An interesting developement. Greg Gunthrope, if you are still on this
list, do you care to comment?
Farmers fed up with ag economy
Ouster of Farm Bureau president a sign of frustration
By STEVE TARTER of the Journal Star
PEORIA - The outrage farmers are feeling about being left out of the
nation's economic boom showed at last week's annual meeting of
the American Farm Bureau Federation in Houston.
Delegates ousted the group's president of 14 years, Iowan Dean
Kleckner, 67. They elected Bob Stallman, 47, former head of the
Texas Farm Bureau.
The move may indicate even mainstream farmers are fed up with
the pace of corporate takeovers in agriculture, delegates said.
"It's reached a boiling point," said Dennis Vercler, director of news
and communications for the Illinois Farm Bureau.
"Low prices and the pace of combinations, another word for merging
companies that both sell and buy to farmers has created
tremendous anxiety. Farmers want to do something about it,"
At issue is the concentration in agriculture: Fewer companies
control the market, making it harder for competition to work in the
Also adopted at the meeting was a resolution urging the federal
government to take action against monopoly power in the ag field.
Omitted from the resolution was a call for a moratorium on
agribusiness mergers, a move that drew fire from one farm group.
"We need action to stop these big mergers that are eliminating
competition in agriculture," said Fred Stokes, head of the
Organization for Competitive Markets, in a prepared statement.
The moratorium issue is a sensitive one for the Farm Bureau. Last
year, under Kleckner's leadership, it opposed a Senate bill calling
for an 18-month suspension of agribusiness mergers.
A member of the Mississippi Farm Bureau, Stokes presented a
resolution rebuking the American Farm Bureau for its failure to
support the moratorium. Stokes also accused Kleckner of "selling
out" farm bureau members in favor of agribusiness giants.
The moratorium measure was deleted from the monopoly resolution
because it took a "meat axe" to the problem, Vercler said.
"Some of these mergers may benefit farmers. Antitrust law didn't
start with the computer industry. It started with railroads, oil and
agriculture," he said.
"Right now the Justice Department doesn't investigate unless 60
percent of market concentration is held by one company. That's
too high," said Vercler, calling for enforcement of existing laws.
The Farm Bureau opposed several major mergers last year: One in
the grain industry (between Continental and Cargill), the other in
the meat- packing area (between Smithfield and Murphy Family
Farms), Vercler said.
But the charge that the Farm Bureau isn't operating in the best
interests of grassroots members isn't going away.
Elmwood's Karen Hudson, who as president of Families Against
Rural Messes has led opposition to mega-hog farms in Illinois,
expressed her dissatisfaction with Farm Bureau policies to
members while in Houston.
"In Illinois, Farm Bureau resists country control only when they feel
it hurts their corporate ag interests," said Hudson, who want[s] local
control over ag developments.
Siting issues, such as the placement of facilities, are being
combined with the monopoly issue, countered the Farm Bureau.
"We're part of the ag establishment. We're used to being criticized
by people who don't agree with something we've done," Vercler
Hudson also disagrees with a recent TV commercial promoting the
Illinois Farm Bureau's environmental record.
"I wonder what people who are getting sick living near a livestock
factory think about that message," Hudson said.
The commercials "show the organization's concern for
environmental issues the general public is concerned about,"
-- Steve Groff
"Enhancing the Environment" http://www.cedarmeadowfarm.com/ Cedar Meadow Farm 679 Hilldale Road Holtwood, PA 17532 USA
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