Soyalism (2018) - full transcript

How China and Western agribusiness are taking over the world's grain and meat industry, while putting small farmers out of business and plundering the environment.


(graceful music)

- I think the Chinese
are to keep their feces

in their own country.

I think that they stink up
our homes and they're wrong,

and they talk about they
want to be good neighbors.

They come in and they
could've put sewage straight

in the facilities in,

but all that money they got,
they want to use a stone age,

caveman mentality that we've got now

that the rich Americans got away with,

and now they're getting away with it,

but they are Chinese people.

I hadn't been to China so I
don't know a lot about them.

But apparently they don't care

whether they stink up our homes or not.

(graceful music)

(speaking in foreign language)

(enchanting music)

- The pigs in North Carolina

where owned by traditional family farmers

raising about two million pigs,

there were about 2,000 of 'em.

They all got replaced
by this factory system,

and initially Smithfield Foods and Murphy

where the owners of that.

They were American corporations.

But now they've been bought
out by a group called

the WH Group,

the old Shuanghui
Corporation out of China.

It's a multinational corporation
headquartered in China.

You know, very wealthy.

I understand their profits
for the first quarter

of this year,

just their net profit
first quarter this year

was $200 million.

And you look at all those
cesspools and you say to yourself:

"Hey, they've got the money to fix this,

"what's holding everything up?"

well, what's holding everything up

is the fact that they don't
wanna spend that money

to fix the problem,

they'd rather externalize the
cost of the waste treatment

on the people of North Carolina.

Yeah, what we're gonna do,

this will film our whole trip

as we go through Swine Country,

and we'll pick up everything
we see all along the way.

And then if we spot
some illegal discharges,

then we'll do some
special filming of that.

- [Man On Radio] 531.

(man speaking on radio faintly)

- You're gonna see more cesspools

and more fecal and urine waste
being stored in open storage

than you'll find anywhere
in the entire world.

North Carolina is second
in the production of swine.

We've got eight to 10 million swine here.

It's a little less than what
they're doing out in Iowa.

But the problem we have,
which is a humongous problem,

is we've got all these pigs
tightly packed together

in huge city-like environments.

And all their waste is being concentrated

in the coastal plain of North Carolina,

which is an environmentally sensitive area

being full of waters, wetlands,
streams, creeks, and rivers.

It's not that we're trying to shut down

the production of pork in North Carolina.

Frankly, I think it'd be better

in the hands of traditional family farmers

and the production spread out

all across America as it used to be,

but if they keep on going this way,

they gotta pay the full
cost of waste treatment.

They can't be allowed
to dump all this waste

into our environment and destroy the lives

of people who live here.

(rhythmic instrumental music)

All right, man.

- [Man] Are you done now?

- Yes, as soon as we're done
here I'll be heading out.

- [Man] Okay, cool.

Do you guys need anything in here?

- No, we don't need to get
in here, we're okay, right?

We're done.
- Yeah.

- Right.
- Cool.

All right.

- All righty, it was a good flight.

- Right.

- A little bumpy, bounced
about six times on the landing,

but we got down where I walked away.

- Any bad actors or anything?

- No, I didn't see anybody spraying.

What I did see are a lot of empty lagoons.

I mean empty lagoons.

You could see bottoms, yeah.

- Even after all this rain?

- Yeah!

- That's interesting.

- Yeah

I don't know how they got rid
of all that waste this summer

with all the rain we've got.

- Right.

- All right.
- It's a pleasure.

- [Man] Right.

(dramatic music)

- We're not anti-farmer or
anti-business in North Carolina.

We're just about doing it
correctly and not polluting

the citizens of North
Carolina's waterways.

So this is a public road
just in Kenansville,

and as you can see right
there across the ditch,

there is in fact the lagoon.

And if you look at all these pipes,

each one comes out of the barn
and they flush the hog waste

directly into the lagoon here.

So there is one, two,
three, four, five, six,

seven, eight barns right here,

each one can a few hundred or even

up to a thousand head hog in the barn,

so as you can there is
quite a bit of hogs here.

There's the center pivot sprayer,

where the waste is pumped and
sprayed out onto the fields.

Concentrated animal farms
are in poor rural communities

where the community does not have a voice

to put up a fight to
restrict these facilities

from coming in here.

And when they come in here
they preach about having jobs

and to help the community,

but even then the jobs aren't

what a community member would want,

you know, working in a
slaughterhouse or work on a hog farm

is not easy work.

You very rarely see the
owners of these facilities

living on site.

Rain, rain.

I'm visiting Miss Elsie Herring.

- Hi, hi.

Good to see ya.

- Okay, you guys made it.

Just tell him to pull up.

The spray fields are right there

so we don't open up the
windows on this side.

This is a bathroom window

and the room next door
was my brother's bedroom,

and the window this way
is the kitchen window,

so we don't open these
windows on this side

facing the spray fields.

The CAFOs are back here

to the south of my mother's house.

Right back here, straight back.

But you can't see them from here,

but you can see them
from the mail route road.

That's one of his dental sticks.

- [Man] Uh-huh.

- He buries them sometimes,
then he'll go dig 'em up.

My mother was born on this land,

the same tract of land in 1902.

And she had 15 children,

and she stopped having kids in 1948.

So we were all here, long
before the hog facilities came.

They took part of the 15 to third,

as you can see we're covered
in trees and there's a V-Ditch.

And they turned that into the spray field.

And they took all of this
to the south of the house

where they have built two
hog houses and a lagoon.

I went to our county commissioners,

which is our local government.

Of course I called the sheriff department,

and they said they can't get involved

with these kind of issues,

that I'll have to call water quality,

that's why I end up
calling Dina so many times,

Because I continued to find any avenue

that I could to pursue this

to get someone to pay
attention to what was going on

with me and my family and other people,

the hog farmer's son came over twice.

The first time he came over,

he went back over here where
his father was spraying

and he stood there with
a gun beside of him.

And then he came back over a second time,

the hog farmer's son walked in here,

opened the screen door and
he opened this storm door

without being invited in.

He walked up to my mother

and he started shaking
her and cursing at her.

And he told her that he
could do anything to me

that he wanted to me and get away with it.

And I went to law about this of course,

and we went through court about it,

and just like he's said,

he walked out as if he had done nothing.

When spraying, that means it's raw,

so that means we are inhaling this stuff

when everything is alive.

The hog waste, the urine,
the antibiotics, the ammonia,

everything that's in the lagoon

is being released into our atmosphere.

So we can't open our windows,
we don't open the doors.

We're pretty much
prisoners in our own home.

And when you do try to go
out when he's spraying,

you have to hold your breath,

because it will take your breath away.

It will make your eyes start watering.

It will make you start coughing, gagging,

feel like you want to throw up.

It makes you angry, you get depressed,

because no one is listening,
and it just doesn't seem

to me how someone could believe
they have the right to blow

animal waste on another human being.

(dramatic music)

- The barn in the other part
there is a little dance hall

that people can do line
dancing and country dancing in.

And this right here was our
old tobacco grating barn.

This is called a 140 Farmall tractor.

It's the first new tractor
and only new tractor

that my father ever owned.

This is probably the tractor
that replaced the mules.

People took these one
tractors and they plowed,

the little family farmer!

He could take this
tractor and make a living

off of it for his family.

But you can't do that there
now for corporate takeover

of American agriculture
is real and it's here.

I got into hog business because
I was teaching in school,

and back then a school teacher
wasn't making much money,

and so I figured out something
I could do in the afternoons

to try to help make more money.

And so I got into business like that,

and I stayed in the business,
and it was pretty good.

But something happened
that changed my mind

about the way I was raising hogs.

And there was an old store down there

that Mr. Bazemore used to run.

And you could stop
there and buy a sausage.

I stopped there a lot and eat.

And one day I went by there
and Mr. Bazemore said,

"Don," he says, "I want to talk to you."

And Mr. Bazemore said,

"Don, I don't wanna upset
you because I like you,"

he said, "but ain't there
something you can do

"about this odor?"

So what did Don do?

I got a V-bottom aluminum boat
that my business partner had

and his Johnson motor put on.

And I got some yeast, and
I put it in the cesspool,

a little cesspool, not as
big as these nine-acres are.

And I stirred it in both places.

I mean I stirred it up good,

mixed it up with yeast.

And about three or four days later

I stopped by Mr. Bazemore's store.

I said, "Mr. Bazemore,
are things any better?"

He said, "Don," he said, "I
wanna tell you something."

He said, "Please, ever what
you did don't do it no more,

"because that made it worse."

I went to my business partner,
I said, "I'm through."

I said, "I don't want
nobody do me that way,

"and I don't wanna do
my mom and dad that way,

"and I can't live with myself
if I'ma do it this way.

"And I don't see any other way to stop

"that feces and urine from stinking."

We got too big and we weren't real big

compared to hog business now.

(dramatic techno music)

- During the '90s we saw
90% of all our hog farms

disappear in the United States.

The cash market dwindled
from 100% of the market

to less than 5% of the market.

The majority of animals now
are raised under contract

and so you saw this
traditional profitable industry

for raising hogs get wiped out,

and replaced with this
new way of raising animals

that was industrialized
and centrally controlled.

It was really a corporate take over,

and it happened in a very
short period of time.

Most hog production today
in the United States

is produced in this industrial model.

It's called vertical integration.

The way it works is that a company

will own the nursery
where the hogs are born.

It will own the feed mill
that produces the feed

for the hogs.

It owns the trucking lines
that transport the hogs.

It even owns the slaughterhouse
where the pigs are killed

and turned into a variety of product.

This was a business
that used to be a pillar

of rural America.

And then it got taken over by Smithfiled.

You know, this is a company
that had spent decades devouring

independent firms in the United States,

and acquiring a kind of market share

that never should have been allowed

to fall under the umbrella of one firm.

It is not a good idea to allow one firm

to control 30% of the entire market

in the pork industry or food industry.

Once that happened though,

it became a very attractive target

for any kind of overseas company

that could afford to buy it.

It's a huge sector of productive
capacity in rural America.

I mean we're talking about
thousands of large scale farms.

There's a lot of money
being made raising pigs

in the United States.

(dramatic music)

(crowd mumbling)

- We're down here.

This is now the financial
room here we're standing in.

So over here we have bond option trading,

we have T-bonds here.

Our agricultural sector has
been diminished over here,

which we still do the options
on soybeans, wheat, and corn.

We also do livestock.

China for years and years
has been trying to eat

like a Westerner,

which we consume about
3,400 calories per day.

China is now approaching 2,900 calories,

so they really caught up to
where we are on caloric intake.

China has the largest
hog herd in the world

accounting for about 47%
of all pork productions,

but again when we look at meat consumption

or caloric consumption going forward,

it's gotta happen in
countries like Bangladesh,

Nigeria, Pakistan, India.

These are gonna be the
big drivers of calories

over the next 10 to 20 years.

Here therefore they
don't have the GDP rates

to expand the meat consumption

much like China didn't
become a big meat consumer

until the 2001-2002 period

when its GDP levels started
to rally dramatically.

(graceful music)

- I think having a secure pork market

is very important in China,

and that's part of the
reason why Shanghuai,

or now it's known as WH group,

while they looked to acquire Smithfield's,

America's largest pork producer.

One, I think they wanted access to supply,

but two, from what I've heard
from Smithfield's executives

is that they wanted to learn

how the American pork operations worked,

how we were able to produce so much pork

on so very little land.

And that means that this
American industrialized style

of producing pork is
being exported to China.

(graceful music)

(machine rattling)

- In the United States, the
pork processing industry

is highly concentrated.

I think the last figure
was that four firms

controlled about 70% of
processing in the United States.

And China's moving more towards
this kind of consolidation

and using vertical integration,

where government support
really goes to processors.

(man speaking in foreign language)

(man speaking in foreign language)

- When you are feeding so many animals

in such a small space,

animals' health is compromised.

Antibiotics become used routinely

both for illness prevention

and to increase weight gain in animals.

In general, if you have
a few pigs on a farm,

their waste is an asset.

It's something you can
spread on your fields.

It's a fantastic fertilizer.

You have a complete nutrient cycle.

But when you have 10,000 or
20,000 hogs in a small facility,

their waste is a huge liability.

- In 1960, there was less
than 10 billion animals

killed per year for food.

Today there is over 70 billion.

And if the trajectory of
meatification continues,

there will be 120 billion
animals killed for food by 2050.

Industrial livestock
operations effectively command

about a third of the world's arable land.

That includes the majority
of the world's coarse grain

production, the biggest
coarse grain being maize

and a huge source of oilseeds,

principally soybeans on a world scale.

And so there are these huge flows of grain

and oilseed monocultures

through what I call islands
of concentrated animals.

(wind howling)

- China as a country
consumes twice as much meat

as the United States,

but each person is only consuming
half as much as Americans.

So, were the Chinese able to fully emulate

the American diet?

It's hard to say where
that meat would come from.

Already China is increasing
its imports of pork.

It's increasing its imports of soybeans

that are fed to the livestock

whether it's the pork, the chicken,

the beef or the farmed fish.

They are incorporating a lot
more of soybean in their diet.

So the Chinese government,

well aware of the dangers of famine,

having lived through the Chinese famine,

where official records say
some 36 million people died,

they wanted to make sure
that they could secure

their food supply at home.

If the Chinese try to eat like Americans,

what will happen to the Amazon rainforest?

Where will we find the
land to grow that much soy

to grow that much grain?

There is just not any empty
frontiers anymore on the planet.

(graceful instrumental music)

(dogs barking)

(woman speaking in foreign language)

(dramatic music)

(man speaking in foreign language)

(engaging techno music)

(children mumbling)

(crowd mumbling)

(man speaking in foreign language)

(man speaking in foreign language)

- We have the same seeds,

the same agri-chemicals,

the same trading companies,

the same price-setting mechanisms,

the same players.

It's a very homogenous production system

even though it's very
diverse in its integration

into radically different
ecosystems and social settings.

It's a production system that generates

its own homogeneity in order to be able

to attend this global market.

(dramatic music)

(woman speaking in foreign language)

(rain pattering)

(chattering in foreign language)

(woman laughing)

(chattering in foreign language)

(men chattering in foreign language)

(woman speaking in foreign language)

(men chattering speaking
in foreign language)

(rhythmic techno music)

(man speaking in foreign language)

(woman speaking in foreign language)

(engaging techno music)

(men chattering in foreign language

- [Jeremias] Okay.

(crowd laughing)

(men chattering in foreign language)

(upbeat techno music)

(Jeremias speaking in foreign language)

(calm instrumental music)

(Romulo speaking in foreign language)

- Taking rainforests and plowing that

into a soybean monoculture
turns up an awful lot of carbon

that has been stored in the
soil, stored in the forest.

So those vast monocultures
emit a lot of greenhouse gases

just in turning it over the first time,

but then every time you're plowing,

you have the emissions from the
agriculture machinery itself

and then you have the emissions
of crushing the soybeans,

processing it, and shipping
them back to China.

It's an enormously
energy-intensive process.

(rhythmic techno music)

- In the context of climate change,

how do we reduce agriculture's
footprint to landscapes

and enhance carbon sequestration?

The clearance of tropical rainforests

for either pasture or
large-scale monocultures

has enormous climate implication

in terms of the release of
carbon from those ecosystems.

And in the case of industrial monocultures

to make those nutrient-poor
soils productive for farming

requires very considerable fertilizer.

(man speaking in foreign language)

(calm instrumental music)

(calm instrumental music)

(men chattering in foreign language)

(calm instrumental music)

(man speaking in foreign language)

(playful instrumental music)

(dramatic techno music)

(upbeat techno music)

(pig snorts)

(upbeat techno music)

(faint voice talking)

(man speaking in foreign language)

(graceful music)

- I don't know whether
the independent farmer

or the farmer with sovereignty

is totally disappearing around the world.

But I know that wherever there's
industrialized agriculture,

you are gonna see the replacement
of the independent farmer

with the corporate contract farmer.

- It's ironic how ideas
of national sovereignty

that are usually flared up

when we talk about such a
transnationally controlled sector

end up really neglecting
the food sovereignty

of the majority of the people

in a place like China or in Brazil.

In Brazil peasant rural workers

are displaced, marginalized

by this production system
that's really geared

to produce profit and export commodities,

while in China the peasants
are forced off their land,

they're disenfranchised,
become second class citizens

as migrant workers in the cities.

(graceful music)

- The narrative that the world must double

its food production by 2050

as we move from seven billion people today

to nine to 10 billion people,

central to that is rising
livestock production

and consumption as this inevitable force

in world agriculture.

And that is something that I think

needs to be fundamentally destabilized.

It's not inevitable that human beings

will continue consuming

more and more animal flesh per person.

We don't need to be
doubling food production,

we need to be producing
food in very different ways

and thinking about diets
as a very fundamental part

of reconfiguring agriculture systems.

- For me it's obvious that
we need to eat less meat.

And people criticize me
because this is Iowa,

and we have a lot of meat production here.

So, "Oh Jude, you can't say that,

"you can't say to eat less meat!"

But why?

Who is being hurt by this?

If it's healthy to eat less meat

then wouldn't the
farmers in Iowa be better

to produce a special
kind of high quality meat

and to have less animals
but that get paid more.

And I think that everybody
would be better off financially

and better off health-wise
at the end of the day.

But people are afraid because
large integrated companies

would lose money,

so you can't say these things in public.

- Come on, Red!

Where is Red at?

There is Red, there we go.

Come on.

There we are.

(faint voice talking)

Come here, come on.

(pig snorting)

You gotta start sweepin', huh?

(faint voice talking)

- [Man With Bonnet] Is he your friend Red?

- Oh, yeah, he's my friend.

Oh, yeah, he always comes.

(faint voice talking)

- You can see they like to eat the grass

and a little bit of corn
and a variety of things.

So the principle in organic
farming is to treat the system

as one whole living organism.

So the earth and the land and the crops

are ultimately supporting the animals,

but the animals manure will then return

to the system as nutrients
to support the earth.

And it's really important
to have this in balance

in organic farming,

because these nutrients
are very valuable for us.

It means we don't have
to be buying fertilizer.

And if we're managing the pigs' waste

in the right and in a natural way,

for example in the pasture as you see,

then the system can be successful

without any purchased inputs

or chemicals or fertilizers or pesticides.

- I think the biggest problem is that

the regulatory market structures
in the US are not built

to accommodate new
entrants into the market.

There are some really smart people in Iowa

who wanted to make an alternative,

and they actually scaled
up an alternative model.

But over time they became big enough

that they attracted hedge
fund money from New York

and then they began to change
their practices a little bit

to ramp up production.

And they guy who had
founded it quit and left

and then just a few months ago,

the company itself was purchased

by one of the largest
agribusiness consortiums

in the US, right?

So you see how these models get coopted

into the existing system

if they're allowed to grow at all.

(faint voice talking)

- California is so incredible.

You can go at short distance

and be in a completely different climate.

- [Boy] Oh.

Well, there are some
disadvantages about that too!


- We were naturally raising pigs outdoors.

Of course you would.

We never even considered
not doing it that way.

- Instinctively.
- Instinctively.

And it was like in my
childhood in Minnesota

where you'd go down any country road

and there'd be pigs out in
a field or next to a barn

winter, summer, any season.

And they're outside
frolicking and rooting around

and doing what pigs do, and thriving.

And so that was my model, and
we did the same thing here.

And it was very sensible and it worked,

and it made great pork and the
pigs were happy and healthy.

And then the only problem was
it was a lot of work, right?

And we're trying to
streamline the operations

through capital investments

and not concerned about, well,

what's that mean to the
pig's and its lifestyle?

Once I've learned more and more about pigs

and saw these bigger scale operations,

I said, "Wait a minute, there's
something wrong with that."

And if you guys know,

you've seen probably a lot of pigs now.

You can look a pig right in the eye

and you can tell when they're suffering

or when they're happy

and having eyes just like ours, I think,

they're much easier to communicate with.

(boy babbling)

- Well, I think the
whole system right now,

everything from the way food is subsidized

and the way environmental
laws are enforced.

You can just look at so many
levels on which everything

is geared toward supporting
industrial production.

And if you look at the Department
of Agriculture's policies

and just the way they enforce regulations

and then the way they apply things,

it's always set up for
the largest operations

and the smaller and independent
farmers and ranchers

just have to kind of
make do with the system

and even though it really
doesn't work for them.

Come on.

(faint voice talking)

(boy giggling)

(faint voice talking)

Basically the food supply is getting

into fewer and fewer hands,

and there's less and less diversity,

it's less and less dispersed.

That's really problematic

from a lot of different standpoints.

And for one thing when
you just think about it

in terms of the security
of our food system,

we're very vulnerable.

(faint voice talking)

- We should be concerned about the scale

and the fact that fewer and fewer firms,

smaller and smaller number
of firms are controlling

and deciding what we eat, how
we eat it, where we buy it,

and deciding that the health
and ecological implications

don't really matter.

They don't really get counted in the idea

of what quality food is, of
what the price of food is.

None of these things are counted

and just a few people
are deciding that for us.

- They want these animals to grow

as fast as they can get them to grow

on the feed they have,

that they're producing for these animals.

And what you have is
you have a hybrid animal

that they only know one
thing: grow really fast

and consume as much feed as
they can possibly consume,

but also at the same time
they're utilizing all that feed.

That's what they've come up
with with these universities:

give us the best cross to produce this

at the cheapest price.

That's what they want.

(pig squeals)

See how they just graze it?

They don't dig it up, they graze it.

We wanna run into the grocery store,

the super Walmart, and
we wanna grab something.

We'd look down the aisle and
it says, "Certified organic"

and that's maybe 50 to 60% more

than something that was grown over here.

Well, I don't want
that, I can't afford it.

But you know what,

you still get the almighty
dollar stuck in your pocket

'cause you just saved yourself 50%

because you bought something

that who knows what they were doing to it

or who knows how they were growin' it.

(dramatic instrumental music)

- Let me say it this way:

as our population begins
to grow and it's growing,

one day there won't be no meat

because the human beings
have to eat the grain

like they did back many years ago

when we didn't have so much meat.

Already you can feed more
people with soybeans, corn

than you can with meat.

If you want to feed the starving world

cut up feeding all these
cows and stuff like that

and feed the people on what they can get

to fill their bellies,

but somebody wants to make money.

They talk about, "We
want to feed the world."

If you want to feed the world,

you can feed more world with
grain than you can with meat.

(upbeat techno music)