It’s really no wonder that the latest Pew Research Survey said that just 17 % of Americans currently trust government to do the right thing all or most of the time. In all fairness it just isn’t the current POTUS. Trust in the federal government has been declining for years in the wake of a boatload of poorly mishandled crisis – the invasion of Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil well explosion, the inability to sign up for the Affordable Care Act to name just a few.
For far too long meat packers and large livestock dealers have put their thumb on the scale of justice when it comes to treating individual livestock producers fairly and justly.
Just four meat-packers – Tyson Foods, Cargill, Brazilian-owned JBS and Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods — control the lion's share of all meat processing in the U.S...better known as Big Meat. Big Meat is empowered to treat producers shabbily through its use of Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rules that make it practically impossible for individual livestock producers to go to the courts when mistreated. It's been that way for decades even as the livestock industry rapidly consolidates further consolidating its power over the farmer.
The 2008 Farm Bill was supposed to be a springboard to end all this tom-foolery. It demanded that GIPSA develop new rules to identify when Big Meat goes over the line, becoming self-serving in efforts to create an unfair business environment. The Obama Administration tried mightily to move GIPSA along but all the rules were blocked by Congressional Big-Ag toadies who successfully delayed until Barack Obama was out the door. The new POTUS and newly minted USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue didn't waste much time in putting an all out stop on the Obama-era GIPSA rule plan. On Inauguration Day the White House postponed institution of the rules by 60 days. In October of 2017 USDA and Perdue withdrew the Obama-rules. And then for good measure Perdue buried GIPSA by putting it under USDA's Agricultural Marking Service.
For those of us who cover Big Agriculture on a daily basis it was no secret. It was just a matter of time before the novel coronavirus would infect thousands of workers at the nation’s meat processing plants. Plants with marquee names. Smithfield. Cargill. JBS USA.
There’s a day of reckoning coming for farmers, Big Ag, and the food distribution system after the U.S. and world finally harness the novel coronavirus pandemic. Because the truth is that the U.S. wasn’t well prepared for the havoc the coronavirus has wrought on the nation's food supply chain, meat processing plants, warehouses, and grocery stores.
Synonym – noun – syn-o-nym | \ ?si-n?-?nimDefinition of synonym1 : One of two or more words or expressions of the same language that have the same or nearly the same meaning in some or all sense. Merriam-Webster
Okay...got it. Synonyms are words that essentially express the same/similar meaning. Like Amazing: astounding, surprising, stunning. Or Polite: courteous, cordial, gracious. Or to the point of this blog: Farmer: independent, self-reliant, self-starter.
News is beginning to trickle out of how the novel coronavirus is impacting our nation’s meatpackers and inspection services. And it ain’t good. Here’s a sample. Dozens of workers walked off the job at Purdue Farm’s Kathleen, Georgia facility over concerns that they might have been exposed to COVID-19. Perdue says it’s sanitizing all its plant’s every 24 hours and encouraging workers to stay home if they are sick or think they might have been exposed to the virus…..but not if they are fearful (more on that in a moment). Positive COVID-19 cases have been identified at facilities owned by Sanderson Farms, Smithfield Foods, Purdue Farms even Tyson, who has had a "limited number of team members test positive."
The Food and Drug Administration on March 18 halted all routine food inspections at facilities that manufacture food in the hopes of flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases.
When it comes to recent federal court rulings on Bayer AG core herbicides glyphosate and dicamba Bayer is now 0-for-4. Most recently – this past February to be exact – a Missouri federal jury awarded $15 million in comensatory damanges and $250 million in punitive danages to the largest peach farm in Missouri, which successfully argued Bayer's dicamba herbicide drifted from neighboring fields causing extensive damage on 1,000 acres of peach orchards. Bayer and co-defendant BASF are challenging the verdict in appellate court and how that turns out is a coin-flip. But with more than a hundred other dicamba drift cases waiting in the wings, Bayer finds itself in a difficult position.
A number of those dicamba related cases are seeking class action status before U.S District Court Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. which ultimately could represent not hundreds but thousands of farmers – both row crop and specialty crop. If that is not enough Bayer has lost three consecutive cases defending Roundup and its active chemical glyphosate. Bayer acquired the glyphosate headache when it purchased Roundup manufacturer Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion. Since then it's been nothing but trouble.
Seeing the handwriting on the federal court wall Bayer is doing its best to plug the lawsuit deluge by attempting to hammer out a settlement proposal with current and potential future litigants. Several pending trials have been postponed in recent weeks as information trickles out of Bayer central that it's working on a global settlement worrth rougly $10 billion dollars.
As Dave Dickey writes: To put it in a nutshell, while performing a noble endeavor in pursuing a civil action case against Kraft Foods Group Inc. for market manipulation of wheat on the Chicago Board of Trade, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission may be shirking its responsibility to tell the public what in the blue blazes is going on.
The never ending debate over whether Bayer's herbicide Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate causes cancer has taken another twist with the Environmental Protection Agency filing a friends of the court brief in Bayer's federal appeal to overturn a $25 million award to Edwin Hardeman, a groundskeeper who claimed spraying Roundup on poison oak and weeds for decades caused his non-Hodgkin's' lymphoma. Much is at stake for Bayer. Thus far three glyphosate cancer cases have gone to federal trial with the German based company losing every time. Given that Bayer faces at least another 42,700 lawsuits (with more likely being filed every day) you can imagine just how badly Bayer is in need of a win. In its court filing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Bayer wrote the Hardeman appeal has the potential to shape how every subsequent Roundup case is litigated.
Not to the future of Roundup sales and the value of the company. Bayer acquired Roundup in its purchase of Monsanto in 2018 for $63 million. Since then Bayer stock has plummeted about 23 %. Now we get the EPA – a noted glyphosate cheerleader – backing Bayer. In its amicus brief with the appeals court Justice Department and EPA attorneys maintain:
“EPA approved the label for the pesticide/herbicide at issue here, Roundup, through a registration process that did not require a cancer warning. In fact, EPA has never required a labeling warning of a cancer risk posed by Roundup, and such a warning would be inconsistent with the agency's scientific assessments of the carcinogenic potential of the product.