"A lot of pig shit is one thing; a lot of highly toxic pig shit is another. The excrement of Smithfield hogs is hardly even pig shit: On a continuum of pollutants, it is probably closer to radioactive waste than to organic manure. The reason it is so toxic is Smithfield’s efficiency. The company produces 6 billion pounds of packaged pork each year. That’s a remarkable achievement, a prolifigacy unimagined only two decades ago, and the only way to do it is to raise pigs in astonishing, unprecedented concentrations."
– Jeff Tietz, "Boss Hog," Rolling Stone, Dec. 14, 2006
Why did Hillary Clinton turn to the CAFO industry to help run her campaign in the farm belt?
On Monday, Clinton named Joy Philippi, the former president of a the National Pork Producers Council, the main trade group representing CAFO operators, as co-chair of Rural Americans for Hillary.
The campaign press release was vague on details. It quotes the candidate thusly: "I am honored to have Joy’s support, and delighted that she’ll play a leading role in my campaign in Nebraska and nationally." And that’s all the explanation offered.
While the national media press her for more information on this issue — as I hope they will — I’ll do a little digging below the fold about HRC’s rural adviser and her dealings with the industrial-meat industry.
A few months ago, Joy Philippi ended a two-year run as president of the National Pork Producers Council. "Pork producers" might sound like family farmers, but as Grist readers will know by now, the industry has changed dramatically over the past decades.
Corporate dominance of meatpacking has driven thousands of small players out of business. Remaining farms have scaled up. And giant meat packers like Smithfield and Tyson have started not just buying hogs to slaughter and pack them, but raising them as well.
This strategy of "vertical integration" has given the giants tremendous leverage to squeeze small farmers, a trend I teased out in this post. It has also led to the CAFOization of pork production — an unfolding environmental and social disaster.
Smithfield, the world’s biggest pork packer, now ranks as the world’s biggest CAFO operator as well. Its multinational hog-production arm, Murphy Brown, claims to bring 13 million hogs to market each year in the U.S. market alone — and an additional 2 million internationally. That’s many times more than the next-biggest player.
Naturally, Murphy Brown plays a major role in shaping National Pork Producers Council policy. Just this year, Murphy Brown’s chief lobbyist was elected vice president of the NPPC, a role he attained after serving as stint on NPPC’s board.
Philippi, for her part, has been a tireless champion of industrial-meat interests since she first began serving as NPPC president in 2005.
I’ve written here several times about the Competition Title of the current Senate version of the farm bill, which would bar packers like Smithfield from raising livestock. Don’t mention it around Philippi — you’re likely to get an earful.
Here she is last spring testifying before the Senate, lambasting any restrictions on packers and riding other meat-industry hobbyhorses. And as recently as last month, after her presidential stint had ended, she was still toeing that same line.
Another meat giant, Tyson, also recently landed a functionary on the NPPC board.
Those with long memories will note that the Clintons have enjoyed a long association with that Arkansas-based meatpacking powerhouse.