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From: TSS (
Subject: The Great Divide
Date: September 2, 2004 at 9:38 am PST

The Great Divide

Written by Ethan Dezotelle

Thursday, 02 September 2004

Two agricultural slugfests dominated the latter part of this? year’s Legislative session: organic vs. genetically modified and small scale vs. factory farming.
They are debates which haven’t died down in the ensuing months, and they likely won’t go away in the immediate future. Now a new study released by the Organization for Competitive Markets, “USDA INC: How Agribusiness Has Hijacked Regulatory Policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” has added a new wrinkle to the debate.
The OCM’s report suggests exactly what many small-scale and organic farmers have long thought – The United States Department of Agriculture’s food-related regulatory appointees are putting the interests of agribusiness before those of farmers.
The 37-page document is a jaw-dropper, especially if you’re someone affected by the regulatory policies of the USDA, which is to say, if you’re an American.
The study focuses on five case studies – so-called “Mad Cow Disease,” the dominance of corporate meatpacking in the United States, meat inspection policies, the biotech industry, concentrated animal feeding operations – that?????? put USDA policies through the wringer and filter out some downright disturbing notions.
The one that comes to dominate the report is that the revolving door of officials who create USDA policy regarding these topics is a virtual Who’s Who of agribusiness movers and shakers. Such connections between policy makers and Big Ag are rife, and there is simply no counterbalance to speak for farmers and ranchers.
Philip Mattera, the author of the report, draws up a list that is sickeningly long of USDA appointees who came to their positions after working in the world of agribusiness.
USDA Secretary Ann M. Veneman was a board member of Calgene, a biotech company. Under Secretary J.B. Penn was an executive at Sparks Companies, a consulting firm that works with agribusiness. Mary Waters, the USDA’s assistant secretary for Congressional relations, spent time as a senior director and legislative counsel for ConAgra Foods.
And the list goes on.
The report’s conclusion is, at the very least, bothersome – farmers and consumers are vastly underrepresented by the organization that President Abraham Lincoln established in 1862 to act as “the people’s department.”
American agriculture has been suffering for a long time now. With such an infestation from within, it’s hard to look at its future as anything but bleak.

To read the full report, visit


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