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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

August, 2005

 

Groups Decry New PBS Series Funded by Big Ag
Letters to All PBS Station Managers Warn of Bias
By Submission

[New York, NY] - A group of nearly 70 organizations concerned about the undue influence of corporate agriculture on public television sent letters to every public television station manager registering their concern about a new television series - America's Heartland - that is being funded by the Monsanto Company, the American Farm Bureau Federation and several other groups associated with large-scale industrial agriculture. The 20-part series, being offered to PBS stations for airing this fall, is billed as "a celebration of America's agricultural heritage" and will feature a dynamic website with links directly to the sites of major agribusiness sponsors. Bob Vice, retired president of the California Farmers Bureau and former member of the executive committee of the American Farm Bureau Federation, serves as a program consultant.
"Public television has lost its soul if it can be so easily bought and sold by corporate agribusiness," lamented Alice Slater, president of GRACE (the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment), the group spearheading the letter campaign. "For decades, Americans have relied on public television to give us the full story about issues that affect us all. The full story of America's agricultural heritage includes the many communities devastated by large-scale factory farms that pollute the air and water, blight the countryside and crush America's struggling family farmers. For a growing number of American families, industrial agribusiness is nothing to be celebrated. Every week, the United States loses more than 300 independent family farmers, while nearly 62 percent of the nation's agricultural production is now concentrated in the hands industrial farms representing only 3 percent of America's farmers."
According to the letters, "policies promoted by Monsanto and the American Farm Bureau, if successful, will place the US food supply into the hands of a few major corporations. This would devastate independent family farmers who will be priced out of the market not because they can't compete, but because corporate farms are specifically structured to capture government subsidies."
"American Farm Bureau works hand-in-hand with corporate agriculture," said Chris Petersen, President of Iowa Farmers Union, one of the groups that signed on to the GRACE letter. Petersen, who raises hogs near Clear Lake, nearly lost his farm when an industrial facility moved in nearby and priced him out of the market. "Farm Bureau is really just a huge insurance agency masquerading as a farmers' interest group. Farm Bureau sells insurance to struggling farmers, and then turns around and invests its assets in corporate facilities that are putting those same farmers out of business. This PBS series may be its latest attempt to sell the American people a pile of manure and conceal the truth about how industrial agriculture is devastating America's rural communities."
The GRACE letter warns PBS station managers that there is a growing backlash in both rural areas and urban and consumer markets against the practices advocated by Monsanto and Farmers Bureau and that America's Heartland may be part of a "strategy to silence this backlash by making American consumers think that corporate farming practices are harmless and inevitable."
"It appears that the series will only tell a small part of the story," said Slater. "By omitting any information about the negative effects of industrial agriculture on rural landscapes and economies, we fear that the series will distort the true story of America's struggling heartland. It's a sin of omission."
As alternatives to America's Heartland, the letters recommend five other programs that the groups say present a broader perspective on the state of rural agriculture. According to the letters, "there is another side to this story and the public deserves to hear it."


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