Naughty by Nature: A Dispatch from the ADM Shareholder Meeting

posted by Josh Ran

Dispatched from Soy City USA, written by Bria M. and Andrea S., two of your Rainforest Agribusiness campaigners…

Once again, ADM was under the mistaken impression that they could break the law and get away with it.

In Decatur this morning we—Bria, Andrea, and Rob Parsons (a renewable energy advocate and ally in our anti-palm oil campaign from Hawaii )—arrived at the ADM shareholder meeting to present a statement from affected communities in Indonesia, a statement about RAN’s campaign against ADM, and a statement about the struggle to confront palm oil biodiesel in Hawaii. We each had our proxies (legal documentation), which should have given us the irrefutable right to attend the shareholder meeting. Shareholder advocacy is a tried and true tool in the RAN tool box, and something we have used with the vast majority of our campaign targets throughout the years.

It came as no surprise that there were five police cars- including 2 canine units- across the street from the shareholder meeting, parked in the same place that we held the protest last year. As we parked and waited for the meeting, they drove past our car and took video and pictures.

In our attempt to register at the entrance, we were immediately singled out. We were met by Victoria Podesta, the Vice President of Corporate Communications, and other members of the ADM executive security team. They greeted us by name, and stated that they had changed the rules once again, and told us that our legal proxies and paper work was not sufficient to attend the meeting. After a heated discussion with Ms. Podesta and ADM’s chief legal counsel, along with many other members of the security team, they begrudgingly allowed us to enter the meeting. Prior to entering they thoroughly searched our bags, and insisted that we hand over our phones and cameras. No other attendee was scrutinized or searched in this manner.

Once we got into the meeting we were seated in a special reserved section, and a security representative was assigned to sit with us. Several key moments of interest were when CEO Woertz announced:

  • ADM and Conoco-Phillips are developing a joint project for biomass conversion.
  • They are projecting growth in their bioenergy business and have opened several new biodiesel plants throughout the world.
  • They have joined the “Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy” a joint project with John Deer, Monsanto, Dupont, and others to help feed the world and fuel the future.

They also identified sustainability as a key priority, which is incredibly ironic for company whose operations across the world are inherently unsustainable, and who rely on the destruction of rainforests and stealing land from communities for profit.

Finally, during the question and answer period, we all read our statements. Andrea’s focused on our general concerns regarding ADM’s role in the expansion of palm and soy and the company’s increasing investments in biofuels. Bria read a statement from the Kubu people of Jambi, Indonesia. They were violently kicked off their land and had their homes bulldozed by ADM-funded Wilmar. Rob spoke about the Hawaii Electric Company’s plans to convert their power generation to imported palm oil biodiesel from Southeast Asia, and the environmental and social concerns related to this.

After we spoke, CEO Woertz did admit that on a recent trip to Brazil she witnessed rainforest destruction for soy plantations near the Amazon, but denied ADM’s involvement. She claimed that the statement from the communities was misinformed and inaccurate. Generally, she dismissed our statements, and told the shareholders that we were just there to cause trouble.

The meeting concluded, and just as we had been escorted in, we were escorted out. A handful of shareholders approached us and thanked us for our statements, and urged us to “keep ADM’s feet to the fire”. We certainly will, with pleasure.