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Coffee Farmers Struggle, Investors Act As Stocks Plummet

Coffee Farmers Struggle, Investors Act As Stocks Plummet


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Coffee farmers are reconsidering the use of their land as investors buy up low stock prices

Low prices are causing problems for coffee farmers, but investors are acting on cheap stocks hoping value increases are just around the corner.

Though stock prices for arabica coffee fell on Wednesday to their lowest levels since 2009, don’t expect inexpensive coffee for long. As growers cut back, investors are jumping on this opportunity, placing bets on low coffee stocks.

According to the Wall Street Journal, coffee growers are taking a hit from the low prices of coffee. Coffee-bean prices have fallen 54 percent in the past two years, and coffee farmers are struggling to earn substantial wages. “It is impossible to go on,” said Joaquim Libânio Ferreira Leite, a Brazilian coffee farmer said to the WSJ. “No money, no coffee.”

Some farmers are even reconsidering the use of their land, a move that investors are relying on to make beans more rare, increasing the value of their coffee stocks. With production low, stock cost decreases. But come harvesting time, investors are expecting a big value increase for their once inexpensive stocks.

The governments of big coffee-growing countries, like Brazil, are trying to help farmers through direct subsidies and free farming supplies, which could ultimately smooth out price volatility. But in the meantime, coffee farmers will have to hold on tight and hope they can ride out the economic chaos.


Stocks Tumble Below 23,000 Twitter Falls More Than 11 Percent

SAN JOSE (CBS SF/AP) — The Dow continued its tumble Thursday, falling more than 464 points as several tech giants including San Francisco-based Twitter were hit hard by the sell-off.

At the closing bell, Twitter shares had fallen just over 11 percent while Netflix was down 2.35 percent, Amazon had dropped more than 2.29 percent and Alphabet (Google) was off 1.15 percent.

Among the FAANG stocks, only Facebook ended the day on a positive note, closing up slightly.

Investors were uneasy over the struggle between President Donald Trump and Congress to keep the government from at least a partial shutdown on Friday.

The benchmark S&P 500 index has slumped more than 6 percent in the last six days and is now 15 percent below the peak it reached in late September. After steady gains through the spring and summer, stocks have slumped in the fall as investors worry that global economic growth is cooling off and that the U.S. could slip into a recession in the next few years. Oil prices fell sharply again.

Markets are also concerned about twin threats that could make the situation even worse: the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China, which has lasted most of this year and shows few signs of easing, and rising interest rates, which act as a brake on economic growth by making it more expensive for businesses and individuals to borrow money.

Investors are responding to a weakening outlook for the U.S. economy by selling stocks and buying ultra-safe U.S. government bonds. The bond-buying has the effect of sending long-term bond yields lower, which reduces interest rates on mortgages and other kinds of long-term loans. That’s generally good for the economy.

At the same time, the reduced bond yields can send a negative signal on the economy. The bond market has correctly predicted several previous U.S. recessions by buying long-term bonds and sending yields down.

Smaller company stocks have been crushed during the recent market slump because slower growth in the U.S. will have an outsize effect on their profits. Relative to their size, they also tend to carry more debt than larger companies, which could be a problem in a slower economy with higher interest rates.

The Russell 2000 is down almost 24 percent from the peak it reached in late August and it’s down 12 percent for the year to date, twice the loss of the S&P 500 index, which tracks large companies.

On Wednesday, stocks gave up an early gain and ended up with big losses after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the fourth time this year and signaled it was likely to continue raising rates next year, although at a slower rate than it previously forecast.

Questions about future interest rate moves are adding to the confusion for investors. Speaking at a news conference late Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged that the Fed’s decisions are getting trickier because they need to be based on the most up-to-date figures on jobs, inflation, and economic growth. In the last three years the Fed has been able to tell investors weeks in advance that it was almost certain to increase rates.

That means there will be more uncertainty, and markets hate uncertainty.

Oil prices continued to retreat. They’ve dropped about 40 percent since early October as the slowing global economy and rising production have knocked prices down.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 4.8 percent to $45.86 a barrel in New York while Brent crude, used to price international oils, dipped 4.3 percent to $54.80 a barrel in London.

Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the two-year Treasury note rose to 2.67 percent from 2.65 percent, while the yield on the 10-year note stayed at 2.77 percent.

The gap between those two yields has been shrinking this year. When the 10-year yield falls below the two-year yield, investors call it an “inverted yield curve.” That is often interpreted as a sign a recession is coming, although it’s not a perfect signal, and when recessions do follow inversions in the yield curve, it can take a year or more.

In France, the CAC 40 lost 1.8 percent and Germany’s DAX fell 1.4 percent. The British FTSE 100 slipped 0.7 percent. Indexes in Italy, Portugal and Spain took bigger losses.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 2.8 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gave up 1 percent. Seoul’s Kospi shed 0.9 percent.

As investors adjusted to the prospect of a weaker economy and lower long-term interest rates, the dollar fell to 111.47 yen from 112.36 yen. The euro rose to $1.1419 from $1.1368. The British pound rose to $1.2646 from $1.2621. That sent the price of gold higher, and it gained 0.4 percent to $1,261 an ounce.

Health care and household goods companies were taking some of the largest losses after weak results from companies including Walgreens and Conagra. Both of those companies reported disappointing sales, and Conagra sank 11.6 percent to $25.73 while Walgreens Boots Alliance lost 4.2 percent to $70.24.

© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


10 Major Agricultural Problems of India and their Possible Solutions

Some of the major problems and their possible solutions have been discussed as follows. Indian agriculture is plagued by several problems some of them are natural and some others are manmade.

1. Small and fragmented land-holdings:

The seemingly abundance of net sown area of 141.2 million hectares and total cropped area of 189.7 million hectares (1999-2000) pales into insignificance when we see that it is divided into economically unviable small and scattered holdings.

The average size of holdings was 2.28 hectares in 1970-71 which was reduced to 1.82 hectares in 1980-81 and 1.50 hectares in 1995-96. The size of the holdings will further decrease with the infinite Sub-division of the land holdings.

The problem of small and fragmented holdings is more serious in densely populated and intensively cultivated states like Kerala, West Bengal, Bihar and eastern part of Uttar Pradesh where the average size of land holdings is less than one hectare and in certain parts it is less than even 0.5 hectare.

Rajasthan with vast sandy stretches and Nagaland with the prevailing ‘Jhoom’ (shifting agriculture) have larger average sized holdings of 4 and 7.15 hectares respectively. States having high percentage of net sown area like Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have holding size above the national average.

Further it is shocking to note that a large proportion of 59 per cent holdings in 1990- 91 were marginal (below 1 hectare) accounting for 14.9 per cent of the total operated area. Another 19 per cent were small holdings (1-2 hectare) taking up 17.3 per cent of the total operated area.

Large holdings (above 10 hectare) accounted for only 1.6 per cent of total holdings but covered 17.4 per cent of the operated area (Table 22.1). Hence, there is a wide gap between small farmers, medium farmers (peasant group) and big farmers (landlords).

The main reason for this sad state of affairs is our inheritance laws. The land belonging to the father is equally distributed among his sons. This distribution of land does not entail a collection or consolidated one, but its nature is fragmented.

Different tracts have different levels of fertility and are to be distributed accordingly. If there are four tracts which are to be distributed between two sons, both the sons will get smaller plots of each land tract. In this way the holdings become smaller and more fragmented with each passing generation.

Sub-division and fragmentation of the holdings is one of the main causes of our low agricultural productivity and backward state of our agriculture. A lot of time and labour is wasted in moving seeds, manure, implements and cattle from one piece of land to another.

Irrigation becomes difficult on such small and fragmented fields. Further, a lot of fertile agricultural land is wasted in providing boundaries. Under such circumstances, the farmer cannot concentrate on improvement.

The only answer to this ticklish problem is the consolidation of holdings which means the reallocation of holdings which are fragmented, the creation of farms which comprise only one or a few parcels in place of multitude of patches formerly in the possession of each peasant.

But unfortunately, this plan has not succeeded much. Although legislation for consolidation of holdings has been enacted by almost all the states, it has been implemented only in Punjab, Haryana and in some parts of Uttar Pradesh.

Consolidation of about 45 million holdings has been done till 1990-91 in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. The other solution to this problem is cooperative farming in which the farmers pool their resources and share the profit.

2. Seeds:

Seed is a critical and basic input for attaining higher crop yields and sustained growth in agricultural production. Distribution of assured quality seed is as critical as the production of such seeds. Unfortunately, good quality seeds are out of reach of the majority of farmers, especially small and marginal farmers mainly because of exorbitant prices of better seeds.

In order to solve this problem, the Government of India established the National Seeds Corporation (NSC) in 1963 and the State Farmers Corporation of India (SFCI) in 1969. Thirteen State Seed Corporations (SSCs) were also established to augment the supply of improved seeds to the farmers.

High Yielding Variety Programme (HYVP) was launched in 1966-67 as a major thrust plan to increase the production of food grains in the country.

The Indian seed industry had exhibited impressive growth in the past and is expected to provide further potential for growth in agricultural production: The role of seed industry is not only to produce adequate quantity of quality seeds but also to achieve varietal diversity to suit various agro-climatic zones of the country.

The policy statements are designed towards making available to the Indian farmer, adequate quantities of seed of superior quality at the appropriate time and place and at an affordable price so as to meet the country’s food and nutritional security goals.

Indian seeds programme largely adheres to limited generation system for seed multiplication. The system recognises three kinds of generation, namely breeder, foundation and certified seeds. Breeder seed is the basic seed and first stage in seed production. Foundation seed is the second stage in seed production chain and is the progeny of breeder seed.

Certified seed is the ultimate stage in seed production chain and is the progeny of foundation seed. Production of breeder and foundation seeds and certified seeds distribution have gone up at an annual average rate of 3.4 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 9.5 per cent respectively, between 2001-02 and 2005-06).

3. Manures, Fertilizers and Biocides:

Indian soils have been used for growing crops over thousands of years without caring much for replenishing. This has led to depletion and exhaustion of soils resulting in their low productivity. The average yields of almost all the crops are among t e lowest in the world. This is a serious problem which can be solved by using more manures and fertilizers.

Manures and fertilizers play the same role in relation to soils as good food in relation to body. Just as a well-nourished body is capable of doing any good job, a well nourished soil is capable of giving good yields. It has been estimated that about 70 per cent of growth in agricultural production can be attributed to increased fertilizer application.

Thus increase in the consumption of fertilizers is a barometer of agricultural prosperity. However, there are practical difficulties in providing sufficient manures and fertilizers in all parts of a country of India’s dimensions inhabited by poor peasants. Cow dung provides the best manure to the soils.

But its use as such is limited because much of cow dung is used as kitchen fuel in the shape of dung cakes. Reduction in the supply of fire wood and increasing demand for fuel in the rural areas due to increase in population has further complicated the problem. Chemical fertilizers are costly and are often beyond the reach of the poor farmers. The fertilizer problem is, therefore, both acute and complex.

It has been felt that organic manures are essential for keeping the soil in good health. The country has a potential of 650 million tonnes of rural and 160 lakh tonnes of urban compost which is not fully utilized at present. The utilization of this potential will solve the twin problem of disposal of waste and providing manure to the soil.

The government has given high incentive especially in the form of heavy subsidy for using chemical fertilizers. There was practically no use of chemical fertilizers at the time of Independence As a result of initiative by the government and due to change in the attitude of some progressive farmers, the consumption of fertilizers increased tremendously.

In order to maintain the quality of the fertilizers, 52 fertilizer quality control laboratories have been set up in different parts of the country. In addition, there is one Central Fertilizer Quality Control and Training Institute at Faridabad with its three regional centres at Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

Pests, germs and weeds cause heavy loss to crops which amounted to about one third of the total field produce at the time of Independence. Biocides (pesticides, herbicides and weedicides) are used to save the crops and to avoid losses. The increased use of these inputs has saved a lot of crops, especially the food crops from unnecessary wastage. But indiscriminate use of biocides has resulted in wide spread environmental pollution which takes its own toll.

4. Irrigation:

Although India is the second largest irrigated country of the world after China, only one-third of the cropped area is under irrigation. Irrigation is the most important agricultural input in a tropical monsoon country like India where rainfall is uncertain, unreliable and erratic India cannot achieve sustained progress in agriculture unless and until more than half of the cropped area is brought under assured irrigation.

This is testified by the success story of agricultural progress in Punjab Haryana and western part of Uttar Pradesh where over half of the cropped area is under irrigation! Large tracts still await irrigation to boost the agricultural output.

However, care must be taken to safeguard against ill effects of over irrigation especially in areas irrigated by canals. Large tracts in Punjab and Haryana have been rendered useless (areas affected by salinity, alkalinity and water-logging), due to faulty irrigation. In the Indira Gandhi Canal command area also intensive irrigation has led to sharp rise in sub-soil water level, leading to water-logging, soil salinity and alkalinity.

5. Lack of mechanisation:

In spite of the large scale mechanisation of agriculture in some parts of the country, most of the agricultural operations in larger parts are carried on by human hand using simple and conventional tools and implements like wooden plough, sickle, etc.

Little or no use of machines is made in ploughing, sowing, irrigating, thinning and pruning, weeding, harvesting threshing and transporting the crops. This is specially the case with small and marginal farmers. It results in huge wastage of human labour and in low yields per capita labour force.

There is urgent need to mechanise the agricultural operations so that wastage of labour force is avoided and farming is made convenient and efficient. Agricultural implements and machinery are a crucial input for efficient and timely agricultural operations, facilitating multiple cropping and thereby increasing production.

Some progress has been made for mechanising agriculture in India after Independence. Need for mechanisation was specially felt with the advent of Green Revolution in 1960s. Strategies and programmes have been directed towards replacement of traditional and inefficient implements by improved ones, enabling the farmer to own tractors, power tillers, harvesters and other machines.

A large industrial base for manufacturing of the agricultural machines has also been developed. Power availability for carrying out various agricultural operations has been increased to reach a level of 14 kW per hectare in 2003-04 from only 0.3 kW per hectare in 1971-72.

This increase was the result of increasing use of tractor, power tiller and combine harvesters, irrigation pumps and other power operated machines. The share of mechanical and electrical power has increased from 40 per cent in 1971 to 84 per cent in 2003-04.

Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest average sales of tractors during the five year period ending 2003-04 and/West Bengal recorded the highest average sales of power tillers during the same period.

Strenuous efforts are being made to encourage the farmers to adopt technically advanced agricultural equipments in order to carry farm operations timely and precisely and to economise the agricultural production process.

6. Soil erosion:

Large tracts of fertile land suffer from soil erosion by wind and water. This area must be properly treated and restored to its original fertility.

7. Agricultural Marketing:

Agricultural marketing still continues to be in a bad shape in rural India. In the absence of sound marketing facilities, the farmers have to depend upon local traders and middlemen for the disposal of their farm produce which is sold at throw-away price.

In most cases, these farmers are forced, under socio-economic conditions, to carry on distress sale of their produce. In most of small villages, the farmers sell their produce to the money lender from whom they usually borrow money.

According to an estimate 85 per cent of wheat and 75 per cent of oil seeds in Uttar Pradesh, 90 per cent of Jute in West Bengal, 70 per cent of oilseeds and 35 per cent of cotton in Punjab is sold by farmers in the village itself. Such a situation arises due to the inability of the poor farmers to wait for long after harvesting their crops.

In order to meet his commitments and pay his debt, the poor farmer is forced to sell the produce at whatever price is offered to him. The Rural Credit Survey Report rightly remarked that the producers in general sell their produce at an unfavourable place and at an unfavourable time and usually they get unfavourable terms.

In the absence of an organised marketing structure, private traders and middlemen dominate the marketing and trading of agricultural produce. The remuneration of the services provided by the middlemen increases the load on the consumer, although the producer does not derive similar benefit.

Many market surveys have revealed that middlemen take away about 48 per cent of the price of rice, 52 per cent of the price of grounduts and 60 per cent of the price of potatoes offered by consumers.

In order to save the farmer from the clutches of the money lenders and the middle men, the government has come out with regulated markets. These markets generally introduce a system of competitive buying, help in eradicating malpractices, ensure the use of standardised weights and measures and evolve suitable machinery for settlement of disputes thereby ensuring that the pro­ducers are not subjected to exploitation and receive remunerative prices.

8. Inadequate storage facilities:

Storage facilities in the rural areas are either totally absent or grossly inadequate. Under such conditions the farmers are compelled to sell their produce immediately after the harvest at the prevailing market prices which are bound to be low. Such distress sale deprives the farmers of their legitimate income.

The Parse Committee estimated the post-harvest losses at 9.3 per cent of which nearly 6.6 per cent occurred due to poor storage conditions alone. Scientific storage is, therefore, very essential to avoid losses and to benefit the farmers and the consumers alike.

At present there are number of agencies engaged in warehousing and storage activities. The Food Corporation of India (F.C.I.), the Central Warehousing Corporation (C.W.C.) and State Warehousing Corporation are among the principal agencies engaged in this task. These agencies help in building up buffer stock, which can be used in the hour of need. The Central Government is also implementing the scheme for establishment of national Grid of Rural Godowns since 1979-80.

This scheme provides storage facilities to the farmers near their fields and in particular to the small and marginal farmers. The Working Group on additional storage facilities in rural areas has recommended a scheme of establishing a network of Rural Storage Centres to serve the economic interests of the farming community.

9. Inadequate transport:

One of the main handicaps with Indian agriculture is the lack of cheap and efficient means of transportation. Even at present there are lakhs of villages which are not well connected with main roads or with market centres.

Most roads in the rural areas are Kutcha (bullock- cart roads) and become useless in the rainy season. Under these circumstances the farmers cannot carry their produce to the main market and are forced to sell it in the local market at low price. Linking each village by metalled road is a gigantic task and it needs huge sums of money to complete this task.

10. Scarcity of capital:

Agriculture is an important industry and like all other industries it also requires capital. The role of capital input is becoming more and more important with the advancement of farm technology. Since the agriculturists’ capital is locked up in his lands and stocks, he is obliged to borrow money for stimulating the tempo of agricultural production.

The main suppliers of money to the farmer are the money-lenders, traders and commission agents who charge high rate of interest and purchase the agricultural produce at very low price. All India Rural Credit Survey Committee showed that in 1950-51 the share of money lenders stood at as high as 68.6 per cent of the total rural credit and in 1975-76 their share declined to 43 per cent of the credit needs of the farmers.

This shows that the money lender is losing ground but is still the single largest contributor of agricultural credit. Rural credit scenario has undergone a significant change and institutional agencies such as Central Cooperative Banks, State Cooperative Banks, Commercial Banks, Cooperative Credit Agencies and some Government Agencies are extending loans to farmers on easy terms.

There has been a steady increase in the flow of institutional credit to agriculture over the years (Table 22.3).


China’s Other Health Crisis Still Isn’t Fixed

The value of piglets has soared in China, as farmers struggle to revive the pig population amid the novel coronavirus epidemic.

Jacky Wong

This year’s epidemic is making it harder for China to recover from last year’s epizootic.

African swine fever decimated the country’s pig population in 2019 in what lovers of Greek etymology would have insisted was an epizootic—relating to animals—and not an epidemic—relating to people. Livestock numbers were down more than 40% until the government stopped reporting them in October, partly because farmers hesitated to restock their herds. Pork prices surged before falling late in the year.

Now pork prices are rocketing again as farmers struggle to revive the pig population amid the novel coronavirus epidemic. Live hogs fetch almost triple what they did a year ago, while the value of piglets has risen even further, potentially pointing to higher prices down the road.

While the spread of African swine fever has slowed, the disease still isn’t fully under control. But that hasn’t stopped farms, especially larger ones, from starting to rebuild their herds in response to the skyrocketing prices. Pig stocks at large farms in December rose 2.7% compared with the previous month.

The coronavirus will likely delay this inventory buildup due to the logistics and labor disruptions it has caused. Rabobank expects pork production to fall 15% to 20% this year in China, even after a more than 20% decline last year.

Imports, which should help alleviate the supply shortfall and keep a lid on prices, have also been disrupted in the first two months of 2020. Due to staffing shortages, operators have been slow to handle the large quantity of frozen pork in the ports, according to Rabobank. The situation should improve, but higher prices will likely persist longer than originally expected.

That may explain why Chinese pork producers have been among the best performers on the Chinese market. Muyuan Foods is up 47% this year, while Henan Shuanghui has gone up 27%. The latter is controlled by WH Group , which owns Smithfield Foods in the U.S. WH Group, whose Hong Kong-listed stock is down 1.6% this year, may be suffering from the trade disruptions now, but it will also be in a uniquely favorable position when China starts ramping up its pork imports, given the company’s substantial operations in both China and the U.S.

While all eyes are understandably on the new coronavirus, China’s forgotten animal-health crisis could still cause trouble.

Write to Jacky Wong at [email protected]

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Bitter Brew: The Stirring Reality of Coffee

The view of El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve from Margarito Gurgua’s farm. Margarito Gurgua is a member of Comon Yaj Noptic in Mexico. Photo Courtesy: Equal Exchange

Coffee is the most popular beverage consumed in developed countries but grown almost exclusively in the Global South. [1] There are two main varieties of coffee: Arabica and Robusta. The former (which is considered better quality) comes mostly from Latin America, Ethiopia, and Kenya the latter from Brazil, Vietnam, and Uganda. [2] In the United States, the largest consumer of coffee worldwide, what was once an exotic luxury is now so entrenched in the culture as to be considered a staple. [3] Unfortunately, coffee is tied to a long history of colonialism and slavery, [4] and production of the crop remains a hotbed of exploitation and environmental degradation to this day.

Child Labor

Coffee farmers typically earn only 7–10% of the retail price of coffee, [5] while in Brazil, workers earn less than 2% of the retail price. [6] To earn enough to survive, many parents pull their children from school to work on the coffee plantations. [5] Child labor is widespread in coffee cultivation. When the price of coffee rises, the incentive for struggling families to withdraw their children from school and send them to work increases at the same time, a fall in coffee prices increases poverty in regions that depend on the crop, which can also prevent children from attending school. Since higher levels of education are tied to higher income over the long term, and children from poor families are those most likely to be sent to work rather than school, child labor maintains a cycle of poverty over generations, which is why it is important for the children to go to school and for the farmers to be paid a living wage so that the amount of money they make is not based on the price of a commodity.

A study in Brazil found that child labor rates were approximately 37% higher—and school enrollment 3% lower—than average in regions where coffee is produced. [7] Children as young as six years old often work eight to 10 hours a day and are exposed to the many health and safety hazards of coffee harvesting and processing, from dangerous levels of sun exposure and injuries, to poisoning from contact with agrochemicals. [8]

During the coffee-harvesting season in Honduras, up to 40% of the workers are children. [8] Children, and women, are hired as temporary workers and are therefore paid even less than adult male workers. [8] In Kenya, for instance, these “casual” workers often only make about $12.00 a month. [4] Even though there are family farms where children might participate in light labor for part of the day, regulations against child labor do exist in coffee-producing countries, but economic pressures make authorities in these regions reluctant to enforce the law. [4]

Many coffee workers are effectively enslaved through debt peonage, which is forced labor to repay debts. Landed elite in coffee-producing regions own large plantations where a permanent workforce is employed. [2] On these plantations, the only source for essential goods is often the estate shop run by the landowners, since workers are prevented from shopping elsewhere by their long hours of work, lack of transportation, or constraints on travelling out of the estate. [9] Since they earn less than minimum wage and must pay inflated prices at the estate shop, workers wind up with little or nothing to show for their long hours of hard physical labor—worse, they can become indebted to the plantation and are thus forced to work as payment on their debts. It is not unusual for families who are part of the permanent labor force on a plantation to work and live there for generations, sometimes being pushed into debt by the cost of renting land or interest on loans for emergency healthcare. [10] Forced labor aside, the conditions of work in coffee production are unjust and often illegal.

A study of workers in Guatemala found that the vast majority did not receive overtime pay or the employee benefits required by law, and nearly half were paid less than Guatemala’s minimum wage. [10] Focus groups conducted as part of the same study revealed instances of discrimination against women, unsanitary living environments, child labor, and a lack of both legally-required health and safety initiatives and access to education. [10]

In Brazil, hundreds of workers are rescued from slave-like conditions annually. [6] In 2016, two of the world’s largest coffee companies (accounting for 39% of the global coffee market), Nestlé and Jacobs Douwe Egberts, acknowledged that slave labor is a risk in their Brazilian supply of coffee. [6] Nestlé admitted they purchase coffee from two plantations with known forced labor and they cannot “fully guarantee that it has completely removed forced labour practices or human rights abuses” from their supply chain. [6]

Nonhuman Animals Exploited

One recent development of concern in the coffee trade is the practice of feeding coffee beans to animals and then using the excreted beans for consumption. Kopi luwak, for example, is a type of Indonesian coffee produced by feeding coffee beans to the Asian palm civet, a small mammal found in the jungles of Asia. It is the most expensive coffee in the world, selling for hundreds of dollars per pound. [20] A single cup can cost up to US$80. [21] Coffee producers claim the civet’s digestion process improves the beans’ flavor.

The popularity of so-called “civet coffee” has led to intensive farming of the animals, who are confined in cages and force-fed the beans. [23] It has been documented that many of the civets in the coffee industry have no access to clean drinking water, no ability to interact with other civets, and live in urine- and feces-soaked cages. Many are forced to stand, sleep, and sit on wire floors, which “causes sores and abrasions.” “It is a constant, intense source of pain and discomfort.” [21] Some civets also exhibit signs of zoochosis, “a neurotic condition among stressed animals in captivity. The signs include constant spinning, pacing and bobbing their heads.” [22] Civets pay a high price for luxury coffee.

A similar process is used in the nascent practice of feeding coffee beans to elephants. Sadly, it’s being carried out at a “sanctuary” in Thailand, where about 27 elephants consume beans from nearby plantations. [26] Branded as Black Ivory Coffee, this expensive brew (it’s about US$50 per serving) doesn’t yet have the popularity of civet coffee, and producers argue the animals are in no way harmed, but it points to a disturbing trend in animal exploitation. [24]

Environmental Impact

In a natural setting, the coffee plant grows in the understory of tropical and subtropical forests. [4] Coffee can be grown under the shade of trees or in the sun of an open field. Shade-grown coffee cultivation is beneficial for the environment in many ways, preventing soil erosion and providing a haven for species native to the often ecologically fragile and extremely biodiverse regions where coffee is grown. [11] The plants used for shade can be a source of additional income for farmers. [12] Moreover, by preventing soil erosion, shade-grown coffee decreases the amount of run-off from agricultural chemicals and reduces water consumption. The product is often considered to be of higher quality, but many coffee-roasting companies have devised ways to hide the bitterness of cheaper beans, increasing demand for inexpensive coffee. Since the yields (and therefore profits) are lower in higher-intensity forms of coffee cultivation, shade-grown coffee operations are increasingly being replaced by sun-grown ones—in some cases, coffee is abandoned altogether in favor of environmentally destructive agriculture, including razing forests into pastureland for cows [2] to feed the worldwide demand for cheap “meat.”

CIRSA Co-op in Chiapas, Mexico. Photo Courtesy: Equal Exchange.

Because sun-grown coffee production depletes the nutrients in the soil, plantations that use this method of cultivation generally only last for about 12 to 15 years before farmers need to replant this perennial crop. [12] Productivity decreases along with soil quality, so after a short span of time it becomes more economically advisable to abandon the plantation and clear a new area of land—an environmentally catastrophic model. In contrast, shade-grown coffee plantations can remain productive for more than three decades. [12] Sadly, large-scale, “technified” coffee production has completely stripped the soil of nutrients in many areas of Brazil, to the point where these lands can no longer be used for agriculture. [13] Sun-grown coffee also requires more chemical fertilizers, agricultural chemicals, and fungicides, making coffee one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. [12] Many pesticides banned in the EU are continued to be utilized on coffee plantations. [6] Given the levels of poverty in the areas where coffee is grown, workers are often unable to afford protective equipment that would limit their exposure in other cases, they simply choose not to use it or are not aware that it is necessary. Many workers complain of difficulty breathing, skin rashes, and birth defects. [6]

In the production of coffee, the skin and pulp of the coffee cherry are removed and discarded. Though the waste makes excellent compost, it is more often unloaded in waterways, where it has a negative effect on water quality. [14] There are two methods for the primary processing of coffee beans: dry and wet. Dry processing is preferable from an environmental perspective as the coffee cherries are simply sorted and left to dry in the sun, while wet processing, on the other hand, involves high water use and generates wastewater. [15]

Labels on Coffee – Do They Mean What They Say?

There are a number of certifications applied to coffee that purport to ensure that the beans were produced ethically. Organic-certified coffee must be made from beans grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Organic agriculture also forbids the use of genetically modified organisms, and farmers use organic fertilizers and safer alternatives to fungicides and agricultural chemicals. [16] Unfortunately, lower-intensity farming methods and the use of shade trees result in lower yields. While the environmental benefits of producing organic coffee are many, the economic advantages are few, and for farmers living in poverty, the immediate struggle to sustain a family will naturally tend to overwhelm concerns about water quality or exposure to chemicals. While certified-organic coffee is sold at a premium, the lower yields mean that farmers do not always profit in a meaningful way from obtaining the certification. [16]

A more recently developed label that appeals to consumers concerned about the environmental effects of coffee is the Rainforest Alliance certification, often found on products from large corporations like Kraft and Nestlé. Unfortunately, its standards are so low as to make the certification almost meaningless. Unlike a Fair Trade certification, the Rainforest Alliance does not guarantee a fixed price to growers, leaving them vulnerable to the rise and fall of coffee prices on the stock exchange. [17] Although the Rainforest Alliance certification does include some provisions on the use of biodiversity and agrochemicals that are used, organic cultivation is not strictly required. [18]

Fair Trade initiatives aim to provide farmers with an equitable price for their coffee and labor however, the coffee crisis – a steep decrease in the price of coffee over the last few decades – has left many farmers in debt to their cooperatives. [19] When the additional income provided by Fair Trade is diverted toward paying off debts and shouldering rising production costs, the actual living conditions of coffee-producing families does not improve. For this reason, a Fair Trade label does not guarantee that the farmers who produced the coffee have a reasonable standard of living or better working conditions than they otherwise would. Furthermore, it should be noted that the premium charged for Fair Trade coffee does not go to coffee farmers in its entirety rather, much of it is expended on marketing, administration, processing facilities, and labor at other levels of production. [19] Fair Trade certification, while a step in the right direction, cannot by itself resolve the inequities of the coffee industry as Bradley R. Wilson (2010) notes, “There are broader political-economic factors outside of price that must be addressed for farmers to earn a livelihood and to overcome cycles of indebtedness.” [19]

Fair Trade has also experienced some changes recently.

Recommendations

Food Empowerment Project encourages individuals to choose a vegan lifestyle, with the understanding that compassionate choices do not have to end there. Individuals can also make impactful decisions by purchasing products, such as coffee, from ethical sources, but Westerners really should begin to view coffee as a luxury, and people should consume less as part of reducing their environmental impact. Gaveau et al. (2009) found that law enforcement to reduce deforestation was helpful, but not completely effective, and concluded that “In the long run one must act to decrease incentives for coffee cultivation.” [25]

If you can, work on getting more sleep versus using a stimulant such as coffee, and if you are going to buy coffee, we recommend supporting the companies below. All of the coffees recommended are shade grown except for Coop Coffee, which sources coffee grown from varying degrees of shade to more direct sunlight.

    is a product of the Community Agroecology Network Trade Innovations Program and directly links farmers, roasters, and consumers to generate higher returns to small-scale coffee farmers transitioning toward sustainability while improving rural livelihoods. – from Mexico – not only pays good wages for the growers, but also pays for health care, social security, and retirement. – supports the authentic and original Fair Trade model by purchasing organic coffee through democratically organized small farmer cooperatives it also supports equitable distribution of economic gains and promotes labor rights and the right of workers to organize, and it promotes safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions.

[1] Global Coffee Market – Forecast to Grow at a CAGR of 5% During 2017-2022 – Research and Markets. (2017, October 31). https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171031006353/en/Global-Coffee-Market—Forecast-Grow-CAGR (2/2/18)

[2] Bacon, C. (2005). Confronting the Coffee Crisis: Can Fair Trade, Organic, and Specialty Coffees Reduce Small-Scale Farmer Vulnerability in Northern Nicaragua? World Development, 33(3). 497-511.

[3] Perez, M. G. (2013, March 22). Coffee Consumption Increases in U.S., Association Survey Shows. Bloomberg. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-22/coffee-consumption-increases-in-u-s-association-survey-shows.html (5/27/14)

[4] Rice, R. (2003). Coffee Production in a Time of Crisis: Social and Environmental Connections. SAIS Review XXIII(1). 221-245. http://cftn.ca/sites/default/files/AcademicLiterature/coffee%20production.pdf

[7] Kruger, D. I. (2007). Coffee Production Effects on Child Labor and Schooling in Rural Brazil. Journal of Development Economics, 82(2), 448-463.

[8] International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour. 2004. Safety and Health Fact Sheet: Coffee. Geneva: International Labour Organization.

[9] Kaye, M. (2008). Arrested Development: Discrimination and Slavery in the 21st Century. London: Anti- Slavery International.

[10] COVERCO. (2003). The Culture of Coffee in Guatemala. http://www.coverco.org.gt/e_coffeinguatemala.html (5/27/14)

[11] Blackman, A., et al. (2005). Deforestation and Shade Coffee in Oaxaca, Mexico: Key Research Findings. Resources for the Future Discussion Paper 39. 1-12. http://www.rff.org/RFF/documents/RFF-DP-05-39.pdf (5/27/14)

[12] Person, L. (2008). Ethics and Environment in the Coffee Sector – Linking CSR to the Consumer’s Power in the Context of Sustainable Development.

[13] Watson, Kelly. “Deforestation, Coffee Cultivation, and Land Degradation: The Challenge of Developing a Sustainable Land Management Strategy in Brazil’s Mata Atlântica Rainforest.” February 5, 2001. https://www.lumes.lu.se/sites/lumes.lu.se/files/watson_kelly.pdf (3/30/18)

[14] Beyene, A., et al. (2012). The Impact of Traditional Coffee Processing on River Water Quality in Ethiopia and the Urgency of Adopting Sound Environmental Practices. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 184(11): 7053-7063.


'They're Trying to Wipe Us Off the Map.' Small American Farmers Are Nearing Extinction

F or nearly two centuries, the Rieckmann family has raised cows for milk in this muddy patch of land in the middle of Wisconsin. Mary and John Rieckmann, who now run the farm and its 45 cows, have seen all manners of ups and downs &mdash droughts, floods, oversupplies of milk that sent prices tumbling. But they&rsquove never seen a crisis quite like this one.

The Rieckmanns are about $300,000 in debt, and bill collectors are hounding them about the feed bill and a repayment for a used tractor they bought to keep the farm going. But it&rsquos harder than ever to make any money, much less pay the debt, Mary Rieckmann says, in the yellow-wallpapered kitchen of the sagging farmhouse where she lives with her husband, John, and two of their seven children. The Rieckmanns receive about $16 for every 100 pounds of milk they sell, a 40 percent decrease from six years back. There are weeks where the entire milk check goes towards the $2,100 monthly mortgage payment. Two bill collectors have taken out liens against the farm. &ldquoWhat do you do when you you’re up against the wall and you just don’t know which way to turn?&rdquo Rieckmann says, as her ancient fridge begins to hum. Mary, 79, and John, 80, had hoped to leave the farm to their two sons, age 55 and 50, who still live with them and run the farm. Now they&rsquore less focused on their legacy than about making it through the week.

In the American imagination, at least, the family farm still exists as it does on holiday greeting cards: as a picturesque, modestly prosperous expanse that wholesomely fills the space between the urban centers where most of us live. But it has been declining for generations, and the closing days of 2019 find small farms pummeled from every side: a trade war, severe weather associated with climate change, tanking commodity prices related to globalization, political polarization, and corporate farming defined not by a silo and a red barn but technology and the efficiencies of scale. It is the worst crisis in decades. Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies were up 12 percent in the Midwest from July of 2018 to June of 2019 they&rsquore up 50 percent in the Northwest. Tens of thousands have simply stopped farming, knowing that reorganization through bankruptcy won&rsquot save them. The nation lost more than 100,000 farms between 2011 and 2018 12,000 of those between 2017 and 2018 alone.

Farm debt, at $416 billion, is at an all-time high. More than half of all farmers have lost money every year since since 2013, and lost more than $1,644 this year. Farm loan delinquencies are rising.

Suicides in farm communities are happening with alarming frequency. Farmers aren&rsquot the only workers in the American economy being displaced by technology, but when they lose their jobs, they also ejected from their homes and the land that&rsquos been in their family for generations. &ldquoIt hits you so hard when you feel like you&rsquore the one who is losing the legacy that your great-grandparents started,&rdquo said Randy Roecker, a Wisconsin dairy farmer who has struggled with depression and whose neighbor Leon Statz committed suicide last year after financial struggles forced him to sell his 50 dairy cows. Roecker estimates he&rsquos losing $30,000 a month.

Even large companies are facing unprecedented challenges Dean Foods, a global dairy producer that buys milk from thousands of small farmers, filed for bankruptcy Tuesday, November 12, and is seeking a sale, a move that could further hamper farmers looking for places to sell their milk.

Farmers have always talked of looming disaster, but the duration and severity of the current crisis suggests an alarming and once unthinkable possibility &mdash that independent farming is no longer a viable livelihood. Small farms, defined as those bringing in less than $350,000 a year before expenses, accounted for just a quarter of food production in 2017, down from nearly half in 1991. In the dairy industry, small farms accounted for just 10 percent of production. The disappearance of the small farm would further hasten the decline of rural America, which has been struggling to maintain an economic base for decades.

&ldquoFarm and ranch families are facing a great extinction,&rdquo says Al Davis, a Nebraska cattle producer and former state senator. &ldquoIf we lose that rural lifestyle, we have really lost a big part of what made this country great.&rdquo

A perfect storm of factors has led to the recent crisis in the farm industry. After boom years in the beginning of the 21st century, prices for commodities like corn, soybeans, milk, and meat started falling in 2013. The reason for these lowered prices are the twin forces upending much of the American economy: technology and globalization. Technology has made farms more efficient than ever before. But economies of scale meant that most of the benefits accrued to corporate farmers, who built up huge holdings as smaller farmers sold out. Even as four million farms disappeared in the United States between 1948 and 2015, total farm output more than doubled. Globalization brought more farmers into the international market for crops, flooding the market with soybeans and corn and cattle and milk, and with increased supply comes lower prices. Global food production has increased 30 percent over the last decade, according to John Newton, the chief economist of the American Farm Bureau. If that’s a good thing for feeding the planet, it also reduces what comes back to producers, whose costs don’t fall with prices.

President Trump&rsquos trade war hasn&rsquot helped matters. After the United States slapped tariffs on Chinese goods including steel and aluminum last year, China retaliated with 25 percent tariffs on agricultural imports from the U.S.. China then turned to other countries such as Brazil to replace American soybeans and corn. &ldquoThis was a market that took years to develop,&rdquo says Barb Kalbach, a fourth- generation corn and soybean farmer in Iowa, referring to China. &ldquoThe president has worked very hard to make our markets unstable.&rdquo Her soybeans are harvested and sitting in a grain elevator as she waits to see if China will buy despite the tariffs. Agricultural exports between January and August this year were down 5 percent, or $5.6 billion dollars, from the same period last year. The Trump administration has made $16 billion in aid available to farmers affected by the trade war, though small farmers complain the bulk of the money has gone to huge producers with large crop losses. Around 40 percent of the $88 billion in farm income expected this year is going to come in the form of federal aid and insurance, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Farm income absent that assistance, at $55 billion, is down 14 percent since last year and is half of what it was in 2013.

Smaller farms have found it especially hard to adapt to these changes, which they blame on government policy and a lack of antitrust enforcement. The government is on the side of big farms, they say, and is ambivalent about whether small farms can succeed. &ldquoGet big or get out,&rdquo Earl Butz, Nixon&rsquos secretary of agriculture, infamously told farmers in the 1970s. It&rsquos a sentiment that Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary under President Trump, echoed recently. &ldquoIn America, the big get bigger and the small go out,&rdquo Perdue said, at the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin in October. The number of farms with more than 2,000 acres nearly doubled between 1987 and 2012, according to USDA data. The number of farms with 200 to 999 acres fell over that time period by 44 percent.

Many small American farmers are routinely selling their crops for less than it costs to produce them. &ldquoIt&rsquos very intimidating, you work hard every day, and every day, it seems like you&rsquore just always struggling,&rdquo says Rieckmann.

Prices are so low that farmers like the Rieckmanns are trying to figure out other ways to come up with the money to keep their farm going. But like many other rural areas around the country, their town of Fremont does not have a bustling economy. Both a Kmart and another department store, Shopko, closed in Waupaca county this year, costing dozens of workers their jobs. Mary Rieckmann who will turn 80 in January, got a job delivering newspapers the family also launched a GoFundMe account. But after Mary crashed her car on a foggy night, her husband and sons convinced her to abandon her paper route. In the past, the family has sold calves to raise extra money, but John recently brought two calves to the stock market and got $20 for one and $30 for another&mdashtwo years ago, those calves would have brought in $300 to $400 each. &ldquoIf somebody would have told me 20 years ago what it was going to be like now, I think I would have called him a liar,&rdquo Rieckmann says.

Heavy rain and unseasonable snow this year have also hurt many Midwestern farmers. This year &ldquohas been one of the most significant weather event years,&rdquo said John Newton, chief economist of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Portions of Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota experienced record flooding this year, with the upper Mississippi River receiving 200 percent more rain and snow than normal. Unusual rain and snow prevented farmers from planting on 19 million acres this year, the most since the USDA began measuring in 2007. Last year, by contrast, weather prevented planting on just 2 million acres.

Mike Rosmann, a clinical psychologist and farmer from Iowa who works with farmers in distress, says that this spring, he got seven calls per week from farmers who were having mental health problems because of their farm&rsquos finances. One farmer called Rosmann to say he was considering suicide &mdash floods destroyed the corn he had already harvested and stored in a grain elevator, but neither crop insurance nor flood insurance would cover it, since he had already harvested the crop. &ldquoWhen that farm is lost, it&rsquos a huge amount of loss of self,&rdquo says Scott Marlow, senior policy specialist at the Rural Advancement Foundation, which runs a hotline for farmers in danger of losing their farms. John Hanson, who runs an assistance hotline in Nebraska, says that this year he has gotten calls at midnight from desperate farmers, including one sitting in his kitchen with a loaded shotgun and the lights out.

&ldquoIt&rsquos very, very bleak for us, and many farmers I know are in the same boat,&rdquo said Brenda Cochran, a small dairy farmer in Pennsylvania who says she knows of nine suicides related to low milk prices over the last two years. &ldquoIt would take a miracle to sustain us for five years.&rdquo Farm Aid operates a 1-800 hotline for farmers facing crisis, and calls to that hotline were up 109 percent last year from the year before, says Alicia Harvie, director of Farm Aid&rsquos Advocacy and Farmer Services. The newest farm bill sets aside $50 million over five years for behavioral health supports for distressed farmers.

Rural America has been shrinking for decades, and the Great Recession accelerated that contraction as rural manufacturing jobs disappeared and people moved to cities and suburbs seeking work. That is indeed where the jobs are. Between 2008 and 2017, metropolitan areas that included central cities of at least 50,000 people accounted for 99 percent of all job and population growth, according to data crunched by David Swenson, an economist at Iowa State University. In the Midwest, 81 percent of rural counties saw population declines between 2008 and 2017, and in the Northeast, 85 percent of rural counties shrank over that time period.

Kalbach, the Iowa corn and soybean farmer, says on the square mile of land where she lives, five farm different families used to grow corn, beans, hay, cattle, and pigs. Over the past 15 years, the other four families have given up and moved away. As farmers sold to bigger operations, the local businesses that were dependent on small farmers went belly-up, too. The place where the Kalbachs buy chemicals is now 75 miles away. Her county&rsquos lone pharmacy closed earlier this year. There is no longer a local place where she can get farm equipment repaired. &ldquoAll the thousands of farmers that have left the land&mdashall the businesses have gone with them,&rdquo she says.

So have the institutions that make a community. Around 4,400 schools in rural districts closed between 2011 and 2015, the most recent year for which there is data available, according to the National Center for Education Statistics suburban districts, by contrast, added roughly 4,000 schools over that same time period. In Wisconsin&rsquos dairy country alone, the Antigo School District, in north central Wisconsin, closed three elementary schools this year, and 44 schools have closed since 2018.

“I used to have a lot of neighbors, now I have almost no neighbors,” says George Naylor, an Iowa corn and soybean farmer who is trying to transition to organic farming to stay afloat.

Cochran is worried about the future of her rural Pennsylvania community as more farmers give up. Two neighbor farm auctions are scheduled soon. The dairy refrigeration supply business where she buys equipment is on the verge of collapse. Young people, seeing economic despair all around them, get out as quickly as they can. &ldquoI see this as a wholesale removal &mdash or extermination &mdash of our rural class,&rdquo she says.

There&rsquos nothing on the horizon to turn around these rural areas. Americans are increasingly concentrating in a few metropolitan areas &mdash by 2040, 70 percent of Americans will live in 15 states. The regions surrounding America&rsquos family farms may become the country&rsquos next ghost towns. &ldquoWe have to think about what we really want rural America to look like,&rdquo says Jim Goodman, president of the National Family Farm Coalition. &ldquoDo we want it to be abandoned small towns and farmers who can&rsquot make a living, and a lot of really big farms that are polluting the groundwater?&rdquo (Large farms, which have more animal waste to deal with because of their size, have been found to pollute groundwater and air.)

Most family farmers seem to agree on what led to their plight: government policy. In the years after the New Deal, they say, the United States set a price floor for farmers, essentially ensuring they received a minimum wage for the crops they produced. But the government began rolling back this policy in the 1970s, and now the global market largely determines the price they get for their crops. Big farms can make do with lower prices for crops by increasing their scale a few cents per gallon of cow’s milk adds up if you have thousands of cows.

Smaller farmers warn that a country without local farmers can create problems in the food supply chain. If one company is providing all the milk or cheese to an entire region, what happens when that plant gets contaminated or a storm isolates it from the rest of the country? &ldquoIt&rsquos an incredibly fragile supply chain, and when it fails, it fails completely,&rdquo says Marlow, of the Rural Advancement Foundation.

Family farmers say concentrating farmland among a few big companies is akin to feudalism, and un-American. It also diverts whatever profits might come from farming to faraway investors, aggravating the economic and geographic divisions that feed the nation’s political divide. &ldquoThere&rsquos a strong reason to be deeply concerned when instead of having 10 mid-sized dairy farms producing income whose owners spend it in town, you replace that with a large farm owned by a set of investors whose profits go running off to New York and Chicago,&rdquo said Peter Carstensen, a professor of law emeritus at the University of Wisconsin law school.

Farmers say the best solution is government policy that cracks down on consolidation of the grocery stores and food processing facilities that buy food from farmers. Existing antitrust law would allow the government to prevent big mergers that mean farmers have fewer places to sell their crops and that supplies are more expensive, but those laws go largely unenforced, says Carstensen. Earlier this year, a Wisconsin congressman introduced legislation to put a moratorium on large food and grocery mergers. Farmers are advocating for better antitrust enforcement across the country in October, cattle ranchers held a &lsquoRally to Stop the Stealin&rsquo!&rsquo to urge Congress to protect family farmers from monopoly power, and in Vermont, dairy farmers have filed a lawsuit alleging that a conglomerate of milk buyers conspired to set low prices on milk.

One category of small farmers is thriving in the current marketplace: organic farms who can charge a premium for their crops and who can sell them locally. There were more than 14,000 certified organic farmers in 2016, up 58 percent from 2011. But switching to organic is expensive, and for farmers like the Rieckmanns who are already deeply in debt, not an option. They haven&rsquot gotten a cent of aid from the government, Rieckmann says, since the assistance goes to the farms with the most farmland and animals. They&rsquore not holding their breath that anything will change. &ldquoI sometimes feel,&rdquo says Mary Rieckmann, &ldquolike they&rsquore trying to wipe us off the map.&rdquo

If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. In emergencies, call 911, or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.


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Six possible impacts of COVID-19 on farming

The rapidly evolving situation with COVID-19 is raising questions throughout the U.S. As concerns continue to grow about the virus, it is not only wreaking havoc on the stock market, it is causing a significant downturn in the general economy.

But, what about agriculture?

Mark Stephenson and John Shutske with the University of Wisconsin-Madison say there are six specific things farmers, farm families, ag employers, and employees need to be aware of and plan for.

1. Markets and farm prices. As we see growing levels of concern, recommendations for social distancing, reduced travel, avoiding crowds, closures, and other protective practices to slow the spread of COVID-19, consumers will be making tough choices about food, eating away from home, and overall spending. Dairy is prominently featured in out-of-home eating, and there may be some disruptions in food service sales. This will likely have an impact on markets and prices. There have also been bottlenecks at ports in other countries as ships wait to be offloaded with U.S. dairy and other farm products. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange has shut down floor trading of all products until “further notice,” though electronic trading will continue.

Concerns about the impact of the virus on the broader economy are likely to have an even larger impact on dairy prices. Many countries of the European Union were already hovering just above a recession prior to the viral outbreak and this event is likely to push them over the edge. Prior to this event, China was also experiencing slower economic growth. The U.S. has enjoyed strength in the economy, but there have been leading indicators prior to pandemic concerns that suggested that we were past the peak of the business cycle and that an economic slowdown, or perhaps that a recession was coming. A worldwide recession, like the one experienced in 2008-09, would push the previously expected milk price recovery off for at least another year.

2. Supply chain slowdowns and shortages. As logistics are disrupted and efforts proceed to slow the spread of the virus, multiple connected industry sectors are already being impacted. With some products, “panic buying” is creating additional concern. As an example of supply chain interruptions on farms, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) suggests the potential for animal pharmaceutical products to be in short supply for at least some of the larger drug manufacturers. If the virus were to spread more broadly in an agricultural state like Wisconsin, we could see issues with farm product delivery and pickup as workers - milk truck drivers for example - stay home due to illness or because they are caring for family members or school-age children. These same concerns would affect processors. Slowdowns could also impact fertilizer, fuel and other input movement and availability as we head toward spring. In an extreme case, we could have concerns with utilities – electricity, natural gas, propane – based on input availability or labor shortages. However, utility companies generally do a good job of contingency planning which helps buffer the impact of unforeseen events.

3. Farmers' health. Throughout the Midwest, farmers are a relatively older population, as compared to the general worker population. The 2017 ag census shows the average age of farm operators to be almost 58 – at least a full 10 years older than workers in most other sectors. And, unlike other industry workers, farm operators, 26% are age 65 years and up. A full 11.7% of our principal farm operators are age 75 and older. Data from other countries that have done more extensive testing suggest that COVID-19 has a much higher level of severity for those in their 60s and older, meaning that preventive and protective recommendations from the CDC and state (and local) public health experts are critical for our farming population.

4. The farm workforce. Even if the general population infection rate remains relatively low, it is likely that we will see some workers who end up sick. But, perhaps more importantly, even if the infection rate stays low (single digits), it is highly likely that workers will need to be out of work particularly with school closures and/or workers who need to stay home to care for sick or elderly family members. The fear of this event and lack of information may also lead to higher levels of absenteeism.

5. Worker safety and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). There are shortages of PPE and other protective equipment vital for operating a farm safely and keeping workers and animals healthy. As a result of the current demands by the healthcare industry, N-95 respirator supplies are highly limited (likely to be needed this spring for handling dusty grain as a result of last fall’s sub-optimal harvest conditions). There are also reported concerns about availability of protective gloves which have now become commonplace in dairy operations as a protective means to improve milk quality and protect the health of animals and people.

6. Other disruptions. Sparse populations and less frequent travel may provide a natural social distancing for rural communities but there are challenges that may be faced by rural residents. Many gathering places, such as schools and churches, are being closed and told to halt normal routines and events. As a substitute, in some areas and for high school and college students, classes and services are being taught online. This may be difficult for some rural residents as high-speed internet service is not available in some areas of the state including some of our communities with a strong agricultural base.

Only time will reveal the severity of the impacts on agriculture from the novel coronavirus, say Stephenson and Shutske. They urge you to take reasonable precautions to limit the spread of the disease and its influence on your businesses and lives. Both say hoarding of farm supplies is not recommended and could cause even greater problems for the sector and that prudent purchases of necessary inputs might minimize disruptions to your business. Please keep informed, listen to the experts, and follow the recommendations of federal, state, and local agencies and authorities.


After a fight with his estranged wife, my partner transferred $250K into a trust for me. He died a week ago. Can she sue me?

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Dear Quentin,

I was with my significant other for almost 7 years. While he was separated from his wife, they never divorced. It was due to financial reasons.

Because of his difficult relationship with his wife I was made his health-care surrogate.

Last September, he underwent cancer surgery, and realized that he hadn’t set anything up for me. After he recovered he set up a Totten trust, with approximately $50,000 thousand in it. We live in Florida.

In January, he became ill, had another surgery and was discharged to a rehab hospital on Feb. 12. Two days prior to discharge he had a fight with his wife and daughter. He was so angry that he transferred a large sum (more than $250,000) into the account that he had set up for me.

I was unaware of this transfer until the beginning of March, when he was readmitted to the hospital.

&ldquo ‘I never asked for more, or forced his hand in any way. I have not acknowledged to the family that I know of the account.’ &rdquo

During this time, due to pain and physical issues (he had delirium and was deemed unable to make health-care decisions), I had to make the decisions. They were not able to diagnose him, and he was sent to hospice where he passed away this week.

As a result, he never had an opportunity to rethink the monetary transfer or execute one.

During this time his wife has been vindictive, mean and petty, refusing to pay for an ambulance to the hospice, refusing to provide funeral information to the hospice center. She has done many other nasty things and made unkind comments to me.

My question is this: Can she contest the account through probate? Aside from knowing he had set up an account, I never asked for more, or forced his hand in any way. I have not acknowledged to the family that I know of the account. These monies are only a small part of his estate.

To be honest, I could use the funds to replenish money I have spent, and of course use it for my own retirement. I also had much additional emotional stress caused by the wife and daughter. That said, I remain open to returning the funds that were in his daughter’s account.

Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.

Dear Seven Years,

People do not often act rationally when they are grieving. And you are all grieving, in different ways and, perhaps, for different reasons. Firstly, this sounds like a terrible ordeal, and I’m sorry that your partner passed away during such a stressful time, and that you all had to go through this. It could not have been easy for you, or his daughter or estranged wife, given that they were on such bad terms when he passed away.

Like you, they met and fell in love. At some point, they too believed they would spend the rest of their lives together. That’s worth remembering at times like this. It will help you understand that pain she is going through and, I hope, forgive her for her behavior. As with all such actions, they rarely have anything to do with you.

It’s always possible that someone will sue if they feel disregarded, dismissed or disrespected. The success of such a lawsuit would likely depend on the trajectory of your partner’s health, given that he did suffer delirium during his medical crisis. At the same time, he did manage to have some knock-out fights with his estranged wife, and vice versa, so it may or may not be hard to argue that he has a vulnerable mental state when they were at odds over so many issues and attempting to hash them out.

Either way, you appear to approach the issue of the trust with some degree of equanimity, if not the costs of the funeral and ambulance. My advice is to do your darnedest to apply the same spirit of acceptance to all of the above.

&ldquo ‘Apply the same spirit of acceptance to the trust as to the ambulance and funeral costs.’ &rdquo

“A Totten trust is essentially a ‘pay on death’ (POD) designation for a bank account, and is frequently used as an alternative to drafting a will or trust,” says Benjamin Trujillo, senior adviser at Moneta. “In Florida, a POD is considered an inter vivos (or lifetime) gift, which grants the probate court jurisdiction if his estate claims the gift was not valid. In this particular case, the decedent’s spouse would likely try to claim the gift was invalid on the grounds that you exercised ‘undue influence’ to obtain it.”

“In claiming undue influence in this case, his spouse would assert that you manipulated him into making the POD which he would not have otherwise done on his own. If the court agrees with her, the POD could be undone,” he adds.

But Trujillo says there may be some red flags for you to be aware of. “If his transfer of funds from his daughter’s account was impermissible or illegal, it is likely that those funds would be returned to her account. If he had the authority to access those funds for any reason, then you may be able to keep them. As for the other funds, if you were unaware that they had been transferred or that he intended to transfer them, then it would be hard to demonstrate undue influence on your part.”

He also suggests checking with the bank to see if the account has been put in your name. “Expediting that process improves your bargaining position considerably. You should consult with a local attorney to determine your next steps.”

Again, my condolences to you. I hope you find a way to move on with all of your good memories intact, regardless of the outcome.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected].

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PORT‐AU‐PRINCE.

IN 1954, on the first evening of my first trip to Haiti,—I stood with a departing diplomat on a mahogany ramp of the Hotel Oloffson, overlooking the smoky city, amid a universe of flowers and palms, chicken and automobile sounds, lizards darting, the thrum of drums. The diplomat, smelling sweetly of rum, said: “Haiti ruined my life. lost my job. I lost my wife. My liver has gone bad. It's the most wonderful place in the world.”

In November, 1963, I was in Haiti when I heard the news, “Le President est morn Assossine!"—and only discovered after a careening jeep ride down from the mountain above Portau‐Prince expecting violent revolution, that it was not Haiti's President, Papa Doc, who had been killed but only John F. Kennedy, “une affaire de cowboy,” as a Haitian friend put it. That was during a period of violent oppression in Haiti, and the Hotel Oloffson was empty except for

Progress In Haiti‐Leopards In Sneakers Instead of Tonton Macoutes me and an American, doctor who beat his wife as if she were all his enemies rolled into one.

Now Papa Doc, the President‐forLife, is dead, and the Son, JeanClaude, aged 19 but declared to be mature and competent by a unanimous act of the legislature, is the new President‐for‐Life. The Tonton Macoutes — bogeymen — with their sunglasses and their pistols and their extortionist tics have disappeared., In their place, a former American marine is training a palace guard called the Leopards—sneakers, white socks, shorts, muscles, doubletime reviews —and they seem more interested in playing boyish games than in the anarchic malevolence of the bogeymen. Haiti now welcomes visitors. It's still exotic, but the un‐Haitian cruelty of the recent past is over. The Hotel Oloffson, and most of the hotels, are filled with tourists discovering what they need to make them feel alive: a comfortable hint of the wild, something new, something which shakes all the old habits and suggests possibilities of pleasure not imagined in plastic resorts. The tourist office has begun paying band to play the traditional merengues which greeted us at the airport “Haiti Cheie” “Panama'm Tornbe” and “Choucounne.” Those are friendly sounds floating up the ramps.

The word seems to be creeping out about Haiti, despite the hangover of the sinister sixties. Now that Papa Doc is dead and the limp, fat Bebe Doc reigns as the symbol of power, the Government is normally ambiguous and corrupt instead of chaotically vicious. This is progress, bringing Haiti back to where it was before Duvalier. Since Jean‐Claude started his reign at 19, who knows, he could be President longer than than any other in history and might therefore take the trouble to study and learn. He declared in an early interview that being President does not interfere with his studies. “Not a night goes by that I don't fall asleep, my arms wrapped around school books.” There are no more extempore inter

THE streets, of Port‐an‐Prince look busy and cleaner than in 1963. No sunglasses‐and‐revolver‐in‐belt comedians. A man who refused to go out at night then, or to meet me in any public place, now lunched with me at a popular spot at the Rond Point on the Boulevard Harry Truman, along with Government and business people. He said, “Ab, Haiti! La pauvre Haiti!,” as he has been saying it to me for 18 years, but the smile was increased in wattage. Electricity works, and I could have brought my razor on this trip, instead of growing a beard as 1 did in 1963. Even the telephone has an astonishing tendency to work. Sometimes it rings and no one's there, and sometimes something is there and so are a bunch of other people, but the system is getting organized. In the old days, a telephone was a piece of sculpture, an objet dɺrt, a paperweight. The lines were decayed American Army field issue, dressed up to make a profit, except that no one paid his bill. In 1963 frightened American Embassy personnel carried radio beepers in their belts, which crackled away, calling them back to the nest. Now they check in for the usual receptions, cocktails, routines.

A few notes from the economic profile of Haiti modify the general appearance of stability and amelioration. Over five million people live on a small portion of island without important natural resources or cash crops. A little bauxite is mined by the Reynolds company a little coffee and sugar are exported, but much less than in colonial times when there was plantation farming. The soil is denuded. The peasants have used mahogany and coffee trees for firewood. In a land so steep that farmers are said to have died falling from cornfields, erosion has made scrub barrens out of once‐fertile slopes. There's little fishing, although a few lobsters and crabs are shipped to the States. The governmental scale of a dollar a day for labor brings in some “transformation industries,” such as the sewing and stuffing of precut doll pieces and toys. Foreign entrepreneurs periodically attempt the raising of flowers, mangoes, papayas, and at the moment there is a promising shellfish enterprise. I used to buy a lobster for 20 cents at the market. Bobby Baker, President Johnson's friend, was involved in a meat business in Haiti that was part of his undoing. Sisal is still grown as a money crop. Tourism has sometimes provided important dollars, up and down with the political situation. About 10 per cent of the population can read and write. About 10 per cent speaks French, the rest, Creole. Many of the skilled elite left the country during the Duvalier regime, and are nicians and teachers in Africa, Canada and the States. The brain drain is desperate and tragic. The standard of living is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. It is probably the lowest in the world.

AND yet, of course, there are important assets—a lively, humorous, intelligent use by individuals of the scraps of possibility open to them, a sunny and amiable land, an elegant pride in being the first black nation of modern times, with heroes like Toussaint L'Ouverture, Dessalines and Christophe, who all helped wrest independence in a slave revolt from a Napoleon at the height of his power. In 1954 watched the re‐enactment of the Battle of Vertieres of 150 years earlier, and the wife of the French Ambassador burst into tears at the loss of “La Perle des Antilles,” and the Haitian spectators applauded the gallant act of the French general, who stopped the battle and sent out a fresh horse for Toussaint L'Ouverture, whose mount had been shot out beneath him. (The actor shot his own horse with a concealed pistol. This play was for real.)

The Haitian dream has al ways been that Haiti is important poets have lived off this dream, diplomats have dined out on it. And for charm and grace, and talent and individual ingenuity, Haiti is important, special, and admirable. Its Governments have been another story, mostly small tyrannies of corruption and misrule, ending with the President and his cohorts sailing off into the sunset with a portion of the national treasury. Papa Doc was different. He stunned the country with a brutal mystique. His regime also survived until his death, and in his last months he attempted to found a dynasty—“Void le Jeuna Leader qua je vous ai promis” — but the profiteering goes on.

A local American, active in the recent business revival, declared with fervor: “Our company is rigid on the matter. We have announced this policy again and again, and I re peat it for you now. We will not pay bribes to Government officials unless absolutely necessary.”

Foreign enterprise has found some moderately ghoulish means of profit. Haitian governmental gfficials, for example, are involved with North Americans in the export of cadavers for Medical schools in the States and Canada. The opportunity for a steady supply of product arises from the fact that the usual death list includes a few people without names and ages and the rest: Inconnu, male Inconnue, femme Inconnu, enfant. Very little effort is made to discover the names and connections of those found dead, and if no one claims them, they can be kept in the deep‐freeze or embalmed and sold as an export commodity. In the States, what with Social Security, the Veterans Administration and the level of prosperity, the quality of the corpse crop available for education and research is very low. Haitian human protein, endlessly augmented by a burgeoning population and atrocious infant mortality, helps to supplement the diminishing sugar and coffee harvests.

ANOTHER business draws blood from donors, returns the red parts, keeps the plasma, and this procedure can be repeated every few days. For both diagnostic and treatment purposes, this plasma is very valuable. Home‐grown American plasma drawn from skid rows tends to be of inferior quality, greatly contaminated with distressing particles such as those that cause venereal disease and hepatitis. Haitian plasma is generally better, drawn from the veins of peasants. “Of course,” said a Haitian doctor familiar with the practice, “the people who line to serve as plasma cows are rather tired most of the time. But there Is no other work.”

A TRADITIONAL ironic Haitian solution has been: “Rockefeller will buy us and make us into a happy zoo.” No doubt the present total economic assets in Haiti —what the stock analysts call “book value” — would be within the means of a confident American billionaire. Dupont Caribbean, Inc., a Texas corporation without any duPouts in it, has made, a step in this direction. It has a contract to buy most of the Isle de la Tortue, a lovely, nearly forgotten buccaneer island near the town of Port‐de‐Paix in the north of Haiti, and it plans a combination free port, resort, retirement settlement, convention park, harbor town, industrial center. With the aid of its Haitian partners, particularly a well‐connected 25‐year‐old, it made a deal for $2 an acre. No taxes, good conditions, and the new entity, Texanized into “Tortuga,” would in most important respects be a sovereign nation, though probably without U.N. representation. After Radio Havana and Radio Moscow made embarrassing attacks on the project, the land cost was sweetened to $10 an acre, and elements of Haitian participation were redefined. James Hobbs, the brisk, bright and very upfront, young former political science professor who manages the project, smiled and shrugged when remarked that his employers were dealing in one of the most beautiful and unspoiled spots in the world, 23 miles long and about 4 miles wide, with a total investment less than that necessary for a small apartment complex in, say Eastland, Tex.

The planning report shows an intelligent and discreet development. Jim Hobbs strikes me as, well, a soulful Texan. At present there are only a few thousand Haitians on the Isle de la Tortue, eking out a living from corn, goats and fish. They will be moved to better villages, and given work in the hotels and the industrial park. When I flew in Dupont Caribbean's Lockheed Lodestar and landed on the new airstrip, and spent the day picnicking and swimming at a blazing and perfect beach, and snorkeling at the edge of the coral reef, I remembered the last time I was in Port‐dePaix, which is several days from Port‐au‐Prince by jeep, through rutted stream beds. A white man was considered very strange then, and crowds followed me until they got used to my color. Then, when I went skinny‐dipping with my Haitian friends, there the‐crowd stood deeply enter tamed again. “But they know I'm white,” I said.

“They didn't realize you were white all over,” my friends told me.

The idea for Dupont Caribbean looks white all over, but it's probably a worthwhile project, granting that venture capital deserves rewards and hidden unspoiled spots deserve development. As the sign in Francois Duvalier International Airport says:

“My Father made the political revolution.

I, I will make the economic revolution.”

—JEAN‐CLAUDE DUVALIER Ninth President‐for‐Life

(I can't figure out who the seven Presidents‐for‐Life before Papa Doc were, unless he's counting King Henri I (Christophe), the Emperor Soulouque and some of the ephemeral assassinated presidents. In the last months of the existence of Biafra, General Ojukwu received a message from Papa Doc signed “President‐for‐Life,” and Ojukwu's deep sense of fate and tragic destiny caused him to fall off the chair laughing at the concept).

ON my way to visit a highly placed Haitian friend at his house in Petionville, I saw a VW being erratically but speedily driven by what looked like a cute 10‐year‐old girl in horn‐rimmed glasses. She was given a wide berth by other motorists, but no one signaled or honked at her in the usual Haitian fashion of rapid interpersonal and interautomobile communication. My friend explained to me: She doesn't drive too well yet she is the daughter of the police colonel, and she is indeed 10 years old. A Haitian tradition of privilege is preserved even during the days of the Duvalierist National Renova‐tion.

My friend made drinks. We sat by the swimming pool, and we mingled a review of politics with politesse about how each of us had managed to preserve himself over the years. “Haiti has not yet achieved the status of an underdeveloped nation,” he said. “It is an undeveloped state. No infrastructure. No structure, either. Sure, plenty of limes in the market, but you couldn't get enough for a factory. No plantation fanning. Sometimes the investment comes in and gets out quickly. For example, these transformation industries, where they bring in the goods and cheap Haitian labor—less than a dollar a day—screws or sews it together, or welds it. What does that do? It uses no material, it develops no base. Yes, it that's all, but no real dissemination of money.” We paused while his houseboy brought us a tray with juice of “shadek” (grapefruit). “And sometimes, of course, we Haitians just drive the American investors crazy. Let me tell you what they did to the Hotel Riviera, which Americans owned. ”

As in many Latin countries, Government encouragement of business often amounts merely to a convenient means for the necessary payoff. When I lived in Haiti, the widow of a colonel sued an American company involved in electrification for the bribe owed her dear departed husband. Haitian courts made the award, to the brilliant astonishment of

the home office in Manhattan. Since the investor continues on the sufferance of his pet colonel or minister, he can lose several ways: if his colonel goes into disfavor, which happens if he himself goes into disfavor with his colonel, which happens if greed multiplies in many directions, which happens. The Riviera was calmly looted and destroyed by the Tonton Macoutes in time of peace, without any provocation, merely destroyed. Of course, it is still true that the streets are safe, and people leave their cars unlocked and Port‐au‐Prince has a friendly and open feeling. The rage of the downtrodden does not equal the rage of the uplifted.

The Tonton Macoutes are no longer blocking the roads, patting my thighs and demanding contributions, as they did in 1963, but the people who put them there are still in power. And who are these Leopards training just now? Why? It's not just a physical culture exercise for gladiators, is it?

But at the moment, the climate is good for visitors. Postcard home: “Life peaceful. Carnival exciting. Oloffson delicious. Furniture‐Face unobtrusive.”

THERE has never been a free, democratic and effective Government in Haiti. We must accept that about Haiti, as well as about most of the world, and then proceed from the fact that at least the ter ror of the Tonton Macoutes seems to be over. A few bitter souls say: “They have killed or exiled everyone who could form a new Government, who could cause trouble.” The truth seems to be that Haitians are not traditionally vio lent, nor do they long for oppression, and with the departure of Papa, the consortium which uses the Son sees fit to return to an easier style. Graham Greene's “The Comedians” is historical melodrama. Aubelin Jolicoeur —elegant white suit, cane, slips of paper, knowing everything—emits his happy highpitched laugh and spins a little pirouette and cries out, “Even Graham Greene can come back now! Please, tell him to

A plausible guess is that among the members of the consortium hiding behind the broad young shoulders of LeJeune‐Leader‐Que‐Je‐Vous‐AiPromis, Jean‐Claude Duvalier, each is watching the other for a false move. No one is innocent in this peculiar crew. They include the Sainted Mother, “l'Inspiratrice" one of the sisters, along with her husband, brought back from the exile to which the Dear Departed sent them Luckner Cambronne, Minister of the Interior and of Defense and a partner in many businesses, and perhaps such lesser figures as Gen. Claude Raymond and Gerard de Catalogne, who suffers the disadvantage of light skin.

While the leadership is divided, no one has the privilege of using capricious terror. And Papa Doe's years probably exhausted an appetite for chaos and terror which is not traditional in amiable Haiti.

In 1963 I met with an underground group in a house guarded by panicky sentries candles burning, faces twitching, a feeling of horror and desperation. None of them would be seen with rue in public. Now most of the people in that room are dead or in exile but I met one of them, an elderly doctor, on the Rue du Centre, and he raised a finger to show me how good his memory is, reciting like a good French schoolboy lines from the article I wrote about Haiti nine years ago. We stood in the street, with a crowd swirling about us, and he shouted his complaints about the regime. Sometimes he winked meaningfully and switched to English for a few sentences. When we parted, he raised his elegant instructional finger once more: “As Monsieur Johnny Carson would say, ‘Don't quote me.” And he slapped his thighs with that rich Haitian laughter which means that no one is as simple as he seems, and no‐one as complicated either.

He said there are still Macoutes, though I didn't see any. He said there are still abrupt arrests and disappearances. He said the prisons are nearly empty, which means that the political prisoners have been destroyed. But: he was not afraid to say these things in daylight on the Rue du Centre.

On the road to Bizoton one Sunday just before Carnival, I passed a band with marvelous costumes and insignia, captains in the Hungarian Navy, outerspace cadets, movie star versions of Papa Legba — and the bamboo pines, whistles and drums promenading, swarming across the road —and I was cheering them on when a tap‐tap, the gaily painted bus, careened into the crowd and knocked a paper mask flying. Beneath the mask was the head of a boy, bleeding from nostrils and ears, eyes rolled up and open no reactions, no reflexes dead. The music stopped. “There's one who won't provide plasma,” said my host. His wife, who was crying, said, “But maybe he'll make trip to the University of Toronto Medical School.”

Mardi Gras continued, and that night the group of tourists on the terraces of the Hotel Oloffson was entertained by throbbing, surging bands in their wild array, part African, part French, part European, wholly Haitian. An American night club singer made her joke: “Why don't the devils attack and get it over with?” She pointed her profile into the glow of moonlight. “I'm ready, Bruce.”

Everyone was infected by the rhythms, the assons, the laughter, the drums, and also by the good food and sun and rum we had all taken that day, but I was thinking of the boy under the mask of Papa Legba on the Bizoton road earlier that day.

HIS EXCELLENCY JeanClaude Duvalier the Ninth, the President‐for‐Life, is also billed as the Dignified Heir, the Young Leader, “whose nobility and generosity of intention make our struggles even more sublime” (quoted from the official Review of Foreign Affairs, as phrased by Dr. Adrien Raymond, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Religion). He is the Chief. He is the Prince. He is a rather stolid young man, guided by his sister and by his mother, “the Inspirer.” The pronouns referring to Him are Capitalized. In His speeches He refers to Himself as the Worthy Continuer.

In the bathroom of my studio in San Francisco I keep a souvenir poster declaration by Marshal Main attached to the wall as a reminder of times gone by, of the bizarre possibilities of history. Le

Marechal calls for the French to obey his command and build a worthy future in dignified collaboration with Germany. (“Follow me. into the New Order.”) It's odd to hear the echoes of the senile temporary captain of the destiny of France in the pumpedup adolescent pomp of the new First Servitor of the Republic of Haiti.

Well, the jet airport operates, with busy freight and passenger service to Miami, Puerto Rico and New York and the new electrical plant has ended the blackouts of Port‐au‐Prince, although there is still not much power for most of the city and the telephone works. The LeaderFully‐Responsible has a power plant named after his Devoted Self. He reads the speeches written for him with increasing fluency. He sends cables over his name to the Pope, wishing him a happy anniversary of the crowning. He also congratulates President Nixon on the American Independence Day, and receives in reply a note of “profound satisfaction for Your amiable message.” The Review of Foreign Affairs for August, 1971, notes deliriously that the Chief‐of‐State received the credentials of an Argentinean diplomat with “ease and simplicity.” The President‐forLife made a little speech in which he swore that Argentina and Haiti would forever be united in the struggle against “material philosophies.” It's not clear what the First Citizen was trying to say in this declaration against materialism.

Is it worth seeing the President‐for‐Life? All questions must be submitted in advance, and his answers will then be read after they have been prepared, and that's all—no further comment. I opt for a stroll in the market instead. But what 20‐year‐old lad, rather extensively upholstered and interested in cars and girls, would care to talk about irrigation, taxes, the economy, the prisons and tourism? Some might, true but Papa Doc's boy is no Haitian intellectual.

IDROVE up the road, about 15 miles, to Kenscoff, the fresh mountain village —streams, marvelous table vegetables, weekend houses—high above the city of Petionville. The temperature is often 20 degrees cooler than in Petionville, and so if it's hot, and you don't want to go to the sea for swimming, you can climb onto a tap‐tap for a few cents or go by taxi‐to Kenscoff. It recalls the Swiss Alps, with elegant little mountain houses and roads lined with flowers, and also the mountains of Spain, with peasants doing perpendicular farming, balanced like storks. Years ago, when I had use of a house in Kenscoff I took my meals at the Florville Hotel, $3 a day for three meals and the’ company of a Haitian doctor‐lawyer who practiced neither and an exiled Vichy French colonel marching back and forth in ferocious general disapproval between courses (“Culture physique!” he explained). The Florville family still owns the little inn, though lunch is now $2.50 per person not exorbitant. The market sells rags made into dresses, photos of the Father and the Son, the ever‐present carved mahogany but I spent my time tramping the hills, chatting with farmers, with the American who has spent 30 years there in his Haiti Seed Store, with Madame Noe, widow of my friend Eugene Noe, the Kenscoff coffee merchant, who conducted his Cenacle des Philosophes on the porch where he bought the coffee beans brought by peasants in straw baskets carried on their heads.

“Yes, he's dead,” said Madame Noe. “He lived 66 years. I'm used to it now.”

“And there's no more coffee,” she said. “The trees are gone.”

“But I can make a cup for you,” she said.

When she told me that the war in Vietnam had ruined the coffee business, and also closed the Perchoir, the lovely little restaurant with a view of city, plain (all the way to the Dominican border), mountains and bay, I knew that the spirit of the Kenscoff School of Paranoid Philosophy was not yet finished. The coffee business was ruined by not caring for the coffee trees and using them for firewood. Le Perchoir closed because of the decline of the tourist business and the exiling of the moneyed elite. Perhaps it will reopen now that the tourists are coining back. But most of the Haitians who once admired the view and entertained their petites amies at Le Perchoir can now be found at the Tavern‐on‐the‐Green, the Maison de Fleurs in Copenhagen, or at the Closerie de Liles, if they prospered mightily during the time they ran things.

“The war in Vietnam,” said Madame Noe. “Whereas we have made peace with each other. No one left to make war.”