Collecting Water Samples at Bodega Head

As part of an effort to establish a baseline for radiation levels in the ocean off the coast of northern California, we have been collecting water samples at Bodega Head for several years. This week Gary and Linda Hlady joined Richard and Linda Speel to collect five gallons of sea water that we send to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution where Ken Buesseler performs the analysis and publishes the results at

You can support this project by visiting Woods Hole’s Bodega Head page.

Letter from Michael O’Gorman

I spent much of my life working on the US/Mexican border. Twenty years ago this month I would spend my mornings growing lettuce in Yuma, Arizona, my afternoons farming cherry tomatoes right over the border in San Luis Rio Colorado and my evenings back in Yuma, repacking tomatoes that came up each day from our farm in Sinaloa.

Feeding America its vegetables was a joint venture between two nations and two people. This picture here was a few years earlier in El Centro, California. That year one of the fields I farmed in Holtville was literally on the south side of the border. The fence, which was there at the time, took a detour around it, with both sides agreeing it should stay in the hands of the American family that farmed it with the help of his Mexican workers.

For years my workers in Salinas Valley and the Central Valley would travel freely home each year after the harvest was done, eager to get back to the family, the pueblo and the weeks of holiday festivities. If they finished the year in good standing they went home wearing a nice company jacket and a letter from me saying there was a job waiting for them when they came back in the spring. Over time, things changed. It became so costly and dangerous to cross the border that those on this side stopped going home. Men with wives and young children in Mexico drifted away and found new women and lives here.

Then there was the time around 1999, when I was farming full-time in Mexico, and a woman literally threw herself at me, begging that I keep her husband employed all winter or he would have to go north and leave her and their six young children. As much as I tried, I could not employ everyone who needed it. She came back a month later, asking if I could pay to bring home his body; he had died on the long trek through the desert.

I am not writing here to argue, or start an argument, about immigration or building a wall. I would have to write a much longer piece than this to explain just some of its complexities. But I do know that the people from Mexico that worked for me on both sides of the border were the kindest, noblest, hardest working people one could ever meet and none of us would have what we have on our plates tonight without them.

Michael O’Gorman
January 25, 2017

SOA Watch to Converge on the U.S. Mexico Border from October 7-10, 2016

Farms Not Arms is endorsing the SOA Watch Convergence at the Border and we encourage you to join the October 7-10 vigils, protests and workshops at the Eloy Detention Center, in Tucson, and in Nogales, Arizona/ Sonora at the border wall. Visit the convergence webpage for more information: 
It is important that we have a strong showing of activists from throughout the U.S. and Mexico in the lead-up to the November elections. We are going to take a stand for justice and demand fundamental change in US policies that goes beyond elections. Come out and amplify the demands of the convergence:

  • An end to the destructive U.S. military, economic, and political interventions in the Americas.
  • De-militarization of the borders. We need to build bridges with our neighbors, not walls.
  • The dismantling of the racist and sexist systems that steal from, criminalize, and kill migrants, refugees, natives, gender non-conforming people, communities of color, and others throughout the hemisphere.
  • Respect, dignity, justice and self-determination for all communities, especially the poor and most vulnerable
  • No more profits over people! Private military, prison, oil, mining, and other corporations should not determine our future or that of the earth, the people should.

For the full schedule of October 7-10 events, visit

Win a Geiger Counter!

Fukushima Response

Win an Inspector Alert ?
& help fund a regional monitoring project ?
win-win either way !

Print out the pdf Flyer for full details here:–Final.pdf

It’s easy to enter by mail (sorry, no online option) pdf Flyer comes with plenty of tickets…

Fukushima Response Treasurer Jude Mion will enter your mailed in tickets – as many as you fill out & send us – when your check is received

Winner will be notified immediately – pls write your contact info clearly…

Drawing in Petaluma on November 10th will be video recorded & fb posted here:


Learn – Measure – Avoid the invisible dragon… including Dai-ichi

Federal Dysfunction Opens Door to “Monsanto Protection Act”


Monsanto Hitches a Ride on Must-Pass Budget Bill

By Patty Lovera

If there is one thing you can count on with this Congress, it’s drama over money. The month of March has seen plenty of funding fights, with sequestration in the beginning of the month and an ugly process to prevent a federal government shutdown at the end.

One of the many problems with operating this way is how many opportunities for mischief stop_monsanto_p_act_350are available when Congress is dealing with a huge package of “must pass” legislation. That’s exactly what happened last week when Congress passed a “continuing resolution” to fund the federal government for the rest of the year (the President signed it into law this week). This continuing resolution was necessary because Congress did not complete the normal process for setting budgets for federal agencies and the government has been running on an extension of the previous year’s budget that was about to run out.

Besides keeping the government open, the continuing resolution also contained two terrible “riders” that do more than set funding levels – they also change how USDA operates. The first stops USDA from enforcing contract fairness rules for contract poultry growers, allowing big chicken companies to continue to treat them unfairly. Food & Water Watch and hundreds of farm groups worked to include these vital provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill to protect farmers from unfair and deceptive practices by meatpacking and poultry companies.

Read the whole article . . . 

Foodopoly and Farmers

At the 33rd Annual Eco-Farm Conference, Jan. 23-26, 2013, Wenonah Hauter gave a plenary presentation based on her book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America.

Wenonah Hauter is Executive Director, Food and Water Watch, Washington DC

Hauter’s main theme, and one of the main themes of the entire conference, was that “it is critical for the food movement to become more political and help build the power to hold elected officials accountable” (Eco-Farm conference booklet p 27). We have been “voting with our forks” for some time now, and it has made a substantial difference, but if we want to make the big changes that will make our food systems sustainable and make clean, healthy food available to all, we will need to become more politically organized.

Michael Pollan expressed the same idea in a recent New York Times Magazine article entitled “Vote for the Dinner Party,”, and a recent book from Food First, entitled Food Movements Unite! extends the argument to the entire globe, where roughly the same conflicts are going on between large corporate or, in some cases, sovereign investors on the one hand, and local, small or medium sized, usually more sustainable farmers who are being undermined and put out of business by the conglomerates.

We need to build political power to change the structure of our food system, said Hauter. The USDA claims there are two million US farms, but Hauter says that is a BIG exaggeration. There are many fewer. One third of those two million have annual sales less than $1,000, and two thirds are under $10,000. They count hobbyists and part time farmers, people who should not be counted. There are actually under one million full-time farmers using their own labor. Eighty percent of these get government subsidies that keep them afloat, often just barely. Even small and middle size farmers don’t make it without the government. Farm income averages $19,000, and the subsidies are half of that! Most farm households need off-farm income to survive. This is NOT a fair market. Farmers pay more for their inputs than they get out of their crop.

PepsiCo is the Number One food company, Hauter said, worth $64 billion, and it made $6.4 billion in profit last year. Then she asked everyone to stand up—there were several hundred people in the hall–and then said “Sit if you have eaten any of the following,” and proceeded to read off a list of at least a couple dozen PepsiCo products. After two or three, most everyone had sat down (despite the fact that we were all organic and clean food advocates), but she went on reading. Only one man stood at the end, and most of us thought he was kidding. Point made. [Besides Pepsi, PepsiCo owns the brands FritoLay, Tropicana (including Dole), Quaker, and Gatorade, and all the products under those brands. A more complete list is available at ]

These big corporations benefit from government subsidies, said Hauter, and it is easy to say just end the subsidies, but we need to look deeper. You can’t just end the subsidies because lots of people depend on them after 17 years of an evolving program. The subsidies are a band-aid on an ailing system. The deeper problem is that the food corporations who buy up the food cheap simply don’t pay a reasonable price for the food they use.

Iowa farmer George Naylor gets more specific about the question of subsidies in a 2006 Mother Jones interview.

“Well, the number one thing is farm policy that fails to put a floor under farm prices. A farm bill should act much like a minimum wage. The bottom rung of the whole structure is the production of protein, carbohydrates and oil. If farmers aren’t going to get some sort of minimum price for them, they’re going to be out doing whatever they can to produce more of them, which will only make prices lower. But at the same time, when the prices go very low, purchasers of these products—like Cargill, Tyson, ADM and Smithfield—get to buy them very cheap. And then they can feed industrial livestock very cheaply and basically take over most of the livestock production.”

Seed prices have also been rising precipitously, and not just GMO seeds, said Hauter. Farmers must sell into a concentrated market, with a few big corporate buyers, where there is not much room for a farmer to negotiate a price, so prices are driven down. So you can’t just de-subsidize, because you would drive a lot of farmers out of business, and then corporate agribusinesses would come along and gobble them up and just get bigger. We’ve gotta make more change than that.

During the New Deal years [1933-36], the US government created measures to deal with the periodic overproduction of commodity crops such as corn, wheat, and cotton, and the resulting precipitous drop in prices to the farmer, which was putting farmers out of business by the thousands. They set a floor under grain prices, created reserves to buy the extra production in bumper years and release it in leaner years, and introduced conservation measures to induce farmers to take their most sensitive lands out of production. This assured that the farmer would get a decent price for his or her work, that food would be affordable even during years of poor harvest, and that we would avoid further disasters like the American “dust bowl” of the 1930s, so graphically depicted in the Ken Burns documentary, that spawned some of these measures.

These programs were all attacked as “socialist.”  Large capitalist investors wanted people to leave the farms and move into the cheap manufacturing labor force, while making the farms bigger and more “efficient.” Over the years, Congress has managed to chip away at the New Deal programs, and had virtually eliminated these measures by the Clinton administration. The 1996 “Freedom to Farm” bill is often called “Freedom to Fail” by farmers. This took the government completely out of the process and deregulated the commodities markets. Prices dropped precipitously. So the Government, in order to keep some of these farmers in business, invented subsidies, using taxpayer money to grow commodities [which now include soybeans and canola]. This situation is now virtually permanent. Only the grain traders, in the end, benefit from the system. They get to buy cheap, while taxpayers reimburse the farmers, but not enough to help them prosper. The availability of cheap grains and beans creates confined animal feeding operations [CAFOs], which in turn allows much more grain and beans to be grown to feed the animals.

The farmer receives 2-3 cents of every dollar spent on a bag of chips, Hauter reported, while 98 cents goes to the food companies. Ninety percent of the food budget of Americans goes for processed food. Tastes become habituated, enhanced by advertising. While there are thousands of products, in terms of the actual food substances involved, there is very little diversity in the American diet; a few companies make most of the products, using a few ubiquitous ingredients. American kids see 5000 food ads a year on TV, most of them for junk. Four conglomerates control the bulk of the American food market. One dollar of every three spent for food in America goes to WalMart, a $400 billion+ company that made 40 billion in profit last year, and the Walton family holds as much wealth as the bottom 40% of Americans!

Even the organic food market is largely controlled by large companies. Most of the smaller original organic companies have been bought out by larger non-organic companies, to fill their “niche” markets. And in the organic retail sector, Whole Foods dominates; they bought out most of their competitors. UNFI has no competitors in the natural and organic food distribution world; they drive local coops out of business. UNFI made 18% profit last year. They should be subject to anti-trust laws, said Hauter, but Reagan’s people eviscerated the anti-trust laws.

We need a longer-term vision, said Hauter. We need to break up the foodopoly. We can’t let a few companies control our food. We need to fight for the food system we want. We need anti-trust enforcement. We can “vote with our fork,” but we must also vote with our vote and hold these companies responsible. We need to demand anti-trust enforcement on food companies, and control the biotech industry. Fifteen states now have GMO labeling campaigns, she said. We need to stay politically active.