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Anna Ghosh, 415-293-9905, aghosh(at)fwwatch(dot)org
California's processed fruit and vegetable industry shrank dramatically after 1992 as a raft of new international trade deals and consolidation swept the industry.
California's processed fruit and vegetable industry shrank dramatically after 1992 as a raft of new international trade deals and consolidation swept the industry. A new report released today by consumer group Food & Water Watch documents that California farmers who sold fruits and vegetables to canneries and freezing plants in the decades following had fewer buyers, and that the prices they received fell dramatically as imported processed produce -- often from the same companies that formerly owned plants in California -- competed head-to-head with domestic production.
"Americans are eating the same amount of processed produce, but more and more of it is imported," said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. "American companies have consolidated and moved many of their plants offshore to chase sweatshop labor and lax environmental rules, and the losers are American farmers, workers and consumers."
Although California produces three-fifths of the frozen and canned fruits and vegetables in the United States, consumers are eating a growing share of imported processed produce. Food & Water Watch's report, The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies, found that the imported share of domestic consumption of a dozen California-grown processed produce crops (including canned peaches, processed tomatoes and frozen spinach) more than doubled from 4.9 percent in 1993 to 12.3 percent in 2007. But despite conventional wisdom that these imports have benefited consumers, average prices for canned and frozen fruits and vegetables (as measured by the consumer price index) increased 30 percent between 1998 and 2007.
International trade mechanisms like the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization facilitated both rising imports and the offshoring of manufacturing plants. The volume of imported processed tomatoes tripled from 1993 to 2007, and the price that farmers received for processing tomatoes dropped 17.1 percent from 1993 to 2006. The flood of imports and low prices ultimately pushed many farmers out of business. Processed tomato acreage in California dropped from a peak of 310,000 acres in 2000 to 275,000 acres in 2007, and 18 percent of farms that grew processing tomatoes disappeared between 2002 and 2007.
"Farmers cannot stay afloat under a tidal wave of low-priced imported processed fruits and vegetables," said California Farmers Union President Joaquin Contente. "Today, fewer processing plants buy California-grown fruits and vegetables, which means that the prices paid to California farmers for these crops continue to decline."
Food & Water Watch's analysis found that the increased consumption of imports reduces demand for California-grown and processed fruits and vegetables. This reduces the economic multipliers generated from farmers buying supplies and workers spending their paychecks throughout the Central Valley. The number of large freezing and canning plants in California fell by 12.7 percent between 1992 and 2007, the number of workers at these plants fell by 6,300 (26.4 percent) and the real earnings of these workers dropped by $231 million, in inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars.
This examination of the California processed fruit and vegetable industry was part of a multi-sector examination of the cost of economic consolidation in the U.S. food and agriculture system. Other sectors and regions included the Iowa hog industry; the milk processing and dairy farming in upstate New York; poultry production on Maryland's Eastern Shore; and organic soymilk production and organic soybean farming.
"The consolidation of the food and farm sector is sucking the economic vitality out of rural America and shipping it off to Wall Street," said Hauter. "These findings shine a much-needed light on the negative economic impact that farm and agribusiness monopolies have on farmers, consumers and rural communities."
A copy of the report, The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies, can be downloaded here: https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/reports/the-economic-cost-of-food-monopolies/
Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.(202) 683-2500
A victim of the mass shooting in Half Moon Bay, California told Gov. Gavin Newsom that he wanted to leave the hospital as quickly as possible to avoid high medical costs.
An anecdote told by California Gov. Gavin Newsom at a press conference on the mass shooting in Half Moon Bay—the second such appearance he made in two days, following another deadly shooting in Monterey Park—encapsulated the United States' twin crises of economic injustice and rampant gun violence, said advocates on Monday.
The Democratic governor told the press that while visiting a man who'd been injured in the shooting at two farms in the Bay Area city, the victim said he was hoping to leave the hospital quickly to avoid high medical bills.
"He said, 'Hey, Governor, thanks for being here but when am I gonna get the hell out of here?'" Newsom said. "His leg was shattered by the gunfire. He goes, 'I can't afford to spend any more time here, I don't have the money."
"How many people are shot and then face massive medical debt? How much revenue and profit do hospitals generate via shootings? Perversity through and through."
The man's mother and son later arrived and told Newsom they were "worried he's going to lose his job at a warehouse the next day unless he can go back to work."
Politico reporter Lara Korte relayed the governor's comments on social media, eliciting numerous responses in which critics—including advocates for Medicare for All and strict gun control—said the post represented "the United States of America in one tweet."
\u201cThe United States of America in one tweet: Get shot in a mass shooting, go to hospital, try and leave early because the debt would kill you instead. Complete and utter perversity.\u201d— Christian Christensen (@Christian Christensen) 1674659567
"This is the most American tweet of all time," added progressive commentator Kyle Kulinski.
The shooting in Half Moon Bay was one of dozens of shootings since 2023 began just over three weeks ago. Along with the shooting in Monterey Park last Saturday and the shooting of a family in Enoch, Utah on January 4, it was one of the deadliest attacks so far.
Dr. Adam Gaffney, an intensive care unit doctor and former president of Physicians for a National Health Program, called Newsom's story "a gut-wrenching indictment of our healthcare system."
Dania Palanker, an assistant research professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy, noted that the costs associated with being one of the millions of Americans who will survive gun violence in their lifetime are an often-overlooked consequence of the Republican Party's obstruction as the vast majority of Americans call for stricter gun control.
\u201cI can go on and on about various services or goods that aren\u2019t typically covered by insurance as well as those that are often inadequately covered (like mental health care & wheelchairs).\nhttps://t.co/sKrpOFto9v\u201d— Dania Palanker (@Dania Palanker) 1674611579
As CNNreported in December, one insured survivor of the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs received a bill for $130,000, while another person who was among the 27.5 million Americans who lack health insurance was billed $20,000 for spending a night in the emergency room where doctors stitched a bullet wound in his leg.
The Journal of the American Medical Associationpublished a study last May showing that the average initial hospital charge for mass shooting survivors between 2012 and 2019 was nearly $65,000 per person.
"How many people are shot and then face massive medical debt?" asked physician and anthropologist Eric Reinhart. "How much revenue and profit do hospitals generate via shootings? Perversity through and through."
"Instead of buying back their own stock, UP should be investing in their employees by offering paid sick leave, reasonable schedules, and a better quality of life for railroaders," said one union president.
Union Pacific, one of the largest rail corporations in the United States, said Tuesday that it brought in record revenue and profits last year as it successfully fought off workers' push for paid sick leave.
The company reported $7 billion in net income for 2022 as a whole and said it spent a whopping $6.3 billion repurchasing its own shares—significantly more than the $4.6 billion it spent on employee pay and benefits last year.
“Instead of buying back their own stock, UP should be investing in their employees by offering paid sick leave, reasonable schedules, and a better quality of life for railroaders," Ed Hall, the newly elected president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, told CNN on Tuesday. "This is the only way the railroad will be able to solve their recruitment and retention problems and keep the trains running."
Union Pacific was one of the major rail carriers involved in White House-brokered contract talks late last year that produced an agreement without any guaranteed paid sick days, rejecting a central demand of rail workers.
Labor unions representing a majority of U.S. rail workers rejected the proposed agreement and threatened to strike, but Congress intervened in the long-simmering contract dispute in December to impose the White House-backed deal on employees, sparking furious backlash from rank-and-file union members and progressive allies.
"President Biden campaigned on a week of paid sick leave for all working people, and then he had the opportunity right here but didn't take action. He favored the corporations," Matt Weaver, a rail worker and member of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) in Ohio, told In These Times contributor Jeff Schuhrke, who detailed rail workers' ongoing fight for paid leave and safety measures in a piece last week.
Facing continued pressure from employees and some activist investors, Union Pacific and other rail giants are "weighing offering paid sick days—or are already doing so—along with schedule changes and other steps to improve employees' work-life balance," Bloombergreported Monday.
"Costs will still be a key consideration for the railroads—and their investors," the business outlet added. "Voluntary paid sick leave and more flexible schedules would add to the expense of the labor agreement, which over five years raises salaries by 24%, pays bonuses totaling $5,000, and adds one day a year of personal leave. That could come at the expense of dividends and share buybacks, which have soared in recent years."
"Workers remain skeptical that they'll truly benefit from the tradeoff," Bloomberg continued. "Railroads historically have been quick to furlough staff during downturns, have required long hours with little flexibility, and have imposed strict attendance policies that allow the railroads to operate with fewer workers."
As Railroad Workers United put it in a Twitter post on Tuesday, "Never take the Union Pacific at face value."
"This is not the path to peace and marks a serious escalation," said the U.K.-based Stop the War Coalition. "Sending tanks is a step further away from negotiation."
The Biden administration is reportedly finalizing a plan to send dozens of Abrams tanks to Ukraine and Germany announced Wednesday that it has agreed to supply Kyiv's forces with 14 Leopard 2 battle tanks, moves that peace advocates said represent a dangerous escalation of the war.
Both the U.S. and Germany had previously hesitated to approve the delivery of tanks to Ukraine, which has been under assault from Russian forces for nearly a year. As CNNreported Wednesday, "German officials had openly stated that they would only send their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine if the U.S. sent the M-1 Abrams tank, a system U.S. officials had repeatedly stated was overly complex and difficult to maintain."
"The U.S. decision to provide Abrams tanks to Ukraine is an abrupt about-face from its stated position, one that allows Germany to send its tanks and to clear the way for the approval of other European countries to send in more of the German-made Leopard 2 tanks as well," the outlet added.
The Biden administration is expected to announce its plan to send tanks to Ukraine later Wednesday. Citing a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the plan, The Washington Postreported that the U.S. tanks may not arrive in Ukraine "until at least the fall."
It will likely take months to train Ukrainian forces to use the tanks, analysts say.
Anti-war campaigners and commentators warned that the shipment of battle tanks into Ukraine will deepen the West's involvement in a devastating conflict that is at risk of becoming a direct—and potentially nuclear—confrontation between Russia and NATO.
"This is not the path to peace and marks a serious escalation," responded the U.K.-based Stop the War Coalition. "Arming Ukraine and sending tanks is a step further away from negotiation."
In a column for Responsible Statecraft on Monday, Branko Marcetic cautioned that "little by little, NATO and the United States are creeping closer to the catastrophic scenario President Joe Biden said 'we must strive to prevent'—direct conflict between the United States and Russia."
"When the United States involves itself militarily in a conflict, it often finds it hard to get itself out, let alone avoid deep entanglements that blow well past lines it had drawn at the start of the intervention," Marcetic wrote, citing Vietnam and Afghanistan as clear examples.
"Unless officials make a concerted effort to deescalate and pursue a diplomatic track—and prominent voices in media and politics create the political space for them to do it—Biden's vow to avoid World War Three will mean as much as President Johnson's 1964 promise not to 'send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves,'" Marcetic added.
"Little by little, NATO and the United States are creeping closer to the catastrophic scenario President Joe Biden said 'we must strive to prevent'—direct conflict between the United States and Russia."
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who faced significant pressure from Baltic nations to send tanks to Ukraine, said the agreement was reached after "intensive consultations that have taken place between Germany and its closest European and international partners."
Dietmar Bartsch, parliamentary leader of Germany's Left party, denounced Scholz's decision, warning that the "supply of Leopard battle tanks... potentially takes us closer to a third world war than in the direction of peace in Europe."
The U.S. and Germany's tanks will add to the supply already pledged by Poland, Spain, the U.K., the Netherlands, Finland, and Denmark.
"Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace," right-wing British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted Wednesday.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister, wrote on social media that "the tank coalition is formed."
"Everyone who doubted this could ever happen sees now: for Ukraine and partners impossible is nothing," Kuleba added. "I call on all new partners that have Leopard 2 tanks in service to join the coalition and provide as many of them as possible."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, for his part, called the U.S. and German plans "disastrous" because of "technological aspects," an apparent reference to the complexities involved in training Ukrainian forces to use and maintain the tanks.
"I am convinced that many specialists understand the absurdity of this idea," said Peskov. "These tanks will burn down just like all the other ones... Except they cost a lot, and this will fall on the shoulders of European taxpayers."