The Full Dinner Pail – 1900

“… any man who is conversant with current conditions, knows that government, instead of being used for the benefit of the many, has been used for the benefit of the few; that by means of subtle legislation, the mass of the wealth which is produced by all, has been diverted into the possession of a very small minority of the people.”

Thanks to NFU historian, Tom Giessel

Wealth has never been so concentrated as it is today.

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Upton Sinclair On the Supreme Court

“I see by the papers,” as Mr. Dooley used to say, that the Supreme Court has wiped out the farm program…”

Upton Sinclair, the author of the Jungle 1906, hated concentrated power.

From the Farmers Union Herald, St. Paul, MN, 1936 – Thanks to Tom Giessel, Larned, Kansas for the article.

Two more recent cases concerning agriculture:

In 2006, Chief Justice John Roberts and his high court colleagues gave Tyson and the other big meatpackers the green light to plunder and pillage cattle country and its citizens: Supreme Court Denies Pickett Appeal

In 2011, Justice Clarence Thomas lends Monsanto a hand: Justice For all? Not in This Court

Clarence Thomas is the Supreme Court Justice, formerly employed by Monsanto, who wrote the court’s opinion approving the patenting of life. Thomas also thought the Anna Nicole Smith family feud case was more important than hearing the cattlemen’s case for fair markets and later denied the A.T. Terry case a hearing. He also agrees that corporations should be able to contribute any amount of money to political campaigns. Somewhere, perhaps it was at one of the Koch brothers judicial retreats, Thomas forgot the American concept of “justice for all”.

Ag Secretary Perdue Completes America’s Return to the Jungle

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Is it Efficiency or Atrocity?

The big meatpackers need us to believe that without their efficiencies we would all starve. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In his May 2020 whitepaper concerning proposed legislation intended to help restore competition to the cattle markets, Colorado State University professor and ag economist Dr. Stephen Koontz, said, “there are almost no benefits and considerable costs due to lost efficiency and product quality” from mandating additional cash trade.

By now, Dr. Koontz, along with many other Land Grant economists surely know better. But they religiously tout the lies of big meatpacker efficiency and economies of scale,  defending the theft, the on-going market manipulation, the increasing concentration, and now near-total monopoly control over cattle producers, cattle feeders, smaller meat company competitors, and consumers. As a country, we are no longer able to feed ourselves.

“The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it”

How efficient is the cattle industry under the current highly concentrated, centrally planned structure Dr. Koontz and his colleagues have promoted for so many years? Low cattle prices have run nearly half of our ranchers out of business, forcing increasing reliance on imported cattle and beef to supply the demanding U.S. market. That’s a pretty efficient way to rid our land of good stewards while increasing our reliance on foreign suppliers. Lack of fair market access and unfair preferences to big cattle feeders has bankrupted over 84,000 independent cattle feeding operations. That’s a pretty efficient way of killing competition for calves, feeder cattle, grains, and forages. Most of the feeding operations were smaller farmer-feeders who fed the grass and crops they grew on their own land while returning the valuable manure to the soil. With the loss of smaller regional meatpackers, more cattle are being pushed faster through fewer plants, with animals traveling much further distances, suffering much greater stress, all at the expense of the producer, the animal, and meat quality.

How efficient is it to put meat in a box within 24 to 36 hours of slaughter? Boxing beef is an unnecessary step entirely. Boxed beef has been a tool of the top-down highly concentrated supply chain in reducing wages and the need for skilled workers. Small plants that produce carcasses to sell or process from carcass into retail cuts are far more efficient at putting meat on the table, as well as safer, more dependable, resilient, and with fewer food miles. Boxing beef the day after slaughter preserves the pathogens that a week of dry-aging would have eliminated. Meat contamination and recalls have never been worse, and the supply chain has never been so efficient at distributing problems nationally and globally.

How about the unskilled and exploited mostly refugee workforce in Dr. Koontz’s efficient model of meatpacking? In the two biggest Tyson/IBP plants, workers average around 1.6 animals per worker per day. This compares to around four or more animals per day in small plants like mine in St. Francis, Kansas. How efficient is it for big plant workers to receive below living wages, relying on taxpayer support to eat, along with additional support for healthcare and many other externalized costs put on the communities the big meatpacking plants call home?

What about water use? Mobile units and smaller meat plants typically use between 30 and 50 gallons of water per animal processed, compared to over 700 gallons in the large plants. And this number pales compared to the water squandered in growing below-cost-of-production, taxpayer-subsidized corn and soy for Dr. Koontz’s corporate-controlled model of production. How efficient is it to permanently deplete our precious aquifers, and other valuable resources, for the benefit of a few global corporations and their fat cat executives?

How beneficial is it for highly concentrated feeding operations and big agribusiness to destroy the environment, deplete our soils, pollute our waterways, make formerly safe water supplies undrinkable, and rural communities unlivable? How efficient will it be to clean up this mess, Dr. Koontz?

The fragile industrial supply chain fails to deliver during the COVID-19 outbreak

Efficiency should include some semblance of reliability. How reliable has Dr. Koontz’s concentrated meat model been during the COVID-19 crisis as meat counters went empty across America? The big agribusiness solution was to force desperate workers back into dangerously crowded and deadly work environments, efficiently spreading the virus throughout the workplaces and rural communities. Are dead workers and family members just a small cost of doing business in today’s efficient food system? It was the struggling, small, owner-operated, so-called inefficient plants — the ones with room to increase production — that stepped up in a safer way to feed communities during this pandemic.

The incoming Biden/Harris administration must recognize and avoid the destructive no-rules policies of the past – the very policies that turned rural America into impoverished ghettos and against both Democrats and Republicans. Reagan through Obama, and now the Trump administration, all placed corporate interests over people, enabling the current monopoly control over our food supply and this epic ongoing disaster. So far, it looks like Biden and Harris are looking to past Obama advisors for guidance on food and agriculture. This is a big mistake. President Obama killed any hope for change among farmers, ranchers, and rural America when he, Ag Secretary Vilsack, and his Justice Department antitrust cops caved in 2010 to the robber baron meatpackers.

We need a new day for family farmers and ranchers, a new day, and new policies that begin to break up the monopoly that controls our food systems, providing a real opportunity for young farmers and ranchers. We need policies that promote land stewardship instead of the current pillage and plunder, strip-mining, corporate-owned wealth extraction machine. We need a new day and new policies that support many, many more people on the land practicing animal husbandry instead of the so-called efficient factory production supported by modern animal science. We need new leadership, new policy, and a rock-solid commitment powerful enough to stand up to the money and political power big agribusiness and big retail will marshal against us.

Sadly, we are now living the failed food system Dr. Koontz and other bought-and-paid-for economists helped create. It’s an atrocity born out of a misguided and misleading definition of efficiency. Cattle producers need competitive markets, which we have not had since the early 1980s when the biggest meatpackers decided to cooperate rather than compete. The current 50/14 cash market legislation, introduced by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, is not at all unreasonable, but we need to go much further. Any measures that don’t break up the concentrated monopoly power in our food system will not restore a fair market for livestock or the possibility of a safe, dependable, resilient, and secure national food supply.

Yes, we can, “Build Back Better!”

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Who will Justice Amy Coney Barrett Represent?

President Ronald Reagan appointed pro-corporate, de-reg, no-rules judges to our nation’s highest courts. Has President Trump done the same?

“He’s in Tyson’s pocket, He’s in Tyson’s pocket!” said New Mexico rancher, Sam Britt, during the opening days of the 2004 cattlemen’s trial for fair markets. It was considered the most important case relative to the cattle business since 1921. I argued that what appeared to be the judge’s apparent preference for Tyson was actually the judge’s effort to make the case stronger, better for standing up to an appeal. Sam was right. I was wrong!

“History shows that it is just as effective to legislate from the bench by striking down laws as by upholding them.”

Judge Strom went on to seriously cripple the Packers and Stockyards Act with his decision in the precedent-setting Pickett vs. IBP/Tyson case.  Congress broke up a less powerful meatpacker monopoly in 1920 with a consent decree, and to protect producers from future concentrated and abusive power, passed the Packers and Stockyards Act in 1921. Other antitrust laws like the Sherman and Clayton Acts were already in place protecting consumers from abusive market power.  The jury found in favor of the cattlemen. Judge Strom quickly reversed their verdict, taking away the $1.28 billion award and any hope of the injunctive relief that would have forced the big meatpackers back into a competitive marketplace. Judge Strom’s reversal of the jury verdict ignored the clear and plain wording of the Act and the Congressional intent to protect producers of livestock from any future meatpacker monopoly. On that Spring day in 2004, Judge Strom essentially tossed the entire cattle industry into the big meatpackers’ meat grinder, where fewer and fewer of us remain today.

The Pickett/IBP/Tyson case eventually worked its way up to the Supreme Court, where the Robert’s led pro-corporate court refused to hear it, giving the big meatpackers the green light to confidently continue their pillaging and plundering of our cattle industry.

Around the same time, Judge Strom dismissed a shareholder case against ConAgra for cooking the company’s books. ConAgra was one of the biggest and considered one of the most corrupt corporations in the country. The ConAgra case could have been equivalent to the Enron case. ConAgra was one of the big four meatpackers at the time, later to become Swift, and eventually JBS, the biggest, and without question, the most corrupt and criminal meat company in the world.

Judge Strom is now retired. What does the future of our courts look like? Is there a chance the courts may once again represent the people’s interests?

Oct. 12, 2020

For almost 50 years, the multibillionaire has been pushing for a court unfriendly to regulation of the market. He may be on the brink of victory.


Christopher Leonard is the author of “Kochland.”

“Charles Koch has activated his political network to support Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, and to tip the scales on her nomination battle in the U.S. Senate. While much of the commentary about Judge Barrett’s nomination has focused on the real prospect that Roe v. Wade may be undermined or overturned, Mr. Koch has other concerns. Judge Barrett’s nomination is the latest battleground in his decades-long war to reshape American society in a way that ensures that corporations can operate with untrammeled freedom. It may be a pivotal one.

“And shaping the U.S. judiciary has been part of Mr. Koch’s strategy from the beginning. In that 1974 speech, he recommended a strategy of “strategically planned litigation” to test the regulatory authority of government agencies. Such lawsuits could make their way to the Supreme Court, where justices could set precedent. In the 1990s, he focused on lower-level judges, funding a legal institute that paid for judges to attend junkets at a Utah ski resort and Florida beachfront properties; the judges attended seminars on the importance of market forces in society and were warned against consideration of “junk science” — like specific methods to measure the effects of pollution — that plaintiffs used to prove corporate malfeasance.

“Mr. Koch also sought to influence the judiciary at the federal level. Between 1997 and 2017, the Koch brothers gave more than $6 million to the Federalist Society, a nonprofit institute that recruits libertarian and conservative judges for the federal judiciary, according to a tally by the activist group Greenpeace.

“History shows that it is just as effective to legislate from the bench by striking down laws as by upholding them. The Lochner era proves that policy negation is just as powerful as creation, and it affects just as many lives. As Charles Koch has written and stated so often in the past five decades, there are many, many laws and programs that he would like to negate. With the nomination of Judge Barrett to the court, he appears to be closer than ever to achieving this goal.”

Associated Press

Who will Justice Amy Coney Barrett represent?

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Hear an amazing interview with Barry on the Commonwealth Club

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