November 9, 1999
IN A SURPRISE LETTER, some of this country's major agricultural organizations have petitioned Congress to oppose Senator Paul Wellstone's amendment calling for a moratorium of mergers for eighteen months until the issue can be carefully studied.
Wellstone has indicated that if this "merger mania" is allowed to continue, the family farmer and the American way of family farm life will be extinct before we know what happened.
Paradoxically, national organizations like the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Farm Bureau Federation claim to represent farmers and ranchers while continually touting the best interests of huge multinational corporations. Despite both organizations having policy on their books supporting anti-trust enforcement, they oppose legislation that will benefit independent crop and livestock producers? Although they seem not to know it, the points that NCBA and the Farm Bureau raise in the their letter are arguments in favor of the Merger Moratorium Act, not arguments against it, observes St. Francis, Kansas cattleman Mike Callicrate.
While NCBA and Farm Bureau say, "We welcome efforts to address the complex issue of concentration in the agriculture industry." They go on to say, "We have serious reservations about enacting such an amendment without further opportunity for discussion and input."
As farmers and cattlemen have come to realize, "further discussion and input" is just another political and corporate word for "stalling action on the issue."
There is nothing in the amendment that would prevent such discussion once a merger freeze is in place.
Their contention is that, "...this amendment would provide the impetus for quick consideration of 'fixes' to this problem, we fear the opposite may be true. An 18-month moratorium and a lengthy 'study' would very likely prolong progress until both of those deadlines have passed." This is an entirely specious position. Who says nothing will be done until the deadline has passed? Obviously, only those who oppose any merger restrictions.
The answers they ask Congress to seek before any merger freeze is enacted are some of the very urgent issues which will be examined while the freeze is in place. They include:
a.. the sufficiency of current anti-trust laws and the Packers
and Stockyards Act;
To the family farmer and rancher, it has long been evident that the Justice Department and USDA's Packers and Stockyards have failed in their enforcement responsibilities.
In addition, as it now stands; the Merger Moratorium Act does not apply to co-ops. In view of the complete failure of anti-trust law enforcement and the near total demise of family agriculture through the loss of agricultural markets, what is wrong with taking a hard look at what we have done and further fixing it?
Make no mistake about it, rural communities and farm and ranch families say; the multinational corporation behemoth is upon us and breathing hard with all consuming fiery breath.
Thomas Jefferson recognized the awful power of the giant corporation and the power it wields a brief 30 years after the forming of our nation when he wrote:
"I hope we shall crush in it's birth, the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
Cattlemen's Legal Fund
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Last Updated on 11/8/99
By Karen Lutz