Roundup: Don’t Lose That Number

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"The consumer is being hoodwinked; the farmer is being jerked around," says North Carolina poultry farmer Craig Watts in this video produced by animal welfare organization CompassionUSA. Watts also spoke out in 2010 as part of the DOJ and Ag investigation of the meat-packing industry.  

The Perdue contract chicken farmer who allowed an animal welfare organization to videotape bad conditions on his farm was also part of a hearing in 2010 when poultry farmers complained to the Departments of Justice and Agriculture about the lack of enforcement of antitrust regulation of the meat industry.

Carig Watts, an eastern North Carolina poultry farmer, says he testified in the 2010 hearing in Alabama that involved Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The hearing and others like it, which examined whether giant meat-packing corporations were engaging in anti-competitive behavior, have not resulted in action from the federal government.

Last week, Watts was part of a video (see above) produced by CompassionUSA that showed conditions on Watts’ poultry farm. Watts allowed the organization to shoot footage on his farm to expose inhumane conditions, he said. The footage shows dead chickens and birds with sores and broken limbs. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof also wrote a piece about Watts’ farm and the video.

Watts said the bad conditions were caused by the contract requirements of Perdue, which markets chicken as humanely raised.  A Perdue spokeswoman said the poor conditions were Watts’ fault.

After the video was released, Perdue ordered an audit of Watts’ farm. Watts said that move was retaliatory. Perdue said it was part of ensuring that the chickens were being raised properly.

Watts said in a tweet that back in 2010, when the Obama administration was investigating the meat-packing industry, he testified at a hearing in Huntsville, Alabama. That hearing included testimony from farmers who said poultry corporations engaged in anti-competitive behavior. At that hearing, Vilsack said, “The public needs to know what you know,” according to the Huntsville Times.

Farmers who testified also said they feared retaliation from large poultry corporations for speaking out, the Huntsville Times reported. A federal representative challenged that assertion:

"I fully expect you will not experience retaliation," U.S. Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney told Staples in a voice almost challenging that response. Then she handed Staples a piece of paper.

"But if you do, call me at that number."

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Rural Minnesotans helped swing control of the state Legislature to Republicans. What will rural Minnesotans get in return?

At first blush, it looks like Republican leadership may try to repay the favor without opening the purse strings, says Lori Sturdevant, a Star Tribune editorial writer, in an opinion column.

Can House Republicans buy love in Greater Minnesota on the cheap? And will they try, after learning Thursday that expected state revenues now exceed expected spending by a cool $1 billion through June 2017?

Business leaders have their eyes on more funding for broadband and local government assistance.

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Energy companies have organized a quiet alliance with state attorneys general around the nation who are challenging environmental protections proposed by the Obama administration. The story by Eric Lipton at the New York Times says:

Out of public view, corporate representatives and attorneys general are coordinating legal strategy and other efforts to fight federal regulations, according to a review of thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews.

Critics of the system say that the attorneys general are getting contributions from energy companies in return for their cooperation with the national effort to impede environmental regulations.

The enterprise story also details the development of the Rule of Law campaign:

That campaign, in which attorneys general band together to operate like a large national law firm, has been used to back lawsuits and other challenges against the Obama administration on environmental issues, the Affordable Care Act and securities regulation. The most recent target is the president’s executive action on immigration.

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The fight over net neutrality has split civil-rights groups, according to a New York Times story. Could contributions from communications corporations have anything to do with it?

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And finally, Grantland has a long piece about cheating in the sport of competitive bass fishing.

“Why do fishermen cheat?” Ray Scott asks me. He’s sitting in his office at Presidents Lake, the 55-acre private lake he has built near his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, nearly 50 years after he organized that first tournament. “He wants to stand bigger and taller than the other boys he knows, that’s why.”

 

 

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