Pope Addresses Rising Food Prices

posted by Kenneth Spence

Pope Benedict XVI addressed the annual conference of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and expressed particular concern over rising food prices and the instability of the global food market. In his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the pope issued this challenge: “The problem of food insecurity needs to be addressed within a long-term perspective, eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries.”

Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg has done much to illuminate those structural causes and their effects on the agricultural capacity of developing countries. In an interview with EWTN two months ago, he talked about two of the most important drivers of high food prices: farm subsidies and energy costs.

“All the subsidies that go into agriculture—through things like import taxes and tariffs, as well as direct subsidies—have the paradoxical effect of reducing the incentive for investment in agriculture in developing countries,” said Dr. Gregg. African farmers cannot compete with their counterparts in the first world who are able to sell their produce at artificially low prices, and so developing countries end up turning away from food production. In the long run, this decrease in supply causes prices to rise.

Energy prices also affect the cost of food: the more a farmer pays for gasoline, the more he has to recoup from the sale of his crops. Again, market imbalances are causing prices to rise—OPEC, the cartel that controls a substantial amount of the world’s crude oil, determines its supply, and so “there’s a disparity between supply and demand,” Dr. Gregg explained. “OPEC and other oil-producing countries introduce a whole range of price distortions into the energy sector, resulting in higher prices”

U.S. energy policy is also to blame: from drilling moratoriums to ethanol subsidies, the federal government has effectively introduced inefficiency to energy markets.

Developing countries must be allowed to produce food without being undercut by Western protectionism and too-costly energy. When free markets are hindered, the poor suffer most.

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Egg Producers Sued for Price Fixing

Egg Producers Accused of Price-Fixing

A lawsuit alleges that the nation’s largest egg trade group and some leading farmers conspired to artificially inflate prices.

By P.J. Huffstutter, Los Angeles Times

Food service giant Sodexo Inc. has filed suit against the nation’s largest egg trade group and some leading egg farmers, alleging they perpetrated a decadelong scheme to artificially inflate egg prices.

The civil complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, claims that an egg cartel conspired to limit domestic supply by killing off hens under the guise of treating the remaining animals more humanely by giving them more cage room. The alleged scheme resulted in as much as a 40% increase in U.S. wholesale egg prices in 2008, according to the lawsuit.

The Golden Egg is Being Sued

The suit, filed Thursday by a Maryland-based unit of the French company, marks the latest salvo in a massive antitrust battle forming over the price of eggs. Egg producers say federal law allows them to work collaboratively. U.S. grocers, food suppliers and distributors claim that the industry illegally colluded to manipulate the market.

Among other things, according to the Sodexo complaint, the United Egg Producers trade group and five companies schemed to cull their flocks and not quickly replace the birds. They also allegedly required United Egg Producers members to join this effort in order to obtain the trade group’s certification stamp on their cartons — a seal seen by many retailers as a sign of quality.

Sodexo bought more than $250 million in eggs and egg products from the defendants from 2002 to 2010, according to the filing.

Those companies were: Cal-Maine Foods, based in Mississippi; Hillandale Farms, headquartered in Pennsylvania; Michael Foods of Minnesota; National Food Corp. of Washington; Ohio Fresh Eggs of Ohio; and Rose Acre Farms of Indiana.

None of these companies could be reached for comment Tuesday. United Egg Producers denied the allegations. Its members control about 95% of all the nation’s egg-laying hens, according to its website. The organization said in a statement that the industry’s effort to shrink hen flocks was intended to allow the animals more space in response to concerns voiced by retailers and the public over the treatment of laying hens.

United Egg Producers said a 1922 federal law known as the Capper-Volstead Act gives egg farmers the right to form cooperatives and jointly market their products.

Sodexo’s attorneys contend that because businesses other than egg farmers can join the trade group the law’s protections don’t apply in this situation. As a result, the plaintiff argues, United Egg Producers and the egg farmers are violating U.S. antitrust laws.

As the legal fight has grown, so too have the questions over whether Capper-Volstead protections are still helpful to both farmers and consumers. Peter Carstensen, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School who specializes in antitrust policy issues, pointed out that many egg farms have consolidated into massive enterprises — and that there are far fewer small, mom-and-pop operations than in the past.

“The egg case is the poster child of whether change will happen, and if the courts carve back the scope of immunity of Capper-Volstead,” Carstensen said. “If it’s going to happen, it could happen with eggs.”

Sodexo’s case follows on the heels of a separate class-action lawsuit and more than a dozen other similar complaints working through the federal court in Philadelphia.

The defendants in the egg cases are a veritable who’s who of the egg world: Hillandale, whose eggs were at the heart of last year’s massive recall; Ohio Fresh, which has ties to Hillandale President Orland Bethel and Austin “Jack” DeCoster, the other Iowa egg producer involved in the recall; Cal-Maine, the nation’s largest producer and distributor of shell eggs; and NuCal Foods, an agricultural cooperative based in Ripon, Calif.

None of these defendants could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Egg Producing Hens in Cages

The Sodexo case also comes after the Justice Department’s antitrust division recently wrapped up a yearlong series of workshops that examined whether monopolistic practices in the agriculture industry were driving up food prices. The public meetings, held in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, were designed to allow producers, competitors and activists to air their concerns about the grain, dairy, livestock and poultry industries — as well as concerns over price margins.

Charges of price manipulation are an outgrowth of California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, better known as Proposition 2. That measure, which state voters overwhelmingly approved through a ballot initiative in 2008, banned small, confining crates or cages for veal calves, egg-laying hens and pregnant sows.

While preparing for the Proposition 2 campaign, staff members at the Humane Society of the United States discovered egg industry documents they said showed that producers were manipulating the market by collectively shrinking supply to boost prices. The society filed petitions with the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission over the findings. Later, class-action lawyers filed nearly two dozen lawsuits.

The plaintiffs got a boost last spring when Sparboe Farms of Minnesota — the nation’s fifth-largest egg producer and one of the 21 farm operations and industry groups named as defendants in the various cases — released documents and internal memos showing that United Egg Producers called for its members to slow production, according to court filings.

The documents and memos remain sealed by court order.

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Artificially Inflated Food Prices due to Corn Subsidies and Ethanol Subsidies

End ethanol Subsidies to Lower Food, Land Prices

by The Gazette Opinion Staff  ::  UPDATED: 21 April 2011

Cropland prices are skyrocketing to absurd levels due to both increased corn prices and government subsidy. As more cash is put into the hands of farmers, that cash is reinvested into farmland, further pushing up the costs not only of cropland but any other piece of ground.

Ethanol is Highly Subsidized and Inefficient

Compounding the issue is the strain being placed on our corn supply due to ethanol. More than 30 percent of corn is used to manufacture ethanol, a product that requires more energy per unit volume to produce than to produce the same volume of gasoline, and which contains less energy per unit than gasoline.

This demand being placed on corn production is a cornerstone to increasing food prices; the other cornerstone to increasing food prices is fuel, and while ethanol was sold as a means to supplement and suppress fuel prices, in the end, E85 is only 50 cents cheaper than regular unleaded — and the distance a gallon of E85 can take you is less than a gallon of gasoline. Ethanol is subsidized by the government, which means that the taxpayer is subsidizing artificially inflated land and food prices.

If the ethanol subsidy were to cease, food prices would drop, land prices would drop, and a significant amount of marginal farmland would go to being pasture. Ethanol subsidies need to end.

David Sheets

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Global Warning Scientist Found to Be Fraudulent

Arctic Scientist Under Investigation

By BECKY BOHRER – Associated Press | AP

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Just five years ago, Charles Monnett was one of the scientists whose observation that several polar bears had drowned in the Arctic Ocean helped galvanize the global warming movement.

A Polar Bear Doesn’t Bleed from Drowning

Now, the wildlife biologist is on administrative leave and facing accusations of scientific misconduct.

The federal agency where he works told him he was on leave pending the results of an investigation into “integrity issues.” A watchdog group believes it has to do with the 2006 journal article about the bear, but a source familiar with the investigation said late Thursday that placing Monnett on leave had nothing to with scientific integrity or the article.

The source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation, wouldn’t comment further.

The watchdog, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, filed a complaint on Monnett’s behalf Thursday with the agency, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

Investigators have not yet told Monnett of the specific charges or questions related to the scientific integrity of his work, said Jeff Ruch, the watchdog group’s executive director. His group released excerpts of interviews investigators conducted with Monnett and fellow researcher Jeffrey Gleason, in which they were questioned about the observations that led to the article.

Whatever the outcome, the investigation comes at a time when climate change activists and those who are skeptical about global warming are battling over the credibility of scientists’ work.

Members of both sides, however, said that it was too early to make any pronouncements about the case, particularly since the agency has not yet released the details of the allegations against him.

Myron Ebell, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the case reinforces the group’s position that people should be more skeptical about the work of climate change scientists.

A Polar Bear Can Swim for 60 Miles

Even if every scientist is objective, “what we’re being asked to do is turn our economy around and spend trillions and trillions of dollars on the basis of” climate change claims, he said.

Francesca Grifo, director of the scientific integrity program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said she’s not alarmed by the handling of the case so far.

Grifo said the allegations made in the complaint filed by Ruch’s group are premature and said people should wait to see what, if anything, comes of the inspector general’s investigation.

Beyond the climate change debate, the investigation also focuses attention on an Obama administration policy intended to protect scientists from political interference.

The complaint seeks Monnett’s reinstatement and a public apology from the agency and inspector general, whose office is conducting the probe.

The group’s filing also seeks to have the investigation dropped or to have the charges specified and the matter carried out quickly and fairly, as the Obama policy states.

BOEMRE, which oversees leasing and development of offshore drilling, was created last year in the reorganization of the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, which oversaw offshore drilling.

The MMS was abolished after the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The agency was accused of being too close to oil and gas industry interests. A congressional report last year found MMS Alaska was vulnerable to lawsuits and allegations of scientific misconduct.

The agency announced steps to improve.

The Polar Bear Report was a Scam

On July 18, BOEMRE told the longtime Anchorage-based Monnett that he was being put on leave, pending the investigation, according to the complaint. BOEMRE has barred Monnett from speaking to reporters, Ruch said.

Monnett could not immediately be reached Thursday.

His wife, Lisa Rotterman, a fellow scientist who worked with Monnett for years, including at BOEMRE’s predecessor agency, said the case did not come out of the blue.

Rotterman said Monnett had come under fire in the past within the agency for speaking the truth about what the science showed. She said the 2006 article wasn’t framed in the context of climate change but was relevant to the topic.

She feared what happened to Monnett would send a “chilling message” at the agency just as important oil and gas development decisions in the Arctic will soon be made.

“I don’t believe the timing is coincidental,” she said.

Rotterman said Monnett’s work included identifying questions that needed to be answered to inform the environmental analyses the agency must conduct before issuing drilling permits.

“This is a time when sowing doubt in the public’s mind about whether those findings can be trusted or not, that makes people think, I don’t know what to believe,” she said.

Monnett coordinated much of BOEMRE’s research on Arctic wildlife and ecology, had duties that included managing about $50 million worth of studies, according to the complaint.

The agency said other scientists would manage the studies in his absence.

Cinder Blocks around the Necks of Polar Bears was Suspicious

According to documents provided by Ruch’s group, which sat in on investigators’ interviews with Monnett, the questioning focused on observations that he and researcher Jeffrey Gleason made in 2004.

At the time, they were conducting an aerial survey of bowhead whales, and saw four dead polar bears floating in the water after a storm. There were other witnesses, according to Ruch, and low-resolution photos show floating white blobs.

Monnett and Gleason detailed their observations in an article published two years later in the journal Polar Biology. In the peer-reviewed article, they said they were reporting, to the best of their knowledge, the first observations of the bears floating dead and presumed drowned while apparently swimming long distances.

Polar bears are considered strong swimmers, they wrote, but long-distance swims may exact a greater metabolic toll than standing or walking on ice in better weather.

They said their observations suggested the bears drowned in rough seas and high winds. They also added that the findings “suggest that drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice and/or longer open water periods continues.”

The article and presentations drew national attention and helped make the polar bear a symbol for the global warming movement. Former vice president and climate change activist Al Gore mentioned the animal in his Oscar-winning global warming documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

2001 – 2010 Sees Record Low Temperatures

The complaint said agency officials harassed Gleason and Monnett, and that they received negative comments after the journal article. Gleason took another Interior Department job; he didn’t respond to an email and a BOEMRE spokeswoman said he wouldn’t be available for comment.

In May 2008, the bear was classified as a threatened species, the first with its survival at risk due to global warming.

According to a transcript, provided by Ruch’s group, Ruch asked investigator Eric May, during questioning of Monnett in February, for specifics about the allegations. May replied: “well, scientific misconduct, basically, uh, wrong numbers, uh, miscalculations.”

Monnett said that alleging scientific misconduct “suggests that we did something deliberately to deceive or to, to change it. Um, I sure don’t see any indication of that in what you’re asking me about.”

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Prohibitive Regulations and Taxes

Prohibitive Regulations and Taxes

I’m an entrepreneur.  I would like to hire just 10 people.  But, I can’t.  I’m not rich, not even close to breaking even … well that’s not true, but I’m JUST breaking even. 

I don’t think lowering taxes goes far enough.  The four letter word “deregulation” is what I need.  The idiots on both sides, like to paint broad strokes and argue over that word.  The truth is, there is a difference from making sure I don’t sell lead chips to children and it’s a far cry from me having to have to provide for inspections, licenses and fees to be able to sell a tie twisty to a full grown man.  No one wants to talk about regulations that keep people like me out of so many industries it’s not even funny.  Regulations that were written by lawyers who’s socks cost more than my operating budget in 2008.

Yes lower taxes on entrepreneurs.  Yes lower taxes on the wealthy and middle class.  Yes to all of that, but for real change, get rid of prohibitive regulation.

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The Jobless "Solution"?

About the Proposed Job Solutions

Other than the manufacturing jobs, which were lost over a decade ago, the model for American jobs was not established on a solid economic foundation to begin with.  There was no reason, nor call for service sector jobs to be a full 40% of the job market.  call centers and consulting, was never a NEEDED niche, to base an economy on.  Neither one generates any real revenue for the country.  It is not something you can package, pass around and keep generating income from, like sugar, pork bellies or a circuit board.

Until such time as someone admits that the model is broken, there never will be recovery.

And, of course the rich and wealthy and upper middle class have no compassion / understanding of the job loss.  Nearly 90% of the jobs lost in America were all entry level and or low paying jobs.  What is really getting everyone’s goat, and has become a huge backlash to all this, the question of illegal immigrants taking low paying and or entry level jobs is now in the sniper scopes of all of the state treasurers.  The issue can no longer be ignored.

With this in mind, several states are now trying to pass / discuss an immigration policy to uphold enforcement of the immigration laws a la Arizona.  So all the people gnashing their teeth and clawing their hair out over that state, need look no further than their own state capital to see the same legislation come to roost.

The problem really cannot be ignored.  And, it is a definite solution to the jobless  problem.  Illegal immigrants take the low paying / entry level jobs; pay no taxes; AND to add injury to insult – send a whopping 80% of the income back home to Mexico, making it the 3rd base of Mexican GDP.  Those figures cannot be ignored any longer in this economic debacle.

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The Shame of Being Black and Republican

Black Republicans?

Blacks mostly voted Republican from after the Civil War and through the early part of the 20th century. That’s not surprising when one considers that Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president, and the white, segregationist politicians who governed Southern states in those days were Democrats. The Democratic Party didn’t welcome blacks then, and it wasn’t until 1924 that blacks were even permitted to attend Democratic conventions in any official capacity. Most blacks lived in the South, where they were mostly prevented from voting at all.

Abraham Lincoln

The election of Roosevelt in 1932 marked the beginning of a change. He got 71 percent of the black vote for president in 1936 and did nearly that well in the next two elections, according to historical figures kept by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. But even then, the number of blacks identifying themselves as Republicans was about the same as the number who thought of themselves as Democrats.


It wasn’t until Harry Truman garnered 77 percent of the black vote in 1948 that a majority of blacks reported that they thought of themselves as Democrats. Earlier that year Truman had issued an order desegregating the armed services and an executive order setting up regulations against racial bias in federal employment.


Even after that, Republican nominees continued to get a large slice of the black vote for several elections. Dwight D. Eisenhower got 39 percent in 1956, and Richard Nixon got 32 percent in his narrow loss to John F. Kennedy in 1960.

But then President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 (outlawing segregation in public places) and his eventual Republican opponent, Sen. Barry Goldwater, opposed it. Johnson got 94 percent of the black vote that year, still a record for any presidential election.


The following year Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act. No Republican presidential candidate has gotten more than 15 percent of the black vote since.


Footnote: Younger African American voters have been edging away from the Democratic Party in recent years. David Bositis of the Joint Center notes “a fairly long-term pattern of decreasing identification with the Democrats by younger African Americans.” Of course, it remains to be seen what the 2008 campaign will bring.

— Brooks Jackson

If you look back through American history and find a black American being enslaved, lynched, railroaded, or persecuted, 99 times out of a hundred, you’ll find a Democrat behind it. The hated and feared KKK? Throughout most of its history, it was little more than a hooded, thuggish arm of the Democratic Party.

But in the 1960s, when the Democrats’ overt racism became untenable, they switched to a strategy they’ve used all the way until the present day. Instead of persecuting black Americans because they thought they were inferior, they decided to “help” black Americans because they thought they were inferior. Unfortunately for black Americans, the “help” they get from the Democratic Party is almost always perversely damaging.

All the First Blacks in Congress Were Republican

Democrats cooked up the great society, welfare, food stamps, and all other manner of government goodies because they said they wanted to “help” people. What was the result of that “help?” The Democrats did something that they hadn’t managed to do when they enslaved black Americans, persecuted them with Jim Crow laws, or terrorized them with the Ku Klux Klan: they managed to nearly destroy the black family. According to Walter Williams,

 “In 1940, the illegitimacy rate among blacks was 19 percent, in 1960, 22 percent, and today, it’s 70 percent. Some argue that the state of the black family is the result of the legacy of slavery, discrimination and poverty. That has to be nonsense. A study of 1880 family structure in Philadelphia shows that three-quarters of black families were nuclear families, comprised of two parents and children. In New York City in 1925, 85 percent of kin-related black households had two parents. In fact, according to Herbert Gutman in The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom: 1750-1925, “Five in six children under the age of 6 lived with both parents.”

The story is no different when it comes to education. Many black children are stuck in disastrous, failing schools. That’s why it’s no surprise that a majority of black Americans support school vouchers, just like the Republican Party. But, the Democratic Party, at the behest of the teachers’ unions, has worked ceaselessly to keep black children trapped in mediocre schools by killing voucher programs.

Robert Byrd on his biggest mistake (1993):

“Well, it’s easy to state what has been my biggest mistake. The greatest mistake I ever made was joining the Ku Klux Klan. And I’ve said that many times. But one cannot erase what he has done. He can only change his ways and his thoughts. That was an albatross around my neck that I will always wear. You will read it in my obituary that I was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.”

Strom Thurmond on running as a segregationist Dixiecrat (1998):

“I don’t have anything to apologize for, I don’t have any regrets. The Dixiecrats were right.”

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