Organic Bytes #43
Food and Consumer News Tidbits with an Edge!
EPA WILL USE POOR KIDS AS GUINEA PIGS IN NEW
STUDY ON PESTICIDES
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), led by
Bush appointees, plans to launch a new study in which
participating low income families will have their children
exposed to toxic pesticides over the course of two
years. For taking part in these studies, each family will
receive $970, a free video camera, a T-shirt, and a
framed certificate of appreciation. In October, the EPA
received $2 million to do the study from the American Chemistry Council, a
chemical industry front group that includes members such as Dow, Exxon,
and Monsanto. The EPA's Linda Sheldon says the study is vital, because so
little is known about how small children's bodies absorb harmful chemicals.
As of press time, none of the EPA's employees are offering to have their own
children take part in this research project. The Organic Consumers
Association is calling on the nation's citizens to demand the EPA forgo this
project before its scheduled launch in early 2005.
Evan Daniel Ravitz <email@example.com>
Date: 2004/11/13 Sat AM 01:11:37 EST
U Penn prof's exit poll analysis; what to do now
Steven Freeman, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania has just published a
preliminary statistical analysis of the discrepancies between the exit polls
and official tallies on Nov 2nd and addresses possible reasons for such
discrepancies. His PhD is from M.I.T.
His paper is available in .pdf format at the following link and elsewhere:
From the Conclusions:
My purpose in his paper, however, has not been to allege election
theft, let alone explain it. Rather I have tried to demonstrate that
exit poll data is fundamentally sound, that the deviations between
the poll predictions and vote tallies in the three critical
battleground states could not have occurred strictly by chance or
random error, and that no solid explanations have yet been provided
to explain the discrepancy.
Systematic fraud or mistabulation is a premature conclusion, but the
election's unexplained exit poll discrepancies make it an
unavoidable hypothesis, one that is the responsibility of the media,
academia, polling agencies, and the public to investigate.
Again, Bev Harris and folks at http://BlackBoxVoting.org have filed
the largest Freedom Of Information Act action in history, for all
records from some 3000 Counties. They need money and volunteers.
If their website is swamped or "hacked" again, send checks to:
Black Box Voting
PO Box 25552
Seattle, WA 98165
John Kerry's brother Cameron is still compiling fraud and vote
suppression stories, but has asked that people send them to the
Democratic National Committee at: firstname.lastname@example.org
40 Acres and a Mule, Denied
By Damien Jackson, AlterNet. Posted November 17, 2004.
The Department of Agriculture has admitted to
discriminating against African American farmers and
paid out hundreds of thousands in damages. But for
many farmers, the damage can't be undone.
All the Johnson brothers ever wanted to do was farm. After all, for
Leon, Milton and Shade Johnson, it was their birthright. Born on a
44-acre plot in the thriving African American farm community of 1950s
Tillery, N.C., the hard-working threesome spent endless days
harvesting corn and peanuts alongside their mother and uncle in this
cotton-clad northeastern corner of the state. By the early 1970s, Leon
– the oldest of the three and the first to have farming aspirations of
his own – had accumulated an adjacent 74 acres of land while renting
out another 1,200, making him one of the most prominent black
landowners in Halifax County. Upon their mother's death in 1974,
Milton and Shade went to work for their older brother.
Though he now controlled large amounts of land, one thing Leon
could not control was nature. Like many southern farmers, the
Johnson brothers were plagued by the relentless drought and low
crop yields of the 1970s and 1980s. In 1978, Leon began borrowing
money from the Farm Services Agency (FSA) – a local arm of the US
Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) – for disaster assistance, operations and
It was the worst move he ever made.
Despite his large amount of land and collateral – and his uneventful
credit history – the Halifax County FSA placed Leon on a "supervised"
loan account, a time-consuming status that severely limited the farmer's ability to act in
his own best interest. "You'd have to go to the farm supplier and have them write out a
bill, and then go back to the FSA to sign a check for it," says brother, Milton. Since the
checks were made payable to both Leon and his creditors, the farmer lost entire days in
the field running between FSA and suppliers – something, the Johnsons later found, area
white farmers with less land and worse credit were not required to do.
The ongoing drought and the mounting debt from supervised and chronically delayed
loans -such delays are costly for farming due to its seasonal nature-put Leon in a
financial bind. In March of 1983, the desperate farmer sold a bin of corn outside of his
supervised arrangement in order to make payments on his home and tractor. "The USDA
sent federal marshals to my home and handcuffed me for selling mortgaged crops,"
recalled Leon, in a 2001 interview with Insight magazine. He was convicted a year later
and spent four months in a federal prison, while FSA foreclosed, selling off his property
His brothers fared no better. By the time of Leon's conviction, Milton had already
purchased and lost a large plot of land, his house and equipment after FSA subjected
him to supervised loans, high interest rates and an accelerated foreclosure. Shade –
who FSA unjustly denied an attempt to buy land in 1979 – was eventually and
unsuccessfully brought up on similar charges as Leon.
Unfortunately, the Johnsons' plight was no anomaly. In 1997, they joined black farmers
throughout the South and West in a class-action discrimination suit against the USDA,
alleging a variety of biased practices including unjust loan denials and delays, high
interest rates, accelerated foreclosures and unnecessary supervision. In April of 1999,
after admitting to discriminatory practices, the government settled Pigford vs. Glickman
and created a two-tiered framework for compensating those affected between 1981 and
1996. Track A provided $50,000 and possible debt relief for claimants. Track B had a
higher burden of proof while offering compensation for actual damages. Judge Paul
Friedman wrote that the landmark settlement will "serve as a reminder to the
Department of Agriculture that its actions were unacceptable" and "deter it from
engaging in the same conduct in the future."
It didn't. Today, five years later and well past the claim-filing deadline, the damage has
yet to be undone. A recent national report by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group
found that three quarters of the $2.3 billion agreed to in Pigford had not been paid, and
that close to nine out of every ten claimants had been denied, some on such
technicalities as incorrect spelling. On Oct. 12, the farmers and attorney James Myart, Jr.
were granted a preliminary motion by a U.S. District Court that the lawyer hopes could
ultimately get 80,000 denied claims reconsidered. "We'll get justice by any and all means
necessary," says Myart. Recent black farmer protests in Alabama and Washington D.C.
showed the farmers' willingness to engage both judicial and activist courses. "These
farmers are so angry they are ready to engage in civil disobedience all over this country."
USDA spokesperson Ed Lloyd feels this is unnecessary. "The USDA has been moving
forward and implementing a lot of initiatives that go beyond Pigford," says Lloyd. He cites
a number of recent initiatives including a USDA-brokered arrangement between Marriott
International and black producers, and proposed revisions in the election procedures of
County Committees, the powerful local bodies administering farm programs.
But the farmers aren't buying it. Myart recently filed a new $20 billion lawsuit on behalf of
25,000 black farmers affected in the post-Pigford years between 1997 and 2004.
As for the Johnson brothers, the damage can never be undone. Upon the 1999
settlement, Leon, whose health had deteriorated since losing his farm, filed a claim
under Track A. He died two years ago without receiving a penny.
Milton asked for $695,000 under Track B to cover his liquidated property. Seven months
before his brother's death, he received a check for $140,000, the full amount of his
settled case but an amount less than what he still owes the government from their bad
loan practices. "They sold my house, they sold my equipment and everything, and they
say I still owe them $162,000," says Milton, of the debt the USDA could have written off
in the settlement. "There ain't no way in the world that can be right."
For African American farmers, it hadn't been right for a long time. Along with the decline
of agriculture, black migration trends and many farmers poor record-keeping, such
unscrupulous government tactics contributed to the sizable loss of African American
farmers in the 20th century. In 1910, USDA data had nearly one million black farmers
owning 15 million acres of land, or 14 percent of the country's farms. Today, 18,000 black
farmers collectively own less than 1 percent of all farms. African American farmers have
disappeared at three times the rate of their white peers.
"The bottom line is it's all about the land," says Dexter Davis, a soybean farmer from
Sondheimer, Louisiana. "They (white farmers) are getting our land." Davis began farming
in the late 1970s, purchasing 80 acres with his father. By 1987, five years after his dad
passed, the then 23-year old had accumulated 220 acres. "Farming was real good to me
when I first started," recalls Davis.
That would change. In 1988, the black FSA loan officer Davis dealt with was replaced by
a white one. "All of my problems began there," he says. Over the next decade, despite
his early success, Davis was subjected to exorbitant interest rates, costly loan delays
and denials. Then, in 1999, the FSA tried to block his purchase of an additional 360 acres
by low-balling its appraised value, a tactic used to make the transaction undesirable for
the seller. Upon realizing this, the incensed white female seller sold the property to Davis
anyway, ate the lost profit, and composed a written affidavit to accompany the lawsuit
Davis was already filing for earlier FSA transgressions. "It was a racial vendetta," he
says, one that "totally disrupted my livelihood." The suit is ongoing.
Leonard Cooper, a former USDA county agriculture director, recently echoed Davis's
contention that, ultimately, its all about the land. "If you've got land, you've got wealth,"
says Cooper, a longtime farmer. "They (USDA) want to keep black farmers from thriving
and owning land. This is their goal."
Damien Jackson is a 2002-2004 recipient of the George Washington Williams Fellowship for
Journalists of Color, a program of the Independent Press Association.
Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, California Chapter invites you to attend an informational session at
our California State Capitol, Friday, December 10, 2004
Historic California Room 4203
10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
United States Department of Agriculture, Assistant Secretary Parker will speak to new programs to promote Black
Farmers and hear issues concerning Black Farmers and other disadvantaged farmers.
We must find a way to become a greater part of the world's leading agriculture region.
BFAA, California Chapter