Christine Varney

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.

Tom Vilsack, USDASecretary 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.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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