Reply to: Re: Reply to: Re: "Second cont

Jon Flanders 72763.2240 at
Thu Apr 25 12:07:04 MDT 1996

 >> The small farmer may be a fine steward of teh land, unfortunately, this is
not 1887.  He has to run a business and compete in the commodities markets
with the big boys <<Boddhisatva

 Jon Flanders:

  One of the main reasons the small farmer can't compete is the artificially
low prices the agri-business monopolies impose on things like milk. The price
of milk has basically been stuck at about $12 per hundredweight for more than
a decade. Meanwhile, the cost of tractors and other equipment has doubled.

  A workers government would see to it that commodity prices reflect the
"real" cost of production, not the lowball one imposed now that doesn't
include the social costs of megafarms and chemically induced animal husbandry.
A workers and farmers government(farmers should be included) would make a
level playing field with low-cost loans, which only the big boys can get now.
Socialized medicine would make a great difference to many small farmers.

  As to the Mennonites, their collective takes the form of small family farms.
In general their internal sources of capital and frugal lifestyles along with
the one shot windfall of land sales in Pa., made their transition possible. My
point is that the idea that small, sustainable farming is utopian,
particularly after a socialist revolution, is wrong. We don't have all the
answers now on what forms will work.

  Below is a review of "The Corporate Reapers" I have in my archives.

 By Juan Miguel Pedraza, Agweek Magazine  Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News

 Jul. 24--Rural America is chronically suspicious of global agribusiness. The
underlying assumption is corporations do not have the best interests of
farmers at heart.

 A quick read through Al Krebs's "The Corporate Reapers: The Book of
 Agribusiness" would confirm those suspicions and more.

 Krebs is veteran corporate bird dogger. For nearly 30 years, he's chased
 stories of agribusiness greed, of the impact of farm foreclosures on rural
America, of the consequences of globalization and industrialization on the
food production system.

 "Throughout the history of the United States, corporate agribusiness has
 steadfastly sought sought to economically concentrate the nation's food
 delivery system's means of production," he says. That's done by controlling
the raw materials at the source through the substitution of capital for
efficiency and technology for labor.

 "Basically," Krebs says in an interview about his work, "they ain't doing
farmers no favors."

 Krebs argues that corporate agribusiness aims to standardize the food supply
by shifting its main source from the farm to the factory, from being produced
by thousands of family farmers to being manufactured, marketed and sold by a
diminishing number of large, publicly unaccountable and increasingly private

 The philosophy underlying Krebs's search for the truth behind the corporate
ag grab is simple: the right to food is absolute.

 "Food, next to life itself, is our species' greatest common denominator," he
says. "Its availability, quality, price, its reflection of cultures it feeds
and its moral and religious significance makes food quite literally history's
staff of life."

 Regrettably, Krebs says, in the global struggle to determine who controls
production and sales, food "is no longer viewed primarily as a sustainer of

 Instead, it's become an economic force, a "major source of corporate cash
flow and economic leverage, a form of currency, a tool of international
politics, an instrument of power -- a weapon," he says.

 It all comes down to a fundamental question: Is the world a market or a

 Krebs argues -- with exhaustively researched data to back up his conclusion
-- that the corporate elite that now controls much of the world's food supply
has only its own self-interest at heart. While the words may be there, the
true spirit of community is absent from the quarterly reports, he says.

 A key problem is "efficiency." "When corporate America discusses efficiency,
it is usually in terms of a ratio comparing outputs to inputs," Krebs says.
Lost in the economic jargon is the accounting for resource degradation (e.g.
soil erosion, non-point source pollution of groundwater) and the negative
social consequences of industrialization (e.g. farm foreclosures,
bankruptcies, the shrinking rural population base).

 Krebs concludes that as agribusiness concentrates the food industry it
 myopically focuses on "economic growth." But how will it answer for our
 grandchildren the question, "what did you do for us?"

 Not much, is Krebs's reply. If you're already convinced that the big
 corporations aren't good for rural America, reading "The Corporate Reapers"
will strengthen your convictions. If you're skeptical of such a reading,
you'll at least get a very different perspective on American agriculture. In
any case, you'll come away with some reservations about the "independence" of
the American farmer.

 "The Corporate Reapers" is available for $17 plus $2.75 postage and handling
>from Prairiefire, 550 Eleventh Street, Des Moines IA 50309. Send check or
money order (no credit card orders) and be sure to specify what you're


  E-mail from: Jonathan E. Flanders, 25-Apr-1996

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