Public Testimony

Public Testimony

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Okay, we are going to go into the final session. The preview session we had during lunchtime, we went ahead and went through one set of numbers. And we will give those numbers one more shot if any of you weren't here but do want to speak, and then from there we'll give a new set of numbers, the idea being that we want to give all of you who sat through today's discussions and have reflections you want to share a chance to do so before we wind up. So, let me read through the tickets we have of those who have already been picked, and then we can see if folks would like a chance to be heard. 479, 441, 388, 441, 411, 464, 392, 409, 385, 424, 485, 462.

I hear Bingo in the left over there. Just checking if you're listening. 533, 434, 505, 499. All right.

I see we have four people lined up. We will start with these four individuals, and then we'll do another round of some of the other tickets, see if we have other people. So, two minutes per speaker. If people could please be seated so our speakers have a chance to be heard.

And please introduce yourself again. My name is Bill Bridgeford and I am a farmer from -- A little louder, Bill. My name is Bill Bridgeford and I'm a farmer from Alabama. We grow cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat, and canola.

Each year when we decide what we're going to plant, the most -- the biggest decision we make is what variety and what seed we want to plant. We think we have plenty of choices and we just choose the ones that we think will give us the best production and the best cost. And so that's my comment and I appreciate you very much. And we appreciate you making the trip. Thank you very much, Bill. My name is Maurice Parr.

I go by the name of Mo Parr. I was sued by Monsanto. I have been in business for 27 years. After 13 years, Monsanto got a patent supposedly on their Roundup Ready soybean. At that time I put a disclaimer on the receipt that I gave farmers in which I said on that receipt, "As of the date this ticket was printed, the U.S. Congress through the federal seed laws has expressly protected the right of farmers to save seed that they have produced to replant lease, or rent.

Certain seed/chemical companies attempt to circumvent those rights by requiring farmers to sign agreements giving up those rights in order to purchase certain brands or types of seeds. Custom Seed Cleaning, which is what I call my business -- Custom Seed Cleaning is not a party to those agreements and will in no way hold itself responsible for enforcement or compliance of said agreements." Monsanto sued me in federal court alleging that I encouraged, embedded, aided -- aided and abetted, encouraged, and enticed the farmer to break the patent law.

I am guilty of giving the farmer a copy of the Supreme Court decision January the 18 of 1996 authored by Justice Antonin Scalia in which nine of the judges concurred -- eight of the judges concurred with his opinion that the farmer was allowed to save seed. They did not say that -- the justices did not say "except for genetically modified, except for Roundup Ready, except for anything." As far as I'm concerned, the Supreme Court, the American people through the Congress in passing the law, and President Nixon in signing that law gave the -- protected the right of farmers to save their own seed. Monsanto has essentially ruined my business. When the patent runs out in 2014, I'll be 80 years old. I probably will not be cleaning a lot of seed after I'm 80 years old, but in the meantime, I've lost my business.

I don't know that Henry David Thoreau was an attorney, but I kind of liked the attitude that he had in his book on civil disobedience in which he said that a person has the right and the moral obligation to disobey laws that are unjust. I see this as an unjust law. I'm not certain that they have a right to patent on a living organism. Thank you. Thank you. I'm Joel Greeno, dairy farmer from Kendall, Wisconsin.

Please speak up. Okay. Yes. Is that better? Better? All right.

I'm Joel Greeno, dairy farmer, Kendall, Wisconsin, national president of the American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association, serve on the executive committee of the National Family Farm Coalition and founder of Scenic Central Milk Producers. And I first want to thank the U.S. Justice and Agricultural Departments for hosting this historic series of workshops. I'm encouraged that the departments are taking a serious look at the consequences of concentration on farmers like myself.

However, with the magnitude of these problems, it is clear that we need an additional hearing focused on seeds with adequate time for farmers to speak. I'm here to be the voice of the voiceless, my parents whose farm was sold at sheriff's auction and on the courthouse steps, for the New York state dairy farmer who in mid-January went into his barn and shot 51 of his cows and then himself, for my neighbor who was 62 years old, stopped at my farm last week and asked how he could get on food stamps. He and his sister were stripped of their family's dairy farm last year, owned since 1942, and he said the $9,000 he was getting from Social Security didn't pay his bills.

My life has value. My work has value. And the products I produce have value. And corporations like Monsanto and Kraft do not have the right to dictate the value of my work. Our nation's farmers' lives are right now in the hands of the Department of Justice and the USDA.

You people have a choice to make. People first and corporations last. And the bottom line of this is simple. Farmers must receive cost of production plus a reasonable profit from the marketplace, not from subsidies and other programs that fall horribly short and are grossly inadequate. GMO companies are taking control of the world seed supply aligning themselves to benefit financially from every seed sold in the world and the -- and also from the patenting of life.

What better way to profit than own the source of all the food we eat? They have reduced my options for non-GMO seed. Many of my options left have no practical use on a dairy farm and GMOs are of no value when fed to dairy cattle. GMOs have increased my costs to raise corn due to Monsanto's purchase of Holden Seed, taking control of much of corn's seed true base stock, nearly doubling the cost of my seed. All this at a time when milk prices are at their all-time worst. The last thing we need is increased costs with absolutely no benefit.

I'm urging the Department of Agriculture to broaden the scope of their investigation and actions being considered to include congressional and administrative actions such as removing utility patents on seed and seed genetics, transferring liability for economic damage resulting from protecting crop varieties to the patent holder, and reinvigorating public (inaudible) development. Of course, it's clear we need to enforce antitrust law and break up monopolies. Farmers will not benefit from simple realignment of market shares held by three or four seed companies dominating the industry. These actions must be about restoring farmer choice and farmers' rights. It is important to note that people in my community, including farmers and small seed dealers, breeders, and companies are unwilling to come and testify in public due to fear and intimidation.

The culture of fear that exists around patent seed technologies is real and serious. Thank you for the opportunity to provide these comments. Thank you.

Hello. My name is Kristina Hubbard, and I'm the author of this report called "Out of Hand: Farmers Face the Consequences of a It was provided to the docket for public comments. First of all, thank you for having this workshop. It's historic and I appreciate the agencies coming together, bringing us together to talk about these problems.

I wanted to echo what the last gentleman said in that concentration of the seed industry was a pretty small part of today's discussion and I do think it warrants its own hearing with an adequate amount of time for farmers to speak. That said, again, this workshop, again, thank you for hosting it. We wrote this report, Out of Hand, because many farmers say that the prices they're paying are indeed out of hand for seed. We wrote it because farmers say that their choice, their seed options are dramatically reduced, especially in the way of conventional corn and soybean varieties. We're finding that farmers' fear that the best in newest genetics will only be introduced with expensive patent and trait stepped into them and this is a problem that needs to be part of this discussion. I'm encouraged that the agencies are talking about examining the role patents play in facilitating concentration in the seed industry, and I hope that the focus will not be only on competition within the trait industry but rather the concentration of ownership over plant genetic resources, over germplasm, the most fundamental piece of agriculture.

Congress long argued that utility patents should not be applied to seeds and seed genetics to sexually reproducing plants such as corn and soybeans and I hope that legislative actions and options are considered in this discussion as well. I think Congress should revisit the Plant Variety Protection Act and clarify that that should be the sole protection for plant developers producing these crops. And just a reminder, a patent to remove a farmer's right to safe seed a famers ability to save seed is a form of competition.

And then lastly on that point, patents are also locking up important genetic resources that public and private plant breeders alike often cannot access to further innovation. Lastly, I wanted to speak to something that General Holder said this morning. He said -- he was encouraging us to be frank about our perspectives. And unfortunately, there are many people here today -- there are many people who aren't here today because they are unwilling to speak.

They are afraid of repercussions from the dominant players. My colleagues and I have spoken to at least a dozen seed companies, truly independent seed companies, who are worried about talking about the shortcomings of the seed industry. They're worried about simply sharing their story.

And so this culture of fear that the last gentleman mentioned is truly stifling voices of people who have important story to share. These are public plant breeders. These are seed dealers, representatives of independent seed companies, and especially farmers. So, as people come up to this microphone, those who do have courage to share their perspective, please remember that their voice is a vote, and many of us are voting for a seed industry that meets the diverse needs of farmers and hopefully restores choice and rights back to our American farmers. So, thank you.

My name is Matthew Dillon. I'm with the Organic Seed Alliance I am also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, APHIS, for not following the National Environmental Protection Act in its deregulation of Roundup Ready Sugar Beets. I should say I'm a victor as a plaintiff in that case. And we're in the remedy phase. I do want to also thank you for these hearings.

As other people have pointed out, seed in particular, I believe we need an additional hearing that's not just focusing on concentration but that spreads out to take on some of these other issues that are inhibiting farmers' freedom to operate, freedom to operate in their markets, and those issues do include issues of contamination in the marketplace and access to seed. I think it needs to expand out to include USDA, APHIS, the patent and trade office, the EPA, the congressional oversight for those committees. My understanding of the purpose of having a competitive marketplace, the purpose and the goal, is not to line the pockets of shareholders and overpaid CEOs.

The purpose of a competitive marketplace is to serve the needs of a diverse agricultural system. Now, that's not happening, and that's quite clear, particularly in seeds. We once had a diverse seed system that was served in a dual role by public and private plant breeders and seed systems.

Public and private systems worked together in partnership and collaboration, but they also competed, public plant breeders release public culivars that competed against the private industry and that in particular served small and emerging markets in the public sector varieties. That hasn't happened. And there's two things that's both inhibiting the public and private sector from being diverse. In the private sector, as many people have pointed out, and I won't belabor the point, the utility patent is the strongest tool that's creating monopolies and inhibiting the development of regional diverse seed companies that can be competitive.

In the public sector the Buyh-Dole Act needs to be examined. The Buyh-Dole Act has changed funding for our federal -- our public land grant institutions so that they are beholden to private companies for their plant breeding dollars, their research dollars, and we need to have an audit of the Buyh-Dole Act to examine whether or not it is actually doing its job or it's inhibiting innovation and research. That needs to be done. It needs to be done soon.

We need an industry that's really going to be responsive to minor emerging markets, and you guys mentioned niche markets and organic and local markets as niche. Well, organic is not a niche market. It's the fastest growing market in the United States. We're not hiding in the corner.

We're out in front and we're innovative and leading the charge. American markets are supposed to be about innovation. Organic has innovated. They've taken risk. They've made investments.

They've been successful. But we need the protection and the freedom to operate. We don't have access to seed. The majority of organic farmers plant conventional seed, are reliant on biotech companies to lease our inbred lines for organic corn production, and yet we can't even test these inbred lines because of intellectual property rules to determine if these inbred lines are contaminated. So, organic seed companies are planting inbred lines that we know are contaminated with biotech traits and further contaminating on marketplace and hurting our customer base and our credibility. So, this has to be a bigger issue.

I applaud you for what you've done, but we need to go a step forward and expand this dialogue out. Thank you very much. Thank you.

I'm Scott Remington from Winterset, Iowa. I've been a cattle producer primarily for -- ever since I was 12 years old, I've owned a cow, before I even bought a car. The issues I see here today, we've talked a lot about life. the ownership of life is really essentially the conflict here and where I came from in my experience, I've also worked with a consultant for natural fertilizers and working with the natural And I do know that well. And today I thank you for being here because this is encouragement that we are actually and we have a lot of points of opinion here. But you know, on the simplistic side, I won't repeat what other people have said more eloquently than I did.

We have a rigged system. There's no question in my mind. And if we looked at the history, history repeats itself. We had to crush the corporations in the late 1800s.

It came back around. But today it's at the most critical time because now what we're doing in my expertise with the soil is that we aren't even regarding the life in the soil. We have had no talks about the biological system that made Iowa soil as deep as it was. It wasn't corn, beans, corn, beans, corn and beans. It was the tall grass prairie.

And that's not being just tree hugging and stuff. That is a biological fact. We've gotten away from the system of agriculture, of sustainability so far, and as a consultant and doing soil tests and working with a lot of different clients over the years, one of the greatest losses we're having is our top soil.

We cannot change -- we're a dog chasing its tail with relying on biotech and I'm not against that. But my golly do you have to really be careful. And my testimony today is that we can't even drink out of the wells safely in the state of Iowa on our farms.

We had to get rural water because the nitrates and the pesticides and everything. That's a fact. And when we talk to people on the coasts that don't know it and if we tell them that we can't -- the majority of our wells in this state aren't safe to what kind of food are we sending them? So, there's a little bit of twist, but you know, I thank you for being here. But this is life. This is all of us.

Urban, rural, wherever we are and we're supposed to be a leader in the agriculture in the world? We're actually failing very miserably. But, you know, everyone that came here and I thank you very much and thank you for letting me speak. Thank you.

My name is Harvey Howington, and I own and manage a rice and soybean farm in Poinsett County, Arkansas. The time to talk is short, so I'll get right to the point. Utility patents are a failed experiment. The seed companies told us they needed patents to justify spending the research money needed to advance this cutting edge technology.

They will tell us we need GMOs to feed a growing world. I agree we need GMO technology, but the products the companies are bringing to the marketplace are not the products needed to feed the world. They are all about company profits. The companies will say average yields go up every year. That is because farmers who can't get the maximum yield out of the varieties are not around next year. Hundreds of farmers go broke every year, and rural America is drying up.

As for that promised research money, I strongly suspect the companies are spending far more on enforcing those patents than they do developing varieties. But lawyers get most of the money. Seed costs have skyrocketed.

We lost the thing farmers and inhabitants of this planet that is most precious to us, and that is the intellectual property rights to our food. As a Southern rice farmer, I would like to comment about a practice that negatively affects the price farmers get for their crop. Large farmer cooperatives will swap rice with each other and other large private rice farms to avoid going to the marketplace to buy rice. They will in the future pay them back in kind but for a reduced price after the market has dropped. This predatory market practice masks demands for rice.

It allows the companies to pay less than market price for rice. We think it could also be a violation of the Capper-Volstead Act for the cooperatives to do this. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak today. Thank you.

My name is Sam Carney. I'm a farmer from Adair, Iowa, fourth generation. Try again. There we go. Fourth generation farmer. In 1998 and '99 I brought my son into the operation.

As you know what happened to pig prices. My banker called me in. He says, "You have to quit this bleeding the red." He says, "We need to do some risk management with you." So, we've done risk management for the past ten, 11 years and it's worked very well for us.

It's made us a very successful business. I don't want to lose those options. I don't want those taken away. I can take my pigs, I can contract with a packer and I get along very well, and I don't necessarily use the same packer time after time. I use variation of different packers.

I need those options. I have to provide my banker with cash flows and make sure I have a risk management tool. In today's volatile market and as we've seen last year when H1N1 hit, and nobody was going to predict that, we seen what the markets did. We've got to have a risk management tool, so please, I ask you don't take that away so my son and I can keep operating.

Thank you very much. John Weber, pork producer from Dysart, Iowa. Just want to make a couple of comments on what I've heard today. I've jotted down a few notes.

While significant consolidation has occurred, especially in the pork industry, I think it's fully -- it's fully important to understand the forces that brought this consolidation about. I often think about this. There's a multitude of forces that brought consolidation about. It wasn't just the bottom line and the people doing it.

I think we can be very proud in this country at the products that we're producing, the food and the quality of the food we're producing all the way through, and part of it is due to some of the efficiencies that we have gained through this consolidation process, so I don't want to jeopardize our food production system not only for us here in this country but for those abroad. The other thing is that in my area and throughout the Midwest, there are thousands of producers that depend on these types of systems or contractual arrangements. We happen to own the pigs that we feed in our operation, but we are definitely part of a production contract system, and I've been in that system for 16 years, and it's been very successful for me, and I know quite a few other producers in our area and I really, from a producer, don't want I know several producers that would not be in business if they hadn't had the ability to do that.

Our industry needs choices of market systems because there are a wide variety of independent producers as well as those consolidated, and transparency is important to us. I think we have to be very careful of how we develop new programs or new regulations that affect these systems because they will not only affect producers, but they also affect consumers in the price of food that they're going to pay. One last comment I jotted down here at the end, we talked a lot today about the age of the agricultural producer and bringing youth into agriculture. Just a comment I would like to make on that.

I think there's avenues that our government could incentivize youth in agriculture. I think it would be wise to help the 65 and older group, whether it's through taxation or what it might be, but to give them an incentive to bring new producers into their operations rather than just stepping out, and I think it could be done through a tax structure very easily. So, those are the comments I had. Thank you. Thank you.

Hello. My name is Nicki Dallman and I'm a certification specialist and inspector for MOSA, Midwestern Organic Services Association. We're located -- we're an organic certification agency located in Viroqua, Wisconsin.

We certify 1,400 organic farmers and producers in 11 states. And we also certify more organic dairy farmers than any other NLP accredited agency. I would like to express concern for the potential release of GMO alfalfa and the threat it poses to our organic farmers. The concerns surrounding the release of GMO alfalfa are different from those of existing GMO because of the way in which alfalfa is pollinated. As certifiers of organic products, we help to ensure the organic integrity of corn crops by determining the distance of the farmer's organic crop from a neighbor's conventional crop, which direction the wind blows, what barriers lay between the two fields, and what time of year their crop pollinates versus their neighbor's crop.

Likewise, our organic corn breeders are able to maintain the genetic integrity of their seeds by making sure these same barriers are in place. Alfalfa, however, is open pollinated or cross-pollinated as opposed to corn which is a self- pollinator, and alfalfa relies mainly on bees to distribute the pollen. Alfalfa is also a perennial versus an annual crop such as corn, allowing the genetic makeup of a given field to change from year to year. The National Organic Standards Board apiculture task force devised a report in 2001, for farmers in wishing to certify organic honey.

The reports sought to define the forage zone of honeybees which is established at a 1.8 mile radius from the bee yard with an additional surveillance of up to 2.2 miles. This means that there are to be no genetically modified crops within a 2.2 mile radius of the source, as it is believed that anything short of that despite topography or terrain poses a threat to that organic integrity of the honey. There is no way a certification agency could possibly enforce or monitor these guidelines, nor do we believe we should have to.

Alternatively, this means that the organic integrity of alfalfa crops will be jeopardized by genetic contamination with the degree and implications of the contamination unknown. When a consumer purchases a product with the USDA organic seal on it, they believe they are getting a product that contains little to no GMOs and was raised without any genetically modified inputs and they're willing to pay a premium for that product. This premium is what helps keep our 500 family-run organic dairy farms in business as well as our farmers who sell organic feed and in our seed companies who breed organic seed. It is our job as a certification agency to ensure the organic integrity of their crops and their market, and we feel that we are able to do this and to stand behind the organic seal placed on these products.

However, we cannot say that this will be the case if GMO alfalfa is introduced with nonregulated status, and that is why I'm here today to express my concerns. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Brad Wilson, Iowa family farmer. You know, I feel like I've heard quite a few political speeches here on the panels, and one of the things they were saying is about how much they want to hear me. And I listened to that all day long. I don't necessarily see them here now. You know, I'm out here in this line, and I'm in competition to speak. We have a competitive market out here but little fringe.

That's a little bit that's left, a little bit of time left. Where as up here we have a protected market where they got to speak and just reminds me that you're treating us, you at DOJ, USDA, are treating us the same way Monsanto treats us. And so I think we need to change the process next time. You could have debates where you put us up against your people. I think we can beat your people and have a series of debates if you get -- if you have high status, you don't get to move on just because you have high status.

If you get beat because you don't have the competence, then we get to move up, and we'll be the ones that end up in Washington. If you have that debate, we'll win that debate, and you should be giving a chance for that truth to come out. Now, you know, we kind of had a heads-up on some of this here. When Vilsack was in Iowa, he wrote the nuisance lawsuit protection provision for House file and so that got a lot of things going here, getting legal protection for that kind of a change.

We had, also as governor -- that was as a legislator. As governor, he pushed the Iowa 2010 Report. Well, 2010 is here. The 2010 Report in Iowa said we want Iowa to be the life sciences capital of the world by 2010.

Now, they probably have copycat reports over in Missouri and Minnesota and all these places. They're saying they want to be the tough -- well, interpret it but the biggest ag complex in the world, so it's a concentration effort that came from that. Now, you go to the Iowa 2010 Report, Volume 2, they have from the hearings all of the comments from the people from this kind of a line here, and those people said we don't want that concentrated system, but they weren't heard and it didn't get in the final report and that's what I'm kind of hearing here. Now, you know, Lewis Mumford, he's the great writer about technology and mega-techniques, and he taught us that mega-techniques is an authoritarian technique, and as you hear the it's very clear that we're already in the effects of these authoritarian measures that are coming down at us, and if you don't understand, for example, Iowa State Universities, other land grant people, the economists, if they don't understand that the technology that we're talking about here is a mega- techniques -- and if you don't know how that technique works, that it is authoritarian, then you don't understand technology in agriculture today and in many other sectors of the economy, and I didn't hear anybody up here that understood that. Now, you know, we got -- maybe we got some congressional people left.

I don't know. But I'm used to speaking when everybody has gone home, including the press. In Congress, we have had a farm bill where they on purpose have lowered the price floor down, down, down, starting in the '50s to today. And then it lowers it to zero. Now, what that did was that gave cheaper and cheaper and cheaper grain to the big corporations. They talk about farm subsidies because you're losing so much money every year that you get a subsidy, but these corporations didn't lose any money to get their bigger benefits.

And so here we have that and that fuels this concentration. That's all a part of the fueling this concentration. That's not the kind of reasons that were given on the panel today. That's a political reason where they chose that.

You know, you go back to the CED report of 1962 where they said, "We want to get rid of one-third of the farmers in five years." And so that's an authoritarian statement. And they said -- I heard all this, you know, talk from your panels about youth.

We want our farm youth. The CED report said, "We want programs to get rural youth to move away," and we've been dealing with that, with the NFO and all these groups, for decades. Okay. I'll wind this up right now. Right here. Yes.

The ERS data shows that we lost money. I've summed up the five big crops in the farm program and then barley, oats, and grain sorghum. From 1981 to 2006, you put in the acres with the net per acre, actually, and you sum those up, and we lost money every single year except 1996. So, the policy of the United States was that we will export our grain for 25 years at below our costs, that the United States will lose money. Same thing (inaudible).

You know, we've got 40% of the market. We'll raise our price. Now, that's an authoritarian system. The United States will lose money so that these big corporations can benefit all around the You know, I really can't thank you for this process. Thank you. Hi.

My name is George Naylor. I'm a farmer from Churdan, Iowa, past president of the National Family Farm Coalition. I think if I'd have been to this meeting 20 or 30 years ago, I'd start out by saying the same thing. Basically you're closing the door after the horse is out of the barn. And actually, you're closing the door after the horse thieves have stole the horse. These horse thieves have stolen our family farm system.

They've stolen the biodiversity of Iowa. Now, they're stealing a decent health care for all of us. They're stealing our -- the future of our democracy and the future of our children. There's grave consequences to what these big corporations do with their economic and technological power.

Monsanto -- and this is really the technology we're talking about here, genetic engineering. Okay. Roundup Ready technology is being used to destroy biodiversity in Brazil and all around the and now Monsanto is promising to create corn as resistant to drought and resistant to salty soil so as to feed poor people around the world. Well, the truth of the matter is that technology will be used to plant vast areas of corn from horizon to horizon, destroying biodiversity on arid land that never was used to produce crops before. And so the United States is giving Monsanto the right to put this technology out there, to let their genes go all around the world, and to somehow certify that it's okay for the environment when we know that there can be no such guarantee. We can't guarantee that it's okay for the environment here in Iowa, let alone in Mexico and South America and Africa and whatever.

So, the power that you, that we, give to Monsanto to do what they do, like I said, has grave consequences. Now, personally I was in a lawsuit. I was a plaintiff in a lawsuit with the president of the Iowa Farmers Union, Chris Peterson, 11 years ago where we brought a suit against Monsanto. Chris's part of the lawsuit was explicitly an antitrust lawsuit. We said that they had bought up many of their competitors with the intention of monopolizing the industry. And let's see.

Well, anyway, it was an antitrust lawsuit. I'm sorry. I forget the other part of it. But the funny thing is that after the judge had dismissed our antitrust lawsuit, it came out in the New York Times that this judge had been a lawyer for Monsanto, and he should have recused himself, but he didn't. Okay.

This was in an article by David Barboza in January 6 and 9 of 2004. David Barboza also presented plenty of evidence in his articles that the CEOs of these major Syngenta, Monsanto, got together and agreed to charge a uniform price, a price higher than any of them had to charge. Okay? Which was against the Sherman Antitrust Act. Okay? But since the judge said that we couldn't have a class-action lawsuit and we could proceed for just one farmer, we couldn't afford to go ahead with the lawsuit.

Now, I'm asking you, where was the federal government in trying to enforce the Sherman Antitrust Act, and is there any chance that you in your positions, this administration, can try to enforce the Sherman Antitrust Act based on their activity to monopolize the market back then? I would just reiterate what Bill Stallings said, and Bill, Mark Tobey, and I are here if folks want to talk afterwards. If you have allegations or information, we want to hear it. Okay. Well, yes. You look up the articles by David Barboza in the New York Times on January 6 and 9, and you can read about it. Thank you very much.

Good afternoon. I am Marcia Ishii-Eiteman. I'm the senior scientist for the Pesticide Action Network, and I would principally like to share with you the results of a landmark International Assessment of Agriculture that came out last year. This is the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development for the IAASTD report, was authored by over 400 scientists and development experts from over 80 countries, went through two public and transparent peer-reviewed processes, and has been fully approved after an intergovernmental plenary by 58 governments. So, it was just published last year. I'll give you a bit of information about this afterwards, but this landmark report already examined in detail the successes and shortcomings of our food and agricultural systems in the U.S., in North America, and around the world.

And it also looked explicitly into the kinds of issues we've been talking about today around competition, the effects of corporate consolidation on our food and agricultural systems, and the impacts farm workers, consumers, the environment, and so on. So, I would just like to draw out a couple -- very few of the key findings. One we've heard a lot about today about the contribution of biotechnologies to, quote, feeding the world.

And actually, this report examined biotechnologies and a whole range of agricultural technologies in great detail, and one of the key findings is that, in fact, the food prices and the hunger and malnutrition you're seeing in the world today, which is enormous, is not due to a lack of access to the GMOs and the biotechnology's that Monsanto is bringing to us and other corporations are bringing to us but rather to poverty and lack of access to healthy and affordable food. So, there are money countries, including our own, that are producing massive amounts of food. The issue is not a need to increase production but to see that distribution is far more equitable. The other thing that the report found was that widespread adoption of and, in fact, particularly patenting and corporate control over the more modern and recent technologies has very directly benefited transnational corporations and the wealthier groups, not so much the small scale farmers and family farmers.

Also, some of these technologies have yielded some significant short-term benefits, but they have had significant and growing costs on the environment and our ability as a community and society to maintain clean soils, clean water, functioning local -- vibrant local economies and the health of our families and of future generations. And so the question is not so much, you know, can, "sustainable or organic or less heavily based on inputs," can that kind of agriculture feed the world, but can the kind of agriculture that we're seeing based on these corporate control technologies feed the world? And the answer to that last question is no. The direction we are going in is not sustainable business as usual. It's not an option. And finally, just to say the report also noted that in North America in particular, growing market concentration in multiple agricultural sectors has now paved the way for near total control of our region's food and agricultural systems by the transnational corporations, and this has led to a dramatic reduction in fairness and competition, the things that many of the farmers today are talking about. So,S the ways forward, the report really points towards enforcement, establishment of much stronger antitrust mechanisms and rules, things that you are investigating, stronger competition policies including regulations that look at global and international competition, and I would encourage you to go from one of the suggestions in the report about cooperating with other governments to establish an international review mechanism that would look at the transnational effects of corporate control over inputs and over the food system.

So, finally just to say that, you know, I know some of these things may seem like out of the purview of the antitrust division or out of this particular investigation, but that is why we and all of our members would like to call on the Department of Justice and the Department of Agriculture to broaden the scope of this investigation. This is an important beginning, but really, in order to establish the vibrant local food systems that are what will save family farmers and will bring this country back on its feet is going to require a much deeper investigation. Our agricultural science is on the line. Good governance is at stake and human health is on the line as well, and so we put forward this request that you work together and bring in Congress as well to really broaden the investigation in a thorough and transparent way. And you'll be submitting your report onto our website also? Yes.

That would be great. Thank you very much. Are you still using the number system? People stand up -- So, I am guessing -- I had assumed the people had come up had been on, but I take it people now who've not -- numbers we've called? Is that the observation? So, why don't we go -- we'll let you speak, and why don't we go for the last numbers. Pick up five more numbers.

Others who've been waiting here. So -- and I assume everyone took a number, so lets read the numbers here. 518, 484, 502, 480, 520.

Those people could line up if they're here. In the meantime, we'll let -- you can go ahead. Thanks.

My name is Sandra Chrisman. I'm here from Why Hunger, formerly World Hunger Year in New York City. I'm also a legal aid U.S. working group on the food crisis.

I work with, among other people, many low-income communities in New York and around the country and around the world, and I'd really like to make a point on -- a couple of points on cheap food. We've heard a lot about that we need a lot of these technologies, and we need this current system of agriculture that we have now to be able to produce the volume that we need to feed a hungry world. My first point is that in the food crisis a year and a half ago, when prices for food were spiking and there were riots around the world and farmers were having really a tough time with inputs, the top three grain producers had price -- showed price increases at that point in that period of 67% to 89%.

So, they were making money at the same time that both farmers and the consumers were really hurting. My second point is that yes, there is cheap food that's available around the country and in both urban and rural, but the food that's available, I don't know if you've been to a lot of low-income areas around the country, rural and urban. A lot of it can really, barely be called food. It's calories, but that's not providing health to anyone.

And that brings me to my third point that cheap food is not really cheap. The externalities that come with our cheap food are very real, and we're going to have to pay them at some point sooner or later, whether that's in our soil quality, on which all of our food is growing, in our rural economies, and in our health. One in three kids, I'm sure you know, born after 2000, it's predicted to develop diabetes. It's unbelievable to me that we're able to talk about health care and not be talking about the kind of food that we have available in our communities.

Many consumers are losing out in this system just as much as farmers are. And as Marcia said, as other people have said, there really are other ways to explore to feed the world. Small and mid-scale locally based, regionally based agriculture is not just a niche thing. It needs the opportunity to compete.

It needs the opportunity to scale up, to have processing infrastructure, as we have heard about. It really needs the ability to have a level playing field and be able to be another real option. And finally, I'd just like to say I really appreciate that in December we'll be having a panel looking at and hearing from consumers, and I'd like to recommend that we have another panel at some point during the year to also hear from more voices of consumers because this is about our food system and who controls our food system, and we all eat, and we all really need to be able to have the opportunity to speak out on this just as much as the producers have.

Thank you. Thank you. I thank you for having this today. I'm Larry Schroder, diversified -- we have a diversified farm in northeast Iowa, crops, dairy, hogs, and beef. I would like to address -- reinforce several great points I think we've heard today. We've heard a number of great ideas.

I'd like to disagree a little bit with what was said before. I know the horses may be out of the barn, but we can get them back in again. We can't get in front of the train, get run over, but maybe we can turn it a little bit. We are a resilient people, a resilient economy, and I think if we make the system halfway fair and level playing field, as Secretary Vilsack has said, we can change things. I think most important point we've heard today is about the retail margins.

I believe the retailers have too much power. We can all be concerned about the processors, and I am, but the retailers have taken an ever greater share of the retail dollar, and that has hampered our processing and especially our production sectors. By taking those extra margins, they've taken away money for innovations and strength in our sectors. By expanding their margins in time of up markets and by lagging down markets, they do two things. They keep their profits for a longer time, and we all know that consumers have a demand that's influenced somewhat by the prices, and so as they keep those prices higher than they should be, they tend to stifle demand, shorten the up cycles, and lengthen the down cycles by increasing inventories and keeping those inventories longer than they should have been. Second, we do have too much consolidation of the packing industry.

We're greatly affected by that in our pork sector. We are still part of the open market. We are an independent farrow-to-finish operation, so we are rare indeed. I know there are reasons for contracting and so forth, but I agree with Chuck Wirtz that we need to make an effort to increase that.

Livestock ownership of packers should be limited to 10 to 14 days prior to slaughter. The supply contracts -- and I agree with what was said several times. When they have 90% to 95% of their supply lined up, why would they ever bid hard for that last 5%? They would rather let those slots stay empty rather than increase the price on the rest of the 95%.

Sustainability. We've all heard that term of a lot, but I think one point that's been overlooked is that sustainability needs margins in an enough profits from within to renew itself for facilities, systems, and most importantly people. Showing a reasonable chance to make a decent living. If we give them a level playing field, our young people will come back. If you can wind up.

At present I believe we should look at 1031 tax exchanges. They encourage excessive investment that isn't needed many times. As a dairy farmer, I'm grateful for my cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America and our sister co-ops throughout the country that help to represent us and strengthen our position in the marketplace and public policy. I wished, frankly, that a similar effort was viable -- viable for hog and beef enterprises, and I urge you to help defend and strengthen (inaudible).

I believe that we need more public investment and research in seed, especially conventional varieties, forges and sustainable livestock in farming marketing systems. Thank you. Thank you. Good afternoon.

My name is Angie Tagtal and I'm a registered dietitian here in Iowa working on public health and food access issues, and I want to remind us of some natural laws in this discussion. Natural Law No. 1, food is a basic human need. We're talking about food.

Law No. 2, food is our source of health and well-being. And Law No. 3, those who control our food supply control society's, and even though Wendell Berry said that eating is an agricultural act, health is an agricultural act. Nourishing society begins with seed, soil, water, and sunlight. Diverse seed grows diverse crops. Diverse crops cultivate diverse jobs resulting in economic vitality, especially in rural areas.

Diverse crops puts diverse foods on our plates, and diverse foods are the key to not only healthy individuals but families, our farms, and communities. The vertical and horizontal consolidation and concentration within any sector of the food system has and will continue to limit our access to foods that promote health. Having diverse foods makes eating healthful foods easier choices.

This thereby can make an impact not only on the health of eaters but especially children and future generations. Seventy years ago there were more than 34 different crops that were grown in Iowa farms, half of which were fruits and vegetables. Today there are only ten crops that are grown on Iowa farms, none of which are fruits and vegetables and many that are not even designed for human consumption.

In fact, less than 0.1% of farmland in Iowa grows foods that promote health, primarily fruits and vegetables. But a paradox exists today that 30 million acres in Iowa are devoted to agriculture. Yet 12% of Iowans and even more Iowans today than a few years ago do not have regular access to food.

As a result -- and it's estimated that about 80% percent of the foods that appear on Iowans' plates are actually brought into Iowa. As a result of this corporate control of Iowa's food system, Iowa agriculture doesn't even feed Iowans. This is a national security issue. As eaters, we all should share responsibility and ownership of the food system as this would assure that all -- we all have regular access to safe, nutritious foods that not only support our health and well-being but for future generations as well. Thank you.

Thank you. I know, we're a little past our ending time, and we're down to really hard core, but I want to ask a couple more people if they're still here, I figure two more. 394 and 405. And then after that, we'll wind it up.

Reminding you all this is the beginning of a process. We're getting a lot of great ideas. We really appreciate you staying with us. Thank you, sir.

My name is Larry Gitner. I'm a retired family farmer. I grew up in the '40s when agriculture was truly sustainable, not like today. Truly ethical, not like today.

Mr. Brad Wilson was right. We need a further debate and when we have the foxes guarding the chicken coop, we have big problems. Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack carried water for the giant hog factories. Our lieutenant governor, Patty Judge, carried water for the vertical integrators.

Governor Branstad who wants to be governor again carried water for the vertical integrators. Folks, we have a problem of ethics. But I'd like to talk about a Catholic priest who once felt that breaking the Sixth Commandment, thou shalt not if you could break that commandment and rob from your friends and rob from other nations, you would probably break all the other commandments, and you would take your nation down into perdition. We never talked about the ethics of our trait laws. We produce corn on the cheap. Family farmers aren't being paid ethically at the farm gate.

Giant hog factories like Smithfield gobbled up that cheap grain and profit to the tune of $2 billion to $3 billion since 1994 to 2001. We send that cheap corn down into Mexico and we drive millions of family farmers -- we disrupt their marketplace and drive millions of family farmers off the land. That's ethical? But that's business as usual for Smithfield. And then they get cheap labor. That suits them fine.

And then the Department of Justice allows Smithfield to buy Premium Standard Farms. We have a problem. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves for allowing this to happen. I got driven out of the hog business along with thousands and thousands of family farmers in the state of Iowa because of vertical integration. Monsanto can now patent seeds that through eons of evolution? They didn't create the seed.

Nature did. Well, I'm going to shut my mouth now, but we better be damn sure what we're doing because what we're doing is wrong, mighty wrong. Smithfield is operating in Poland, drove 60% of those family farmers out of business. They're operating in Romania, drove 80% of those family farmers out of business.

They're operating in Brazil driving thousands of those family farmers out of business. And they're not a monopoly? Let's get real. I'll quit now. I'm Vern Tigges.

I'm a small farmer from Carroll, Iowa. I'm also president of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a small advocacy group here in Iowa that seeks all avenues of social justice. And social justice is what it's all about. The corporations have gotten all facets of our economy governed, including our politics.

And they do this -- they are in control of our economy. They control our politics because they can. And all laws and all policies are created by man and those who can influence them, and that is the problem where we stand today. We don't have social justice. We have policies and laws that are created by man and the corporations and the people that can influence those people. So, it's not a fair world as it stands right now, and that's why we are in this dilemma now.

It's not only ag. It is all facets of our economy, including banking, all the financial sectors. Last night I was at a workshop, and I asked -- and I don't know if I can do it here. I asked all those who have raised livestock prior to 1995, please stand up.

Prior to 1995, all those who raised livestock. Okay. Stay standing. All those who had ag-related jobs in any -- any sector of agriculture before 1995, please stand up. Okay.

Out of all these people -- and I'm sure there's many people that left. Out of all these people, who have lost their job or have gotten out of livestock production please sit down. That doesn't leave very many standing, does it? The proportion was a lot larger last night.

Last night half of the people stood up, and when I was finished, there were three people standing. So you see, it is the corporate structure that took over the agriculture in the last 15 years that put these people out of business, caused people to lose their jobs. And it is for that reason I'm not calling on -- I'm calling on you to go ahead with this antitrust procedure because all of us eat and all of us have to have a job and we all have to provide for our families. So, I'm asking those all in favor of going ahead with this procedure of antitrust, please stand up. This is the picture that I wanted you to see. Thank you.

I appreciate that. We have one last person who's tickets called and want to give them chance to speak and then give people a chance to go home. Thank you for staying with us. Yes, sir. I actually do have a number. No.

I know. You as well were called? Yes. That's fine.

Let two more people. Okay, thank you for this opportunity and your patience. Just a little different twist on some of this. I'm a farmer from Harlan, Iowa. I have a written statement.

Larger factors and violations of antitrust laws play into the seed industry's assertion that biotech seeds are in the best interest of feeding the world now and in the future. I believe that accusations that organic and conventional crop breeding cannot do so are scientifically flawed. It ignores the scientific data for many long-term agronomic studies from both private institutions such as the Rodale Research Institute and from public land grant institutions such as Iowa State. These studies show that natural cropping systems can produce similar yields while reducing fertilizer and pesticide usage, decreased energy usage.

Decreased CO2 emissions are done with cheaper production costs and greater economic efficiencies. Then at the same time, this bias from these companies insists that its ability to feed the world's hungry in the future can only be accomplished by the commodity large scale export model that removes farmers from their lands and communities all over the world. I recently spent 11 days with my son who's an agricultural worker in the Peace Corps in Honduras, and I saw firsthand that these people need access to markets and help in green farming practices. And I was appalled to learn from my son that four out of five supermarkets in this country of seven million in Honduras are controlled by Walmart. I've been an on-farm researcher and I'm a biologist and a farmer. I've been an on-farm researcher for 23 years now in cooperation with Practical Farmers of Iowa and Iowa State University.

I've been an organic farmer for 27 years and a certified one for 16 years. I can now grow 200 bushel corn and 65 bushel beans on a consistent basis. I couldn't do it after the first 10 years, but now after 27 years, I can do it.

I can do it because of being a diversified crop and livestock farmer in the best history and tradition of our state and our Midwest. And now I'm doing it with less expensive conventional nonbiotech seeds. We are now reaping the benefits of soil-building crop rotations, animal manure and compost for soil and plant health, and we are producing a more nutrient-dense food for better human nutrition. The takeover of small plant breeding companies by just three or four companies has diminished our seed genetic diversity and has greatly eroded our public institution's ability and responsibility for creating new seeds that serve the public good. Thank you. Thank you.

My name is Randy Jasper. My son and I operate a dairy and grain farm in southern Wisconsin, and you were wondering -- I'll keep this short, by the way. One of the things you was talking about what you can do, the DOJ right now has an investigation against Dairy Farmers of America for price fixing.

That would be one thing you could do, is proceed on that one. Also, we're looking forward to the dairy -- I'm about 60 miles from Madison. So, we're looking forward to the hearing there. Thank you. Thank you.

2021-03-04 04:37

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