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The Agribusiness Examiner #497

Editor\Publisher: A.V. Krebs
E-Mail Address: avkrebs@comcast.net
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EDITOR'S NOTE As the AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER embarks on its tenth year, support and contributions from readers remains vital and always appreciated. Checks should be made out to A.V. Krebs, P.O. Box 2201, Everett, Washington 98213-0201. Thank you.

OVERVIEW:

* NFU: STUDY SHOWS AG MARKET CONCENTRATION INCREASING  
By National Farmers Union
* CONGRESS HEARS FROM ORGANIC GROWERS OVER FARM BILL   
By Carolyn Lochhead
* BILL WOULD ALTER FARM UNION VOTING PRACTICES   
By Robert Salladay
* ETHANOL WILL NOT BE OUR CLEAN, GREEN SAVIOR    
By Murray Dobbin
* STUDY WARNS OF HEALTH RISK FROM ETHANOL     
By Keay Davidson
* CONAGRA REPORTS A PROFIT      
By Bloomberg News
* CARGILL'S FISCAL THIRD QUARTER EARNINGS UP 49%     
By Associated Press
* CHEMICAL POISON COMPANY SETTLES STERILITY SUIT FOR $300,000  
By T. Christian Miller
* MONSANTO BUYS 2300 OAHU ACRES FROM CAMPBELL     
By Pacific Business News
* REMEMBERING JIM JONTZ, FAIR TRADE HERO     
Grade Trade Watch

 
NFU: STUDY SHOWS AG MARKET CONCENTRATION INCREASING
By National Farmers Union
April 16, 2007

Agricultural market concentration is rising steadily, according to a study released today by National Farmers Union.

NFU released the findings of a NFU-commissioned study conducted by Drs. Mary Hendrickson and William Heffernan of the University of Missouri on the concentration of agricultural markets. The statistics revealed increased concentration in every industry except ethanol production.

The NFU study documents that the top four beef packers dominate 83.5 percent of the market, four pork packers control 66% of that market and the top four poultry companies process 58.5 percent of the broilers in the United States. Tyson Foods is listed in the top four of each of these categories. The retailing industry has been gradually increasing its degree of concentration, with the top five companies controlling 48% of U.S. food retailing, compared to 24% a decade ago.

"This study supports what we have long known," NFU President Tom Buis said. "In the absence of public policy intervention, consolidated and non-competitive markets flourish, while independent family farmers disappear. Congress must take action to restore competition in the marketplace. The 2007 Farm Bill is the perfect opportunity to make that happen."

The study also found that ethanol production is the only agricultural sector in which concentration has steadily decreased. Today, the top four companies control 31.5 percent of the marketplace. In 1987 the top four companies owned 73%. Farmer owned ethanol plans account for 39% of total capacity.

"Renewable fuels is one of the most exciting areas of agriculture and is a clear example of the impact and potential for public policies that encourage competition and reward local ownership," Buis said. "It is important to continue this trend for ethanol but also expand rural ownership to our other agriculture-related sectors."

Buis testified before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, chaired by Rep. Leonard Boswell, Dem.-Iowa, at an April 17 hearing to discuss market concentration concerning the negative effects of increased concentration and lack of competition in the agricultural marketplace and the need for Congress to take action in the next farm bill through a competition title.

Buis cited an NFU-commissioned study conducted by Hendrickson and Heffernan from the University of Missouri which found that concentration in every sector of agriculture increased, with the exception of ethanol. NFU released the study Monday. Buis credited the decrease of consolidation in the ethanol market to public policy initiatives that encourage diversification and discourage monopolization.

Buis called on Congress to immediately take necessary action to restore true competition in the marketplace for American farmers and ranchers. "Independent producers cannot be successful in the absence of protection from unfair and anti-competitive practices," he said.

Buis outlined the provisions NFU would like to see included as part of a comprehensive competition title in the 2007 Farm Bill:

*  Immediate implementation of mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat, produce and peanuts.
*  Require USDA and all federal agencies enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act and other antitrust laws.
*  Ban packer ownership of livestock to ensure independent producers have a place in the future of livestock production.
*  Restore competition by requiring contracts be traded in open, transparent and public markets where all buyers and sellers have access to the same information.
*  Stronger oversight and better enforcement of the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Act.
*  End the ban on interstate shipment of meat to increase competition and economic, marketing and trade opportunities for rural America.
*  Reform mandatory checkoff programs to become a truly voluntary program that earns producers' support and trust.
*  Enhance contract producer protections by allowing producers adequate time to review contracts, prohibit mandatory arbitration, protect producers based upon membership in an organization or cooperative and prohibit confidentiality clauses.

 
CONGRESS HEARS FROM ORGANIC GROWERS OVER FARM BILL
By Carolyn Lochhead       
San Francisco Chronicle
April 19, 2007

Organic farming was hailed as a savior of family farms, the environment, the American diet and rural life --- a crunchy David versus the Goliath of industrialized agriculture --- during the first-ever hearing about organics Wednesday before the House Agriculture Committee.

Organic farmers are vying this year to gain a toehold in the vast sprawl of federal farm aid programs as Congress rewrites its mammoth five-year farm bill set to expire later this year. Organic growers, now believed to number more than 10,000 --- and a significant presence in California's fruit and vegetable industry --- are experiencing rapid growth nationwide as interest in healthier food continues to spread from local farmers' markets to major supermarkets across the country.

But growers are not nearly keeping pace with consumer demand for organic products, estimated to be expanding by 20% a year. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a Merced County Democrat who chairs a new agriculture subcommittee on horticulture and organics, hopes to include organic farmers in the farm bill.

Congressional farm bills have been dominated since the Great Depression by a handful of commodity crops such as corn, wheat and cotton, which last year received $25 billion in crop subsidies and billions more in research and marketing aid.

Over the decades, subsidies have been widely blamed for contributing to the industrialization of U.S. agriculture, concentrated on vast monoculture crops on ever larger and fewer farms, driving up land prices and depopulating rural communities.

Organic growers face an uphill battle against the entrenched commodity groups that get the lion's share of farm spending. Mostly, they asked at Wednesday's hearing not for direct aid, but for an added share of the research and education money, as well as better statistical collection to convince bankers to make loans.

Organic farming is a complex undertaking that relies on crop rotations and other ecological management of insects, weeds and diseases rather than pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Even if the nation's rapidly aging farmers were not reluctant to adopt such methods, experts said at Wednesday's hearing that federal farm programs make it even more difficult to take the leap.

"A major problem has been supply --- that is really the crux of the matter," said Robert Marqusee, director of a rural development agency in Sioux City, Iowa. "Demand is high, but aging farmers are trapped in the subsidy treadmill. There are few young farmers left in these communities, and most economic development is focused on ethanol plants," which he said "does nothing but put industrial farming on steroids."

The current subsidy system, he said, "simply does not make sense."

Farmers transitioning from conventional crops to organics have had to figure it out mostly by themselves, said Mark Lipson, policy program director at the Organic Farming Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, a nonprofit group dedicated to spreading the organic gospel among farmers.

It's past time, Lipson said, to begin devoting a portion of the vast federal agriculture research programs --- from farm extension services that provide education and technical assistance to research at such universities as UC Davis. Federal funding of organic research and education only began in 2001, Lipson said, and remains at less than one percent of the federal farm research budget.

The gap between demand for organic products and U.S. supply is filled by foreign producers in Canada, Mexico, Central and Latin America, and as far away as China. Many growers express suspicion about the quality standards from such sources. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic certification offices are so short-staffed that maintaining the integrity of the agency's brown and green organic certification seal is a challenge, Cardoza said. Growers worry that with organic products in short supply and demand strong, the market creates a greater incentive to skirt the standards.

Getting into organic farming can be daunting, growers told the committee on Wednesday. The decision is often made because of a fascination with health foods or a distaste for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Scott Lively, president and chief executive of Dakota Beef, in Howard, South Dakota, now the nation's largest producer of certified organic beef, said he got into the business "cold turkey," mainly because of his wife's obsession with health foods.

"I knew nothing about the industry, nor did I really care much about it," Lively said. "I was a meat-eating, potato-eating guy from Chicago. Nevertheless, we went out and bought 30 head of cattle in Illinois, processed them locally all at one time, and sold them door to door in Chicago restaurants out of the back of a Volvo.

"I think a lot of people would like to pretend that this industry doesn't exist, or that it's concentrated on that crunchy-granola Whole Foods shopper," he said. "It clearly is not."

Mary-Howell Martens, of Lakeview Organic Grains in Penn Yan, New York, said the idea came to her in 1991, when she stood pregnant at her kitchen door and watched her husband, Klaas, "leave the house dressed for battle in his white Tyvek 'zoot suit' and special heavy green plastic gloves ready to attack and subdue the enemy --- weeds."

Growing grain on 600 acres at the time, Martens said, "we were like many conventional farmers, using the chemical fertilizers and pesticides simply because we saw no other alternatives, but very concerned about what it might be doing to us, our family, our land and our environment. We farmed conventionally because we had been told so often that it was the only way to survive in agriculture today."

Now they are farming 1,400 acres of organic corn, soybeans, spelt, barley, oats, triticale, red kidney beans, cabbage and hay --- each with a strong market, she said. She and her husband also opened a mill for organic animal feed for New York organic dairy farmers. Martens said she can't get enough organic grain to meet demand.

"Organic agriculture is no longer simply an inconsequential nice for the counterculture or extremely affluent," she said.

Marqusee, the rural development director from Sioux City, said farm communities suffer from schizophrenia, imbued on one hand with the red-state ethos of rugged individualism and dependent on huge farm subsidies on the other. A new focus on smaller, market-driven farms, rural communities and the environment, he argued, makes organic agriculture "a true bipartisan issue."

 
BILL WOULD ALTER FARM UNION VOTING PRACTICES
By Robert Salladay      
Los Angeles Times
April 19, 2007

SACRAMENTO, California --- More than three decades after the state's landmark Agricultural Labor Relations Act, a bill in the Legislature could dramatically alter how farm labor unions secure contracts in California.

The newly introduced legislation could curtail the use of secret ballots when farmworkers vote on union representation.

The legislation comes after the once-powerful United Farm Workers union, which is sponsoring the legislation, has faced embarrassing losses among California farmworkers voting on union representation. In several cases, farmworkers in great numbers have signed authorization cards calling for a union election, but then failed to support UFW representation in the actual election.

The twist is that founder Cesar E. Chavez fought tenaciously for the secret ballots in the 1975 labor law.

On Wednesday, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles traveled to Sacramento to meet with about 300 farmworkers in the basement of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and urged them to support the change in how union representation is decided.

The UFW says that workers face intimidation by growers before entering the voting booth, but the agriculture industry relays another argument: Workers may be seduced by the UFW into authorizing an election, but they will express their true feelings in the voting booth.

The new legislation would give workers the option of signing a form supporting union representation --- effectively, a vote to unionize without a formal election --- or another card that would call for a secret ballot on the issue.

California's $32-billion agriculture business says the change is undemocratic and could lead to the UFW itself intimidating workers to sign the union authorization cards and avoid a secret ballot. Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League, called the legislation "unconscionable and almost unbelievable."

The majority of California farmworkers are thought to be illegal immigrants, said Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of the UFW, and "there is tremendous pressure put on the workers. People are always being threatened with being reported to the INS . "

"There are just a lot of subtle things that can create a fear factor," Mahony said in an interview later.

The bill, SB 180, which also would increase the penalties on growers for unfair labor practices, would allow labor groups such as the UFW to fill out the entire authorization card for the farmworker, except for the final signature. The card includes the name of the union and grower, as well as a statement that no threats were made to obtain a signature on the card.

The legislation comes as the UFW's power has declined since Chavez's death in 1993. Although it represents workers with about 50 separate contracts, it has lost high-profile elections on farms. Most recently, at VBZ Grapes last September, the union lost by almost two to one --- 793 votes against a union, 425 for the UFW.

But Bedwell, with the Grape and Tree Fruit League, said farmworkers face pressure from the UFW and other labor organizers when presented with the cards. Workers, he said, "may not want to anger the person soliciting them or they may simply want the union representative to leave them alone."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the legislation, which is awaiting its first vote in the state Senate.

 
ETHANOL WILL NOT BE OUR CLEAN, GREEN SAVIOR
By Murray Dobbin      
The Tyee
April 10, 2007

Citizens in industrialized societies will cling to their extravagant lifestyles and massive over-consumption for a while yet, it seems. Global climate change is still seen by most people --- even those who have no doubt of its human origins --- as something that can be fixed by legislation, tougher rules and punitive penalties on big polluters --- and that allegedly clean and green quick fix, ethanol.

Yes, we can all keep our individual chunks of steel, rubber and glass, those symbols of 20th century excess and irrationality, so long as we shift to burning alcohol.

This particular mass delusion was madness enough to inspire the still-ailing Fidel Castro out of his bed to write the first editorial he has written for the country's principal newspaper, Granma, since last falling ill last July. It's not as if there is a lack of issues for the grand old commander-in-chief to comment on. But this one he deemed the most important. Why?

To quote Castro himself: "More than three billion people in the world are being condemned to a premature death from hunger and thirst.... The sinister idea of turning foodstuffs into fuel was definitely established as the economic strategy of the U.S. foreign policy on Monday, March 26th last."

That was the day that President George Bush met with the Big Three auto CEOs and declared ethanol to be the next strategic fuel for the empire --- and a partial answer to its failed Middle East policies.

Castro was talking about corn but this is not the only grain that the ethanol pushers are talking about --- wheat, sunflower seeds, canola and other foodstuffs are already being used and targeted by, amongst others, the big oil companies. The demand for ethanol will be so enormous that only the largest and best capitalized corporations in the U.S. will be able to take advantage --- driving smaller producers out by driving up the price of corn.

Bush proclaimed coming out the meeting with the Big Three that he is aiming at reducing gasoline consumption by 20% in ten years --- a staggering number if it is to be taken seriously, requiring 35 billion gallons of ethanol. Of course Bush and his corporate allies talked about using wood chips and switchgrass, too, but corn is the key. To produce that much ethanol would take 320 million tons of corn.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) says that U.S. corn production in 2005 reached 280 million tons and the U.S. produces 40 percent of the world's corn, controlling the market price. It doesn't take complicated math to see that just to meet U.S. ethanol demands within ten years will take up 46% of the world's corn supply.

This is an obscenity. Because most of these billions of tons of corn are now eaten by the world's people --- most of them poor --- or fed to their livestock. Ultimately, it means that the world will have to produce more and more grain just to stand still and at the same time that the demand for ethanol increases the price of corn. The FAO says the competition between grain for fuel and grain for food is already happening and was the principal explanation for the decline in world grain stocks during the first half of 2006.

As Castro pointed out in his Granma article, not only will corn be priced out of reach for millions, "What is worse, let the poor countries receive some financing to produce ethanol from corn or any other foodstuff and very soon not a single tree will be left standing to protect humanity from climate change." He also pointed out, demonstrating that his grasp of world events is as acute as ever, that the increased demand for grain for energy will also greatly exacerbate the already critical water shortage facing two thirds of humanity.

Despite this catastrophic scenario there are still those who will argue that the trade-off has to be considered, that global climate change due to carbon emissions must be tackled. But recently two Canadian studies raised serious doubts about what we actually get in this morally questionable trade. The U.S. may well get a strategic replacement for oil but there are serious doubts the world's climate will benefit.

One study was done by the Library of Parliament's Frédéric Forge working in its science and technology division. Forge says the benefit of the massive effort required to use 10 percent ethanol in all vehicles will be minor: "In fact, if ten percent of the fuel used were corn-based ethanol [in other words, if it were used in all vehicles], Canada's greenhouse gas emissions would drop by approximately one percent."

But an unpublished study by Environment Canada says even this estimate is questionable. A recent CBC report --- it came and went with no one else touching it and was not repeated --- revealed that scientists at Environment Canada studied four vehicles of recent makes, comparing normal emissions with a ten percent ethanol blend and using a range of driving conditions. The study revealed that there was virtually no statistically significant difference in greenhouse gas tail pipe emissions. Some of the hydrocarbon gas emissions actually increased under some conditions.

The delusional thinking that tells us we can maintain our current lifestyles and save the planet will, sooner or later, be relegated to history's dustbin. The sooner we dispose of that part of the delusion embodied by "salvation by ethanol" the better.

MURRAY DOBBIN writes his State of the Nation column twice monthly for The Tyee.

 
STUDY WARNS OF HEALTH RISK FROM ETHANOL
By Keay Davidson     
San Francisco Chronicle Science Writer
April 18, 2007

If ethanol ever gains widespread use as a clean alternative fuel to gasoline, people with respiratory illnesses may be in trouble.

A new study out of Stanford says pollution from ethanol could end up creating a worse health hazard than gasoline, especially for people with asthma and other respiratory diseases.

"Ethanol is being promoted as a clean and renewable fuel that will reduce global warming and air pollution," Mark Z. Jacobson, the study's author and an atmospheric scientist at Stanford, said in a statement. "But our results show that a high blend of ethanol poses an equal or greater risk to public health than gasoline, which already causes significant health damage."

The study appears in today's online edition of Environmental Science & Technology, a publication of the American Chemical Society. It comes at a time when the Bush administration is pushing plans to boost ethanol production and the nation's automakers are required by 2012 to have half their vehicles run on flex fuel, allowing the use of either gasoline or ethanol.

Jacobson used a computer to model how pollution from ethanol fuel would affect different parts of the country in 2020, when ethanol-burning vehicles are expected to be common on America's roadways.

He found that ethanol-burning cars could boost levels of toxic ozone gas in urban areas, but that Los Angeles residents would be by far the hardest hit because of the city's reliance on the automobile and environmental factors that tend to concentrate smog there.

His study showed that the city would experience a nine percent increase in the rate of ozone-related respiratory deaths --- 120 more deaths per year --- compared with what would have been projected in 2020 assuming continued gasoline use.

Pollution from ethanol would be riskier than pollution from gasoline because when ethanol breaks down in the atmosphere, it generates considerably more ozone. Ozone is a highly corrosive gas that damages the delicate tissues of the lungs. In fact, it's so corrosive that it can crack rubber and wear away statues, Jacobson told The Chronicle.

Jacobson's study focuses on the health effects of an ethanol type called E85, a highly publicized fuel composed of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.

Last month, California Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein, along with Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Rep.-Maine, introduced a bill to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles. The bill would "require fuel suppliers to increase the percentage of low-carbon fuels --- biodiesel, E85 ... hydrogen, electricity, and others --- in the motor vehicle fuel supply" by 2015, according to a March 30 press release from Feinstein's office.

Reacting to Jacobson's study, Feinstein issued a statement Tuesday. "We should proceed with caution," she said. "All of these fuels emit certain pollutants, and those pollutants have to be known and evaluated for their health effects. There can be no real rush to judgment about these fuels. "We've got to find a way to develop low-carbon fuels that do not have adverse health effects."

A spokesman for the state Air Resources Board said officials there were still studying prepublication copies of the Jacobson paper and would have no immediate comment. "This is the first we've heard of it," said board spokesman Dimitri Stanich. In the meantime, he said, "there are multiple avenues for reducing California's carbon 'footprint,' (with) hydrogen and ethanol being part of that plan. We consider (E85) as part of the strategy."

The study also attracted the attention of environmental scientists.

The basic principles of Jacobson's paper are sound, David Pimentel, an ecology professor emeritus at Cornell University, wrote in an e-mail. "The burning of ethanol releases large quantities of ozone, a serious air pollutant," he said. "In addition, the use of ethanol as a fuel releases formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, plus benzene and butadiene. All of these are carcinogens and are a threat to public health."

Jacobson's study, however, concluded that the cancer-causing effects of ethanol would be roughly comparable to those of gasoline.

Chris Somerville, a Stanford professor who chairs the executive committee for the recently announced BP-funded Energy Biosciences Institute at UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Illinois, said the study was interesting and it "should be followed up with experimental work."

It is "possible that ethanol will not be the major biofuel in 2020," he said. "I see ethanol as a transitional fuel that will eventually be replaced by ... second-generation fuels. I am just uncertain whether it will be done by 2010 or whether it may take longer."

The institute is slated to develop a new generation of carbon-neutral biofuels, including ethanol.

Alex Farrell, a Berkeley professor of energy and resources, was also complimentary of the study.

"It's a good scientific paper that has taken the first look at the air-quality impacts of ethanol in a worst-case scenario," he said. "It is definitely my opinion that ethanol is not the only solution to air pollution."

Jacobson's computer model for Los Angeles is extremely high-resolution, as such models go. It breaks the Los Angeles atmosphere into a three-dimensional grid akin to 100,000 "boxes" stacked more than ten miles high. Each box measures three miles wide and a few hundred feet deep.

He said he isn't surprised that no one previously tried to model the long-term health impacts of ethanol in such detail "because it's very complicated." "The only reason I was able to do it is because I've been building this model for 18 years now," he said. "You really require a humongous model."

 
CONAGRA REPORTS A PROFIT
By Bloomberg News
March 23, 2007

ConAgra, the maker of Slim Jim meat snacks and Chef Boyardee pasta, reported a third-quarter profit yesterday as earnings from trading commodities overcame the cost to recall its Peter Pan peanut butter last month.

The company said profit for the year ending in May will be at the high end of its previous forecast of $1.28 to $1.33 a share. Third-quarter net income of $192.6 million, or 38 cents a share, beat analysts' estimates. Sales rose two percent, to $2.92 billion, ConAgra, which is based in Omaha, said.

The peanut butter recall cut profit by $48 million.

 
CARGILL'S FISCAL THIRD QUARTER EARNINGS UP 49%
By Associated Press
April 16, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota --- Agribusiness powerhouse Cargill said on Monday that its third-quarter earnings rose 49% as a result of improving operations and tax savings.

The privately held maker of food ingredients and other agricultural products earned $553 million during the quarter ended February 28, up from $370 million during the same period a year ago.

The ethanol boom has proven a boon for ag companies such as Cargill, but there is also a downside. Cargill has expanded ethanol production, but the company has been forced to pay higher corn prices for its other corn-based products.

"The intersection we are seeing between global agriculture and energy is creating new demand as well as new challenges for all of us in agribusiness," Chairman and Chief Executive Warren Staley said in a written statement.

Cargill also runs a risk management and financial arm, which makes investments in commodity prices and other financial markets.

"Cargill's business and geographic diversity, including the outstanding performance of our financial businesses, has been a source of considerable strength this year," Staley said.

Cargill said other areas that saw increased profits from a year ago were its food ingredients and applications and industrial segments. Profits dipped from the year-ago period in its origination and processing and agricultural services segments.

Cargill also said its third-quarter results reflected a reduction in income-tax expense resulting from the favorable resolution of various tax matters.

For the first nine months of the year, Cargill said it earned $1.71 billion, up 25% from $1.37 billion a year ago.

Cargill employs 153,000 people in 66 countries.

 
CHEMICAL POISON COMPANY SETTLES STERILITY SUIT FOR $300,000
By T. Christian Miller      
Los Angeles Times
April 16, 2007

CHINANDEGA, Nicaragua --- A Southern California pesticide company has agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that one of the firm's products caused agricultural workers in Nicaragua to become sterile, plaintiffs' attorneys announced Sunday.

Amvac Chemical Corp. has agreed to pay a total of $300,000 to 13 Nicaraguan workers who contended that they were sterilized while exposed to a pesticide called DBCP on banana plantations nearly three decades ago.

The agreement, which Amvac filed late last month, still requires final approval by a Los Angeles judge. In court papers, the Newport Beach-based company called the agreement a "compromise of disputed claims" and denied any wrongdoing. An Amvac spokesman could not be reached Sunday.

Dow Chemical Co. and Dole Fruit Co. remain as defendants in the case, which is scheduled for trial next month in Los Angeles. In addition, the three companies face other lawsuits involving similar allegations in the United States and Nicaragua.

Each of the companies has denied that any workers were harmed by DBCP, which was manufactured by Dow and Amvac and used by Dole on plantations in Latin America. The chemical is no longer made or used.

Lawyers announced the settlement at a rally attended by nearly 800 people. They said that the payments, which range from $2,000 to $60,000 per person depending on the injury and the years when they worked, were the first step toward a settlement for thousands of other workers in Nicaragua, many of them elderly and impoverished.

"This is the point of the spear," said Juan Dominguez, the Los Angeles lawyer who filed the lawsuit. Additional funds, he said, could come as the case proceeds against Dow and Dole, which are larger companies.

The former banana workers, who were packed shoulder to shoulder on a basketball court in blistering heat, waved their hands and caps in the air after the news was announced.

More than 12,000 workers contend that they were sterilized or otherwise sickened by DBCP, which has been shown to cause sterility and brain and kidney damage in tests of lab animals.

Tens of thousands of banana workers worldwide have sued over the use of DBCP. No lawsuit has ever gone to trial in the United States.

In 1997, Dow, Shell Group and Occidental Chemical Corp. settled one such suit with 26,000 workers in Latin America and elsewhere for $41 million. Both men and women say they were injured by the chemical, but sterility has been proven only in males.

"We have been fighting this fight for so long," said Carlos Miguel Blanco, 48, a plaintiff who alleges that he was rendered infertile while working on a banana plantation in the 1970s.

"We want to finish this, not just for me," he said, "but for everyone who was affected."

DBCP was suspended for most uses in the United States in 1977 after workers at an Occidental plant in Lathrop, Calif., were found to have low or zero sperm counts after working with the compound.

In previous interviews, Amvac officials have contended that their company played only a small role in the case.

The company made and sold the product to Nicaragua for only two years, after it was suspended for use in the United States and other companies ceased making it, according to court records.

DBCP was not permanently banned for all uses in the United States until 1985.

Amvac was the subject of a recent Times story (see Issue #496) that detailed the company's business strategy of buying from larger firms the rights to market older pesticides, many of them under regulatory scrutiny.

 
MONSANTO BUYS 2300 OAHU ACRES FROM CAMPBELL
By Pacific Business News
April 4, 2007

James Campbell Co. has entered into an agreement to sell 2,300 acres of Oahu farmland to Monsanto Co., the two parties announced Wednesday. As you drive west on the H-1 freeway toward Kapolei, the land is on the right just beyond the Kunia Rd. exit.

Monsanto currently employs 600 full-time and 100 seasonal employees statewide. It is the largest employer on Molokai. In Hawaii it grows seed corn and other seed crops including genetically modified seeds. Monsanto's local business manager, Terry Miller, said 1,600 acres are suitable for farming and the remaining 700 acres are slated to remain as open space. He said the company was already hiring on Oahu.

"As an agricultural company, we look forward to keeping these lands in productive agricultural use for the long-term," he said. The land was formerly used to grow pineapple and diversified agricultural crops. "A win for the state of Hawaii and the state's agriculture industry," said Bert Hatton, Campbell's executive vice president for land management.

 
REMEMBERING JIM JONTZ, FAIR TRADE HERO
Global Trade Watch
April 17, 2007

Jim Jontz, an indefatigable advocate for economic and social justice and the environment, passed away on Saturday, April 14 after a struggle against cancer. Jim was a mentor and inspiration to many. His passing is an enormous personal loss to all of those whose lives this gentle, brilliant man touched.

But, by nature of the quality of Jim's personality and what his life's work accomplished, his mission and his values live on.

As a member of Congress, Jim was an organizer extraordinaire --- always providing strategy and a plan, often from a corner of the Rayburn room off the floor of the House where his allies awaited his wisdom between votes.

As the first Executive Director of the Citizens Trade Campaign, the national labor, environmental, consumer, family farm and faith coalition, Jim was an organizer extraordinaire, helping to visualize and then create the nation's powerful fair trade movement.

As leader of several environmental organizations, Jim was an organizer extraordinaire, delivering real victory for the planet and its inhabitants.

In creating the Working Families Win project for Americans for Democratic Action, Jim was an organizer extraordinaire, creating from scratch an impressive program that has transformed the tone of U.S. political discourse on economic and social justice issues.

Because he taught by example and mentored countless young people, he is survived by legions of those who aspire to replicate his tireless, passionate and fearless advocacy for what is right. Jim Jontz raised a "family" of advocates who join him in living Margaret Mead's proverb: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.