Wikileak: Mormon-sponsored agricultural imperialism?

6

December 21, 2010 by tristan savage

The Wikileaks this week have continued to trickle out,  as every government in the world closes ranks against the possibility of transparency and governments that are accountable to their citizens.

The media isn’t reporting on most of the cables, so take a look and break the information blockade yourself: http://213.251.145.96/cablegate.html

When I did, I ran into gems like this cable from 2007 requesting that the US government intervene on the Monsanto corporation’s behalf  by “retaliating” against EU countries that regulate genetically-modified foods “in the common interest.”  The US ambassador to France writes like one of Monsanto’s paid PR specialists: “Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices”

Or this one from the US Interests section in Havana in 2006, explaining that US intelligence “is always looking for human interest stories and other news that shatters the myth of Cuban medical prowess.” Spending their time trying to undermine the Cuban medical system seems like an odd priority- maybe that’s where the resources went that could have gone to providing universal health care in our own country.

But the most striking cable I ran into today was one titled “BRAZIL’S LANDLESS MOVEMENT INVADES AMERICAN-OWNED FARM“, from 2005. The cable is about MST, the landless workers’ movement in Brazil.

MST:

3% of Brazil’s population owns 2/3 of the arable land, the national constitution has provisions allowing for the expropriation of large estates that are ‘unproductive’ or  don’t fulfill a “social function.” MST is perhaps the largest social movement in the Americas, composed of over a million landless workers, who have taken that national mandate for land reform and democratized it. For the last 25 years, they have taken strategic and direct action to redistribute plantation estates to landless workers who otherwise have no access to land.  Over 2,000 of their occupations have been successful but many occupations are still ongoing- their websites says that 180,000 Brazilian families are still living in MST encampments waiting for their claims to be recognized by the Brazilian government. For more information, check out their website here: http://www.mstbrazil.org

The Mormon Connection

In 2005, MST occupied a property of “AgroReservas do Brazil,” a 70,000 hectare farm run by the Salt Lake City-based “Farm Management Company,” or “Ag Reserves Inc.”  The company’s website features a quote from former LDS Church President Gordon B Hinckley, saying that:

The company, it turns out, is owned by the corporate arm of the LDS Church.

Land concentration is everywhere a symptom of larger political and military structures of coercion, and Brazil is no exception. The leaked cable describes how “Military police officers have provided protection to the farm” and “the judge who wanted to negotiate with the MST has been replaced by a ‘new, more reasonable judge.'”

According to the US embassy, MST’s occupation was not related to its American owners:

“This invasion marks the first time that the MST has occupied an American farm, and while the invasion of the farm causes concern, post does not believe that the invasion was linked to the farm’s connections to the United States. Embassy Agricultural Attache believes that AgroReservas was targeted because the farm is one of the largest and most profitable farms in the state.”

But even if MST was not trying to send a message to Mormons about the irony of a thrifty, food-storing religious people funding the massive concentration of land under armed guard in a foreign land… well, the message seems clear.

There was a time when Mormon agrarian policy took the side of the landless and the poor -communal landholding, cooperative credit projects, full employment, self-sufficiency, an economy of sharing the risks and the rewards of living from the land. Those values are still with us, but the values we profess and the realities we fund couldn’t be further apart. AgReserves seems to have left the United Order far behind, and the most beautiful core truths of egalitarian Mormonism along with it.

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6 thoughts on “Wikileak: Mormon-sponsored agricultural imperialism?

  1. Seth says:

    Nice find! I wonder if there are any other connections to the LDS church in the leaked cables.

  2. […] Call, an anthropology graduate student from my own Vanderbilt University, found some interesting stuff in this week’s WikiLeaks cable […]

  3. Af says:

    Fascinating Stuff, Tristan!

  4. Forest Simmons says:

    I thought that MST was only interested in land left fallow by absentee owners. If they knew that this land was being farmed as a non-profit to provide food for the poor through the Bishop Storehouse system, then why would they object?

    Here’s another story on how capitalism has destrpyed the lives of farmers, this time in India:

    Indian Farm Suicides Continue to Rise
    “Of Luxury Cars and Lowly Tractors”
    By P. SAINATH

    At least 17,368 Indian farmers killed themselves in 2009, the worst figure for farm suicides in six years, according to data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) …

    see

    http://www.counterpunch.org/sainath12282010.html

    for the rest of the story.

  5. mellifera says:

    A lot of the food produced on welfare farms does get sold on the normal wholesale market (or else this job ad is incorrect http://www.fmc-slc.com/FulltimePositions/TechSpecialistSVF%2011-10%5B1%5D.pdf). Nonetheless I’d still put them a cut above the average corporate farm in terms of positive social impact, with the stated aim of feeding the hungry regardless of ability to pay. In any case, I’ll agree with Forest Simmons that it’s odd that they went for a church farm since their stated goal is to occupy unused land– that’s not an adjective I’d apply to any of the church farms I’ve run into, and as an LDS agriculture professional there are a few….

    The church welfare farm system itself is something I’d like to know a lot more about– they’re quite significant holdings and I’m not sure exactly what they do. (A lot of the food goes for welfare, but then again, a lot of it doesn’t– which makes sense, better to let the farms pay for themselves rather than let them suck up money that could be spent on disaster relief instead.) We’ve lived in FL where the church owns the country’s largest beef ranch; somebody alleged to me that it’s just because the church is greedy and wants the water rights connected to the land, which I have to admit I find unlikely since water’s about as scarce in Florida as mosquitoes are. In another situation, anti-feedlot legislation in Utah had a lot of momentum until it got out that the state’s largest feedlot owner was the church. It sort of fizzled after everybody found that out.

    So anyway, again, I wish I knew more about this part of what the church does. The church doesn’t say much about it and the general “Whoa, agriculture is sexy again!” sentiment seems to have missed the LDS blogosphere completely, so there’s no information on it anywhere.

  6. Mack says:

    I’m pretty sure that forced occupation of private property was never a part of Mormon agrarian policy.

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