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THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER recently marked a special milestone with its 500th issue. To those readers who have made contributions in the past few months and regular contributions over the years I am deeply indebted to you and am most grateful for your continuing support. Continual begging is not my style, but short of it I am here appealing for greater readership support in continuing for another 500 issues.

Checks should be made out to A.V. Krebs, P.O. Box 2201, Everett, Washington 98213-0201


By Monica Davey
By Mike Hasten
By Lindsey Tanner
By Kevin G. Hall
By Robert M. Simpson
By Jon Bonné
By David Bauder

By Monica Davey            
New York Times
August 8, 2007

DEKALB, Illinois — While much of the nation worries about a slumping real estate market, people in Midwestern farm country are experiencing exactly the opposite. Take, for instance, the farm here — nearly 80 acres of corn and soybeans off a gravel road in a universe of corn and soybeans — that sold for $10,000 an acre at auction this spring, a price that astonished even the auctioneer.

“If they had seen that day, they would have never believed it,” Penny Layman said of her sister and brother-in-law, who paid $32,000 for the entire spread in 1962 and whose deaths led to the sale.

Skyrocketing farmland prices, particularly in states like Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska, giddy with the promise of corn-based ethanol, are stirring new optimism among established farmers. But for younger farmers, already rare in this graying profession, and for small farmers with dreams of expanding and grabbing a piece of the ethanol craze, the news is oddly grim. The higher prices feel out of reach.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Paul Burrs, who farms about 400 acres near Dixon, Ill., and says he regularly bids on new farmland in the hopes of renting it. Mostly, he said, he loses out to higher bidders. “I crunch the numbers and go as high as I can. But then that’s it. There’s nothing more I can do.”

Mr. Burrs, who is 28, had a grandfather and a stepgrandfather who farmed. “So I guess it’s in my blood,” he said, “that feeling that you’ve got to do this, you were meant to do this.”

Still, he said, he believes that to make it a viable, “not quite so lean” full-time career, he needs to work more acres. Just the other day, he called about a farm that was up for rent. He did not get it.

“You keep trying to fight your battles,” Mr. Burrs said, “but it’s frustrating and hard, and sometimes I think, ‘Why am I doing this?’ “

In central Illinois, prime farmland is selling for about $5,000 an acre on average, up from just over $3,000 an acre five years ago, a study showed. In Nebraska, meanwhile, land values rose 17% in the first quarter of this year over the same time last year, the swiftest such gain in more than a quarter century, said Jason R. Henderson, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City.

A federal-government analysis of farm real estate values released Friday showed record average-per-acre values across the country. The analysis said property prices averaged $2,160 an acre at the start of 2007, up 14% from a year earlier.

“For everyone who owns an acre of land, we love this,” said Dale E. Aupperle, a professional farm manager and real estate consultant in Decatur, Ill., who said the rising land values were being driven by rising commodity prices (though corn has dropped some since June) and the prospect of increased demand for ethanol.

“For everyone who doesn’t own an acre of land, these prices mean it gets a little harder to get into,” Mr. Aupperle added. “For an entry-level land owner or a renter, there’s a bit of a thought right now that the train is leaving and I’m not on it.”

In Iowa, which produces more corn and is home to more ethanol plants than any other state, farm rental prices are mimicking purchase prices: they were up about 10 percent this spring over a year ago, according to a study by William Edwards, a professor at Iowa State University who said it was the largest jump since he started tracking farm rents in 1994.

And ethanol is leaving marks everywhere. New grain bins seem to be popping up all around the Midwest, farmers from Indiana to South Dakota say, and some of the highest farmland prices have been seen around the nearly 200 existing or proposed ethanol plants, where the cost of transporting the corn would be the cheapest. Mr. Henderson said he heard that land close to such facilities, most of which are in the Midwest, had jumped by as much as 30% over a year ago.

Some of the boom here may be tied to the dip in other urban and suburban markets: As has been true for several years, out-of-town investors (some of whom can put off capital gains taxes by taking money made from selling one piece of real estate and investing it in another) are buying some of this land. But local farmers are doing much of the buying this year, said Lee Vermeer, a vice president of real estate operations at Farmers National Company, a farm-management firm in Omaha.

“These are established farmers, though, who own other land,” Mr. Vermeer said. “For a young farmer to get in, the amount of capital required is almost prohibitive.”

So the land prices are, in some cases, scooting beyond reach, even as young corn farmers — and hopeful farmers — are enticed by the sudden demand for ethanol as a replacement for the nation’s dependence on oil.

Near Dixon, 40 miles west of DeKalb, Kyle Sheaffer, 28, serves as the local leader of a Farm Bureau committee focused on the worries of young farmers. For them, he said, the high prices have become a regular focus of concern. Meanwhile, well-off buyers and investors, he said, seem to arrive in places like Dixon with “an open checkbook.”

“At this point, it’s just super hard to rent — much less buy — ground,” Mr. Sheaffer said. “On top of the land, the initial investment to farm is so much: the tractor, the startup costs, it’s crazy. If you want to rent land, you either have to find a landlord who is sympathetic to your cause or who knows you.”

Without a family member who already owns a farm or without having a personal connection with a retiring community farmer, there is little chance of a young farmer getting in, most farmers here said. Mr. Sheaffer himself farms 2,500 acres of corn and soybeans, with his father. Without the family tie, he said, he would be out of luck.

Brent Johnson, 29, a farmer in Ashland, Illinois, said the established operation run by his father and uncle are the only reason he can even consider farming.

“I don’t know anyone anymore who is doing this who didn’t come from a farm,” Mr. Johnson said. “Starting one up from thin air? I don’t know how you could now.”

Not surprisingly, the farmers are aging. In Iowa, about one-fourth of farmland is owned by people 75 or older, said Michael Duffy, a farm economist at Iowa State University. Another one-fourth is owned by people 65 to 74 years old.

Unknown is what will come of land prices if corn loses its place in the ethanol world and is surpassed by another source like cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass.

“Right now, a lot are still betting that corn-based ethanol will be around a while,” said Mr. Duffy, who is also the director of the Beginning Farmer Center, which assists farmers who are starting out. He noted two other farming booms, in the 1910s and the 1970s, which were each later followed by periods of depression.

“In five years, corn-based ethanol will be around,” Mr. Duffy said. “Fifteen years? I’m not as convinced.”

By Mike Hasten    
The Shreveport Times
August 8, 2007

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — U.S. Agriculture Department employees who used government computers to spread an e-mail urging opposition to a farm bill provision were scolded Tuesday by a department attorney and the administrator of their section.

In the message circulated Monday, employees of the Farm Services Agency in Virginia urged Agriculture Department employees to lobby the U.S. Senate against a provision that would reopen a court settlement that found the Agriculture Department discriminated against black farmers. The bill would allow some farmers who were rejected because they missed the court-ordered deadline to claim up to $100 million more in damages; $50,000 each.

Agriculture Department general counsel Marc L. Kesselman sent a memo Tuesday to all Farm Services Agency employees informing them of the law against what they appeared to have done.

Teresa C. Lasseter, administrator of the Farm Services Agency, said her office “will conduct an inquiry into the circumstances. And, depending on the findings, appropriate action will be taken.”

While the employees “are free to exercise your First Amendment rights on your own time and during nonworking hours, you are prohibited from such lobbying activities during duty hours and from using government equipment — including computers and telephones — in any such endeavor,” Kesselman said.

He underlined and put in bold face the prohibition portion of his message.

“This prohibition applies not only to the act of directly contacting members of Congress, but also to certain ‘grass-roots’ activities such as urging others to contact their elected representatives,” he says in his letter.

The only federal employees allowed to lobby Congress and to take positions on bills “are those who are appointed by the president and whose appointments require confirmation of the Senate,” Kesselman said.

Lasseter said that besides the problem of employees possibly using government equipment and time to circulate the e-mails, “I am concerned that certain statements that may have been made by a small number of employees will be construed as the official position of the Farm Services Agency – which they are not.

“The Department of Agriculture has commented that the House-passed farm bill provision containing the $100 million spending limitation creates false hope, but has not yet taken a position on the underlying legislative proposal,” she said.

Lasseter said she also is “concerned about the tone” used in the employees’ e-mail to characterize the legislation. She said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns insists the department’s programs and services must be delivered “fairly and with dignity. There can be no exceptions and no excuses.”

“If FSA does ultimately take a position on the legislation, we will do so in a manner that is respectful of the sensitivities involved,” she said.

John Boyd, president of Black Farmers of America, said he believes the attorney’s warning “certainly doesn’t go far enough. Something should happen – some suspension or termination.”

Boyd said he has discussed legislation reopening the case with Johanns and President George W. Bush. “The president said he would sign 515,” a bill that sought to do the same thing as the farm bill proposes, Boyd said. The FSA employees “got their hand caught in the cookie jar,” he said.

“If the department is sincere, they really ought to come out and support this bill and close a very old chapter of the Department of Agriculture.”

Boyd said he agrees the $100 million limitation in the bill is not enough to make a large dent in the number of farmers who were denied awards. It was $200 million in the House, he said, but “in a deal we made at 11:30 at night, we came down to $100 million to get the bill passed.”

Boyd said he plans to ask the Senate to increase the cap.

By Lindsey Tanner             
Associated Press
August 6, 2007

CHICAGO, Illinois — Anything made by McDonald’s tastes better, preschoolers said in a study that powerfully demonstrates how advertising can trick the taste buds of young children.

Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the children when they were wrapped in the familiar packaging of the Golden Arches.

The study had youngsters sample identical McDonald’s foods in name-brand and unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods always lost.

“You see a McDonald’s label and kids start salivating,” said Diane Levin, a childhood development specialist who campaigns against advertising to children. She had no role in the research.

Levin said it was “the first study I know of that has shown so simply and clearly what’s going on with (marketing to) young children.”

Dr. Tom Robinson of Stanford University, author of the study, said the children’s perception of taste was “physically altered by the branding.”

The study involved 63 low-income children ages three to five from Head Start centers in San Mateo County, Calif. Robinson believes the results would be similar for children from wealthier families.

The research, appearing in August’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, was funded by Stanford and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The study likely will stir more debate over the movement to restrict ads to children. It comes less than a month after 11 major food and drink companies, including McDonald’s, announced new curbs on marketing to children under 12.

McDonald’s says the only Happy Meals it will promote to young children will contain fruit and have fewer calories and less fat.

“We’ve always wanted to be part of the solution and we are providing solutions,” company spokesman Walt Riker said.

But Dr. Victor Strasburger, an author of an American Academy of Pediatrics policy urging limits on marketing to children, said the study shows too little is being done.

“It’s an amazing study and it’s very sad,” Strasburger said.

“Advertisers have tried to do exactly what this study is talking about — to brand younger and younger children, to instill in them an almost obsessional desire for a particular brand-name product,” he said.

By Kevin G. Hall             
Sacramento Bee
August 6, 2007

The Democratic-led Congress won’t give President Bush the special authority he needs to negotiate future free-trade deals. The Senate is moving on retaliatory trade legislation against China. The House of Representatives won’t approve deals with three small neighboring Latin American countries. Global trade talks are near collapse.

Washington’s mood on free trade hasn’t been this negative in at least two decades, and a pullback is evident. Whether this becomes a full-blown return to protectionism remains to be seen. But for now Americans, and the politicians they elect to represent them, are in no mood to expand international trade.

“For decades we took for granted that everyone agreed with us economists that free trade is good, protectionism is bad. Somewhere along the way, that stopped being the conventional wisdom,” acknowledged U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers. “And whereas the default vote on a trade bill in Congress used to be a ‘yes’ vote, the default vote on a trade bill now in Congress is a ‘no’ vote.”

Why? Because lots of people are no longer convinced that a rising tide of trade lifts all boats — and there’s evidence to back them up.

For three decades, the richest ten percent of Americans has been growing even richer much faster than everyone else. Over the past five years, real wages for all the rest of American workers have been almost flat. Many blame globalization.

During a mid-July congressional hearing, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke contended that education levels largely determine income inequality. He was angrily interrupted by Rep. Barney Frank, Dem.-Massachusetts, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who said, “Mr. Bernanke, that’s simply not true.”

Frank said that the 29% of Americans who have bachelor’s and even master’s degrees haven’t seen real income growth, on average, over the past five years. That’s what Democrats in Congress are focused on, he said.

“As long as we have the current situation … you are going to see the kind of gridlock where trade promotion (authority), immigration and other issues don’t go anywhere,” he warned.

Frank quoted repeatedly from a new report published by the Financial Services Forum, a think tank run by President Bush’s close friend, former Commerce Secretary Donald Evans. The report was co-written by Matthew Slaughter, a former member of Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.

The report concluded that “over time, the pressures of global engagement spread economy-wide to alter the earnings of even those not directly exposed to international competition.”

Since 2000, the report said, most American workers have seen meager income growth. Only “a small share of workers at the very high end has enjoyed strong growth in incomes.” This occurred despite strong productivity growth, which in the past raised wages and salaries.

“Real income growth for workers has not been evenly distributed across all workers. That economic reality has an important political” consequence, Slaughter said in an interview.

Small but already negotiated trade deals with Panama, Colombia and Peru are being held up. While those deals wouldn’t affect the U.S. economy greatly, their blockage sends signals worldwide about changing U.S. attitudes.

Meanwhile, Asian nations continue integrating into the fast-growing Chinese economy’s sphere of influence.

For now, the only trade-related legislation moving on Capitol Hill tends toward protecting U.S. domestic interests at the expense of opening markets more to competition from overseas. Recently, the Senate Finance Committee passed, by a 20-1 vote, bipartisan legislation to force the Commerce Department to weigh whether another country is deliberately undervaluing its currency when considering whether to impose unfair trade penalties against foreign goods. The target was China, but that standard could be applied to other Asian nations, too.

By the end of September, Congress is expected to pass bills that would expand federal trade-adjustment assistance to a wider array of U.S. workers whose jobs have been lost to overseas competition.

This shift in opinion against a long-dominant presumption that free trade provides broad net benefits to the U.S. economy isn’t rooted only in the experience of stagnant incomes; it’s also gaining intellectual respectability as economic theory. Alan Blinder, a Princeton economist and a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a lifelong free-trader, like most economists, until he began looking hard at how globalization is evolving.

Recently he shocked free-trade orthodoxy by warning that modern technology and trade practices will put at risk as many as 40 million American jobs within a decade or two.

Blinder doesn’t champion a return to protectionism in the form of tariffs and trade barriers. Instead, he believes that government must do far more to help workers displaced by trade, that the U.S. education system must aim to train people for jobs that can’t be performed abroad and that the tax code should give incentives to firms to produce here.

By Robert M. Simpson      
San Francisco Chronicle
August 3, 2007

The American sugar price support program is seriously out of date, and tens of thousands of American workers and millions of consumers are paying the price.

Among its many candy products, my company manufactures “the original gourmet jelly bean” made famous when President Ronald Reagan kept a jar on his desk in the Oval Office. One of the ingredients used to make jelly beans is sugar, of course, and it may surprise you to learn that sugar bought here in the United States costs twice what it costs anywhere else in the world.

The price of our domestic sugar is artificially inflated by strict regulation of imports, a commodity loan program that forces the government to buy up any sugar that domestic producers can’t sell, and production controls that make it illegal for domestic sugar processors to sell more than their government assigned allotments, even if they have buyers standing in line.

By keeping domestic sugar prices so high, the sugar program actively encourages companies that use sugar in their products to move their factories to countries such as Canada, where they can buy less expensive sugar and then just bring the finished products back into the United States without restriction. If you owned a factory that made candy, wouldn’t you jump at the chance to cut the cost of your key ingredient in half, especially if you could do so by simply relocating your operations a few miles across the border in Canada?

The exodus is already well under way. Between 1990 and 2004, annual imports of products containing sugar increased from just below $7 billion to almost $19 billion. Today, about 10 percent of domestic demand for products containing sugar is being met by products imported from abroad, and that percentage keeps climbing year after year.

This steady relocation of manufacturing operations to countries where companies can buy sugar at the lower world price is having a devastating impact on American workers and their families. Between 1997 and 2004, more than 70,000 jobs were lost in American companies that use sugar in their products. During roughly the same period, the number of sugarcane refineries in this country has dropped from 23 to 8, costing American refinery workers more than 5,000 jobs.

The sugar program is costing this country a lot more than just good jobs. Independent studies by the International Trade Commission, the Government Accountability Office and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development all estimate that the sugar program is costing American consumers as much as $1.9 billion a year in higher prices for every product they buy that contains sugar.

Meanwhile, trade agreements such as NAFTA are steadily lowering the trade barriers that once protected high-priced domestic sugar from the wider world market. For example, as part of the NAFTA agreement, starting next year restrictions on how much sugar Mexican growers can export to the United States will be lifted. As Mexican sugar floods across the border, the American government will be forced to buy more and more of the domestic crop at those artificially high prices. American taxpayers will pay the difference, estimated to be at least $1.3 billion over the next ten years.

In the long run, a price support program that depends so heavily on import controls cannot possibly survive in an increasingly open global market. Eventually, the outdated American sugar program will end up killing the very industries it was originally intended to protect. Companies that make products containing sugar will continue to do what makes economic sense and move to countries where they can buy sugar at the lower world price. American factories will close. American workers will be displaced. As imports of cheap foreign sugar continue to increase, domestic growers and processors will see demand for their product decline and eventually disappear. Before long, the government price support program will be the only customer left for domestic sugar.

There is a better way. The 2007 farm bill now under consideration offers Congress an opportunity for fundamental reform of the sugar price support program. The sugar program doesn’t have to destroy American jobs and leave the taxpayers to pick up the check. Before pushing the problem into the future and hoping it will somehow disappear, Congress should act now to make the sugar program more flexible, more market-oriented, less costly to American taxpayers, more compatible with the nation’s global trade obligations and less damaging to American job growth.

ROBERT M. SIMPSON  is president and COO of Jelly Belly Inc. in Fairfield.

By Jon Bonné             
San Francisco Chronicle
August 1, 2007

The family-owned winery that put Napa Valley on equal footing with Bordeaux is no longer all in the family.

Warren Winiarski, the former Chicago academic whose 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon stunned the world by beating France’s best in the famous Judgment of Paris tasting, stunned the Wine Country when he announced Monday he had sold his Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars to a joint venture of Italy’s Marchese Piero Antinori and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Washington state’s largest winery, for $185 million. The price was disclosed Tuesday morning.

Winiarski was bittersweet about the sale. “There’s sadness, and there’s great joy,” he said. “The two things can’t be separated in a situation like this.”

The transaction is a big step down the corporate path for the renowned valley, where wineries once were strictly family enterprises. It also was just one of three major sales in the valley this week.

The behemoth E&J Gallo Winery announced Monday that it would buy Napa’s William Hill Estate, with 145 acres of prime vineyards, as well as the popular Canyon Road brand from Beam Wine Estates, a division of Illinois-based Fortune Brands Inc. And in a long-awaited move, Duckhorn Wine Company of St. Helena on Tuesday announced it had sold a majority interest to private equity firm GI Partners.

The sales signal major changes ahead for Napa, where established names are being grabbed up by big wine companies in a trend that gained critical mass with the 2004 purchase of Robert Mondavi Winery by Constellation Brands.

It’s hardly the first time that small wineries with big names have been ripe for purchase. In 1997, Stags’ Leap Winery owner Carl Doumani — whose duel over naming rights with next-door neighbor Winiarski became a lengthy court battle — sold his property to Beringer, which in turn now is owned by Fosters Group of Australia.

But there is new momentum, spurred by soaring land prices and changing tastes. The valley has witnessed a boom of tiny wineries, much smaller than the ones just sold, specializing in less than 10,000 cases per year of high-priced wines. Using small vineyard parcels, they often are in heated competition for high scores from critics that make them highly sought-after.

At the same time, said Barbara Insel, managing director of MKF Research LLC, major wine companies are struggling to maintain market share. It’s nearly impossible to create a new brand with the presence of a Mondavi or a Stag’s Leap, so the purchase of Napa’s best-known names is the next best way to boost sales.

And with prime Napa vineyard land topping $275,000 an acre, owners of those wineries are increasingly willing to cash out. “I think everybody who has a brand is wetting their lips and saying, ‘What can I get for this?’ ” Insel said.

The flurry of sales also reflects a recovering real estate market. Sales this year of Napa estates of more than $3 million have already exceeded the 23 transactions in 2005, according to winery real estate expert John Bergman.

“This year is the most active year that I’ve seen since 2000,” said Bergman, who brokered the original sale of William Hill in 1989.

Of the three sales, Stag’s Leap was the biggest shock. The winery has enjoyed continued success since Winiarski took top honors in Paris. Even as properties like Robert Mondavi and Beringer sold to big corporations, Winiarski’s rustic perch on the Silverado Trail remained an increasingly rare symbol of old-time Napa.

But three years ago, Winiarski said, he and his children “tried to sort out the family dynamics,” eventually deciding nine months ago to sell their landmark property. The first person Winiarski called was Antinori, a longtime friend, who brought Ste. Michelle into the deal. The sale was finalized just two weeks ago.

“You don’t get magic moments all the time in life, and this is one of them” said Ted Baseler, president and CEO of Ste. Michelle.

In turn, Antinori and Ste. Michelle are gaining one of Napa’s most venerated brands — including its $175 Cask 23 Cabernet, a descendant of the 1973 wine that beat the French in 1976 — as well as nearly 200 acres of vineyards.

Both are well-versed in top-end wines. Antinori is one of Italy’s oldest and most respected winemaking families. Ste. Michelle, a subsidiary of Greenwich, Conn.-based UST Inc. and the 10th largest U.S. wine company, according to Wine Business Monthly, imports Antinori’s wines to the United States.

Both companies also have solid grounding in Napa: Antinori co-founded Atlas Peak Vineyards in 1987 and will regain use of the land by 2008. Woodinville, Wash.-based Ste. Michelle owns Napa’s Conn Creek and Villa Mt. Eden.

Duckhorn, meanwhile, with more than 300 acres of vineyards in Napa and Mendocino counties, had been exploring a possible sale since March, with a price tag rumored to exceed $250 million. Neither side would discuss the financial terms of the deal Tuesday beyond saying that the shares held by Duckhorn’s 80 individual investors had been replaced by a “controlling investment” from GI Partners.

“They seemed to have the same vision and commitment that we have, and that was very important to us,” said co-founder and executive vice president Margaret Duckhorn.

Aside from its namesake St. Helena winery, the company also owns Paraduxx, which makes a Napa red blend, and Goldeneye, which makes Pinot Noir in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley. Despite Duckhorn’s down-home reputation, it has become a major force in Napa, making more than 20,000 cases of $50 Merlot as the cornerstone of a portfolio of at least a dozen wines. GI Partners, based in Menlo Park and London, holds over $2 billion in assets ranging from British pub chains to California nursing facilities.

The William Hill and Canyon Road sales were unexpected, too, although not entirely surprising. Gallo has shown increased interest in Napa, buying the historic Louis M. Martini winery in 2002 and, more recently, 182 acres of vineyards in Napa’s remote Chiles Valley appellation. As is typical for privately held Gallo, prices were not disclosed for the sales.

Even when big names are involved, change is gradual. Although the sale bars Winiarski, 78, from forming another winery, his family has retained control of the 82-acre Arcadia vineyard, source for one of Stag’s Leap’s Chardonnays. He will continue to advise Stag’s Leap for the next three years. Winemaker Nicolette Pruss also will stay.

“It’s not the end of an era if the right people are coming in to preserve what was established here in the Napa Valley,” Winiarski said. “I think it’s not the end of an era, it’s the transition to a new era. It’s a transition to continuity.”

Napa winery sales

Some recent sales of individual wineries in Napa Valley: $185 million

1 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, sold to Marchese Piero Antinori of Italy and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates of Washington state this week $14.2 billion

2 Atlas Peak, part of a 10-winery deal to Fortune Brands in April 2005 $1.36 billion

3 Robert Mondavi Winery, sold to Constellation in December 2004 Undisclosed price

4 Louis M. Martini, sold to Gallo in September 2002, price not disclosed $47.5 million

5 Newton Vineyard, along with Mount Adam estate in southern Australia, sold to Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy in January 2001 $1.5 billion

6 Beringer Vineyards, sold to Fosters in August 2000 Source: Chronicle research

Other winery transactions The following individual Napa Valley wineries have also been acquired by larger firms:

* Franciscan Oakville, Mount Veeder, Estancia and Inglenook, now all owned by Constellation * Beaulieu and Sterling, now owned by Diageo C&E * Freemark Abbey, now owned by Legacy Estate Group * Conn Creek and Villa Mt. Eden, now owned by UST * Etude Wines, now owned by Fosters

By David Bauder             
Associated Press
August 8, 2007

There’s something to be said for consistency — go to Farm Aid and you see John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and Dave Matthews.

For this year’s inaugural show in New York, they’ll be joined by Counting Crows, the Allman Brothers Band, Montgomery Gentry and the Derek Trucks Band, among others, Farm Aid announced Wednesday.

The concert will be held September 9 on Randalls Island, an island just east of Manhattan.

“I’ve always felt we should do it in New York because New Yorkers consume so much food,” Mellencamp told The Associated Press. “I think everyone was kind of waiting around for an invitation and we finally got one.”

Nelson, Mellencamp and Young organized the first Farm Aid in 1985, figuring one year would be enough to convince the government to adopt policies to help family farmers.

“We were naive,” Mellencamp said. Farm Aid, which has raised more than $30 million over the past two decades, has evolved into an organization that helps small farmers in financial crisis and promotes organically raised foods. Farm Aid hopes next month to have the first major concert with all local, family-farmed food served.

Farm Aid has been reaching out to the big cities recently. Last year’s concert was in Camden, New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia, and Chicago was the host in 2005.

Nelson and Young have performed at every show, with Mellencamp missing only one when he was recuperating from a heart attack. Matthews, who performs this year in tandem with guitar wizard Tim Reynolds, has been on the bill regularly for more than a decade.

Guster, Matisyahu and the Ditty Bops are among the newcomers this year. The Ditty Bops have just completed a green-themed tour where they rode bicycles to different venues across the country.

Warren Haynes and the Supersuckers are also on the bill.

“If people eat, they should come and support Farm Aid,” Mellencamp said.