* Funders include Monsanto and DuPont
* Small farmers criticized use of mandatory marketing fees to promote “Big Ag”
* Other partners include BASF, Dow
* USFRA is represented by PR giant Ketchum
* Ketchum’s clients include the Russian Federation
* Ketchum’s work for the Russian Federation include pushing propaganda for Putin, aiding in a campaign to have Putin named Time Magazine’s 2007 “Person of the Year”
* LA Times: USFRA-funded documentary “lobbyist propaganda”
Funders Include Monsanto, DuPont
As of 2011, USFRA was to have an $11 million annual budget.
The funding would come partly from mandatory marketing fees the Department of Agriculture helps collect from farmers, and from corporations like Monsanto and DuPont, each of which committed to an annual contribution of $500,000. [New York Times, 9/27/11]
Organization Now Claims Budget is “Less than $12 Million,” But Plans to Expand
USFRA says that its current budget “is less than $12 million,” but “Over time, we expect our program budget to grow as more affiliates and industry partners join our movement.” [http://www.fooddialogues.com/content/faqs]
Organization Claims a Third of Funding Comes from Industry Partners
According to USFRA, 32 percent of its funding comes from its industry partners.
“68 percent of our funding is coming from farmer- and rancher-led affiliates,” the group claims. [http://www.fooddialogues.com/content/faqs]
Partners Include BASF, Dow, Merck and Others
USFRA’s “Premier Partner Advisory Group” includes both DuPont and Monsanto, while its “Industry Partner Council” includes BASF, Cargill, Dow AgroSciences, Elanco Animal Health, Merck Animal Health, Syngenta and Zoetis. [http://www.fooddialogues.com/content/affiliates-board-participants-and-industry-partners]
Small Farmers Upset Mandatory Marketing Fees Used to Promote “Big Ag”
In a January 2014 article, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that smaller farmers were complaining about the use of mandatory marketing fees, or checkoffs, to fund USFRA, claiming that they had to “fork over money to support activities and advertising that benefit agribusiness, but not necessarily those with small and mid-size operations.”
The article noted that USFRA’s affiliates and partners “are just the kinds of groups that are normally associated with Big Ag,” and that the articles on the USFRA tend to support industrial agriculture, including supporting the benefits of genetically modified crops.
But this caused anger from smaller farmers, including Mike Callicrate, a Colorado rancher who said he found it “very offensive” that USFRA was receiving mandatory marketing fees.
“The whole purpose of those checkoffs being made available to [USFRA] is to promote industrial agriculture that is driving the family farm right out of business,” Callicrate said. [Bloomberg Businessweek, 1/29/14]
PR Giant Ketchum Represents USFRA
In 2011, USFRA announced that PR giant Ketchum would serve as its primary communications agency. [Agri-Pulse, 3/24/11]
Russian Government Among Ketchum’s Clients, Helping Putin Generate Propaganda
Since 2006, Ketchum has served as the PR firm for the Russian Federation, helping the Russian government to place opinion pieces in American news sources, including the New York Times, the Huffington Post and MSNBC.
One of the op-ed columns, which appeared in the New York Times, was published under the byline of Vladimir Putin. [ProPublica, 9/12/13; New York Times, 8/31/14]
The New York Times reported in 2014 that “The company still works with Mr. Putin’s closest advisers, according to current and former employees of Ketchum.
The Times reported that Ketchum “said it worked with Time magazine to have Mr. Putin named the magazine’s Person of the Year in 2007.” [New York Times, 8/31/14]
Ketchum Represented Russian Government-Controlled Energy Company Gazprom
Until recently, Ketchum served as the PR firm for the Russian government-controlled energy company, Gazprom. [New York Times, 8/31/14]
Ketchum Worked for Dow Chemical
Ketchum has worked for (and may continue to work for) Dow Chemical. [DC Court Records]
Other Ketchum Clients Include Drug Companies, Chemical Companies, Food Producers
- Clorox Company
- Procter & Gamble
- Wendy’s International
[O’Dwyer’s Public Relations Firm Database]
LA Times: USFRA-Funded Documentary “Lobbyist Propaganda”
In May 2014, the Los Angeles Times published a review of the documentary Farmland, that was made with the “generous support” of USFRA.
The Times review claimed the film “often comes off like lobbyist propaganda,” and a “puff piece.” While the documentary contains farmers who both support and oppose organic farming technique, the film “does not supply statistics or unaffiliated experts to substantiate or dispute any of the farmers’ claims and provide a broader perspective.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/1/14]