Banks County Opinions...

March 7, 2001


Column
By Angie Gary
The Banks County News
March 7, 2001


Medical Mysteries
I don't have a bladder infection or kidney stones.
My gall bladder is fine and my appendix is OK.
As for my intestines and ovaries, they're OK too.
After four doctors and four extensive tests, I can rest assured that everything is normal. Of course, I'm probably one of the few people who are in tears at the news that their test came back normal.
There are no tumors or other obvious problems to be found. My X-rays, CAT scans and ultrasounds all show that I'm in perfect health. So, why have I had this aching pain in my side, lower back and lower abdomen for two months? Why have I left work to hurry home in tears because the pain is so bad that I can't sit up any more? I guess it will remain one of those medical mysteries.
I'm one of those people who want a diagnosis and a prescription before being sent home to recuperate. I don't enjoy doctors saying things like, "Hmmm. That's strange." or "Hmmm. That doesn't make sense." Apparently, I'm the first to have this mystery ailment. I'll probably end up in all of the medical journals.
I want to know what is wrong and how to fix it. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. I'm one of those people who think doctors are supposed to have an answer for everything. I have to remind myself that they're only human beings and can't possibly have all of the answers.
With no answers coming, I'll just have to be strong and continue to pray about it. On one of my many business drives between Banks to Jackson counties, I noticed a church with the phrase "Pray without ceasing" on its sign. That's a good motto for us all to remember, not just when we are sick.
My grandmother, Mozelle Clark, and my mother, Sarah Gary, have always been an example of the importance of prayer. Because of them, I know how important it is to keep in constant communication with God. It's not that they tell me to pray, it's that I see them in prayer.
It's quite common for me to be in one room of the house and hear my mother in another room thanking Jesus out loud for something. As for my grandmother, she has prayed with me in the middle of a phone conversation and during visits to her house. While talking to me about a problem or concern, she will bow her head, close her eyes and begin to pray.
In good times and bad times, prayer is important. I'll remember this as I deal with my medical mystery.
Angela Gary is editor of The Banks County News and associate editor of The Jackson Herald.

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Column
By Shar Porier
The Banks County News
March 7, 2001

More than chickens are being plucked
As I hear from more and more poultry growers, I believe that more than chickens are getting plucked in this particular business.
Let me tell you a few of things I have seen firsthand and heard from the men and women who put eggs in our skillets, broilers in our ovens and drumsticks on our grills.
The majority of growers who have pulled me aside or called me have said they are not making a livable income, or any income, for that matter.
They tell me how bright their futures looked according to the integrators (poultry companies) as they signed on the dotted line. "You'll be able to make a good living! You'll be able to provide for your family. You'll be able to set money aside for your future."
It all sounded so good.
But...Within the contracts these men and women signed in good faith were numerous incongruities. Incongruities that came back on them with a vengeance.
Their accounts are heart-breaking. They expose an industry with a complete lack of fair business practices or integrity.
That's odd to me. Here are these companies calling themselves "integrators." According to Webster, and integrator is "one who integrates." And to integrate means "to form a whole; to unite or become united so as to become a perfect whole."
A perfect whole...From what I have heard and seen, these companies are not even close to living up to "forming a perfect whole."
Take this one particular article of a contract - "[company] makes no warranty, express or implied, as to the quality, merchantibility, fitness of the baby chicks, the feed, the medication, or any other property delivered or recommended by the company."
Why on earth would an integrator send out sick chicks, foul feed, or bad medicine? And another: The grower must agree to "allow [the company] the right, at any time, for any reason, to sell, move or process the birds."
What? They can just come in the night and take the chickens away from the farmer who has bought and paid for or gone into debt for the chickens' feed, medication, heat, cooling, and housing ? On an integrator's whim?
Now, sure, nobody held a gun to their heads to make them sign these one-sided contracts.
But, remember, you're sitting down with a guy who has just painted a picture of a rosy path to a lucrative future. He's got you in the palm of his hand. "Hey, just buy these chicks from us (subliminal message, at your own risk), follow our feeding plan (subliminal message, we won't guarantee you good feed), and we'll catch them, cage them, and transport them (subliminal message, hopefully not too many of them will die on the way) to our plant, where they will be weighed And we'll give you money (subliminal message, how much depends on whether or not we gave 'ya the good stock or the sick stock) in a week or so."
The grower has no reason to believe that a company would perform such injustices. Why should he or she? It's not logical to run a business that way!
Yet the integrators do! Constantly.
And you know what? The grower can't take the integrator to court to seek financial damages from his unknowing investment in ill birds that die by the thousands (no exaggeration). He forfeits rights to court trial in many company contracts. His only avenue is arbitration, which costs a whole lot of money he doesn't have because the company gave him sick birds and he can't afford to pay the gas bill let alone hire an attorney.
He can't even talk about how he is being treated, because that, too, is covered in the contract. There's a confidentiality clause. he's not allowed to discuss his contract with anybody. (That clause is being challenged and ignored out of a need for survival and the hope of public and legislative support.)
So, now the poor farmer is trapped. He has to stay in the business that has just burned him. He has bills to pay. He gets a second mortgage to pay off the gas and power bills to provide the genetically engineered birds with the precise, required environment and get enough money to live on until the next flock delivered is ready to sell.
But he gets burned a second time, a third time. Now, he faces bankruptcy. He tries to sell the farm, but banks are unwilling to grant loans on poultry farms because they see the trend of failure.
These situations are real! They are happening every day in Banks County, in Georgia, all across the country. That's why in many states, including Georgia, legislation is being proposed to end these injustices and inequities and give the farmer some relief and support.
It wouldn't surprise me to see one day soon, a haggard man standing at the intersection of 441 and I-85 with a sign saying: "I am a poultry farmer. Will work for food. Please help!"
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News. Her e-mail address is sunbeltshooters@worldnet.att.net.


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