Secretary of State

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.

Food Monopoly Busting Summit in Bama

I personally have little faith that the upcoming Poultry Workshop at the Ernest L. Knight Reception Center at Alabama A & M University will accomplishing anything positive.  It is being hosted by US Attorney General Eric Holder and US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

After all Holder is a coward who gives shelter to  our enemies while betraying our allies.  And good old Tom Vilsack (greed personified) has spent his career as a lobbyist for Monsanto.  Monsanto of course is exactly the type of corporation this summit is supposed to help eliminate.  With one of their big guns in charge of the USDA (Vilsack) and an AG with the spine of butterscotch pudding I doubt this will be much more than an attempt to recover much lost credibility by an administration that is at best inept.  Though she will not attend the “chicken summit” let’s not forget that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has had a long and dubious relationship with Tyson, the nation’s largest chicken producer.

And as far as some of the local politicians in attendance, Alabama Attorney General Troy King (R) has just escaped a federal indictment with more likely on the horizon.  Many in this state believe that King will lose his re-election bid this fall and soon after head for a federal penitentiary. Alabama Congressman Artur Davis is so certain that he will lose his House seat in the November election that he has decided to lose the governor’s race in stead.  Davis’ opponent for the Democratic nod, Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks is embroiled in scandal because he some how managed to secure a loan for a half million dollars after listing an annual salary of $79K and a $240K home as his only assets.

The location does not instill much confidence either.  Sure Alabama A&M has a nice school of agriculture but Normal (a suburb of Huntsville which hosts the area’s highest crime rate) is two hours from Nashville or Birmingham.  Alabama’s largest college is Auburn University which just happens to be one of the premiere agricultural institutions in the world.  Auburn is just 45 minutes from the state capitol in Montgomery and a shade over an hour from Atlanta.  It is almost like Normal was chosen because of its undesirability and lack of access.

That being said I know a lot of good people that are willing to give this a shot despite an overwhelming mistrust for Vilsack and Holder and threats from Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride.  They are all heading for Rocket Town to see if the President can finally fulfill one of his campaign promises.  I’ve not yet decided whether I’m going to make the seven hour drive or not.  I’m hopeful that this will prove a turning point for this administration but like my father always said, “Hope in one hand . . .”

Not sure what I’m talking about?  Read the USDA’s Presser:


Poultry Workshop to be Held at the Ernest L. Knight Reception Center at Alabama A & M University

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2010 – The Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the schedule and panelists for the second joint public workshop on competition and regulatory issues in agriculture, which will be held on May 21, 2010, in Normal, Ala., at the Ernest L. Knight Reception Center at Alabama A & M University. The workshop, the second of five, will focus on the poultry industry.

The workshops, which were first announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Aug. 5, 2009, are the first joint Department of Justice/USDA workshops ever to be held to discuss competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. The goals of the workshops are to promote dialogue among interested parties and foster learning with respect to the appropriate legal and economic analyses of these issues, as well as to listen to and learn from parties with experience in the agriculture sector. Attendance at the workshops is free and open to the public.

The general public and media interested in attending the Alabama workshop should register at:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division Christine Varney will participate in the workshop, and will be joined by Congressman Artur Davis, Alabama Attorney General Troy King and Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks. They will participate in a roundtable discussion with presentations on current issues affecting poultry growers. Testimony and a roundtable discussion by a panel of current and former poultry growers will follow. The workshop will also feature a panel to discuss contracting and regulatory issues in the poultry industry. The workshop will also include two sessions for public testimony.

The schedule is as follows:

9:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. CDT Welcome/Introductory Comments

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Eric Holder, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

9:15 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. CDT Roundtable Discussion and Presentation of Issues

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Eric Holder, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, U.S. Department of Justice

Artur Davis, Congressman, U.S. House of Representatives

Troy King, Attorney General, state of Alabama

Ron Sparks, Agriculture Commissioner, state of Alabama

* The Alabama Congressional Delegation is invited

10:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. CDT Coffee Break

10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. CDT Roundtable Discussion on Poultry Grower Issues

This panel will allow a dialogue among growers, former producers and government officials. Expected topics include competition in the poultry industry, poultry contracting, contract terminations and upgrades to poultry houses. The panel will also discuss inputs that affect grower compensation, such as bird quality, feed quality and consistency.

Moderator: Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Gary Alexander, producer, Westminster, S.C.

Kay Doby, former producer, Cameron, N.C.

Garry Staples, producer, Steele, Ala.

Robert Lumzy, former producer, Columbia, Miss.

Carole Morison, former producer, Maryland.

Shane Wootten, producer, Henagar, Ala.

Sandra Genell Pridgen, producer, North Carolina

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. CDT Lunch Break

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. CDT Public Testimony

2:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. CDT Roundtable Discussion on Trends in Poultry Production

This panel will discuss changes in the structure of poultry production and enforcement under the Packers and Stockyards Act. Issues that will be discussed include the use of the tournament system and other methods of compensation, market access, contracting, credit availability, production efficiency/improvements and poultry house upgrades.

Moderator: Norman Familant, Chief, Economic Litigation Section, U.S. Department of Justice

Benny Bishop, Peco Foods, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Michael R. Dicks, Watkins Chair, International Trade and Development, Oklahoma State University

Max Carnes, producer, Baldwin, Ga.

John Ingrum, Forest, Miss.

Cindy Johnson, attorney, Cohutta, Ga.

Robert Taylor, professor, Agricultural Economics and Public Policy, College of

Agriculture, Auburn University

Mike Weaver, producer and president of Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias, Fort Seybert, W.Va.

3:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. CDT Break

4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. CDT Additional Public Testimony

5:00 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. CDT Closing Remarks

John Ferrell, Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Mark Tobey, Special Counsel for State Relations and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Justice

Additional information, including submitted public comments and transcripts for past workshops can be found at the Antitrust Division’s agriculture workshop website at While no streaming webcast will be available, transcripts will be available for this workshop at a later date on the Antitrust Division’s website. Individuals seeking more information on the workshops should contact

Media who wish to attend the workshop may begin arriving at 7:30 a.m. CDT and cameras must be pre-set by 8:30 a.m. CDT. Press inquiries regarding logistics at the Ernest L. Knight Reception Center at Alabama A & M University should be directed to Jerome Saintjones at 256-372-5607 or

Press Contacts:
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Gina Talamona

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of Communications
Jim Brownlee

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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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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
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2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
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2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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