I am addicted to factory food.

If anyone should know better, it’s me. I have attempted to grow and produce an increasing percentage of my family’s food for years now. I know how much effort it takes to produce my own food, and I know the costs hidden behind the grocery store prices. I know the U.S. food distribution system is not even close to sustainable.

Yet I keep going back to the grocery store for more.

This is because I am like (most of) you: I only have so much money with which to pay unavoidable expenses and purchase life’s necessities. I have researched my monthly expenses and, based on past costs, I have allocated a set amount to cover the cost of food. I know that my family would be healthier and my local region would be on an ever-so-slightly stronger economic footing if I would frequent local farmers markets and buy pasture-raised meats and home-produced eggs all the time instead of once in a blue moon.

But I am afraid I can’t afford to devote a larger portion of income to food.

There is hope for me, however. Economic pain, too, but hope. Ironically, it comes from Mexican drug cartels.

I found this out after two recent grocery store trips in which I found that two small, hard unripened limes were being offered for a dollar at one store, while the other was offering a single lime for the price of 80 cents. In the recent past, good, ripe limes were being offered at the rate of five or, sometimes, 10 for a dollar.

Food prices in general have been rising at a very fast pace so far in 2014, but the soaring price of limes has just been extreme, so much so that I attempted to find out what’s behind it, and eventually found this.

In a nutshell, U.S. grocers import most of their limes from Mexico, even the Key Limes you thought came from the Florida Keys. The most important lime-growing regions in Mexico are under the thumb of the cartels. The drug cartels, like other organized crime ventures before them, have learned to branch out. Among many other things, they have become adept at siphoning money out of the lime market, and also the Mexican avocado market – at every level. Read the various news articles listed in the Google link at the end of the previous paragraph if you don’t believe me, or are interested in details of how this has transpired and what the implications may be.

I personally had believed that our food distribution system would be more likely to fall apart due to increasing fuel prices, since studies I’ve seen say more than seven units of fossil fuel energy are now consumed in order to produce one equivalent unit of food energy. I had not considered that extortion from organized crime might become so prevalent that it would cause people to seek more local and sustainable sources of food.

When Life Gives You Lemons - You Don't Need No Stinkin' LimesFor me, I happen to have an abundance of really good lemons. And while I realize that lemons just aren’t as good as limes in some cases, in others, they are. I’ll for sure be using my own lemons before I pay 80 cents for a puny drug cartel-controlled lime. And, while it’s just a tad too cold around here in winter to plant my own lime trees, people locally do grow them in big pots and protect them in cold weather. I might just try that.

On a more serious note, though, the lime fiasco and the major increase in grocery prices overall (due in large part to the major increase in fuel prices) just foreshadows the inherent weaknesses in a system where we obtain a large portion of our food from giant agricultural operations located thousands of miles away, while ignoring local growers because their operations are too small for a Kroger or Walmart to consider.

Eventually, I believe, we’re going to have to buy more of our food from local sources. But the rub is that good, local food will cost us more. Unless we grow it ourselves.

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Not that the change of heart came purely as a result of my little missive the other day, but General Mills just had a change of heart and announced a few hours ago that it no longer will try to force consumers into arbitration should they become involved in a dispute with the company:

As has been widely reported, General Mills recently posted a revised set of Legal Terms on our websites. Those terms – and our intentions – were widely misread, causing concern among consumers.

So we’ve listened – and we’re changing them back to what they were before.

We rarely have disputes with consumers – and arbitration would have simply streamlined how complaints are handled. Many companies do the same, and we felt it would be helpful.

But consumers didn’t like it.

So we’ve reverted back to our prior terms. There’s no mention of arbitration, and the arbitration provisions we had posted were never enforced. Nor will they be. We stipulate for all purposes that our recent Legal Terms have been terminated, that the arbitration provisions are void, and that they are not, and never have been, of any legal effect.

That last bit is from our lawyers.

We’ll just add that we never imagined this reaction. Similar terms are common in all sorts of consumer contracts, and arbitration clauses don’t cause anyone to waive a valid legal claim. They only specify a cost-effective means of resolving such matters. At no time was anyone ever precluded from suing us by purchasing one of our products at a store or liking one of our Facebook pages. That was either a mischaracterization – or just very misunderstood.

Not that any of that matters now.

On behalf of our company and our brands, we would also like to apologize. We’re sorry we even started down this path. And we do hope you’ll accept our apology. We also hope that you’ll continue to download product coupons, talk to us on social media, or look for recipes on our websites.

Apology accepted. Now if you’ll just stop using genetically engineered grains and soybeans ala Monsanto in your products, we’ll be all square.

Meanwhile, happy Easter!

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Just for General Mills. Yup.

You know General Mills. It’s a big honkin’ conglomerate producing many, many tons worth of processed factory food-like substances your kids clamor for due to multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns engineered by rogue child psychologists to wham on the Youth Sugar Organ tucked into the brain’s lower vortex.

Well, it turns out General Mills gets sued a lot. Like many corporate executives, those at General Mills decided they could save a lot of money on lawsuits by finding a way to force aggrieved customers and the like to use arbitrators rather than hire lawyers to settle their grievances. Now, this happens all the time when a consumer is forced to sign or otherwise agree to what amounts to a contract, such as the purchase of licensed software or cellular service. Lawyers for companies who provide such goods and services know there is nothing worse for their companies than other lawyers, and so they insert clauses basically telling their peasant customers that if they want Internet or cable TV or a mobile phone, they had better give up the right to hire a lawyer should their ears or balls fall off due to negligently configured microwave towers or web packets or what have you.

But until the New York Times reported it today, we had heretofore never before been forced into giving up our right to hire lawyers through the act of eating a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Now, apparently, we have:

“PLEASE NOTE THAT SECTION 3 BELOW CONTAINS A BINDING ARBITRATION CLAUSE AND CLASS ACTION WAIVER,” the company says, shouting, all in caps, in the “Legal Terms” section of its web site. “IT AFFECTS THE RIGHTS YOU HAVE IN ANY DISPUTE WITH GENERAL MILLS (INCLUDING ITS AFFILIATED COMPANIES AND BRANDS), INCLUDING DISPUTES ARISING OUT OF YOUR PURCHASE OR USE OF ANY GENERAL MILLS PRODUCT OR SERVICE FOR PERSONAL OR HOUSEHOLD USE, INCLUDING GENERAL MILLS PRODUCTS PURCHASED AT ONLINE OR PHYSICAL STORES.”

General Mills’ team of lawyers then goes on to say that you are entering into a “binding legal agreement” and consent to give up the above rights “in exchange for the benefits, discounts, content, features, services, or other offerings that you receive or have access to by using our websites, joining our sites as a member, joining our online community, subscribing to our email newsletters, downloading or printing a digital coupon, entering a sweepstakes or contest, redeeming a promotional offer, or otherwise participating in any other General Mills offering…”

The Times says that new lawyer words added to the General Mills web site after a Times reporter called them up now indicates “that buying its products would bind consumers to those terms.”

Ergo, eat a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, give up your right to hire a lawyer with whom to sue General Mills.

Now why, I wondered, would the maker of so many fine food-like substances go to such great lengths to keep attorneys so far at bay?

The Times reporter wondered, too, and found that General Mills had paid $8.5 million last year in a suit over health claims it made about its Yoplait yogurt, and was forced in another case to remove the word “strawberry” from its Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups, which somehow did not happen to contain even a trace of strawberries.

A little search for both “recalls” and “General Mills” also found:

→ General Mills recalled some single-serve cases of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal last year because they might have been tainted with salmonella;

→ General Mills recalled some batches of Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls With Icing last year because they might have contained fragments of plastic;

→ General Mills recalled some cases of Old El Paso Hot Chunky Tomato Salsa last year “due to the presence of glass.”

→ General Mills recalled cans of Progresso Italian Wedding Soup last year after word got out beef used in the soup had come from a slaughter house the U.S. Department of Agriculture accused of processing “diseased and unsound animals” whose meat was not inspected by the government, you know, as is required by law.

So in response to General Mills’ contention that I have (mistakenly or otherwise) purchased one or more of the company’s products and thus in effect signed a contract that I knew nothing about giving up my right to hire a lawyer and sue the crap out of said General Mills if I eat a mouthful of high-fructose corn syrup-encrusted glass shards for breakfast, I have made some changes to my web site’s Legal Terms, to whit:

IF YOU ARE A CURRENT OR PAST EMPLOYEE, CONTRACTOR FOR OR REPRESENTATIVE OF GENERAL MILLS CORP. OR ANY OF ITS AFFILIATES OR SUBSIDIARIES, BY HAVING READ THIS BLOG POST, GLANCED AT THIS WEB SITE OR THOUGHT ABOUT READING THIS OR ANY OTHER ARTICLE LOCATED AT THIS INTERNET DOMAIN YOU HAVE FOR ALL LEGAL PURPOSES AGREED THAT BOB DUNN AND ALL MEMBERS OF HIS IMMEDIATE AND EXTENDED FAMILY POSSESS THE IRREVOCABLE RIGHT TO HIRE A VERITABLE BUTTLOAD OF LAWYERS IF THEY SO CHOOSE, FOR THE PURPOSE OF SUING GENERAL MILLS AND/OR ITS AFFILIATES, SUBSIDIARIES, EMPLOYEES, EXECUTIVES AND/OR CONTRACTORS INTO SUBMISSION ANYTIME THE MOOD STRIKES AND THEY FEEL SO MOVED.

I’m glad we got that settled.

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Waiting For Winter Again

April 14, 2014 Uncategorized

By now the evenings here should be a balmy 65 degrees or so, but instead Someone is promising to deliver us 38 degrees both tonight and the next, with heavy north winds to boot. That’s simply unacceptable to vegetable gardeners hereabouts, whose eggplants, tomatoes and peppers are terrified of such a threat. Yet it appears […]

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Meat Market Sticker Shock

April 10, 2014 Food

The Grumpy Old Man went grocery shopping at the HEB store yesterday and became even grumpier. Not because of any of the usual incompetence or hijinks grocers pull – but because of the prices. Steelhead trout, a favorite of mine, had gone from $8 a week ago to $10 a pound (yeah, in actuality the […]

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SCOTUS Puts Another Brick In The Wall

April 2, 2014 Be Afraid

The corporate elitist majority making up the current iteration of the Supreme Court has just acted again to make it easier than ever for very rich people to buy election outcomes and decide in advance who’s going to wind up on the general election ballot. In its usual 5-4 vote, the “justices” ruled to remove […]

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Daniel Boone’s Ice Box

March 31, 2014 Country Life

There’s a lot to be said for the peaceful serenity of country life far off the beaten path. This is not one of those stories. This is more about the evils of planned obsolescence and expectations involving the power grid and modern conveniences and how participants in what’s laughingly referred to as the service industry […]

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