On July 9, the Oakland Institute, a California-based human rights think tank, released an explosive report with Iowa CCI detailing potential human rights abuses that are occurring on the land where AgriSol CEO and Iowa Regent Bruce Rastatter plans to build his factory farms.

You can access the full report here.

What the Oakland Institute’s new report adds to the story is not that Bruce Rastetter’s collusion with Iowa State University for an attempted landgrab in Tanzania threatened thousands of refugees with forced displacement. That’s been the crux of the story for the last year, despite his company’s official denials.

What this new report demonstrates for the first time is that this landgrab is still moving forward, and that actual human rights violations are happening right now on the ground in the refugee settlements, including:

  • The burning of refugee homes and crops by state security forces,
  • Widespread intimidation,
  • Arbitrary arrests,
  • Lack of free speech,
  • Inequities in social services,
  • Loss of culture, and
  • An inability to plan and build for the future.

AgriSol reps are trying to spin this report away.  Their language is very crafty because it denies the claims in the report while still leaving loopholes big enough to drive a manure spreader through.  But as Anuradha Mittal, the executive director Oakland Institute, said, “This is not a case of our word against their word.  This is case of their word against their own documents.”

AgriSol moving forward with Tanzanian development

Rastetter and AgriSol Energy have claimed from the beginning that their land grab project in Tanzania is not responsible for any displacement of refugees from their 40 year old communities and that what the Tanzanian government does has nothing to do with them.

In the Daily Iowan July 9 :

“AgriSol has absolutely nothing to do with the refugees in Katumba and Mishamo,” said Henry Akona, AgriSol Tanzania’s director of communications.  “We were considering those areas a few years a few years ago, but we have suspended any plans because the land is occupied.”

This begs the question, what happens after the land is no longer occupied?  A critical reading of Akona’s statement leads to only one conclusion:  AgriSol still intends to move forward with its landgrab, the only thing standing in the way are the refugees.  As soon as they are displaced, the project will move forward.

Akona’s statement is even more revealing for its similarities to a statement posted on the AgriSol website FAQ, under the question “In what part of Tanzania will the AgriSol project take place”:

With the camps closed, the Tanzanian government wanted to restore the land, which has been depleted by decades of use, to a more productive state once the refugees were resettled.  However, that process has been delayed at Katumba and Mishamo and, while AgriSol has an open memorandum of understanding in place, it has halted active development efforts for those sites until the situation is resolved.”

Refugees only roadblock to AgriSol’s landgrab

If you read between the lines, AgriSol is clearly stating that they intend to take the land as soon as the refugees are displaced.

In addition, the Oakland Institute already rebutted this attempted whitewash last December 2011 in their fact sheet “8 Myths And Facts About AgriSol Energy in Tanzania”:

Myth #2: AgriSol Is Not Involved in the Displacement of Burundi Refugees

“…the decision to repatriate those who wanted to return to Burundi and naturalise those who wanted to become citizens of Tanzania was made before AgriSol ever became involved, and we were not involved in the decisions or subsequent activities.” – from a 2011 public statement by AgriSol

THE FACTS

The Tanzanian government began a naturalization process in 2008 with a plan to grant citizenship to 162,000 refugees in April 2010. Yet, while the Tanzanian government has been celebrated internationally for this generosity, the refugees’ citizenship is contingent upon a coerced move from the places they have called home for the past 40 years.

A feasibility study for the investment in Katumba and Mishamo refugee settlements was commissioned and conducted on behalf of AgriSol USA as early as July 2008. This discrete study was done almost simultaneously with the announcement of the government’s plans to close down the camps.

AgriSol through its MOU and other demands has played a key role in determining the future of the current refugee inhabitants.

The former Minister of Home Affairs, Lawrence Masha, who was in charge of the refugee camps when the relocation plan was decided, has since been hired as a “legal advisor” to AgriSol.

The Oakland Institutes’ newest report also takes up this question and adds new evidence:

Based on an examination of AgriSol’s documents and OI’s fieldwork in 2012, it is clear that the agreement for the proposed land investment takes advantage of the ambiguity around the status of refugees and relocation plans. It is likely that AgriSol referred to the proposed site as an abandoned settlement knowing that their investment proposal would influence or accelerate the relocation.

The abuses happening on the ground in Tanzania today were set in motion in the last few years by the partnership between AgriSol, Iowa State University, and the Tanzanian government. Rastetter is set to make millions from the forced displacement of these refugees, plain and simple. He bears a tremendous amount of responsibility for the human rights violations that are being conducted on his behalf.

The question Iowans should be asking is, “is this the kind of person we want serving on the Iowa Board of Regents?

Iowa CCI members call for Rastetter’s immediate resignation or termination from the Board of Regents.

Add your name to the petition calling on Branstad to Fire Bruce Rastetter:

  • Join hundreds of other Iowans calling on Gov. Branstad to fire Bruce Rastetter —  the man unable to separate his role as an Iowa public Regent from his personal financial interest. Click here to read more and add your name.

 

Join the fight

 

LIKE and TWEET to share this article with your networks:

Basu: Is help from corporate agriculture beneficial?

AgriSol deal would have benefited American investors at Tanzanians expense

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20120705/BASU/307050064/Basu-help-from-corporate-agriculture-beneficial-?nclick_check=1

Photo caption: Bruce Rastetter, a Hubbard businessman, is serving his first term on the Iowa Board of Regents. / Register file photo

Written by Rekha Basu

Iowans are regularly reminded of our role in helping to feed the world’s hungry, and from a technological perspective, we have certainly played an important role. An Iowan launched the so-called Green Revolution, and the World Food Prize that he created annually honors others who have made important innovations in agriculture. Iowa today is in the vanguard of the biotech revolution.

So it may be hard to contemplate the paradox that even as we have helped block world hunger, we might also inadvertently be contributing to it. There is growing evidence around the world that high-yield technologies that require costly and potentially harmful chemical fertilizers and other inputs squeeze small farmers out in favor of large conglomerates, resulting in impoverishment or suicides.

Recent weeks have brought a few occasions to think about this. Members of the Des Moines Occupy movement announced plans to protest the World Food Prize events this fall. Instead of “pro-corporate agribusiness recipients who support GMO crops and the use of harmful pesticides and chemicals,” the prize should honor people “who advocate sustainable, safe, local agriculture in the U.S. and abroad,” the group said in a statement.

Occupy also noted that corporate agribusiness has gone beyond controlling food supplies to also controlling “governments, laws, and patents.”

That might sound like a conspiracy theoryuntil you consider the Tanzania land deal negotiated by an Iowa Board of Regents member, which was the subject of a recent complaint to the state ethics board. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement filed the complaint, alleging that Bruce Rastetter, the founder and managing director of AgriSol Energy Corp., had a conflict of interests with a deal involving Iowa State University.

AgriSol would have paid the Tanzanian government a mere 25 cents an acre for the right to cultivate 800,000 acres, by evicting some 160,000 Burundian refugee farmers. For decades, they had been growing a variety of crops, producing more than 40 percent of the district’s food on just 4 percent of the land. Under the AgriSol deal, they would be given $200 apiece and the land would be turned over to corn and soybeans.

AgriSol stood to make $300 million. And the corn and soybeans wouldn’t necessarily feed Tanzanians.

AgriSol’s consultant was advising the company to seek a guarantee from the government that it could export all the food it produces — even if there were a food shortage in Tanzania.

Critics, including former CBS news anchor Dan Rather, called it a “land grab.” Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement alleges Rastetter used his status as a regent and big donor to get Iowa State University involved, falsified a financial disclosure statement with the state ethics board, and didn’t disclose the land deal to the regents until six weeks after joining the board — after it was reported in the press.

If the theory is accurate, Rastetter’s $1.75 million gift to ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences may have opened some doors for him there. In 2007, officials traveled to Tanzania with him. Even the person who had been in charge of the refugee camps was evidently co-opted into being a legal adviser to AgriSol.

Rastetter was appointed to the Board of Regents by Gov. Terry Branstad after being his largest 2010 campaign contributor. Rastetter recused himself from the project last September, and ISU later said it would stop advising AgriSol on the project. But Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement asked for Rastetter’s resignation from the regents.

All this points to the broader potential for U.S. companies, with compliant or even corrupt governments, to exploit small farmers in the developing world under the guise of helping them. We may not be able to control what their governments do, but we should take a closer look at what our own companies pass off as “help.”

Rastetter and others had claimed the deal would help Tanzanians improve their food production techniques. But the large-scale, high-yield, monoculture model would not have suited the farmers it displaced in order for American investors to get rich.

Many Iowa small hog farmers lost their livelihoods when corporate agribusinesses like Heartland Pork displaced them. Now, in the face of skyrocketing prices, some of the same principals have turned to Africa, where land can still be had cheaply. Rastetter previously owned Heartland Pork.

It is hard to challenge corporate agriculture in this state. It’s promoted by targeted state university research, and its principals fund the political campaigns of elected officials — who might return the favor with plumb appointments.

So it falls to grassroots groups like Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement to call for an investigation. Some of its members lost their own hog farms to Heartland Pork.

Branstad won’t even wait until the outcome of the state ethics board complaint to voice his confidence in Rastetter’s judgment — a clear signal to the board. But the board should show its independence by conducting a thorough investigation.

 

Add your name to the petition calling on Branstad to Fire Bruce Rastetter:

  • Join hundreds of other Iowans calling on Gov. Branstad to fire Bruce Rastetter —  the man unable to separate his role as an Iowa public Regent from his personal financial interest. Click here to read more and add your name.

 

Join the fight

 

LIKE and TWEET to share this article with your networks.

CCI members Chris Wilbeck, Chris Henning, and Ray Harden have been leaders in this summer’s factory farms fights, particularly a 5,000-head site being built by Prestage Farms of North Carolina in their community. They took to the airwaves to raise awareness and pressure Prestage not to build at the expense of our air, water, and quality of life. Take a listen!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Learn more

See the map illustrating the influx of new/expanding factory farms this spring and what CCI members are doing to fight back.

 

Take Action

Right now, while hundreds of families are worried about their quality of live, property values and environmental impact, the Assoc. of Business and Industry is trying to formalize a rule that would force the Iowa DNR to permanently take a “hands off approach” to factory farms.

 

Join the Fight

  • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
  • Sign up for our E-Mail Action list to get the latest updates
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

Cargill-linked developer withdraws factory farm application in Greene County

 

Local CCI members led factory farm fight-back campaign

 

 

Paton, Iowa –

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members in Greene County are celebrating a big win today after a Cargill-linked developer named Mike Pierson announced he was withdrawing plans for a 5,000-head factory farm outside of Paton, in Dawson township.

“This is great news,” said Evans McWilliam, a local CCI leader who helped galvanize his community to oppose the factory farm.

The site would have been built by Quality Ag, Inc, a factory farm construction company owned by Brent Rastetter, who was appointed by Governor Terry Branstad to the Environmental Protection Commission last year.

The Greene County Board of Supervisors took points off the Master Matrix score after public input and community pressure from CCI members and voted to recommend that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) deny the construction permit.  Pierson withdrew his permit application on Friday.

Factory farm construction has skyrocketed across Iowa this year, and CCI members across the state are leading the fightback with 30 campaigns in 20 counties.   Iowa CCI members have successfully stopped eight factory farms from being constructed in six different counties this year.

Iowa has more than 572 polluted waterways, and there have been more than 800 manure spills in the last 15 years, according to DNR and CCI records.  A 2007 study by the Iowa Policy Project stated that factory farm manure “may be the largest agricultural polluter of Iowa’s streams and lakes.”

58% of Iowans say “we need stronger laws to stop factory farms from polluting our air and water,” according to an April 24-26 telephone poll of 633 active voters conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Learn more

  • See the map illustrating the influx of new/expanding factory farms this spring and what CCI members are doing to fight back.

Take Action

Right now, while hundreds of families are worried about their quality of live, property values and environmental impact, the Assoc. of Business and Industry is trying to formalize a rule that would force the Iowa DNR to permanently take a “hands off approach” to factory farms.

Join the Fight

  • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
  • Sign up for our E-Mail Action list to get the latest updates
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

 

Click LIKE or TWEET to share this great news story with your networks.

Bruce Rastetter is no stranger to Iowa CCI members. We started fighting his Heartland Pork factory farms in the late 90’s. Since then he has continued to make his big money mark across Iowa, starting and selling ethanol plants under his Hawkeye Renewables, and most recently with his AgriSol effort. His political power has grown too, through hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to candidates, and millions spent in shadowy political attack groups like the American Future Fund and Team Iowa PAC.

Yesterday we filed a conflict of interest complaint against Rastetter. (Read some of the press coverage of the event here) Now we have compiled a timeline of Rastetter’s involvement in the AgriSol affair and his attempts to use ISU to further the project.

 

2007: Rastetter donates $1.7 million to ISU

2008: Rastetter begins talks with Tanzanian government

2009: Collaboration between ISU and AgriSol begins

2010: Rastetter is the single biggest donor to the Branstad campaign, giving more than $164,000.

2011:

February 25: Branstad appoints Rastetter to Board of Regents

May 1: Rastetter’s term begins: he should have recused himself from discussions of an ISU partnership with AgriSol at this point.

May 18: Rastetter finances a $13,000 trip for ISU officials to Tanzania

 

June 14: Des Moines Register publishes AgriSol expose

June 17: Rastetter discloses his financial interest in AgriSol to the public

July: Rastetter elected President Pro Tem of Board of Regents

September 13: Rastetter finally recuses himself from discussions of partnering with ISU — four months after he becomes a Regent.

September 26: Dan Rather reports on AgriSol

2012:

February: ISU cuts all ties to Tanzania project

April 24: Rastetter files a false financial disclosure report with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board

June 19: Iowa CCI members file a conflict of interest complaint against Rastetter with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

Take Action

  • Join hundreds of other Iowans calling on Gov. Branstad to fire Bruce Rastetter —  the man unable to separate his role as an Iowa public Regent from his personal financial interest. Click here to read more and add your name.

Join the fight

Yesterday morning, over thirty CCI members filed a formal conflict of interest complaint against Bruce Rastetter with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. Curious about what happened yesterday? You can read the complaint in its entirety here, a short summary of the complaint here, or the Associated Press story on our complaint below.

 

 

 

Group files ethics complaint against Board of Regents member Rastetter over Tanzania project

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/0aaff6bf8b3a4b8ab39c5a4c2a6a4a0a/IA–Regent-Ethics-Complaint

DAVID PITT  Associated Press June 19, 2012 – 2:02 pm EDT

DES MOINES, Iowa — A watchdog group filed an ethics complaint Tuesday against Iowa Board of Regents member Bruce Rastetter, accusing him of abusing his position on the board overseeing public universities while pursuing a partnership between Iowa State University and his agribusiness corporation, AgriSol Energy.

Rastetter participated in discussions the university had about working with AgriSol to develop a huge commercial farming operation in Tanzania, a project critics have called a land grab.

“This looks pretty bad,” said Ross Grooters, a Citizens for Community Improvement member from Pleasant Hill, in a statement. “Rastetter needs to go.”

About 30 members of the Des Moines-based group delivered the complaint to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board on Tuesday.

Rastetter’s spokesman, Joe Murphy, said in a statement that an ethics review is welcome and he will cooperate fully.

“We are hopeful that this review will address any questions surrounding Bruce’s commitment to public service here in Iowa and abroad,” he said. “As we have stated before, there is no conflict of interest. Bruce has long been an advocate for education and agriculture and has a strong tradition of providing support and gifts to the Regent institutions.”

Gov. Terry Branstad appointed Rastetter, an agribusiness executive who donated $160,000 to the governor’s 2010 campaign, to the board in February 2011. Rastetter had been working on behalf of AgriSol with ISU since 2009 on a plan to develop 800,000 acres of Tanzanian farmland for crop production.

Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht responded to a request for comment on the allegations by email.

“We are fully confident in the judgment of Regent Rastetter on his decision regarding when to recuse himself,” he wrote.

Critics opposed the Tanzania project because the land had for decades housed 160,000 refugees from Burundi who were being relocated by the Tanzanian government. Investors, who stood to earn millions if the project was successful, argued it would help residents by improving food production and farming techniques. They added they had no role in the relocation.

Officials with ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which received a $1.75 million gift from Rastetter in 2007, were to implement an AgriSol-funded program providing a range of services and training to help farmers in the area.

Rastetter waited until June 17, 2011 — six weeks after his term started and four months after his appointment — to disclose the conflict, doing so only after the project received publicity. He waited until Sept. 13 before recusing himself from discussions related to ISU’s involvement. That was the same day the university abandoned plans to seek a multimillion-dollar federal grant with AgriSol.

CCI, in its complaint, claims Rastetter falsified financial disclosure statements to the state’s ethics board by omitting information about his wealth and job responsibilities with AgriSol and other companies he manages.

The group says he violated the state’s executive branch ethics law and a separate section of the state code that makes it illegal to falsify disclosure statements.

It also says he violated the regents’ conflict of interest policy, which says “Regents and institutional officials must endeavor to remain free from the influence of, or appearance of, any conflicting interest in acting on behalf of the Board or a Regent institution. Such interest may include, but are not limited to, employment, ownership of, or service on, the board of directors of an organization that has or may have relationships with the Board or a Regent institution.”

CCI said it wants Rastetter to resign from the board or, if he refuses, Branstad to remove him.

Ethics board Executive Director Megan Tooker said a decision will be made first about whether the complaint contains sufficient legal grounds to launch an investigation.

If so, the board orders an investigation.More serious violations may lead to a contested hearing, which is similar to a trial with witnesses, testimony and evidence. If the board eventually determines a violation occurred, it can issue fines.

It cannot remove an executive branch appointee from office. It can only recommend the appointing authority — in this case the governor — remove the violator.

Other media outlets around the state covered our action yesterday as well, including:

Des Moines Register

Radio Iowa

Ames Patch

Iowa State Daily

Ames Tribune

 

Take Action

  • Join hundreds of other Iowans calling on Gov. Branstad to fire Bruce Rastetter —  the man unable to separate his role as an Iowa public Regent from his personal financial interest. Click here to read more and add your name.

Join the fight