Democracy on the Des Moines?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


If true, it’s troubling news that cartoonist Rick Friday has been fired by the publication Farm News for an editorial cartoon suggesting that the chief executives of Monsanto, John Deere, DuPont and other multi-national agribusiness corporations are profiting at the expense of ordinary farmers.

Friday had produced a weekly cartoon for the Fort Dodge, Iowa, publication for more than two decades, but his most recent editorial cartoon apparently went too far – for someone. 

According to press reports, at least one of the agribiz behemoths took offense at his latest drawing and pulled its advertising from Farm News, which responded by firing Friday.

It’s certainly not a secret that companies that sell supplies and equipment to farmers are doing well, as are the executives who run them. Despite a drop in sales, John Deere reported nearly $2 billion in net income for the last fiscal year, with Monsanto pulling in $15 billion over the same period. And, as Rick Friday and the Des Moines Register point out, the three CEOs of John Deere, Monsanto and DuPont made nearly $53 million in combined salaries in 2015.

Suggesting that big businesses like Deere and Dupont and its top executives are getting rich off the backs of farmers should not be a firing offense.

But as we’ve seen, most notably in the lawsuit filed recently by the Des Moines Water Works against three upstream counties for contaminating downstream drinking water with farm pollution, Big Ag throws combine-sized temper tantrums. This time it was directed at a popular cartoonist who dared to poke a little fun at the multi-millionaire heads of several of the world’s most profitable corporations.


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