Food Sleuth Radio, Mike Callicrate Interview by Melinda Hemmelgarn on PRX

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by Food Sleuth Radio

Check it out: OCM’s Mike Callicrate joins Food Sleuth Radio this weekend, exposing consolidation and corruption in our meat markets.

“U.S. citizens don’t get the laws that benefit them; they get the laws that benefit global corporations that search the world for the cheapest of everything and then import that into the highest consuming market, which today is still the United States.” – Mike Callicrate

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Where’s the Beef?

by Gilles Stockton

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue probably expects that his press release announcing more access to Japan’s market for U.S. Beef will have cattle ranchers dancing a jig.  But frankly, there is not enough of a musical beat in this trade agreement to cause anyone to even tap their toes. All that Japan did was lift a ban on importing beef from cattle more than thirty months of age. 

What kind of meat comes from cattle more than thirty months of age – hamburger! We don’t export hamburger; we import hamburger.  We import so much hamburger that the cull cows I sold this spring brought just 52 cents a pound. For the past sixteen years Japan had been buying this type of meat from Australia or South America. 

Why would they start importing this beef from the United States and if we were to export what we have, we would in turn need to import the same thing from Australia or South America.  It makes little sense and I suspect that to come up with the promised annual $200 million more in beef exports, Secretary Purdue must have gathered his staff, passed around a jug of cheap wine and a bong until someone became inspired enough to shout out the magic number.

Thinking about the whole issue of the Japanese beef trade just makes me mad.  In 2003 a cow that had been recently imported from Canada was diagnosed with Classical Mad Cows Disease (BSE).  Our veterinary authorities did the responsible thing and shut off cattle and beef imports from Canada.  Other countries followed suit and suspended imports from both Canada and the US, as they were required to do by international veterinary protocols. 

Thankfully it turned out the U.S. did not in fact have a BSE infection problem. However, Canada did, and continued to discover BSE infected cattle, the last one in 2015. So, what did our government do after it became clear that there was no BSE in the American herd, they opened up imports of cattle from Canada. In 2005 our government apparently decided that we love our Canadian brothers and sisters so much that we volunteered to share in their international disease status. Japan of course extended their ban of US beef since meat from Canadian cattle was intermixed with our product. This move restored the ability of the beef packing cartel to manipulate the U.S. cattle market. Between the reduced exports and the packer market manipulation, US cattle prices went down. 

It wasn’t until 2013, years after the Bush Administration deliberately put the US beef supply in jeopardy, that Japan allowed the import of beef from cattle less than 30 months of age. By then it had become clear to everyone that younger cattle did not have the time to develop BSE. Secretary Purdue is now taking credit for opening up the Japanese market to meat from older cows. I am sorry but this is just a big “nothing” burger.

If Secretary Purdue wants to get cattle ranchers dancing in the streets, he should do something to fix the market that is giving us 52 cents for culls and $1.50 for feeder calves.  He can start by calling for Congress to restore Country of Origin Labeling for beef.  He could then follow up by signing off on the GIPSA Rules that give contract growers the right to sue chicken, pork, and beef integrators for fraudulent market practices. Then to really make us happy, he could adopt the recommendation of the “Captive Supply Reform Act” and require beef packers to actually bid in a transparent competitive market for their fat cattle supplies.

Now if Secretary Purdue did all that, I for one will break out of my slow cowboy two step shuffle and try some fancy Western Swing moves with my honey. 

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The Neutral, 1931

courtesy of Tom Giessel

Cattle grazing near St. Francis, Kansas

The Neutral

In talking with a man the other day,
About the perils in the farmers’ way,
Although he claims to know the farmers’ plight,
He said, “I’m neutral; I don’t like a fight.

A neutral is a man controlled by fear;
Is one who holds his own wellbeing dear;
Who dares not take a stand, bold, unafraid,
Because his courage can not make the grade

A man with guts will always make a choice;
And, right or wrong in choosing, will rejoice
In fighting for the things he thinks are right;
Nor heeds his bitter foe’s imposing might

A real He-Man will meet the stinging blow,
Launched at him by angry, spiteful foe,
And take it standing, ‘though he may be licked,
Instead of humbly waiting to be kicked

The foe may be a privileged wealth’s phalanx;
May be a smooth-tongued traitor in our ranks;
But all the fiends from hell will not alarm
The men who dare to fight for home and farm

The time is here when men who lead the way
To bring about a brighter, better day
For Agriculture, must stand up four square,
And face the opposition’s brazen glare

-A. M. Kinney

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To Abandon Our Farms, 1932

courtesy of Tom Giessel

To Abandon Our Farms?

Our good friend, J.D. Stols of Beattie, Kansas, sends us a clipping from a St. Joseph newspaper which throws some light on a situation which is confronting us as a nation of farmers and business men. “This article hits the nail on the head,” writes Mr. Stosz. “Just as Brother John Frost stated in last week’s Tax Relief Department article, at the present time the farmer pays taxes on his capital whether he receives an income or not.”

The clipping, which is dated at Urbana, Ill., and sent out by the United Press, follows:

Photo by Dennis Schroeder Jay Frost, left, and Randy Lewis separate calves to wean them in pens at Hanna Ranch south of Colorado Springs.

A nation of abandoned farms with farm owners driven into tenantry unless the United States develops a healthier attitude towards agriculture was predicted today by Eugene Davenport, International far authority,, in an interview with the United Press.

Davenport, for twenty-seven years dean of the college of agriculture, University of Illinois, and former president of the college of agriculture at Sao Paulo, Brazil, declared no class of business is as sorely affected as farming. Furthermore, he said, agriculture is less able to take care of itself during boom times than any other business.

“Farming is a private business but agriculture is a national enterprise,” Davenport said, “because the farmer produces the food of all people and because he is in possession of the national estate.

“It is bad for society when any class is crowded to the wall, but it is doubly sad when that happens to the farming class. The first thing a farmer does is deny himself and his family everything except the bare necessities. That virtually removes some 6,000,000 families from the market and that is about where they are now.

“If the farmer permits his buildings and land to deteriorate he is depleting the national wealth as well as his own.”

There are several reasons, Davenport said, why the farmer cannot care for his interests efficiently in boom times “unless it be in the early days of a great war when food prices are abnormally high.”

“First of all,”, he said, “is the fact that food consumption is limited not only by the family income but by the capacity of the human stomach. This latter stubborn fact fixes an unpassable maximum to the price level of farm commodities outside of textiles.

“But the minimum may go much lower, for every food fad and very fashion that demands the slender figure reduces the farmer’s market. More persons than we realize are now living on half rations or even less. Hence the so-called surplus.

“The farmer’s great handicaps now are increased by the fact that he pays taxes on his capital whether he enjoys an income or not. The state is finding a surprising amount of land on its hands through delinquent taxes. Once off the land, how will society get the farmer back onto the public domain? And what will the state do with the land if it doesn’t get him back?

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America’s Farmers and Ranchers are Failing – Big corporations will let us starve when our farmers, ranchers and small food companies are gone!


April 25, 2019

Contact: Hannah Packman, 202.554.1600

Farmer’s Share of the Food Dollar Falls to All-Time Low

WASHINGTON – For every dollar American consumers spend on food, U.S. farmers and ranchers earn just 14.6 cents, according to a report recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS). This value marks a 17 percent decline since 2011 and the smallest portion of the American food dollar that farmers have received since the USDA began reporting these data in 1993. The remaining 85.4 cents cover off-farm costs, including processing, wholesaling, distribution, marketing, and retailing.

National Farmers Union (NFU), which has advocated for family food producers’ social and economic welfare for more than a century, uses the annually calculated statistic as a barometer of the state of the farm economy. In response to the updated report, NFU President Roger Johnson released the following statement:

“Even though family farmers and ranchers are more productive today than they have ever been, they’re taking home a smaller and smaller portion of the American food dollar. This one data point doesn’t paint the full picture of the farm economy, but when considered in the context of depressed commodity prices, plummeting incomes, rising input costs, and deteriorating credit conditions, it is certainly clear that we are in the midst of an agricultural financial crisis.

“Conditions for farmers have been eroding since 2011, and there’s only so much longer they can hold on. Many have already made the heartbreaking decision to close up shop; in just the past five years, the United States lost upwards of 70,000 farm operations. As a country with a growing population and growing nutritional needs, we can’t afford to lose many more. We sincerely hope this startling report will open policy makers’ eyes to the financial challenges family farmers and ranchers endure on a daily basis and convince them to provide the support they so desperately need.”

Download NFU’s Farmer’s Share

What happened to the farm share of the food dollar?

The following quote is cut in stone above the main entrance to the USDA headquarters in Washington DC:


Thanks to agency capture and the monopoly power of Big Food, the husbandman is getting none of the fruits. Corporations steal the wealth of agriculture, leaving farmers and ranchers to eat their equity.

The Kansas Union Farmer: September 19, 1940

Farm Share of Food Dollar to New Low Mark

Income Gains Offset by Cut in Farm Purchasing Power Bacon to ’34 Level

The farmer’s share of the consumer’s food dollar is lower today, Farm Research finds, than before the first World war, and is in fact lower than at any time with the exception of the period of 1931-34. In June 1940, the latest date for which the U.S. Department of Agriculture series is available, the farmer’s share of the worker’s food dollar, figured on the basis of a food budget, comprising 58 representative items, was lower than in any recent year since 1934.

Farmer’s Share of Worker’s Dollar Spent for 58 Foods

1913                            53c

1935                            42

1936                            44

1937                            45

1938                            40

1939                            41

1940 (June)                 39

This increase in the share of the worker’s food dollar going to middlemen and processors is especially significant in connection with the problem of how farm income can be effectively increased. In recent years even when cash income from farm marketings has increased slightly, the farmer’s share of the consumer’s food dollar has continued its downward trend. And the ratio of prices received by farmers to prices paid by them, i.e. the buying power of the farm dollar, has declined.

Ratio of Prices Received by Farmers to Prices Paid – U.S.D.A.

1910-14                       100

1935                            36

1936                            92

1937                            93

1938                            78

1939                            77

1940 (June)                 77

To take certain food articles, then farmer’s share of the consumer’s pork dollar, in June 1940, was down to 51 percent, as compared with 59 percent in 1935, and 67 percent in 1937.

Forty-one percent of the dairy dollar went to farmers in June 1940, as compared with 45 percent in 1935, and 48 percent in 1937.

Only 53 percent of the egg dollar went to farmers in June 1940, though they received 66 percent in 1935 and 59 percent in 1937.

The farmer got only 36 percent of the white flour dollar in June 1940, as compared with 39 percent in 1935, and 52 percent in 1937.

Only 14 percent of white bread expenditures went to farmers in June 1940, as compared with 17 percent in 1935, and 20 percent in 1937.

Farmers got 47 percent of the navy bean dollar in June 1940, as compared with 55 percent in 1935, and 51 percent in 1937.

Fifty-seven percent of expenditures for white potatoes got to the farmers in June 1940, as compared with 42 percent in 1935 and 54 percent in 1937.

The year 1937 stands out in most of these comparisons as having afforded the farmer the largest share of the consumer’s food dollar in recent times. The income of workmen in industry also reached its post-depression peak in this same year. The buying power of the farm dollar had also reached its recent high.

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