Attorney General Drew Edmondson is running for Governor of Oklahoma. He is a democrat. I am a Republican. I support Drew Edmondson for Governor because he is doing more to protect private property rights than any other public official. Drew Edmondson is suing some of the largest poultry companies in the world for illegally dumping chicken manure on eastern Oklahoma. These companies deliver millions of chickens to “growers.” In five weeks, the chicken is ready for slaughter. It weighs about 3 pounds and leaves behind about 2 pounds of manure, called “litter.” For decades, the poultry companies have told growers to spread the litter on the land in eastern Oklahoma. The growers have to do what the company wants or the company will put them out of business. The litter runs into river, streams and lakes. When anyone complains, the companies say the growers are responsible, not the companies. The result is that, the poultry companies use the land and water of eastern Oklahoma as a free industrial sewer. Individual rural land owners in eastern Oklahoma have been powerless in the face of these multinational poultry companies. The companies use lawyers, lobbyists, and public relations to convince the public and public officials that there is nothing wrong with dumping enormous quantities of chicken litter on eastern Oklahoma. Some public officials even try to protect the chicken companies’ ability to dump on rural eastern Oklahoma. Certain public officials have tried to prevent the Attorney General […]
When I was a kid, in the summers, I drove a tractor — first discing, then plowing, then cultivating about a thousand acres in north central Oklahoma. Day after day, year after year, there was a lot of time to think. One thing to think about was a brownish rusty streak on the northern horizon. It came from a coal burning power plant near Red Rock. There’s no coal in northern Oklahoma. It comes on trains from Wyoming. Why coal? It didn’t make sense. Now it does. The answer is the market or lack thereof. First, the coal burned at the power plant in Red Rock comes from rural Wyoming where the coal and most of the land belongs to the United States. The US government essentially gives the coal to companies who want to mine it. If the coal were owned by people there would be a market. There is no market. This is a very inefficient system, and it is really great for the coal companies and the politicians whom they influence. There are only a few farmers and ranchers around to complain about the damage done to the surrounding land, water, and groundwater. If the coal companies neighbors were treated fairly, the coal companies would have to control their operations so that they did not damaged […]
If Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Drew Edmondson, were a rodeo cowboy you could say that on Monday, October 20, 2008 he drew a real rank bull. Oklahoma along with 12 other states and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit to block JBS, a Brazilian company, from buying National Beef, Inc. the fourth largest U.S. beef packer. JBS, the largest meat packer in the world, bought Swift, the number three U.S. packer in 2007. The purchase of National Beef would make JBS the largest U.S. packer, bigger than Tyson and Cargill. The three companies would control more than 85% of the U.S. beef market, with JBS controling 35%, Tyson 25 – 30% and Cargill 20-25%. In a manner of speaking, Edmondson and the other A.G.’s from cowboy states are attempting to tame the biggest baddest bull on the planet. In keeping with the courage of lengendary Oklahoma bull riders like Jim Shoulders and Lane Frost, it is time for Drew to cowboy up! Drew is no stranger to multinational meat packers. For many years Edmondson has been telling Tyson and other big chicken companies to clean up their act. They have placed millions of chickens and mountains of chicken manure in the watersheds of scenic rivers in eastern Oklahoma. Of course, […]
Merlin the magician, legend has it, lodged the sword Excalibur in a stone where it would lie until taken up by the true King of England. As of August 12, 2008 the United States Department of Justice has laid its hands on its own sword in a stone — the Packers and Stockyards Act. If it succeeds in taking up this sword, it will strike a great blow in defense of farmers, ranchers and consumers. Nearly a century ago, the legendary trust busting President Teddy Roosevelt set the stage for passage of the Packers and Stockyard Act of 1921 (PSA) which prohibited any unfair, discriminatory or deceptive trade practice by a meat packer. The PSA was intended to protect farmers, ranchers and consumers from any types of deceit that were rampant among the few packers who dominated the meat packing industry. Such abuses are chronicled by Upton Sinclair in his book, The Jungle, where, in unbearable detail, he describes how packers manipulated prices, how laborers worked in inhumane conditions and how filth was permitted in the food. The PSA, for a time, was wielded for good against abusive packers, but the monopolists soon set about consolidating power for themselves again. By the […]
There is a great divide between rural and urban. Wind energy is the latest issue to expose this gap. Urban dwellers see wind energy as a solution to high energy prices and a clean alternative to fossil fuels. Rural folk see wind energy as another thing city folk are going to try to take without paying for. They are both right, but there is much more to it than that. The friction between city and country is both ancient and modern. Cities have always obtained their resources from the surrounding hinterland. Under the right circumstances, the flow of goods from the country to the city is a mutually beneficial arrangement. History provides an example of such circumstances in ancient Athens. The city of Athens was defended by heavily armored infantrymen called hoplites. By and large they were independent farmers who had produced the surplus necessary to accumulate wealth, and with that wealth they bought their shield, spear, helmet and other necessary garb for making war so that they could protect their land from invaders. The city folk of Athens who bought the surplus were freed from the struggle of growing their own food. They devote their time and talents to other pursuits, and in doing so, they built the intellectual framework for western civilization. Under the wrong circumstances, the flow of goods from country to city is slavery. A short distance from Athen was another Greek city. Sparta consisted of an elite class of professional soldiers. Among these Spartans […]
The Pickens Plan is a trojan horse, and yesterday, warriors hidden inside came pouring out. Pickens revealed his plan for the government to grant him the power of eminent domain, government subsidies for power transmission lines, and power to control those lines (as well as water pipelines) from his land in the Texas Panhandle to Dallas/Fort Worth. The Pickens Plan is being sold as a common sense effort to shift toward wind and solar power, but it includes a bold attempt to gain control over the market for alternative energy sources. Alternative sources of energy in the United States can have two very different futures. It can be a future in which people, through competitive markets are able to obtain locally generated, cheap, clean energy and in which people are independent from monopolies and oligopolies which now dominate energy markets. One the other hand, it can be a future in which people, as now, have no choice except to purchase power from government created monoplies. These monopolies would continue to be protected from competition from an independent and free market for energy production. Yesterday, Pickens revealed that he envisions the latter. At least part of his vision for the future is that the people of Dallas and Fort Worth will be dependent upon him for their power and water which he would generate from hundreds of thousands of acres of […]
Today, the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals filed an opinion of great importance. It may, at long last, give farmers protetection from Pilgrim’s Pride, Tyson Food, and other meatpackers that dominate the livestock markets. For decades, farmers have been denied this protection under the Packers and Stockyards Act (“PSA”). The opinion in Wheeler v. Pilgrim’s Pride Corp, Case No. 07-40651 (5th Cir.) may change that. Until today, virtual every court in the United States had refused to enforce the plain langauge of the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921. The PSA prohibits meat packers, such as Tyson, Cargill, JBS/Swift, Pilgrims, and Smithfield, from engaging in “any unfair, unjustly discriminatory, or deceptive practice or device. . ..” The plain language prohibits “any” such practice. But the Courts decided that when Congress said “any” such activity, it actually meant such activity that “reduced competition” in the market. For example, a chicken farmer who had been cheated by a packer, would have to prove the entire market was impacted by the fact he was cheated. It was nearly impossible to show a marketwide impact from a single unfair or deceptive practice. Thus, under this interpretation of the PSA, it was almost always legal for meat packers to use unfair and deceptive practices against farmers and ranchers. In 2005 this interpretation was relied upon by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which overturned […]
I grew up in the country, seven miles from a paved road. The place I considered my community was roughly the shape of a square, about 6 miles on each side. Near the center of that square, on the southwest corner of a dusty intersection was the Whipple Community Building. It used to be a one-room school house. Pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and a flag without enough stars still hung at the front of the room. The building was owned by Whipple’s Ladies Aid. The women in the community met there to quilt on Wednesdays. Once or twice a year we would go there in the evening for a cake walk or a Christmas party. If all the kids showed up there might be 10 or 12. My next oldest sibling is a brother ten years older. He had gone to school in a one room school house until the sixth grade. That was about 1966. He said there were more children in the country then. It seems that I should have known then that things were changing but I didn’t. I thought the only thing that had changed for fifty years was that people drove cars […]
The U.S. Constitution was written by and for independent farmers who knew how to manage the naturally variable process of growing things. Industrialization of agriculture replaced most U.S. farmers with low-skill, low-wage laborers and top-down corporate/government management. Unfortunately, neither the laborers nor the managers know how to farm. They are unprepared to respond to changes in the climate, energy markets and food markets which have all become very variable. We need people who are skilled at managing the naturally variable process of growing things. We need farmers. And we need them now.
Farmers are some of the most rough looking yet highly intelligent citizens in America. They see things as others do not, because they have a view of human nature based on a difficult struggle to work...