coolidge as to just how the paper and engraving companies could turn out these certificates fast enough.

In the “adviser to Presidents”’ own writings, the people are told that he got out of the stock market before the crash in October 1929. It is strange that he did not share his feelings of uncertainty with President Hoover. It is strange, if he had the wisdom to sell his own stocks, that he did not inform President Hoover that there was something “fundamentally wrong.” If President Hoover had understood, he would never have so frequently repeated “America is fundamentally sound” or “A business recovery is just around the corner.”

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