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Re: E-M:/ MI Tax Tribunal on Hog Stench

Enviro-Mich message from "David Zaber" <dzaber@chorus.net>


Thought you all may be interested in the views of the Cattlemen's
Association on agricultural concentration in Kansas (it is the type of
activity that Michigan will be increasingly subject to in the wake of SB
205.)  Apologies for the length of the article.

I also recommend an article in the January-February 2000 issue of American

Mallin, M. A.  2000.  Impacts of industrial animal production on rivers and
streams.  American Scientist  88: 26-37.  The subtitle of the article is
"Animal-waste lagoons and sprayfields near aquatic environments may
significantly degrade water quality and endanger health".

Try to get a copy of the original since the color pictures and graphics in
the article are excellent and disturbing.

David J. Zaber


November 15, 1999
For Immediate Release

Critics Say KS Ag Prof Flunked
Marketplace Economics at
Nebraska Governor's Ag Forum

AS REPORTED in press accounts, James Mintert, Kansas State University (KSU)
economist, raised the audience's eyebrows when he ludicrously lauded the
effects of agricultural concentration as beneficial, rather than
devastating, as his listeners sat in disbelief.

Mintert who shared his "long term" perspective concerning the impact of
agricultural concentration, said two centuries of industry concentration and
productivity gains have yielded phenomenal benefits to society.

"What professor Mintert is telling us," said Mike Callicrate, a cattleman
from St. Francis, KS, "is like saying that cancer or the plague is
beneficial because it helps advance medical technology."

"Is a general drop in fed cattle prices due to concentration?," Mintert
challenged. "I say, No! Rather, increases in production have driven prices
lower," he lectured, ignoring the fact that the U.S. has not produced enough
beef to meet domestic demand since 1951.

Cattlemen in the audience noted that Mintert also conveniently failed to
recognize the price depressing effects of captive supplies. USDA reports
continually show packers' captive supplies at near 100% for the first three
to four trading days of each week. He particularly ignored the now public
record and hard evidence of court transcripts showing anti-competitive
captive supplies of market leader IBP as high as 122% (thus IBP didn't need
to buy any open market cattle) of total slaughter needs during the
devastating spring market wreck of 1994, the period thought by many to be
the "defining time" for captive supply.

"Is a decline in the farmers' share of retail beef dollars due to
concentration? I say, No!," Mintert emphatically told attendees.
"Concentration is mostly at the wholesale level and, over the long term, the
farmers' share of wholesale dollars has not changed much.

"But retailers are selling different types (portioned, pre-cooked, etc.) of
beef products and consumers are paying retailers for the services they
provide to make products more desirable. That guarantees that the farmer's
share of the retail dollar goes down."

"This is where Mintert's spin goes out of control," cattlemen critics point
out. "It is precisely at these wholesale price levels that the best evidence
of big packer market power exists. The spread between live cattle prices and
wholesale beef prices, along with packer and retail profits, are at historic
highs. USDA data shows producers have lost over $300 per head of their share
of the consumer beef dollar at the same time that four-firm beef packer
concentration has increased at all-time record levels, from 36% to over 80%.

"During this same period, the USDA wholesale cuts used for Mintert's
comparison have remained the same," they say. "Contrary to Mintert's
statement, the product used for comparison does not include value-added
products, another example of the professor's failure to understand and state
actual marketplace factors."

Again, in regard to packer concentration, Mintert said packer motivation so
far has been to achieve economy of scale, and greater efficiency that is
good for consumers and producers. Although bad news for both comes when the
dominant motivation for packer concentration is enhancement of market power,
he admitted.

"But what Mintert didn't tell us," said Callicrate, "Is that the U.S.
packing industry is a regulated industry, and is governed by the Packers and
Stockyards Act of 1921.

"This Act specifically prohibits any and all anti-competitive practices,
such as the 'captive supplies' and other violations we see today, no matter
what the reason or motive.

"Then how does this go on?," Callicrate asks. "It is people of supposed
stature like economist Mintert of Kansas State University, who espouses
big-packer concentration, who have weakened the government's will to enforce
the law.

"In effect, Professor Mintert was putting the imprimatur of Kansas State
University in advocating a position that is in violation of antitrust law,"
he said. "We have been told that state employees have been dismissed for
less incompetence."

Such recklessness and disregard of the law was recognized in summary by
Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns who stated that not every forum speaker
offered information he wanted to hear, but he diplomatically encouraged
agricultural leaders and legislators to use the information wisely.

Other economists have attempted to explain the role of land grant
universities pertaining to agricultural economics and policies and their
entanglement with giant multi-national corporations.

"Land-Grants are increasingly unresponsive to the needs of farmers. Some
Land-Grant units have already 'sold out' to corporate agribusiness giants,
but, taxpayers may not support continual subsidization and assistance to a
few corporations that are already earning a 20% rate of return on equity,"
said Auburn University agricultural economist Robert Taylor in his
presentation, "Threats to American Agriculture."

By identifying concentration and abusive market power of the giant
agribusiness firms as the real cause for low commodity prices, he predicted,
"Land-Grants may not survive long by continuing to straddle the fence."

"KSU will never be accused of 'fence straddling,' since they are clearly
promoting the corporate industrialized farming model in which farmers,
ranchers, rural communities, and consumers lose and a few dominant
corporations win," retorted Callicrate. "At a recent Wichita, Kansas farm
forum, KSU extension economist Gerald Warmann told farmers they'd have to do
three things to survive: Become more efficient, lower costs, increase
yields, or find yourself a place outside of farming in the booming economy."

More and more, ranchers and farmers are being forced off their land to
pursue the latter, cattlemen said.

# # #

Cattlemen's Legal Fund

Mike Callicrate



E-mail: mike@nobull.net

Web Page: http://www.nobull.net/legal/

David J. Zaber

----- Original Message -----
From: Alex J. Sagady & Associates <ajs@sagady.com>
Sent: Wednesday, January 05, 2000 4:19 PM
Subject: E-M:/ MI Tax Tribunal on Hog Stench

> --------------------------------------------------------------
> Michigan Tax Tribunal Recognizes Hog Factory Stench
> Rural residents of Mecosta County have argued for two years that massive
> hog operations, which moved to the Barryton area in 1997, are infringing
> their right to enjoy their private property. Sickening odors from a
> 6-million gallon pit of hog manure and urine, for example, invade the home
> of Barryton's Mitch and Irene Gibbons three to four times a week.
> The Michigan Tax Tribunal recently agreed with the Gibbons and their
> neighbors. On Nov. 18, 1999, it ordered local tax officials to reduce the
> true cash, assessed, and taxable values of at least five rural Barryton
> homes by 35 percent. (The Tribunal is part of the Michigan Department of
> Consumer and Industry Services.)
> Among the items that convinced Tribunal members of a problem with
> livestock factory stench in Mecosta County was this statement from an
> appraiser about a property's slim sale chances: "Across the road from
> subject is a large pig farm operation, and the smell is terrible."
> A "livestock factory" is an operation that confines a large number of
> animals - and their wastes - in a small area. The U.S. Environmental
> Protection Agency calls the larger factories( starting at 750 cows, 2,500
> hogs) Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.
> The federal Clean Water Act requires all such CAFOs to have discharge
> permits to guard against the manure spill dangers inherent to operations
> with large, concentrated waste volumes. The state of Michigan, however,
> refuses to provide the pollution prevention and public health protection
> that comes with discharge permits. Instead, it relies on voluntary,
> unenforceable guidelines in the Right to Farm Act to encourage proper
> siting, construction, and management of animal waste handling facilities.
> Michigan public interest and environmental groups are working with
> hundreds of rural residents across Michigan for property rights fairness
> and environmental justice.
> For more information on:
> - How the Michigan Right to Farm Act Fails Farmers and the Environment
> (report)
> - Michigan's violation of Clean Water Act provisions re. CAFOS (petition)
> - how Senate Bill 205 (now Public Act 261 of 1999) disables rural zoning
> agriculture,
> go to:
> *************************************
> Patty Cantrell
> Public Trust Alliance Project Manager
> P.O. Box 228, 845 Michigan Ave.
> Benzonia, MI 49616
> www.mlui.org
> tel: 231-882-4723 ext. 18
> fax: 231-882-7350
> e-mail: patty@mlui.org
> ==============================================================
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