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Coming March 26, 2024
Barons is the story of seven corporate titans, their rise to power, and the consequences for everyone else. Take Mike McCloskey, Chairman of Fair Oaks Farms. In a few short decades, he went from managing a modest dairy herd to running the Disneyland of agriculture, where school children ride trams through mechanized warehouses filled with tens of thousands of cows that never see the light of day. What was the key to his success? Hard work and exceptional business savvy? Maybe. But more than anything else, Mike benefitted from deregulation of the American food industry, a phenomenon that has consolidated wealth in the hands of select tycoons, and along the way, hollowed out the nation’s rural towns and local businesses.
Along with Mike McCloskey, readers will meet a secretive German family that took over the global coffee industry in less than a decade, relying on wealth traced back to the Nazis to gobble up countless independent roasters. They will discover how a small grain business transformed itself into an empire bigger than Koch Industries, with ample help from taxpayer dollars. And they will learn that in the food business, crime really does pay—especially when you can bribe and then double-cross the president of Brazil.
These, and the other stories in this book, are simply examples of the monopolies and ubiquitous corruption that today define American food. The tycoons profiled in these pages are hardly unique: many other companies have manipulated our lax laws and failed policies for their own benefit, to the detriment of our neighborhoods, livelihoods, and our democracy itself. Barons paints a stark portrait of the consequences of corporate consolidation, but it also shows we can choose a different path. A fair, healthy, and prosperous food industry is possible—if we take back power from the barons who have robbed us of it.