Welcome to the 'Hen House'

March 15, 2019

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” – William Burke

While the actual originator of the above quote has been widely debated, its relevance has not. Too many times, especially in today’s politically correct society, rather than confront those who would use their power to bully and demean, good men (and women) find it easier to look the other way hoping to avoid the possibility of becoming the target of spurious attacks and character assassination themselves.

For the past two years, I have found myself to be the target of such attacks, not because I did anything wrong, but because I came to the defense of a friend.  Well, this ‘Fox’ has had enough.

About two years ago, Pecanreport.com printed a totally false story about Mr. DeWayne McCasland and Pecan Producers Inc (PPI), a Texas pecan cooperative.  In that article, Mr. Matthew Bailey, editor, owner and author of the site, falsely claimed that the FBI was investigating a certain Texas pecan cooperative for fraud.  At the top of the article was a picture of FBI agents carrying out boxes of evidence from a non-descript office.  Not only was there no fraud, there was no FBI investigation, in fact, the picture accompanying the article had nothing to do with PPI or any Texas company for that matter,  It was taken during an FBI raid of a California business in 2011.  After reaching out to Mr. Bailey, and personally meeting with him to inform him of the inaccuracies in the article, I soon found myself becoming the focus of his false and spurious attacks.  In one of his later columns, he falsely accused me of being intimately involved in the fraud and of being one of the founders of the COOP.  To set the record straight, PPI was founded in 1974.  From June 25, 1973 to January 13, 1981, I was on active duty, serving our country in the United States Coast Guard.  My duty stations were Marine Inspection Office Detroit, MI, Marine Inspection Office, NY, NY and US Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, DC.  To the best of my knowledge, there are no pecans grown in Detroit, NY or Washington nor does PPI do business in, or have members from, any of those cities or the states they are in. As such, it would have been impossible for me to have founded the COOP.  After I got off active duty, I accepted a reserve commission and continued to serve my country for the next 20 years retiring as a Captain.  I am a Desert Shield/Desert Storm veteran having commanded 6 Coast Guard and 3 Navy fast attack boats during the war and an Operation Uphold Democracy veteran in charge of Port au Prince and the Coast Guard assets assigned to the port during and after the invasion. I was one of the investigators into the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald,  a US Delegate to the United Nations Maritime Consultative Organization, US Liaison to the Saudi Arabian Navy, US Liaison to the Bahraini Coast Guard and Coast Guard Liaison to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stationed at the Pentagon. I left active duty on January 13, 1981 to accept a position with Amoco Oil Company in Chicago as their Coordinator of Marine Safety and Environmental Response for Standard Oil Company’s domestic and international tanker fleets.  I did that until I left Amoco on June 29, 1986 to become the Director of New Market Development for Navarro Pecan.  It was on that date that I first became involved in the pecan industry.  Since then, at no time, have I had any dealings with PPI in my professional role at Navarro.  Further, Navarro has no interest in, or ownership of any stock of PPI.  Let me reiterate, there has never been an FBI investigation of PPI and there was no FBI raid.  It turns out that Mr. Bailey is a disgruntled former member of PPI who was not happy with the return he received for his natives in 2011/2012. He understood, and agreed in writing, that once he cashed his check, he might not receive any further money for his pecans.  He appealed to the PPI Board who, after hearing his complaints, found them to be baseless.

However, that was not enough for Mr. Bailey.  He then illegally obtained a confidential email between Navarro Pecan Company and the American Pecan Council, an email asking for clarification on the use of the APC pecan logo.  The question was not asked on behalf of Navarro as Navarro does no retail business. We only sell industrial ingredient users. The question was asked on behalf of a very large ice cream manufacturer who wanted to put the logo on their cartons of butter pecan ice cream, a customer who buys millions of pounds of pecans from Navarro and several other US shellers.  In his attack article, Mr. Bailey claimed that Navarro Pecan Company, under the direction of myself and Mr. George Martin (himself a retired Coast Guard veteran with 30-years’ service), were involved in a scheme to fraudulently mislabel Mexican pecans as product of the US.  In doing so, he referenced the USDA Country of Origin Labeling Laws ‘passed on September 29, 2008.’ Because Mr. Bailey obviously does not know what he was talking about, let me clarify what the act says.  It requires country of origin labeling except where the character of the commodity has been changed through ‘frying, broiling, steaming, baking, roasting, salting, smoking, etc.’  Butter Pecan Ice Cream is made with roasted, buttered and salted pecans.  As such, under the COOL regulations, those pecans can be declared as a product of the US.  The question had to do with the APC logo, ‘American Pecans, the Original Supernut.’ The customer wanted to know if the COOL definition of US Product was the same as the APC/USDA Marketing Order definition.  The APC advised that they were not.  Even though Navarro, and the other sheller involved, could supply purely US sourced pecans, the ice cream manufacturer decided not to affix the US APC label to their ice cream cartons because of what Mr. Bailey wrote and the confusion it could cause for its customers (Both Navarro and the other shellers continue to provide pecans to this customer).  That article may have cost the US Pecan industry millions of dollars in free advertising; advertising that could have potentially reached all fifty states and Canada.

At last August’s APC Board meeting, a meeting in which Mr. Bailey was in attendance, I asked that Mr. Bailey stand up in front of the USDA representatives at the meeting, the USDA representatives on the phone from Washington, DC, the press and the entire board to officially make his allegations against myself and Navarro, present his evidence and answer questions, for the record.  I asked that my request, and Mr. Bailey’s reply, be placed in the official record for everyone in the industry to witness. Instead of taking the opportunity to lay out his case, he got up and left the meeting.  The account of the meeting in Pecan South Magazine, and the official USDA minutes of the meeting, clearly reflect my request and the fact that Mr. Bailey did not make an official complaint or provide any evidence to corroborate his false claims.

Then there was yesterday’s article, ‘A Fox in the Hen House,’ in which Mr. Bailey intimated that the APC was considering removing me, and therefore Navarro, from the APC Board for our involvement in the aforementioned schemes.  Let me be perfectly clear; both myself and Navarro Pecan Company continue to be members in good standing and there have been no warnings issued to either of us. In fact, I have been asked to continue to be heavily involved in several of the Council’s committees. 

The pecan industry is at a critical point in its history. It is imperative that those who wish to see the industry move forward, speak out against those who would stoop to lies, character assignation and intimidation to get their way and halt the progress that has been made.  There is no doubt that several of my newsletters have been controversial.  They are my opinion, an opinion based on data provided by the USDA, foreign governments and now the Boston Consulting Group.  Change is never easy.  If you have a different opinion than mine, that’s fine.  Let’s discuss it.  If you would prefer a different venue,  I am willing to debate anyone, anywhere, at any time.  However, come prepared to debate the facts and leave the character assassination behind.

As for where we go from here, I intend to explore all options, not just for Mr. Bailey but for anyone who is determined to be complicit in the spreading of the aforementioned falsehoods. Welcome to my hen house!