Lobby group rallies growers for Monsanto mine
2.Monsanto courts Senate committee at private dinner
EXTRACTS: "Lawmakers at the dinner, held about a week before the formal hearing, said Monsanto organized and paid for the event. But a group known as Growers for Biotechnology claims it picked up the tab and sent out the invitations." (item 2)
NOTE: Monsanto needs phosphate to make Roundup, and so wants a new phosphates mine in Idaho. Three of the company's phosphate mines have already been declared federal Superfund sites, while the fourth is currently in violation of the Clean Water Act. EPA officials say the mines are leaking selenium, cadmium, nickel and zinc into rivers that flow to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. That makes for opposition to the new mine, but Monsanto's friendly lobby group "Growers for Biotechnology" are ever ready to lend a hand.
1.Lobby group rallies growers for Monsanto
Subject: News from Growers for Biotechnology
Critical Comment Period for Roundup Herbicide
September 16 2009
You can make a difference! As supporters of biotechnology it is important to know about a critical comment period for a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, DEIS, prepared by the Bureau of Land Management, BLM. Monsanto's wholly-owned subsidiary, P4 Production LLC, is seeking a permit to open a new phosphate mine in Southeast Idaho, named the Blackfoot Bridge Mine. This mine will supply the phosphate ore needed to make elemental phosphorus, the key ingredient used to manufacture Roundup herbicide.
The creation of Roundup herbicide and the genetic modifications to make plants tolerant to it were the keystone of the biotechnology revolution that has swept the world. Many other traits are now available to farmers and dozens more are in the research and development pipeline.
Your comments in support of this project are important. Becausecommercially available phosphate sources in North America are very limited, the P4 plant in Soda Springs, Idaho is the only source of elemental phosphorus in the Western Hemisphere. The currently existing mine will soon be exhausted. If the new mine is not opened there will be no other source of elemental phosphorus for manufacturing in North America. Approximately one third of the production of elemental
phosphorus is sold to other manufacturers. Elemental phosphorus is used to make a wide variety of products, many of which we all use or depend on every day. A short list of these diverse items includes: most tooth paste, fire retardant, non flammable aircraft hydraulic fluid, Miracle Grow for the flowers and garden, and tracer ammunition.
Your comments are important because your lives and livelihoods depend on this project being approved. Even though approximately ninety percent of the land is privately owned and only ten percent is BLM managed, the environmental community has already asked for, and received, an extension on the public comment period. This will allow them to submit
even more comments than they might have otherwise.
In addition to this Monsanto mine the J. R. Simplot Company is also in the process of opening a new phosphate mine in the same part of Southeast Idaho to produce phosphate fertilizer for North America. Support for Monsanto will also help support Simplot in their efforts.
Comments must be submitted by close of business October 31st to the BLM at:
Blackfoot Bridge Project, ARCADIS
630 Plaza Drive
Highlands Ranch, CO 80129
Additional information on how to submit comments can be found at: www.monsanto.com/who_we_are/locations/unitedstates/idaho/sodasprings/register_support.asp
or by calling 208-608-8047.
The summary of the DEIS can be found at: www.monsanto.com/pdf/sodasprings/deis_summary.pdf
Please take a minute to write! Your comments can make a difference in helping to keep a reliable supply of elemental phosphorus available to manufacture not only Roundup but many other essential products we need and use.
As a personal note from the author, I am an Idaho farmer and a past state legislator who is personally familiar with the mining activities in Southeastern Idaho. These are well managed, environmentally conscious, operations that are important not just to Idaho and the local communities but to people all over the world. I am writing to the BLM personally in support of this DEIS. I urge you to do the same!
Douglas R. Jones,
Executive Director, Growers for Biotechnology
2.Monsanto courts Senate committee at private dinner
Associated Press, 1 June 2009
HELENA - An unusual private dinner shared by most of a Senate committee and biotech giant Monsanto has led to talk that unfair tactics, avoided by even the most seasoned Montana lobbyists, are being used by groups that slip through the state's lobbying laws.
The controversy has sprouted over a bill that would set rules for how seed samples are taken from farmers' land for patent enforcement by companies such as Monsanto. On Tuesday, a Senate committee is scheduled to vote on a measure that has already passed the House on a 57-43 vote.
That St. Louis-based agribusiness, known for its sturdy varieties of corn and soybeans, has been courting the Senate Agriculture Committee to table House Bill 445, although it's not currently registered as a lobbyist in the state.
Instead of offering public testimony at the committee hearing for the bill, Monsanto shared its opposition to the measure during a private dinner with the Senate committee at the Montana Club, according to committee chairman Sen. Donald Steinbeisser. Six of nine committee members attended the dinner, but all were invited, he said.
"I doubt if anything we talked about that night affected anybody's position on the bill," said Steinbeisser, a Republican farmer from Sidney who has found biotech products to be very useful.
But supporters of House Bill 445, which would set guidelines for how farmers' fields are checked for stolen seeds, feel the private dinner undermined the fairness of the bill's actual hearing.
"I walked into the hearing feeling like the cards were stacked against me, without knowing what was said and what the opposition was," said Rep. Betsy Hands, D-Missoula, the measure's sponsor.
Lawmakers at the dinner, held about a week before the formal hearing, said Monsanto organized and paid for the event. But a group known as Growers for Biotechnology claims it picked up the tab and sent out the invitations. Monsanto also said it did not pay for the dinner, although the company had a major presence.
Taking a committee out to eat before a bill hearing is not illegal in Montana, but it is highly unusual.
"The idea that they would not testify before the committee and instead that they would bring the committee to them - I think it's fair to say that's not a common approach," said Dennis Unsworth, Montana's Commissioner of Political Practices.
Spokesmen for PPL Montana - which led in spending on lobbying efforts in the 2007 session - and Capitol regular NorthWestern Energy both said they have never taken a full committee out to eat before a bill hearing. They have, however, offered committee dinners at the end of the session once lawmakers' work is largely finished.
"It's more about appreciation and getting together to say goodbye," said David Hoffman, the lobbyist for PPL Montana.
Veteran legislators also could not remember seeing full committees offered a private dinner prior to a hearing.
"I've never had the experience, and I'm not personally aware of any committees being taken out before a bill hearing," said Sen. Mike Cooney, D-Helena, who has served in both the House and Senate, and currently serves on three committees.
Neither Monsanto nor Growers for Biotechnology are registered as lobbyists in Montana. Unless they spend at least $2,400 on lobbying - whether in wages or steaks - they are not required to report their activities in the state.
"It's open to anybody who'd like to do it. We weren't buying anybody's votes," said Allan Skogen, chairman of Growers for Biotechnology. "We basically introduced ourselves. We just want to provide information."
The bill would require Monsanto and other companies to get permission from a farmer before sampling crops on their land. If the farmer denies permission, the company could ask a district court for an order to sample the crops. The farmer or the company could also ask the state Department of Agriculture to oversee the sampling process.
The state's leading farm organizations, however, have testified against the need for any such guidelines. They argue the bill's real aim is to discourage the development and sale of genetically modified seeds in Montana, leaving farmers without access to the benefits of biotechnology.
Opponents include the Montana seed company WestBred, the Montana Farm Bureau, the Montana Agribusiness Association and the Montana Grain Growers Association - all of which joined the committee and Monsanto at the dinner, according to its sponsor.
"It's not a farm protection bill," said Arlene Rice of the Montana Agribusiness Association during the bill's hearing. "What it does is deny many farmers and many growers a chance for new technology."
But farmers supporting the bill contend rules are needed to protect small growers from false accusations of seed theft that have led to hefty legal fees and harassment in other states.
Now they are also pointing to Monsanto's efforts to undermine the bill as more proof that protections should be in place.
"I think it shows this bill is needed to protect farmers because we want an open, honest and transparent process and clearly a behind-the-scenes dinner isn't open to the public," Hands said.