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Letters to the Editor--Rastetter and Tanzania

July 13, 2012
Des Moines Register

Rastetter and Tanzania

We're all entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts. The Daily Iowan's July 12 editorial "AgriSol profits don't make the company at fault" makes an ideological argument about the value of so-called "free markets" and "feeding the world" without any critical analysis of the actual facts on the ground, much less the perspectives of the poor refugees directly affected.

These are the facts. Bruce Rastetter is a hog and ethanol baron and vulture capitalist who gave Gov. Terry Branstad's re-election campaign $160,000. Branstad returned the favor by appointing Rastetter to the state Board of Regents. Rastetter spent months abusing his power as a regent to leverage Iowa State University to provide cover for a corporate land grab in Tanzania that could displace as many as 160,000 refugees.

Rastetter's deal with Tanzania could allow his corporation to lease 800,000 acres of land for 25 cents an acre. The subsistence farmers on the land — who currently grow a variety of crops and account for 40 percent of the region's food on just 4 percent of the land — will be forcibly displaced and moved to urban slums, where they will no longer be able to feed themselves or their families.

With the land cleared, Rastetter will bring in Monsanto, Smithfield, and all the major corporate ag titans and build factory "farms without farmers." Rather than employ local people, they will bring in migrant workers from South Africa — a classic colonial divide and conquer tactic.

The products produced will not feed local Tanzanians. They will be sold on international grain and ethanol markets. The livestock will go to Southeast Asia. Rastetter and his investors stand to make up to $300 million a year.

Local people don't benefit when corporations extract all the natural wealth of a region and take it out of the country with them.

Misty Rebik
Iowa City resident

Rastetter has conflict of interest

Food & Water Watch respectfully, yet completely, disagrees with The Daily Iowan Editorial Board's assessment of Bruce Rastetter ("AgriSol profits don't make the company at fault," July 12). While suggesting the preposterous — that Rastetter's operation in Tanzania is actually a humanitarian cause that will cure "mental retardation" through providing cheap eggs to poor people in Africa — the Editorial Board completely ignores a long paper trail showing the ways in which Rastetter has deeply compromised both himself and Iowa State University through his Tanzanian land grab.

Rastetter has acknowledged his conflict of interest — serving on the Board of Regents while also working with the school on his for-profit project AgriSol — but only after media attention embarrassed him.

The AgriSol project has created additional conflicts for administrators and professors in the College of Agriculture, who eagerly decided to put the personal interests of Rastetter above those of the students, farmers, and consumers in Iowa.

The public deserves a Board of Regents and a university that are forthright, upfront, and honest; that serve the public at all times, and Rastetter's presence in Ames would appear to make this impossible.

Matt Ohloff
Iowa organizer for Food & Water Watch