Concentration in Agriculture Continues to Rise

This is a great article that helps to illustrate issues that truly affect family farmers. The USDA fails to enforce the anti-trust acts on the books that are supposed to protect the most vital part of our economy from control in the hands of a few. Now people might argue that it is against capitalism to protect the economy from concentration, but the truth is that it is impossible to have a healthy economy with excessive consolidation.

When access to market, seeds to plant, fertilizer to use, and prices received are all controlled, there IS no free market. Such is the case in the vast majority of agriculture. This scenario leads to the proliferation of biotech as they are the ones with the most money in their pockets and, as evidenced by the Monsanto Protection Act insertion into the Ag appropriations extension and Blunt admitting he “did it for Monsanto”, it should be clear that this topic is extremely important for our health and well being.

The “Missouri Monsanto Protection Act” will lead to even more concentration in this State. Representative Jason Smith, the sponsor of HJR 11 and 7, is insisting that the bill will save farmers from undo regulation at the hands of HSUS. However, the group that evidently pushed him to sponsor this tripe has some pretty obvious issues with their listed members. That group is Missouri Farmers Care. Not all of their members are in the column of the nasty and nefarious, but enough of them are that it certainly implicates the group as being a shill for the biotech industry while running under a deceptive title pretending they “care” about small family farms. Just have a look at their membership page.

Currently, Monsatan (Monsanto) owns the lion’s share of the global seed market. In the US, it is even more concentrated than in other nations. The question for the Missouri legislators (and Montana, Delaware, Indiana and Oklahoma, by the way) is who do they represent? Are they wholly owned subsidiaries of Monsanto, or do they represent the people? Their vote on this purported “Right to Farm” act will tell.

Without further adieu, here’s a look at the reality of concentration in the agricultural arena from the Daily Yonder:

With the rising concentration of companies that provide “inputs” for farmers — seeds, farm machinery, fertilizer — the prices for these goods have been rising faster than the cost of what farmers produce. Monsanto has a near monopoly on some kinds of seeds

Editor’s Note: One of the primary concerns of The Daily Yonder over the past six years has been the increasing concentration of businesses in the business of agriculture. Simply, fewer firms are providing us everything from fertilizer to groceries. 

Big business is getting bigger when it comes to growing our food.

Below is a summary of a recent report that looks at what this increasing concentration means for ag research and development. It was written by researchers at the Economic Research Service, an invaluable part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

To see the full report, go here

Since the 1990s, global market concentration (the share of global industry sales earned by the largest firms) has increased in the crop seed/biotechnology, agricultural chemical, animal health, animal breeding, and farm machinery industries – all of which invest heavily in agricultural research.

By 2009, the largest four firms in each of these industries accounted for at least 50 percent of global market sales. Market concentration was particularly high in animal genetics and breeding, where the four-firm concentration ratio reached 56 percent in 2006/07 (the latest year for which data are available).

Growth in global market concentration over 1994-2009 was most rapid in the crop seed industry, where the market share of the four largest firms more than doubled from 21 to 54 percent. The top eight firms in all five input sectors had between a 61 and 75 percent share of global market sales by 2009.

Firms increase their market share either by expanding their sales faster than the industry average or by acquiring or merging with other firms in the industry. Firms can expand their sales faster than others in the industry by offering better products or services (often an outgrowth of larger R&D investments), improving their marketing ability, or offering lower prices (often through economies of scale). The leading input firms in 2010 had faster sales growth than the industry average, but a significant amount of that growth came from acquisitions of other firms.

Reasons for Concentration

Reasons for mergers and acquisitions vary by industry and firm circumstances but include market forces and the emergence of new technologies. Government policies can also affect the ability of firms to compete in markets and their incentives to merge with or acquire other firms.

In the crop seed and animal breeding sectors, the emergence of biotechnology was a major driver of consolidation. Companies sought to acquire relevant technological capacities and serve larger markets to share the large fixed costs associated with meeting regulatory approval for new biotechnology innovations.

In the animal breeding sector, vertical integration in the poultry and livestock industries enabled some large firms to acquire capacity in animal breeding as part of their integrated structure.

In the farm machinery industry, many of the major mergers and acquisitions can be traced to large financial losses sustained by some leading firms during periods when the farm sector was in prolonged recession, which substantially reduced demand for farm machinery as farmers delayed major capital purchases. Firms experiencing large financial losses are often vulnerable to acquisition.

The agricultural chemical sector has been heavily affected by changes in government regulations governing the health, safety, and environmental impacts of new and existing pesticide formulations: larger firms appear better able to address these stricter regulatory requirements.

Consolidation in the animal health sector appears to be largely a byproduct of mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical industry, as most of the leading animal health companies are subsidiaries of large pharmaceutical companies.(full article here)

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Now, This Would Be A Good Constitutional Amendment for Missouri

Recently, I wrote about Jason Smith’s HJR 7 and 11,which is a proposed Constitutional Amendment for the State of Missouri. By the way, Jason is the Pro Tem in the Missouri House and the Republican nominee to fill Joann Emerson’s seat in the US Congress. It is widely rumored that Smith was flown to Washington four times to be introduced to his future colleagues by Emerson. It is possibly coincidence one of Emerson’s daughters is a lobbyist for Monsanto and that Smith introduced this bill, which would strongly enhance Monsanto’s stranglehold on Agriculture in this State. Possibly. I just don’t know. It’s one of those thing that makes you go, “Hmmm…”, as that old adage goes.

What isn’t questionable is that HJR 7 and 11 and SJR 22 (it’s companion) are flying through the process at Jeff City quicker than a greased pig. And is NOT good for Missouri farmers, Missouri consumers, or economic freedom overall. Please read my first article on this legislation here to get some background on why I see this as terrifically dangerous and deceptive as I do.

An interesting thing about Missouri is the many options available for changing/amending the Missouri Constitution. Battles in ballot language are often fought in the back rooms of the State Offices and voters must go to extensive lengths to find out the full text of the actual proposal on the ballot. When people are voting on a Constitutional Amendment, they should not only be allowed easy access to the language, they should read it and be certain they understand the effects of the proposed amendment. We want the legislators to “read the bills”, why would we be satisfied with out own decisions on issues if we ourselves don’t read the actual text?

After two calls and a facebook message to Rep. Smith, I finally received a return call from Smith’s office, but I was outside dealing in the real world at the time.  I called back and left another message, but haven’t yet heard back from the staffer that left a message on my machine. Sigh.

Since this thing is moving so quickly, and the questionable terms “modern” and “agricultural technology” show no signs of being removed from the language, it seems that the public should have the opportunity to look at potential substitute language that would actually be beneficial for farmers, ranchers and consumers as well as the Missouri economy.

I spent quite a bit of time looking at the language and thinking it was completely hopeless. Then it clicked. A light came on and I found language that I have shared with a few traditional farming advocates and some other concerned groups and they all said they would definitely support this language.

For your consideration and comments, I submit a truly helpful and freedom enhancing substitute for Smith’s HJR 7 & 11: (the things in brackets and struck through are removed from the language of Smith’s bill-the bold italicized is inserted instead)

Section 35. That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in direct trade with consumers [modern farming and ranching practices] shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural [technology and modern livestock production and ranching] practices that secure independent family farm’s ability to save seed, preserve livestock bloodlines, or impede their access to market.

Section B. Pursuant to Chapter 116, RSMo, and other applicable constitutional provisions and laws of this state allowing the General Assembly to adopt ballot language for the 3 submission of a joint resolution to the voters of this state, the official ballot title of the amendment proposed in Section A shall be as follows: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure: 

• That the right of Missouri citizens to employ modern farming and ranching practices and equipment that insure the continuance of diversified small farms shall not be infringed”.

So what do you think? Is it too radical to think that people should have the ability to purchase their food from sources that they want? Do corporations and governments acting in the best interests of those corporations increase our freedom and improve our general health? In short, are people too stupid to decide what they want to eat?

 A  personal note for my friends and readers:

Put this in the whining column, my computer died on me. I amattempting to deal with my husband’s dinosaur that -for no apparent reason- decides to take you to links on pages of articles without clicking on them, starts to type in the middle of preceding paragraphs at will, and will only run one program at a time. I am waiting for a new hard drive, while praying that it isn’t the logic board on my computer that is fried. I have ten years of research in Mac format backed up, but when these Macs decide to quit on you, it is rather expensive to fix them and sometimes downright impossible to get funds together to do do it. Grrr. So if you ever wanted to donate anything to help me keep the alligators at bay, now would be a great time!

Deception? Danger? “Right to Farm”? Missouri Alert!

Nothing says “Owned by Monsanto” like  House Joint Resolution 7 &11 put forward by Rep. Jason Smith, newly nominated candidate for Missouri’s US Congressional District 8, and Rep Reiboldt of the 160th. The bill just passed out of the House committee and now moves on to the House floor.

This bill (HJR 7 & 11-rolled together) is to become a Missouri Constitutional Amendment ballot initiative if it passes out of both Houses of the Legislature….and it, unlike raw milk, is inherently dangerous and should never be approved by anyone, for any reason.

The sell on this bill is that animal rights advocates are endangering all farmers and ranchers by advocating to constrain every day practices in agriculture. While it IS true that animal rights activists and bureaucrats are trying to stop people from disbudding, castrating, vaccinating and other things, some of which may be truly objectionable, this proposed Constitutional Amendment will ensure that CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) proliferate, and lay the ground for no holds barred transgenic manipulation and proliferation of ALL genetically engineered organisms in our State.

A missouri television station covered this in their typical (arguably necessary) sound bite manner here:

Here is the full text of the Amendment copied from http://www.moga.mo.gov, the bold text within the verbiage is what we need to concern ourselves with. It won’t all appear on the ballot across the State should it pass the legislature.

“Submitting to the qualified voters of Missouri an amendment to article I of the Constitution of Missouri, and adopting one new section in lieu thereof relating to the right to farm.

Be it resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring therein:

That at the next general election to be held in the state of Missouri, on Tuesday next 2 following the first Monday in November, 2014, or at a special election to be called by the 3 governor for that purpose, there is hereby submitted to the qualified voters of this state, for 4 adoption or rejection, the following amendment to article I of the Constitution of the state of 5 Missouri:

Section A. Article I, Constitution of Missouri, is amended by adding one new section, 2 to be known as section 35, to read as follows:

Section 35. That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and modern livestock production and ranching practices.

Section B. Pursuant to Chapter 116, RSMo, and other applicable constitutional provisions and laws of this state allowing the General Assembly to adopt ballot language for the 3 submission of a joint resolution to the voters of this state, the official ballot title of the amendment proposed in Section A shall be as follows: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure: 

• That the right of Missouri citizens to employ modern farming and ranching  practices and equipment shall not be infringed”.

We must  ask questions…What is “modern” in this language? Is it using electricity and machines? What does that actually mean?

So, the voters will get this question: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to employ modern farming and ranching practices and equipment shall not be infringed”

But behind the scenes, and NOT on the ballot, if Missouri voters accept this proposal, they would be approving the entire bold section above forever in our Constitution! Including that dastardly last sentence.

Here it is again:

No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and modern livestock production and ranching practices. 

In light of Monsanto being headquartered in St Louis as they are, and Monsanto’s  roughly 90% control of the total crops in genetically modified corn and soy, having sold their GMO pig, and moving ever forward in patenting and mutating all life on the planet, that scares the heck out of me!

Would this proposed Amendment destroy any chance of our ever having a right to know if we are eating GMO products or not? It sure could be argued that letting people know what they are consuming would prohibit farmers from using some “modern” “technology” in their ag endeavors.

This bill is NOT good for farmers. It will greatly increase further consolidation of agriculture, increase proliferation of genetically modified patented life forms, and destroy local control of the spread of the consolidating (ie. Family Farm Destroying) CAFO’s.

There is only one segment of the population that this is “good” for. The Biotech and Mega Farm Corporations.

We must call our representatives and let them know this bill has major problems. Not the least of which is that the voters won’t even see the entire language they are supposed to vote on. There are some truly good legislative efforts in the House and Senate right now….this just is NOT one of those.

 

 

 

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