To Communicate or Not to Communicate

I have read articles in many poultry magazines stressing the importance of communication between producers and integrators in the poultry industry. It is obvious that these writers have never raised poultry for an integrator. I am a poultry producer in South Arkansas where there is only one integrator, ConAgra.

It is difficult to communicate with integrators when they are in total control of writing the contracts. Producers have no input into the contracts. Integrators present the contract to a grower and he must sign it or poultry will not be placed on his farm. Even though the contract may be signed for a one year or ten year duration it is only valid from one flock to the next. There is no guarantee that he will receive more flocks.

I have found that if a producer is a member of an organization, such as the Contract Poultry Grower's Association, has been outspoken or antagonized the company officials in some way, his out-time can be longer (up to 3 weeks for him and only 5-10 days for others), chickens can be poorer, feed and feed deliveries can be inferior, and the number of flocks he receives will be less (he will receive 5 flocks per year whereas the other growers receive 6 flocks). If he attends an integrator/grower function he has to be alert to whether or not his name is entered in the prize drawings. I have witnessed name tickets being put into pockets of those in charge ("give me your ticket and I'll put it into the box for you"). It now appears that the members of the organization are selling the same week so that they can be controlled.

A grower loses from 2 to 15% of his baby chicks the first 7 days because the company does not cull the chicks at the hatchery, but he is still charged 15 cents per bird and the company will not discuss doing anything about it. A grower is given 100-200 extra birds per house per flock depending on the age of the breeder hens. This helps slightly, but not enough to make much difference in the pay.

A major concern among growers is the cost of the disposal of dead birds. Some integrators provide freezers, others offer nothing (ConAgra among those). Disposal is extremely expensive or destructive to the environment if it is not done properly. Composting does not work unless it is a college-operated farm and have thousands of dollars in equipment and a number of people to take care of it

I have expressed my opinion to my integrator regarding various concerns. This only hurts me in my ranking because they can manipulate chickens, feed, etc. to make or break me. I've been told that this is not done, but it will have to be proved to me. Is this communication?

152 Hummingbird Lane
El Dorado, Ar 71730
e-mail gstocks@arkansas.net

Vegetarians Aren't Silly

It never fails to amaze me how important my ethical consistency became to virtually everyone I know the minute I stopped eating meat. I am a vegan now, but like most people I didn't get there in one step. Until I actually did it, it seemed like it would be hard. It's not. But anyway, while I agree with Pam Saunders ["In Defense of Meat: Guilty Free Choices," 6/98 Progressive Populist] that from a humane or environmental standpoint dairy is as bad as, or worse than, meat, I would hardly call people who have gotten as far as quitting meat but not dairy either "silly" or "irresponsible." At worst, inconsistent. But probably just imperfect, like most of the rest of us. Even vegans can't live completely innocently upon the earth, they just try to live as lightly as they can. Justifying meat because you eat dairy is like beating your children because you beat your wife. Personally, I'll take inconsistency.

As for justifying meat by the fact that it makes use of land only good for grazing -- while it is true that animals can make use of land that can't be cultivated, do we really have to turn every square inch of the planet to the use of making food for people? Maybe some of that land could be left to wildlife. What a concept! And then we wouldn't have to kill the wolves and coyotes for killing the cows, or the bison for supposedly giving them brucellosis, or the prairie dogs for tripping them, or the wild horses for eating their grass, etc, etc. Land that's not producing human food isn't useless, it's just useful for someone else.

I do applaud Ms. Saunders' rejection of factory farming and her respect for veganism. She is obviously a thoughtful person who has considered the ethical questions raised by her profession. That is admirable. But it still doesn't work. Why settle for organic meat when you can be vegan?

Very truly yours,


Glad to have Known Charlie

My wife and I were deeply saddened to read about Charlie Wilson's death in the June 1998 Progressive Populist. We have been subscribers for about 3 years, and when Charlie's articles began to appear, they became the first thing we read each month. We were also pleasantly surprised to discover he could be found in Heavener, Oklahoma, about 200 miles north of here. The stories were particularly meaningful to me, since I grew up in Fort Smith, Arkansas, about 50 miles north of Heavener.

We dropped in to meet Charlie last year, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, on our way back from visiting friends in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. He was everything we hoped he would be, and more. He was having coffee with three or four men about his age in overalls. We got a tour of his photo collection on the walls, and discussed the sad state of politics since the religious right took over the Oklahoma congressional delegation. We told Charlie we admired his writing, and were dedicated, die-hard, populist Democrats. His eyes lighted up as he smiled.

As we left, we told him we would plan to drop by every time we went through Heavener on our way to Sallisaw, two or three times a year, and were looking forward to seeing him again. We sent him a Christmas card. I just wish we would have gone up a little earlier in the year.

I can't say anything that would top the eulogy you printed by Frosty Troy, who by the way was one of Charlie's proudest photos on the wall. We too, will miss you Charlie, and hope to some day see you in Heaven instead of Heavener.

SF-8 Lake Cherokee
Henderson, Texas 75652
Email jhinkle@tyler.net

Editor's Note: We still have a few of his old columns that we can reprint. See page 23.

Scrap Social Security

The recent public forums on the fate of Social Security are a historic opportunity to make substantive changes in a program that was flawed from the onset, and has an even dimmer future.

Rather than make changes that are mainly punitive, such as raising the retirement age, diminishing benefits, and increasing FICA taxes, a major overhaul is necessary. The program should be gradually phased out and replaced with the Roth IRA, a great investment vehicle recently passed by Congress.

This would allow individuals to be in charge of their retirement program, and with employer's also contributing assets, would provide workers far greater returns and retirement package. This would hold true even with conservative Treasury bills as investments.

Of course this is an anathema for those that believe in a strong central activist womb-to-tomb government and those that believe in such New Deal programs, but for most working people of all economic levels, Social Security is a raw deal. That is why support is crumbling, particularly with younger wage earners.

2229 So. 88th St.
Omaha, NE 68124

Try Semisocialism

The people -- or "sheeple" -- have been brainwashed and conditioned to believe that the present socioeconomic system is the ultimate that can ever be, particularly because they have also been conditioned to believe that "the dreaded communism" is the only alternative to the free-market economy. This tunnel vision clouds their minds, preventing them from conceiving of escape-route systems capable of liberating them from these two extremes. Thus, the corporate-owned media bears negligible resistance in its national propaganda campaign of: "If you can't find your pot of gold, it's your fault, not the system's." If there is ever to be peace and tranquillity on Earth, humanity must evolve to a new level of existence -- an administrative and economic system which protects the environment and gives the comfort and security of the all a higher priority than the luxury and gluttony of the few.

I am at odds with the capitalist system. It has wreaked havoc on the earth and decimated the spirit of man. But I could also never advocate constrictive communism, which diminishes the entrepreneurial spirit and suffocates individualism. Therefore, in order to offer to humanity my version of an evolved mode of existence, I have taken the best of both worlds and combined them into a hybrid which does indeed secure the welfare of the earth and the people, yet which grants the people prosperity and a standard of living which continuously rises -- a hybrid which I have named "semisocialism."

"Semisocialism," as I define it, is: the socialist distribution of the essential resources and services and the capitalist of free-market distribution of the nonessentials or luxuries. Capitalism is good, but only as a secondary economy, never a primary one. Through government, the people should ensure that life's necessities are first distributed equitably among the citizenry before capitalism is allowed to enter the arena and pit man against man over that which is left.

Under semisocialism, land is distributed equitably, and essential services are socialized -- such as health care and all levels of education. The government raises revenue by selling sustenance, raw resources, utilities, public transportation, and postal services to the public at a surcharged (taxed) rate. The people then purchase them and may consume or commercially exploit them on land which they shall control tax-free for life while never ever having to deal with the headaches of tax management.

Government's function -- opposite corporate function -- is then to use technological innovation to lower the cost of these commodities and services as much as possible while granting the citizenry a continuously rising standard of living along with greater commercial prosperity. In essence, the government keeps the cost of these necessities down while the people prosper heavily in luxuries. The cycle feeds itself as more commercial profitability equals more purchases from government equals more money for money-saving technological innovations equals more money for the people, etc., etc.

For those who fear government control of land, commodities, and services, just look what corporate control has done. Remember: Government is the people.

If you want to see literature describing the semisocialist system in detail, write:

500 Exitor St.
Bluefield, WV 24701

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