Over the past decades the organization of the entire world food supply from farm to consumers has been reorganized into a globalized distribution known as agribusiness. With most of the world in lockdown over the fears of spread of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19, that global food supply chain is in danger of catastrophic breakdown. The consequences of that would dwarf deaths by coronavirus by orders of magnitude. Yet governments seem oblivious.
The imposition of unprecedented mass quarantine, school and restaurant closings, factory closings across most of the world is putting the focus on the alarming vulnerability of what is a global food supply chain to severe breakdown. Before the lockdown an estimated 60% of all food consumed in the United States today was consumed outside the home. That includes in restaurants, fast food places, schools, in university cafeterias, company cafeterias and the like. That has now been all but shut since March, creating huge disruptions to what had been a well-organized supply chain delivery. Large restaurants or company cafeterias receive supplies of everything from butter to meat in entirely different volumes and packing than a retail supermarket. A major vulnerability exists in the mammoth agribusiness concentrations known as CAFOs or Concentrated Agriculture Feeding Organizations.
CAFOs At Risk
On April 12, one of the largest pork processing plants in the USA, Smithfield Foods, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, announced it would close indefinitely after several hundred of its 3,700 employees tested positive for coronavirus, COVID-19. The closing of that one plant will impact some 5% of US pork supply. Smithfields Foods is one of the world’s largest agribusiness concentrations….
These three giant corporate conglomerates, then, control more than two thirds of the total meat and poultry protein supply of the United States and additionally supply major exports to the rest of the world. That is a concentration which is alarmingly dangerous as we are beginning to see. Whatever coronavirus test results, they are huge cesspools of toxins that workers are exposed to. Covid-19 tests would indicate positive for such toxic infections as well as they do not directly test presence of any virus, merely of antibodies claimed to indicate COVID-19.
This unhealthy degree of concentration was not always so. It began as a strategic project of Nelson Rockefeller and the Rockefeller Foundation after World War II. The idea was to create a corporate strictly-for-profit vertical integration and cartelization of the food chain as John D. Rockefeller had done with Standard Oil and petroleum. Rockefeller money funded two Harvard Business School professors. John H. Davis, former Assistant Agriculture Secretary under Eisenhower, and Ray Goldberg, both at Harvard Business School got financing from Rockefellers to develop what they named “agribusiness.” In a 1956 Harvard Business Review article, Davis wrote that “the only way to solve the so-called farm problem once and for all, and avoid cumbersome government programs, is to progress from agriculture to agribusiness.” iv
The Harvard group was part of a Rockefeller Foundation four-year project in cooperation with economist Wassily Leontieff called “Economic Research Project on the Structure of the American Economy.” Ray Goldberg, an ardent proponent of GMO crops, later referred to their Harvard agribusiness project as, “changing our global economy and society more dramatically than any other single event in the history of mankind.” v Unfortunately, he may have been not all wrong.
In fact what it has done is to put control of our food into a tiny handful of global private conglomerates in which the traditional family farmer has all but become a contract wage employee or bankrupted entirely. In the USA today some industrial cattle feedlots hold up to 200,000 cattle at a time driven by one thing, and one thing only, and that is economic efficiency. According to USDA statistics, the number of cow/calf ranch operations in the US has dropped from 1.6 million in 1980 to less than 950,000 today. Similarly, the number of small farmer/feeders – those who fatten the cattle in preparation for eventual slaughter – has declined by 38,000. Today fewer than 2,000 commercial feeders finish 87 percent of the cattle grown in the United States….