Who is Puerto Rico calling to obtain wheat, corn, soybeans, and rice?

Who will be providing food for Puerto Rico?

What is the meaning of this?

Flawed though the marketplace may be, under regulated with far too often the pretense of competition by oligarchs—a term currently confined to Russia, but applicable to the corporate few—yet nevertheless the marketplace is the best tool we have. As Frank Norris noted in the Octopus, the reality of modern agriculture is that farmers must make their planting decisions based on the price determined in the commodity pits of Chicago. This is our best hope.

As the Financial Times has reported, global low commodity prices (among other factors) have placed Bunge and other international grain and soybean trading companies in economic distress. I am convinced that Puerto Rico’s catastrophe represents a likely global future of high commodity prices as high protein wheat farmers face drought in the US and disruptions in the energy sector globally— petroleum is, after all, the single largest raw material in agriculture—result in likely agricultural scarcity even in the developed world. Whatever the future brings, the reality is that Bunge, Cargill et al. will be supplying Puerto Rico’s human and revived livestock population with essential corn, rice, and wheat. I am trying here to describe the players and suggest that now is the time for Puerto Rico to establish a new and economically enlightened food and farm policy.

SOPAKCO is one of the three companies that produce Meal, Ready-to-Eat (commonly known as the MREs) for the U.S. military. Their “Sure-Pak 12” product has been the longest-available civilian MRE on the market. In addition to not being especially tasty, MREs are not an economical way of feeding a population of 2.4 million people for months at a time if not longer. This is a photograph of a box of emergency ration meals currently being distributed in Puerto Rico. http://www.mreinfo.com/civilian-mres/sopakco-sure-pak-mres/



Quicker than one might think, Puerto Ricans will move from emergency ready to eat meals to imports of corn, wheat and rice. Now, my screen shows vivid portraits of an agricultural economy dead—rotting livestock corpses on the screen.

October 2017, ubiquitous countryside scene in Puerto Rico. Dead livestock.
Whatever the future brings, the reality is that Bunge, Cargill et al. will be supplying Puerto Rico’s human and revived livestock population with essential corn, rice, and wheat.

Now there is an economic opportunity to consider an efficient future—a new farm economy and a rational food import policy. Now is the time to plan. What model should be used? A distinct figure comes to mind. W.R Poage, once the autocratic chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Standing on the floor of the House, his 1974 defense of isolationist New Deal policies in the form of the Sugar Act defeated. Here I am trying to clarify why an agriculture policy based on government control does not work. https://joelsolkoff.com/blog-things-rep-w-r-poage-waco-texas/


Hurricane Maria. destroyed all agriculture in Puerto Rico.

“Beyond immediate concerns around the diminished supply of food, gas, and fresh water, officials are also assessing widespread damage to the island’s agricultural industry. When Maria hit the island as a category 4 storm on Sept. 20, its powerful winds stripped trees of leaves and bark, decimated rows of fields, and blew away plants (paywall). The storm wiped out an estimated 80% of the crop value, department of agriculture secretary Carlos Flores Ortega told the Times.”


The 3.4 million people living in Puerto Rico are running out of food

“’Whatever little bit you had is running out,’ he said. ‘The trucks with food do not come. No trucks come with anything. You go to the supermarket, and it’s almost empty.’”

–Trump Administration Is Pressed to Step Up Hurricane Recovery in Puerto Rico  by 


Locals help clear debris from a road after the passing of Hurricane Maria in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, on September 21, 2017



The extent of the catastrophe goes on and on. See the exemplary Rachel Maddow.



Who would I call first to obtain supplies of wheat, corn, soybeans, and rice not only immediately but in the months and months ahead?

First, I would call Cargill, the multinational, privately-held secretive but incredibly efficient grain and oil seeds trading company based-who-knows-where, but I would use Cargill’s Minneapolis number. 800-227-4455 (English).




I would also call:


Agribusiness | Food Production Company

Bunge Limited
50 Main Street
White Plains, NY





Complete text (80 pages plus appendix)




In the Agribusiness segment, we purchase, store, transport, process and sell agricultural commodities and commodity products. Profitability in this segment is affected by the availability and market prices of agricultural commodities and processed commodity products and the availability and costs of energy, transportation and logistics services. Profitability in our oilseed processing operations is also impacted by volumes procured, processed and sold and by capacity utilization rates. Availability of agricultural commodities is affected by many factors, including weather, farmer planting and selling decisions, plant diseases, governmental policies and agricultural sector economic conditions. Reported volumes in this segment primarily reflect (i) grains and oilseeds originated from farmers, cooperatives or other aggregators and from which "origination margins" are earned; (ii) oilseeds processed in our oilseed processing facilities and from which "crushing margins" are earned-representing the margin from the industrial separation of the oilseed into its protein meal and vegetable oil components, both of which are separate commodity products; and

Demand for our purchased and processed agribusiness products is affected by many factors, including global and regional economic conditions, changes in per capita incomes, the financial condition of customers and customer access to credit, worldwide consumption of food products, particularly pork and poultry, population growth rates, relative prices of substitute agricultural products, outbreaks of disease associated with livestock and poultry, and demand for renewable fuels produced from agricultural commodities and commodity products.

We expect that the factors described above will continue to affect global supply and demand for our agribusiness products for the foreseeable future. We also expect that, from time to time, imbalances will likely exist between oilseed processing capacity and demand for oilseed products in certain regions, which impacts our decisions regarding whether, when and where to purchase, store, transport, process or sell these commodities, including whether to change the location of or adjust our own oilseed processing capacity.

Additionally, price fluctuations and availability of commodities may cause fluctuations in our working capital, such as inventories, accounts receivable and borrowings over the course of a given year. For example, increased availability of commodities at harvest times often causes fluctuations in our inventories and borrowings. Increases in agricultural commodity prices will also generally cause our cash flow requirements to increase as our operations require increased use of cash to acquire inventories and fund daily settlement requirements on exchange traded futures that we use to hedge our physical inventories.


Earlier this year, I got into a twitter spat with a radio agricultural journalist in North Dakota. I had said that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (in the aftermath of the 1970s grain sales to Russia) no longer controls our countries food policy. Cargill, Bunge and the other highly-competitive trading companies do.

Here is what Bunge says about its competition:

We face intense competition in each of our businesses.

        We face significant competition in each of our businesses and we have numerous competitors, some of which are larger and have greater financial resources than we have. As many of the products we sell are global commodities, the markets for our products are highly price competitive and in many cases sensitive to product substitution. In addition, to compete effectively, we must continuously focus on improving efficiency in our production and distribution operations, as well as developing and maintaining appropriate market share, and customer relationships. We also compete for talent in our industries, particularly commercial personnel. Competition could cause us to lose market share and


The Big Five

The big five companies that control the world’s grain trade



to be continued;meanwhile, buy my book, please.


In The Politics of Food, you can read the last time public information was available on Cargill. It was 1976. A senate hearing.

Meanwhile, I will obtain Securities and Exchange Commission 10-K forms on Bunge and other grain and oil seed trading companies. Plus, I will tell you about Riceland Foods in Stuttgart, Arkansas where (surprise surprise) I would buy large quantities of rice were I to run Puerto Rico.


























Disability and Elderly Issues

HealthSouth is the largest rehabilitation hospital in the U.S.

“We are the nation’s largest owner and operator of inpatient rehabilitation hospitals in terms of patients treated and discharged, revenues, and number of hospitals.”


Eerily relevant. Stay tuned for how it is relevant.


“We provide specialized rehabilitative treatment on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. We operate hospitals in 30 states and Puerto Rico, with concentrations in the eastern half of the United States and Texas. In addition to our hospitals, we manage five inpatient rehabilitation units through management contracts.”


A minority stockholder takes on the crooked board of directors at a billion dollar corporation.

The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956)



“Our inpatient rehabilitation hospitals offer specialized rehabilitative care across a wide array of diagnoses and deliver comprehensive, high-quality, costeffectivepatient care services. As participants in the Medicare program, our hospitals must comply with various requirements that are discussed below in the
“Sources of Revenues—Medicare Reimbursement—Inpatient Rehabilitation” section.”




“Substantially all ( 92% ) of the patients we serve are admitted from acute care hospitals following physician referrals for specific acute inpatient rehabilitative care. Most of those patients have experienced significant physical and
cognitive disabilities or injuries due to medical conditions, such as strokes, hip fractures, and a variety of debilitating neurological conditions, that are generally nondiscretionary in nature and require rehabilitative healthcare services in an inpatient setting. Our teams of highly skilled nurses and physical, occupational, and
speech therapists utilize proven technology and clinical protocols with the objective of restoring our patients’ physical and cognitive abilities. Patient care is provided by nursing and therapy staff as directed by physician orders while case managers monitor each patient’s progress and provide documentation and oversight of patient status, achievement of goals, discharge planning, and functional outcomes. Our hospitals provide a comprehensive interdisciplinary clinical approach to treatment that leads to a higher level of care and superior outcomes.”


In the beginning, there was the Word. The word provided here is an excellent 252 page 10-K document on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Produced by high-priced attorneys who write well, the 10-K provides a form of truth serum for patients, like me, who need the services all too often HealthSouth fails to make available for a comprehensive recovery. As both an inpatient four times and a current out-patient, the HealthSouth facility here in Pleasant Gap, PA is beautifully located and filled with skilled and dedicated occupational and physical therapists. Its resources, however, are not being used efficiently to provide badly needed services. Details forthcoming. Meanwhile, enjoy the read. Next year, as a consequence of merger, HealthSouth will be called Encompass. If only…



Economic sanctions will hurt U.S. farmers for a generation at least

U.S. Presidents, during my 70 year lifespan, have been working overtime to endanger the U.S. agricultural economy.

The  summer of 2017, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, one of the few “adults” making domestic policy in the Trump Administration, was in China praising the Peoples Republic of China for its increased purchases of meat. Now our livestock farmers, who voted heavily for the President, must face the prospect that Trump’s economic saber rattling will make it more difficult for them to pay for their children’s college education.


Rice Research and Extension personnel are constantly working to refine and create new recommendations and practices to improve Arkansas rice production.


The economic disaster the Trump Administration has wrought already on our agricultural economy is considerable.

Consider rice farming in Arkansas and Louisiana and chicken farming in Perdue’s home state of Georgia. On January 17th, The Arkansas News Bureau reported, “Arkansas lawmakers slam Trump’s Cuba policy.” Arkansas is a keystone in our self-destructive President’s insistence on catering to his 34 percent supporters among the American people. The press has been scrutinizing Trump’s hard core supporters for evidence this support might not be as solid. Unfortunately, our “fake news” reporters have ignored the fissures in the agricultural community– a community instrumental in putting Trump in office.

The Arkansas News Bureau highlighted the comments of the state’s senior senator. “Republican Sen. John Boozman said in a statement Friday he shares Trump’s desire to see democracy take hold in Cuba but believes that ‘a return to embargo-like policies is the wrong approach.

“’By rolling back reforms that have benefited U.S. citizens, everyday Cubans and our economy, we are taking a step backward, not forward. It would be more effective to continue an open line of communication and working relationship with a government in need of democratic assistance, instead of shutting them out,’ he said.”

In November, over 60 percent of Arkansas voters chose Donald Trump. Tom Cotton, Arkansas’ junior senator, flush with campaign funds, of course a Republican, is rumored to be contemplating a Presidential run in 2020. Notable among the intellectual lightweight Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee, is Rep. Rick Crawford who has emerged as one of the few members of Congress who know anything about agriculture policy. Sixty-five percent of Crawford’s constituents in the First Congressional District voted for Trump.

On June 1, 2017, Crawford issued the following statement, “I strongly oppose President Trump’s decision to reinstate a failed, outdated, and isolationist posture towards Cuba. This policy change is … a missed opportunity for rural America, which would greatly benefit from increased access to the island’s $2B agricultural imports market.”

A key member of (what I grandiously refer to as) my kitchen cabinet on agriculture is an unfortunately anonymous Georgia economics professor. Professor X warned me not to publicly oppose the wastefully expensive farm bill unlikely to be renewed in 2018.


As soon as convenient, I plan to have a return visit to Stuttgart, Arkansas.

There Riceland Foods, in the company of such grain trading giants as Cargill and Bunge (sadly experiencing business problems) are actually making our country’s food policy. This is rightfully so given the failure of Congress and the Administration to know anything about the subject.

“The farmers and the folks at Riceland will not talk to you,” my professor said. My friend is overstating the case. Our farmers, whose presence and future are dependent upon exports, continue to talk to me because I am a globalist, very much concerned about agriculture’s future.

U.S. agriculture policy is at a crossroads similar to the crossroads the British experienced in the 19th Century when repeal of the Corn Laws was a necessary requirement for Britain to become an empire. Today, our farmers have been the victims of disastrous decisions by Republican and Democratic Administrations and Congresses who continue the folly. Beginning with the soybean embargo against the Japanese in 1973, our politicians have worked effectively (i.e. disastrously) to make America the supplier of last resort. Today, Brazil has supplanted the U.S. as the principal exporter of soybeans.

On September 6, 2017, The Financial Times reported  Russian President Vladimir Putin, who opposed U.S. economic sanctions against his country, also opposes sanctions against North Korea.

Putin noted, “Russia’s skepticism about sanctions is shared by China, North Korea’s fellow Communist neighbor and largest trading partner by far. China fears the collapse of the Pyongyang regime and the humanitarian and geopolitical chaos that could ensue.”

Rarely did I think I would agree with Vladimir Putin, Russian Stalinist dictator. His view on sanctions affirms this reality. Economic sanctions do not work. Twenty Eighteen’s knee jerk reaction to the global,economy  has resulted already resulted in This continues last year’s food sanctions against Iran and threats to our agricultural exports under Trump’s protectionist anti-NAFTA rumblings.

Hard as it is to believe,  I fear the day will approach when (as a consequence of our political folly) within 25 years ( if not sooner) the U.S. may  have to rely on the world for the food we eat.

–Joel Solkoff

State College, PA

Joel Solkoff is the author of The Politics of Food.


Disability and Elderly Issues

Martin Luther King, Jr. On NBC’s Meet the Press (1965)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, three years after I met him while attending a service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church


On March 28, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. appeared on NBC’s Meet The Press to discuss his historic five-day march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.


In my lifetime, the Labor Union movement in the United States has been led by three titans.

Before Trump invented fake news, Life Magazine published it.












The first ( and in many ways the most significant) titan was/is the late Jimmy Hoffa. His genius in creating a universal contract that included even independent drivers has created a center of strength in the Teamsters Union. The result is that in a country where so many of us believe that milk comes from a grocery carton, it is Teamsters Union and not farmers who ensure we receive the food we eat.

Jimmy Hoffa’s son now leads this powerful union which negotiates for its members a living wage. In this time of Trump’s failure to work for anyone but fat cats, it is the Union movement that is keeping the American dream alive.


George Meany made and broke Presidents. George Meany made it possible for President Jimmy Carter to serve in the White House.














The second titan was/is George Meany. As head of the AFL-CIO, George Meany alone and in concert (smoking cigars at his annual meetings in Florida and from AFL-CIO headquarters in DC ( a stones throw away from the White House) gave our country so many of the social programs and advances in equal rights it is impossible to enumerate Crusty George’s benevolence. Without George Meany would there be the landmark Civil Act of 1964? Without George Meany there would be no Medicare, no Medicaid, Social Security for the disabled and elderly too poor or infirm to contribute to the Social Security Trust Fund.

Without George Meany workers would not be protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, pensioners would not receive protection against gonnifs, fair labor standards would not be protected, union elections would not take place fairly, the rights of minorities and women….


Without Walter Reuther, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would not have delivered his I have a dream speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Here is Walter Reuther at the March on Washington. I was there.

The third titan was/ is Walter Reuther. Of the three I cherish his memory the most. I understand my love for Jimmy Hoffa and George Meany, but with Walter Reuther I cannot resist it. Without George Meany Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Would not have delivered his mountaintop speech 54 years ago in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Without Walter Reuther,  there probably would not have been a university at Anne Arbor or decent public school, college, and university education for the daughters and sons of automobile workers. Reuters’ prescience protected the children of workers from the reality he foresaw of an automobile industry gone global, become increasingly automated, require fewer workers on the assembly line.



The best love is loving a lover who loves unions

The best love is loving a lover who loves unions.

When I was 28, I had a passionate affair with Laura. I remember distinctly meeting her mother and incredible brothers in a fashionable French restaurant in Georgetown. Brent and Josh took over the small restaurant serenading us with “I Dreamt I saw Joe Hill Last Night”.

This is a strong dream.


My grandmother (my Bubbie Celia) did uplifting work protected by David Dubinsky’s International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU)

As with so many of us, I was truly raised by my grandmother who loved me so. Celia often repented what she regarded as the folly of her youth. At 16, she went to a silent movie theater and fell in love with Salvatore Pellicia, who played the clarinet and whom she claimed dazzled her with his uniform.

They ran away. Her Jewish father jailed my grandfather. After Salvatore’s third time in jail, Bubbie’s father gave up and mourned his daughter for dead for having married outside the faith. My grandfather took up the saxophone–the sexiest instrument in the musical repertoire at the time. My mother was born while Salavatore was on a gig in Lexington, Kentucky.

David Dubinsky with Robert Kennedy

The twin evils of talking pictures and the Great Depression put my grandfather out of work. Severe sickness set in. He was hospitalized at a Veteran’s facility in Staten Island where he died shortly before my birth.

Bubbie was surrounded by poverty and despair. Hat in hand, she returned to her Jewish family which raised my mother. Her brother Abe did not speak to her for 10 years. Even so, Abe was an accountant and he found work for Bubbie in the fashion district doing piecework, sewing bras and girdles. Work she later described, cigarette in hand as “uplifting.”

It was hard work. Often, I visited her at he shop where she worked for decades under union contract. At night she played Beethoven and Chopin deliberately hiring a demanding teacher and often complaining that her hands were too small to scan the scales. She was frugal, fed pigeons and cats, and saved her money which everyone in the family borrowed including my father. The union-made her strong. It especially made me strong. Solidarity forever.


Cesar Chavez, Walter Reuther, and the Teamsters Union

When I was 28, I was in small hotel in California close to the mountain headquarters at tehachapi (of Maltese Falcon fame) where Cesar Chavez had his headquarters. His staff had been donated by Walter Reuther’s UAW.


On March 10th, 1968, Cesar Chavez breaks his 25-day fast by accepting bread from Senator Robert Kennedy, Delano, California. In June of the same year, Senator Kennedy was shot and killed on the same day he won the California Presidential Democratic Primary
Left to right: Helen Chavez, Robert Kennedy, Cesar Chavez


On the morning before my interview with Cesar Chavez, later published on the front cover of The New Republic, I took a shower. There I discovered a lump under my right arm which was later diagnosed as Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system which a generation earlier had been universally fatal within two years of diagnosis.

Delaying cancer surgery, to the discomfiture of my oncologist, I waited until finishing my article on Cesar Chavez whom I had idolized for years.

My managing editor David Sanford, patiently waited as I produced thousands of words not touching them but simply sending them back until I got it right. What I got right, to my consternation, was the clear conclusion that while a great figure, Chavez did a rotten job of administering his union. Unlike Chavez, the Teamsters organizers in the area were superb knowing details of the contracts that Chavez glossed over because he was seeking political support for urban constituents outside the grape fields. After publication and after painful surgery, my publisher Martin Peretz and, of course, David were please by Chavez’s empty threat to sue the New Republic and me for libel. Still in the hospital, my sadly late friend Patric Mullen, lobbyist for the National Sharecroppers Fund ferried over to my hospital bed angry letters from nuns.



Certainly that bothered. However, I knew the Teamsters were doing the job and Cesar wasn’t.  From my days at Scanlan’s Monthly, I spent much time with Teamsters officials who had been harassed by Robert Kennedy (who daily I regret he did not become President) in the days when Kennedy was attorney general, young and ruthless, not yet repenting the error of his ways after reading Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphophis.”


Samuel Gompers: “We do want more.”


“We stand on the shoulders of giants.”

  1. International Brotherhood of Teamsters.






3. UAW




–Brother Joel

Copyright © 2017 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.