Sierra Club calls pork bailout a classic case of corporate welfare

US Government gives millions of tax dollars to agribusiness giants. Again.

provided by Sierra Club

he Sierra Club denounced the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) announcement that the agency intends to buy $50 million worth of pork as a classic case of corporate welfare.

"Corporate hogs are feeding at the public trough," declared Ken Midkiff, Director of the Missouri Sierra Club. "It is shameful that the USDA and other government agencies give giant agribusiness corporations millions and millions of taxpayer dollars that result in a market glut of hogs, and then invest many millions more to bail them out."

In recent years, large corporations have established massive hog operations throughout the country with equally massive subsidies and financial assistance by all levels of government. These huge facilities have, in turn, glutted the market with hogs resulting in historically-low market prices. In the process, the air, land and water around the facilities have been seriously fouled by harmful pollutants. This industry bailout comes at the request of the National Pork Producer's Council, one of the primary advocates for corporate hog interests in America.

"USDA should be directing aid to family farmers and independent producers, as they are the ones who have really been harmed, and in some cases, literally run out of business," continued Midkiff. "But this is pork barrel spending at its worst."

In key states such as North Carolina, Iowa and Missouri, family farmers have been forced out of the hog business because they are unable to sustain the below-cost prices. The corporate swine operations with giant companies Seaboard, Murphy's, and Continental Grain leading the way have received hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer-provided subsidies in gaining this market control.

"This display of corporate welfare stinks," said Midkiff. "It stinks almost as bad as the giant hog factories themselves."

The Sierra Club and other environmental organizations have aligned with family farm groups and rural communities throughout the country to rein in this takeover. Environmentalists and rural residents are alarmed by pollution entering local streams, rivers, lakes and estuaries, and by the overwhelming stench emanating from operations with 2,500 to 250,000 hogs.

A recent Time magazine series documented the government largesse flowing into the corporate hog operations. ("The Empire of Pigs" Time, November 30, 1998.) The authors used as an example Seaboard, Inc., an agribusiness with annual revenues of $1.8 billion with operations in places ranging from Ecuador, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kansas, to Haiti. Seaboard has received more than $100 million in subsidies, incentives, government-backed bonds, and grants from municipalities, counties, states, and the US Department of Agriculture.