Poultry Farmers Give Feds a Deaf Earful
Last week the campus of Alabama A&M hosted what many are calling the “chicken summit.” USAG Eric Holder and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack were joined by a gaggle of local politicians to hear the complaints of poultry farmers who labor under the iron thumb of poultry conglomerates like Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson.
The purpose of the summit was to reach out to farmers as part of the 2008 Farm Bill signed into law by President George W. Bush that requires USDA investigations into unfair practices. To date the USDA has yet to launch a formal investigation despite obvious anti-trust violations.
No wonder. Secretary Vilsack has had a three-decade relationship with one of the corporations the Farm Bill was designed to reconnoiter, Monsanto. Likewise, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has had a nefarious public relationship with Tyson that included allegations of insider trading, conflict of interest, and bribery. Then US Attorney General Janet Reno refused to investigate her boss’s wife despite overwhelming evidence. Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Ron Sparks, who was also in attendance, is embroiled in accusations of taking money from lobbyists to finance his election for governor.
Secretary Vilsack and AG Holder both acted surprised at the revelations of one-sided contracts and mafia-like transactions with poultry corporations. Somehow they are the only two people that haven’t seen Food Inc. Remember Carole Morrison? She was the chicken farmer who allowed the film makers to document the substandard practices of modern factory farming. Her reward for her heroism was having her contract pulled out from under her.
Many poultry farmers have reported similar heavy-handed dealings with poultry companies including recent threats for attending the “chicken summit.” One who ignored the extortion attempts, Alabama poultry farmer Garry Staples, stated he expected, “retaliation,” from his contractor.
Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney told Staples, “I fully expect you will not experience retaliation,” then handing him a piece of paper added, “But if you do, call me at that number.” Her boss, AG Holder, was strangely quite throughout the proceedings saying that the issue was “a top priority.” We’ll see, this administration has proven less than trustworthy.