Welcome Wenonah Hauter (Food and Water Watch) (HuffingtonPost) and Host K. Rashid Nuri (Truly Living Well)

Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America

In order to understand “the battle over the future of food and farming in America”, the subtitle of Wenonah Hauter’s Foodopoly, it is helpful to know something of America’s agricultural past.

In 1862, during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln and in the midst of America’s great Cvil War, two major laws were effected which inexorably set the course of agriculture in this country from that time until now.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the first of the acts, The Homestead Act of 1862, into law on May 20, 1862. Anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government (including freed slaves and women); was 21 or older, or the head of a family could file an application to claim a federal land grant.

In the United States this originally consisted of land grants as incentives to develop unused land in relatively unpopulated territories. The land grants were 160 acres (65 hectares, or one-fourth of a section).

Remember the old movies depicting land rushes that helped to expand the western frontiers of the United States? People raced in Conestoga wagons, buckboards, horses and by foot to stake their claim for this free land particularly in what became the Midwestern states.

This act stimulated immigration, primarily from northern European countries to the United States. The Homestead Act was also an instrument of war. Northerners generally wanted individual farmers to own and operate their own farms, as contrasted with Southern slave-owners who held slavery as a political and economic philosophy. Slavery was not allowed in the free land grant territories and states.

The Morrill Act [s] 1862 (white colleges) and the Morrill Act – 1890 (confederate states and black colleges) allowed for creation of land grant colleges. The purpose of the land-grant colleges was:

“without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”

Under this Act each eligible state received a total of 30,000 acres (120 km2) of federal land, either within or contiguous to its boundaries, for each member of congress the state had as of the census of 1860. This land, or the proceeds from its sale, was to be used toward establishing and funding educational institutions.

Under provision six of the Act, “No State while in a condition of rebellion or insurrection against the government of the United States shall be entitled to the benefit of this act,” in reference to the recent secession of several Southern states and the currently raging American Civil War.”

So, how does this information pertain to the work of Wenonah Hauter?
What began as an egalitarian, agrarian paradigm, if we can find a way to set aside issues of slavery, discrimination, and economic injustice, has become a system that, to quote Hauter’s book jacket blurb:

“control(s) food production by a handful of large corporations – backed by political clout – that prevents farmers from raising healthy crops and limits the choices that people can make in the grocery store.”

Hauter meticulously, with clarity and insight, shares with her readers how the current food system is broken. She entreats us to consider a new standard of food production and policy that is necessary to replace the current structures that do not support healthy living or economic prosperity for all.

Foodopoly explains how food policy has run amok, making the small farmer of yesteryear now an extinct species. Ms. Hauter has carefully outlined how control of our food sources has been consolidated under control of an oligopoly of food processors. Even the organic food industry has been co-opted and corrupted by corporate greed. The deregulation of food has made it difficult to trust the safety of what we purchase at the grocery store. Factory farms have virtually eliminated family farming as originally envisioned by the land grant acts of 1862. We are asked to accept and consume genetically modified food [GMO] which has a direct correlation to endemic metabolic disease, and is banned in other countries around the world.

The new food order, the future of food and farming in America, will include citizens more actively engaged in the political processes underlying food policy. Urban agriculture, community gardening, community supported agriculture and the development of more local food economies is the wave of the future. Wenonah Hauter, in Foodopoly, makes clear why this is necessary.

____________________________

K. Rashid Nuri is the Founder and President of Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture. Truly Living Well is a 501(c)(3) company that uses quality local food production as a platform to develop healthier minds, bodies and communities through education, economic development, and environmental improvement.

Mr. Nuri brings more than forty years of experience to TLW. Rashid lived and worked three years in Southeast Asia, five years in Nigeria and almost two years in Ghana. He has managed public, private and community-based food and agriculture businesses in over 35 countries around the world.

Travel has enabled Rashid to observe local food economies in the countries he has visited. He now lends his experience to urban areas where good health and nutrition are lacking. He is President of Georgia Organics, on the board of the Atlanta Local Food Initiative and the Urban Food Abundance Movement. Rashid also served four years as a Senior Executive in the Clinton administration as Deputy Administrator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Senior Advisor at the Department of Commerce.

Rashid is a graduate of Harvard College, where he studied Government, and has a M.S. in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Massachusetts.

 

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

119 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Wenonah Hauter, Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America”

BevW March 10th, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Wenonah, Rashid, Welcome to the Lake.

Rashid, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

For our new readers/commenters:

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K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 1:57 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Hello everybody.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Glad to be here to discuss this timely topic in a well written book, Foodopoly, by Wenonah.

dakine01 March 10th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Wenonah and Rashid and welcome to Firedoglake this afternoon.

Wenonah, I have not had an opportunity to read your book so please forgive me if you address this in there but I know that globally, there have been some positive aspects to even some of the GMO foods. I’m thinking specifically of changes in I think how rice is grown in some countries as well as some of the changes to sweet corn in the US (thinking of when I first lived in New Hampshire and the garden included “early corn” which basically produced about a half ear of corn within a month or so of planting).

How do we balance positive parts of changes to food production versus those changes that are harmful?

How do we break the large food producers money holds on things?

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Hi, It’s great to be here today.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Hi dakine01 — there is an assumption that those specific changes to the rice and corns crops is positive. the introduction of hybrids and GMOs has led to the serious illnesses we suffer from in this country today.

dakine01 March 10th, 2013 at 2:14 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 6

As a technical note, there is a “Reply” button in the lower right hand of each comment. Pressing the “Reply” will pre-fill the commenter name and comment number being replied to and makes it easier for folks to follow the conversation.

Note: some browsers do not like to let the Reply function correctly if it has been pressed after a hard page refresh but before the page has completed loading

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 2:14 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 5

Well I’m afraid that these crops are not as promising as the biotech industry would lead us to believe. Golden Rice is a good example. Golden rice adds beta-carotene to rice to help fight the vitamin A deficiency that causes blindness. Yet theis GE crop won’t help reduce the problem because alone, without adequate fats and oil in the diet, it can’t be absorbed.

Plus there is no evidence that the rice helps people. The first set of clinical trails studied only five healthy American volunteers. There is no research proving that it actually helps malnutrition. The biotech industry and trade groups have touted many crops like drought -tolerant corn, which didn’t help those most affected by severe drought.

In reality, these biotech seed companies control of seeds may hurt impoverished people, because biotech seeds are so expensive.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 2:14 pm

we can break the strangleghold of large food producers by creating a local food economy. it is important to know who grows your food, the quality of your food and where your food originates.

spocko March 10th, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Hi, I have also not had an opportunity to read the book,I’m curious if you have any suggestions on how to put pressure on the massive food distribution corporations to have greater food safety.

I write about and follow up stories of food contamination ever since the 2007 pet food crisis. I think that if 4 thousand humans children had died and 8,000 were put into kidney failure that the response could be more immediate and punitive, but it wasn’t, partly because the FDA’s is a victim of regulatory capture.

Besides waiting until a Newton level event, what can we do increase food safety?

Edit. The 4 thousand number comes from a figure that I and 6 bloggers determined by gathering data on dead cats and dogs that was NOT gathered anywhere. There no CDC for pets and the FDA didn’t ever give the press real numbers. When I ask people how many pet they think died in the crisis people have only heard of 12. They guess maybe 100. I try to get those numbers out as often as possible.

dakine01 March 10th, 2013 at 2:15 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 8

I guess I was looking at it for the increased yields in other parts of the world as the positive (of course, that at least is the PR that has supported things)

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 2:17 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 6

There have been no long term studies on the affect of GE foods on human health or the environment. The biotech industry that own the patents on the seeds do not release them for study.

In the US we do not have adequate regulation of these crops or genetically modified and cloned animals. The biotech industry was able to prevent legislation from passing in the mid-1980′a.

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Since you start out with the Homestead Act, let me ask a Q about it. I thought I remembered from reading Zinn’s People’s History of U.S. that the parcels were deliberately made too large from most individuals to be able to afford, Lincoln oriented the program so that the 1%ers could gobble up large chunks for pennies then make a killing by subdividing. I have been questioned on that interpretation but haven’t gone back to see if I remembered Zinn accurately.

Did I, or did I get it all wrong?

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 2:19 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 12

I have two beehives. GM crops are not good for them, and may play a role in CCD.

emptywheel March 10th, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Welcome to both of you.

I’m from MI where, for a variety of reasons, we have more diversity than everyplace but CA, which I think makes it easier for smaller farms (though of course a lot of those are fruit farmers).

I had hopes that having Stabenow as Senate Ag Chair, she might be able to push for policies that encourage more diversity and smaller producers.

But here we are, still with no Ag Bill.

Can you both address the role of the Ag Bill in this system and how we might get out of the Ag logjam we’re in?

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 2:19 pm
In response to spocko @ 10

that is a great observation, spocko. please read the book. as a local, urban farmer in metro atlatna, my advice is that the best way is to vote with your pocketbook – do NOT buy it. produce it yourself and participate in a local food initiative.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 2:20 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 11

If we were serious about helping nourish people in the developing world, the US and other developed countries would not negotiate trade deals that result in driving peasant farmers from their land where they produce food for local people. These trade deals often result in agribusiness moving in to produce export crops.

Hunger is caused by poverty, not because we do not have adequate food supplies. And if we were serious about helping feed the world, we’d be helping the billion peasant farmers stay on their land and plant traditional crops–not corn and soy.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 2:22 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 13

regarding the homestead act, the land was free.

mafr March 10th, 2013 at 2:22 pm

where your food originates.

In the big chain grocery stores, (in Canada) I have trouble figuring out where food is from. Produce, food in boxes, it is somewhat difficult to determine where it’s from.

also, many don’t seem to care.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 2:24 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 13

The Homestead Act of 1962 helped some, but land was expensive and there was a complex three step procedure to get the deed.

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 2:24 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 11

I thought I read somewhere recently that even the vaunted Green Revolution of yesteryear, you know, when fertilizer was added to crops in poor countries, raised yields mainly bc subsistence farmers couldn’t afford fertilizers and the technology allowed the rich to buy up small parcels, combine them, and start that phase of industrial ag. The poor got poorer and starved more bc they didn’t have land anymore & couldn’t afford to buy crops planted with fertilizer supplement. Aggregate yields & production went up hugely but little of it went to feed the poor.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 2:25 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 11

increased yields in food production, requires the use of hybrid seeds and GMOs, increased use of water for irrigation, increased use of fertilizers, a major detriment of and to the soil.

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 2:26 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 18

Thanks. I certainly misremembered what I read. I’ll have to go back & check it again. I hate when that happens.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 2:26 pm
In response to spocko @ 10

I think that we need to put pressure on our elected officials and the regulatory agencies to improve food safety. We do not have adequate funding for the food inspectors who are currently employed at the USDA for meat and FDA for other foods. And with the budget cuts from the sequester, the food cops will be taken off the beat–or at least have fewer hours to inspect our food.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 2:27 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 15

we can get out of the Ag logjam by creating local food economies.

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 2:28 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 20

Ooops, your answer seems to contradict K. Rashid Nuri’s at 18.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 2:29 pm
In response to mafr @ 19

Check out Food & Water Watch’s Global Grocer. While it’s focused on the US, your supply chains are very similar.
http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/global-grocer/

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 2:31 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 25

Local food economies by definition are not scalable.

I eat mostly from local farmers, heirloom tomatoes, organic, etc. Most U.S. households cannot afford to eat those foods. They’re expensive to produce.

spocko March 10th, 2013 at 2:32 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 16

Well I try to as much as possible. I was very pleased that we finally got Country of Origin Labeling (COOP) for fish.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 2:32 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 26

no problem. there is no contradiction. my reference, in the review, pertains to the homestead act of 1862.

BevW March 10th, 2013 at 2:32 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 26
marymccurnin March 10th, 2013 at 2:33 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 28

That used to be said of organic produce in the grocery stores.

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 2:34 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 24

Our laughingly-referred-to-as legies are wholly owned subsidiaries of BIG biz, including industrial ag. How do we get around that?

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 2:35 pm
In response to BevW @ 31

the morril land grant act, 1862 AND 1890, were for land grant colleges. the focus was for agricultural and technical education. the 1862 homestead act was distribution of land — for FREE.

BevW March 10th, 2013 at 2:35 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 24

Have you seen any successful court cases pushing back against the large AgraBusinesses?

BevW March 10th, 2013 at 2:36 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 34

Thanks, I stand corrected
The Homestead Act

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 2:37 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 21

You are right, since the green revolution the income gap has dramatically increased. The income gap between small peasant farmers and large ones has widened. The overuse of fertilizers has caused all sorts of problems.

The technologies promoted by the esperts also destroyed the natural mechanisms for controlling insects. The new seeds provided by the Green Revolution cost more and were no higher yielding then indigenous varieties.

The excessive use and pollution of water from the Green Revolution have created a water crisis in many places.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 2:40 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 28

in regards to ‘scalable,’ please understand that the food you buy in in the grocery stores is subsidized by taxpayers. there is a great cost to the environment from food trucked in, sometimes 1500 miles away or more. ms. hauter explains all of this in her book. the out of pocket costs at a farmer’s market only seems more. in fact, 80% of Americans live in cities, which is where a lot of the food may be produced. my experience, in atlanta, is that it can be scaled.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 2:41 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 26

People could claim 160 acres of land, but they were required to build a dwelling and cultivated the land. After 5 years, the person who filed the claim could register the deed if they paid a registration fee of $1.25 an acre. The problem was that poor people couldn’t afford to build the farm and buy all of the equipment to improve the land.

spocko March 10th, 2013 at 2:41 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 24

Yes. One of the things that I found out was just how powerful Big Chicken (and Big Pig) are. I found out that the contaminated pet food was bought up by someone and sold to a big poultry and pig processor.

The same food that killed 4,000 cats and dogs was feed to chickens and pig that were going into the human food supply. The FDA would not release the name of the company that feed this contaminated food to 20,000,000 chickens and 56,000 hogs. So I did the research. I looked at the top 5 producers and ruled out 4. The 5th, T*son, did not respond to my requests for information. I have proof that they had put pressure on the USDA and the FDA to allow them to sell those chickens and hogs. I passed the info on to USA Today and the LA Times who were covering the story, nothing happened.

I was afraid to even name T*son on my blog because they could sue me for food disparagement laws (like they did Oprah) I’m didn’t have the resources to take on Big Chicken so I dropped it.

The FDA got pressured to put out a BS paper saying that the contaminated pet food would be “diluted” when it got into the chickens and pigs and wouldn’t hurt humans.

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 32

Most HH can’t afford to buy “organic” food in supermarkets.

Not to mention, I’ll bet you dollars to sinful donuts, that what says organic in supermarket isn’t really.

I remember some of the news coverage when original legie was being worked on. Think Goodman might have done some of the coverage I watched. Thrust was legislation was written in such a way as to make “farmers” jump thru so many paperwork hoops that no small local farmers could compete with the giant “organic” wannabes who were going to capture profitable rents from limousine liberal environmentalists.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 2:43 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 37

ms. hauter — A huge percentage of Americans who shop in standard grocery stores don’t understand there is big, unfriendly businesses running the food growing and distribution. Others believe they are avoiding the affects of big business by shopping at certain organic stores. You reveal in your book about what goes on in the business behind the meat, vegetables, grains and milk that most Americans eat every day, including some of our favorite and most respected organic and health-conscious brands. Please tell us about it.

bigbrother March 10th, 2013 at 2:44 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 25

Farmer’s Markets are the model for local growers to market to locals. We stress pesticide free. Better yet is home organic gardens as the nutrient loss from time to table is decreased. There is a benefit of watching the plants grow and letting some go to seed to share your seed stock. No shipping reduces the carbon footprint and no chemicals added for shelf life. Vegetable garden as landscape is a neighborhood beatification as well. Containers can be used inside and outside. I like raised beds surrounded with recycled windows and patio doors glass to reduce watering and a barrier to pests. It extends the growing season so you can get another crop. Start small and become more and more sustainable making your own compost with food left overs.

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Thank you all for your attention to my Homestead Act question. I don’t want to sidetrack the thread so will check out your refs later.

Still, the origins of industrial ag are long in history and deeply embedded in the U.S., one might even say hard-wired. Nothing new about that, except that it’s gotten so egregious that they don’t try to hide it with propaganda anymore.

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 2:47 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 38

Ah yes, the old corp welfare scheme. Poor & middle class taxpayers subsidize big biz. Where have I heard that before? (Rhetorical Q.)

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 2:47 pm
In response to BevW @ 35

Sure, sometimes the courts are a good option. An example is the precedent-setting decision in January of 2012. A Washington State federal district court judge in Washington State ordered a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (a factory farm) to monitor groundwater, drainage and soil for illegal pollution–in violation of the Clean Water Act.

But, because of the judges that have been appointed over the past two decades, the courts can be tough today.

bluewombat March 10th, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Please excuse me if you’ve already answered this, but what could have been done to help California’s Proposition 37? I realize Big Ag probably bought its defeat with a money blitz, but were there any mistakes the Pro-37 people made?

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 2:49 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 43

Nice if adults & teens don’t have to work 2-3 jobs each just to pay rent & put McDs on the table for dinner.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 2:52 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 46

The title of your book is, ‘FOODOPOLY: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America.’ Q: Who are the combatants?

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 2:53 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 42

Please call me Wenonah!

The food system is in crisis because the companies that control it have become so large with so much economic and political power. While the rhetoric is all about competition and the free market–in reality public policy is geared towards enabling a small cabal of companies to control every aspect of our food system.

Today 20 food corporations produce most of the food eaten by Americans, even organic brands. Four large chains, with Walmart in the lead, control grocery store sales, one giant organic grocery store dominates the industry and one distribution company has a stranglehold on getting organic products into communities around the country. And the biotech industry is so powerful it can buy public policy.

RevBev March 10th, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Is the giant organic Whole Foods?

bigbrother March 10th, 2013 at 2:54 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 42

The food goes to factories where it is processed and packaged then truck to regional warehouses where it is stored for a while, then loaded on trucks and shipped to grocery stores where it is stocked on selfs so shelf life is increased by preservatives which are supposed to be listed on the labels. The pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers are not listed on the labels.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 2:55 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 47

I think it would have been good to wait a year and to really educate a broad slice of the CA population before doing it and their could have been better coordination between all of the groups working on it.

But, I think it did serve to excite people across the nation about the need to label GE foods. It has spawned campaigns in about 30 states. And people are strategizing in CA about how to come back and win.

bigbrother March 10th, 2013 at 2:58 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 48

Around one third of USA population is retired so they have time and some assests. Plus very healthy mild exercise. Like house plants that are edible maybe small but it supplements diets.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 3:00 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 53

excellent information, wenonah.

There is a growing organic local food movement in the US. People are becoming more aware of the importance of eating vital food that does not travel miles and days to get to them. But in your book you state that the local food movement is not enough to solve America’s food crisis and the public health debacle it has created. What do you mean?

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:01 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 49

One the one side we have the cabal of corporations that control the food and agriculture industries, the financial services industry that benefits from all of the mergers and acquisitions, and the food speculators.

On the other side, in the US, we have more than 300,000,000 million eaters and less than a million farmers ((the USDA’s statistics on farmers are wrong).

And we have all of the people around the world, including the impoverished, who are being affected in various ways. The US grain market sets the price of grains for the world and that means when grain traders and others speculate the poor starve. And the processed food companies are trying to force their junk food down everyone’s throat around the world, because they want new markets.

bluewombat March 10th, 2013 at 3:01 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 53

Thanks for your answer. Another question: I was in the Florida Panhandle a few years ago, working on my book about the history of peanut butter. I was out in the fields with a young (well, young-ish: about 40 or so, which is young to me these days) peanut farmer.

He was talking about how Monsanto was running all these great seminars to help him improve his farming. I didn’t yell, “No! They’re evil! Don’t have anything to do with them!” as I wanted his cooperation on the book and didn’t want him to realize I’m the Yankee liberal I am.

To what extent have Monsanto and its ilk so brainwashed farmers that they won’t resist what they’re up to and will, in fact, be complicit in it?

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:02 pm
In response to RevBev @ 51

Yes, Whole Foods has been allowed to acquire all of its national competitors.

Cynthia Kouril March 10th, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I read that the recent announcement by Whole Foods that it is going to require GMO labeling on all products on its shelves is going to be a game changer for the industry. Similar to when Walmart decided not to carry milk from cows given growth hormone.

Do YOU think it will be enough to get the ball rolling in the right direction?

RevBev March 10th, 2013 at 3:03 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 58

Thanks…And it is such a totally unpleasant experience.
Appreciate the background.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 3:04 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 56

wenonah — since you name names in your book, i think it would be helpful if you provided just a few of them here. and, folks can get the full list by buying your book.

bigbrother March 10th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Another easy food that is packed with vitamins is sprouts of all kinds providing nutrients missing from processed foods. easy to grow in a dark cupboard. Really one of the large problems is our approach to nutrition.

BearCountry March 10th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Hi, all. Thanks to Wenonah and K. Rashid for this important and timely topic.

I’m not sure that Prop 37 was actually defeated. I think that this may have been a case of the vote counters being the most important link in the whole chain.

I have seen that now whole foods is going to label all of their GMO foods. I haven’t read why they are doing this, but I don’t trust them. I do sometimes shop there because the “organic” choices are greater. My wife and I don’t trust the fda organic label, but we have too few choices.

RevBev March 10th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

What would it take to connect this information to the absurd
obesity problem? Our diets are out of control….

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:09 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 55

Local food and direct marketing between farmers and consumers is great for those who can participate. But this kind of local food system is most prevalent in the Northeast, on the West Coast and in some large urban areas. Looking at the numbers shows the magnitude of the problem. CSA’s, Farmers Markets and sales of local food to grocery stores is $4.8 billion. This figure seems large until you compare it to the $1.2 trillion in overall sales of food.

Small and midium sized farms sell 3/4ths of the direct-to-consumer local foods, but only 7 percent of local foods in supermarkets and restaurants comes from small and midsize farms.

Also, significant is the fact that over half of the farms that sell locally are located near metropolitan counties. If we want everyone to enjoy regionally produced food, we’re going to have to create a fair market place.

Elliott March 10th, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Why does the dairy industry want to add aspartame to milk?

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 3:12 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 65

thank you. What structural shifts and changes have to happen to bring us healthy, organic food we can trust?

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:12 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 57

I think that they have used the USDA apparatus, including the extension service, to provide a great deal of misinformation to farmers about GMOs, pesticides and fertilizers.

The Farm Bureau is another tool that has been used to lie to farmers and get them to use these chemicals, as well as to vote against their own economic self-interest.

bluewombat March 10th, 2013 at 3:12 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 63

I’m not sure that Prop 37 was actually defeated. I think that this may have been a case of the vote counters being the most important link in the whole chain.

That’s not my understanding. Because of Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s work, I believe voting machines in California are pretty clean.

BearCountry March 10th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

In reference to a statement earlier about big ag takeovers of land that makes the poor unable to feed themselves, I remember reading about Ethiopia having been self-sufficient in food, but after the bloody change in govt, the farmers were forced to grow cash crops and the country then had to import food to feed the masses, and, of course, this was a disaster.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:16 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 61

Sure..

The largest distributor of organic and “natural” foods is United Natural Foods, Inc. This company is one of the reasons that organic food is so expensive. UNFI’s sales have increased by almost 56% in the past 5 years since they went public, and their net profit margin has increased by 88%.

The 10 biggest food processors in the US are Pepsi, Nestle, Kraft, Tyson, JBS (a Brazilian owned meat giant), General Mills, Dean, Mars, Smithfield and Kellogg.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:17 pm
In response to Elliott @ 66

They want to sell more “low calorie” milk products, especially to children.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 67

Today, the big guys are lobbying to weaken the USDA organic standard. While it’s not perfect, it’s the best we have right now. Everyone who cares about organics needs to wake up to this and put pressure on the Organic Standards Board and the organic brands not to do so.

It’s great to buy from local farmers, but if we want a food system that serves everyone and more options for organic food it means changing the policies in the Farm Bill.

BearCountry March 10th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 69

You probably know more about it than I do, so I must accept your view for now. I just remember reading how the early work showed that most people were in favor and the results never indicated a shift to possibly a majority opposition until after the absentee balloting was mostly over and that a huge amount of prior uncounted votes were found, but that story was dropped. I will look further, but I just don’t trust the vote counters enough (think WI).

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:21 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 70

This has been a widespread problem around the world–from Africa to Latin America and Asia.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 3:22 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 71

I would wager big dollars that there will be a lot of folks googling United National Foods, wenonah. thank you.

Your title really nails the industry. How does the US ‘Foodopoly’ have a ripple affect here and abroad? What will/does that ripple affect look like?

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:24 pm
In response to RevBev @ 64

Americans spend 90% of their food dollars on processed food. Junk food is actually addicting. The food processors have worked with food chemists to develop recipes with fat, sugar and salt that stimulate the brain and make people want more. This is well documented by people like the former Surgeon General David Kessler.

These companies also spend billions in advertising…..The average child watches just under 5000 junk food ads a year.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:25 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 76

OOPs, I made a typo: It’s United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI)

RevBev March 10th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Really sounds like child abuse, doesn’t it?

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 3:26 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 75

Egypt, former bread basket of Middle East and savior of British textile ind during U.S. civil war (cotton producer), now a major importer of food, wh they can’t afford bc civil unrest, falling Egyptian pound, debt slavery to Wash Consensus, the whole package of U.S. foreign policy planned disruption/destruction of as many countries as it can get its mitts on.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:27 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 74

The big drop in support happened after the industry guys started running their ads saying it would cost taxpayers $$.

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 3:28 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 77

Junk food is actually addicting.

Saw that. The Twinkie Defense was accurate.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:29 pm
In response to RevBev @ 79

It sure does. Children drink twice as much soda today as they did in the 1970’s and 17% are obese, with many more being overweight.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:30 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 80

This is certainly the case.

Elliott March 10th, 2013 at 3:30 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 72

just what the kids need – ASPARTAME!

Food labeling is so important, I really resent that our own government conspires to keep us in the dark – and keeps us from making our own choices about the ingredients we want to ingest – whether or not we are right or wrong about them.

I’ve said to friends that if the horsemeat-for-beef scandal is here in the US, there’s prolly a secret FDA decree that will keep us from ever knowing. (And I mean no judgment about eating horsemeat, I eat cowmeat myself.)

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

There are health issues related to eating horsemeat. most of the horses are sport horses and they’ve been fed a slew of drugs including steroids.

karenjj2 March 10th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

thank you for an enlightening discussion of your work, Wenonah.

the “food corps” are not the only ones devoted to increasing profits by altering their “product” on the sly.

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/02/20/2013-03835/ flavored-milk-petition-to-amend-the-standard-of-identity-for-milk-and -17-additional-dairy-products

BearCountry March 10th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I shall request that my community library gets a copy of Foodopoly. I think that everyone needs to have the opportunity to read this even if they don’t have the financial resources to buy it.

Elliott March 10th, 2013 at 3:34 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 86

ugh, hadn’t thought of that.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Has anyone noticed all the mergers going on right now? This past week, Cargill’s wheat milling partnership (Horizon) announced a proposed merger with ConAgra Mills, joining two of the nation’s largest wheat flour milling operations. This is on top of two flour mills Cargill bought earlier this year. Cargill already is probably the world’s largest grain trading company and the merger would only increase its stranglehold on the food supply—on the farmers that raise wheat and the consumers that eat, well, practically anything.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 3:35 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 88

what an excellent idea. you and your community will not be disappointed.

bigbrother March 10th, 2013 at 3:36 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 73

Factory farming of cattle and dairy produce more greenhouse gasses that the entire plane car and truck transportation system!
And commercial farming is polluting our continental drinking water sources in addition to the high water of water by spraying and other methods that cause massive transevaporation of water. These water carry fungicides, pesticides and herbicides into out water supply, water sheds, aquifers, lakes and rivers. They are causing massive cancer. Immune system malfunctions and endocrine disrupters as well as birth defects in humans and wild animals. See Silent Spring, Rachel Carson.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:36 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 88

Thanks so much!

BearCountry March 10th, 2013 at 3:37 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 86

That does not seem to be a problem that would cause the fda to hesitate to OK the introduction of horse meat.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:37 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 92

I think if most Americans really knew how their meat was produced and processed, they wouldn’t want to eat it.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:39 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 94

You’re right! But, there is a strong movement in this country against eating horses and culturally most Americans wouldn’t be interested. However, last year, 176,00 horses were sent to be slaughtered in Mexico and Canada. Now some states (NM, OK) are considering allowing horse slaughterhouses–

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 3:40 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 90

Cargill is the largest and most powerful merchant trading firm in the world. As a consumer, you do business with them everyday but do not recognize their presence because they deal on a “bulk” level. They sell the corn to Kellog’s, the cocoa to Hershey’s, eggs/potatoes to McDonald’s, etc.

Wenonah, how does the US ‘Foodopoly’ have a ripple affect here and abroad? What will/does that ripple affect look like?

bigbrother March 10th, 2013 at 3:41 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 95

You are so right! And thank you for bringing light to this important topic. We could reduce healthcare cost dramatically by doing better on our food sources. Range feed too.

BearCountry March 10th, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Wenonah, what has been the response of book reviewers to your book? Have you been reviewed by the nyt or wapo? What about the mass media? Have you been on npr or here in the NY area on WNYC?

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:44 pm
In response to K. Rashid Nuri @ 97

Cargill is a major grain trader and grain miller. It’s actions reverberate around the world. Let’s look at the effect of Cargill, the 14th largest food processor in the US, merging its million operation with ConAgra, the 12th largest food processor.

The new company they form, Argent, would control a third of the wheat flour market. Today, the top four flour making firms (Horizon, ADM, ConAgra and Cereal Food Processors) mill more than half the wheat flour in the country—sort of like making the flour in the bread for every other sandwich.
If the proposed merger is approved, the top four firms (Argent, ADM, Cereal Food Processors and Bay State Milling) will mill nearly two-thirds of the flour—like making the bread in two out of three sandwiches. The new Argent would mill the flour for one-third of all sandwiches.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:47 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 99

I’ve had very good book reviews in Publisher’s Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle and many other places. Check out http://www.foodopoly.org to see links to reviews. But, the elite mainstream press so far has not reviewed Foodopoly. I have been doing loads of radio.

It’s very difficult to get the main stream press to take up issues around consolidation. After all, look at how concentrated the ownership of the media has become!

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:48 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 98

This is an important point. When people say processed food is cheap, they aren’t looking at the cost of health care or the personal cost to individuals who become sick from their diet.

BearCountry March 10th, 2013 at 3:50 pm

You authors and hosts who come here are so bombarded with questions that it is surprising that you are able to answer as much as you do. Therefore, I shall ask again, to everyone now, what is behind whole foods saying that they will provide the list of ingredients on the GMO products after they really didn’t support prop 37?

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Wenonah — please explain the consequences of President Obama appointing Mike Taylor to the FDA as well as other former employees of Monsanto.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Another big merger is going on that should interest beer drinkers. Most people don’t realize that the variety of brands they see in the stores come from just two foreign-based multinational companies that control 80 percent of the market here in the U.S. The biggest one, wants to buy the Mexican company that owns Corona. These companies also control in large part whether microbreweries can get their craft beers to market.

BevW March 10th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Wenonah, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the need to take back our food system.

Rashid, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Wenonah’s website (Food and Water Watch) and book (Foodopoly)

Rashid’s website (Truly Living Well)

Thanks all, Have a great week.

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

FDL Book Salon has a Facebook page too

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:54 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 103

Well, they say they aren’t doing it until 2018–so t hat’s a while down the road. My colleagues and I have been debating this question. THey have been criticized for carrying so much conventional food that is no different than what’s in the grocery store. So I suspect its to stop the criticism of this.

BearCountry March 10th, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Whenever I talk about organic vs. GMO products, most people are of the opinion that the food must be OK because people don’t fall over dead immediately on eating GMO food. They really don’t think about long term effects on themselves or the land. I think that the food processors keep the prices high artificially on organics.

Wenonah Hauter March 10th, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Thank you so much Rashid and everyone at the FDL Book Salon! The time has gone so quickly!

eCAHNomics March 10th, 2013 at 3:56 pm
In response to Wenonah Hauter @ 86

Bambi alert.

I allow 2 people to hunt on my property & I get venison in exchange. Can’t get more local than that.

BearCountry March 10th, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Thanks for a great discussion.

Elliott March 10th, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Do you cover the perils of cornering the market in commodity trading as Wall Street seems to be intent on these days?

– I remember when Archer Daniels Midland tried to corner the market on lysine, an essential amino acid, as one example. They well-spent a lot of money “subtly” influenced PBS news coverage by sponsoring the NewsHour at that time, as I recall.

K. Rashid Nuri March 10th, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Thank you to Wenonah for a MUST vs. a “should” read and to Fire Dog Lake and the Book Salon that increases literacy and light to crucial issues, Bev!

Elliott March 10th, 2013 at 3:57 pm
In response to Elliott @ 112

oh well, time flies!

bigbrother March 10th, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Food and Water watch is pretty awesome.

mafr March 10th, 2013 at 4:04 pm

thankyou very much

OmAli March 10th, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Thanks everyone for another great salon. Getting ready to explore the websites.

OT, BearCountry, how have you and Mrs. and Young BearCountry been? Please drop by OE or PUYC soon and let us know how things are in your neck of the woods.

pokums March 10th, 2013 at 10:19 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 110

Can’t get more local than that.

Well, maybe you killing the deer (with your bare hands!), instead of outsourcing, would be more local.

franciscodeflores March 11th, 2013 at 2:24 am

Local food producing family farms have been disappearing rapidly since the 1950′s. Much of this has to do with government policy that has rewarded larger, wealthier interests. The Soil Bank program of the mid 20th Century allowed dentists and bankers to buy farm land while the government paid the payments. Following that, set-aside programs paid ag producers not to plant part of their acreage but small, family farmers needed all the land they had to raise grain to feed their animals. Then you had the congress placing protections on beet sugar so that growers would get 10 cents per pound above global prices. After that, the ridiculous dairy buy out plan that allowed dairy farmers to shed cattle but didn’t prevent others from buying the same animals. Now we have government subsidized crop insurance which means that taxpayers insure these 1%er growers a wealthy, secure income while the rest of us struggle. There are no family farmers left. They are almost entirely corporate operations farming thousands of acres. If you want to see a diversified farm with animals and several crops and chickens and vegetables in the garden you’ll have to go to a museum demonstration farm. The others have powerful lobbying efforts that gain them many advantages with government. The best thing we could do would be to do away the the Department of Agriculture.

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