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Savor That Chocolate While You Can Still Afford It
Free Internet Press ^ | February 12, 2011

Posted on 02/12/2011 6:41:55 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet

In the not-too-distant future, chocolate will become a rarefied luxury, as expensive as caviar.

John Mason, a Canadian expert on cocoa, first made this prophesy six years ago from his base in West Africa, the epicenter of production. He was confident enough to repeat it, over and over, to the directors of the biggest chocolate companies in the world.

“Sometimes they were rude. Sometimes they were polite,” he said. “Behind me, they were sort of snickering.”

Today they treat him like a guru. An influential set of senior industry heavyweights flew to Ghana last week to hear him speak; the talk ended with an unprecedented agreement between industry competitors and the government to establish a working group that will map out a sustainable future. It is the first such agreement of its kind in the cocoa world.

“Not that many year ago, this would have been impossible,” said Mason, executive director of the Nature Conservation Research Center, a non-profit devoted to sustainable development and resource conservation. “People were not sufficiently aware of the magnitude of what is on the horizon, how serious the future is.”

The industry has been ignoring a looming supply problem, one that’s been brought into sharp focus by a political eruption in Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa-producing nation.

Productivity on farms is not keeping pace with demand. Fatal diseases plague the crops. The soils cocoa grows in are depleted. Consumer demand, though, is growing. As standards of living improve in China and India, their new taste for chocolate keeps pace, feeding a worldwide consumption increase of about 2 per cent a year.

“We’re in a bit of a crisis as an industry,” said Chris Brett, vice-president of corporate responsibility and sustainability for Olam International, one of the largest cocoa-buying companies in the world, which sells beans to major chocolate producers, such as Cadbury, Mars and Nestle.

Alone, Ivory Coast produces more than a third of the world’s cocoa beans; there is some Ivoirien cocoa content in nearly every mass-produced chocolate bar on store shelves. But Alassane Ouattara, the presidential claimant in the country’s disputed November election, is using the crop as a political cudgel. His opponent, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, has the loyalty of the army; cocoa revenues pay his soldiers. Recently, Ouattara imposed a ban on all cocoa exports, hoping it will force Gbagbo to leave office, a move which the U.S. and the E.U. support. So far, Gbagbo has refused. Fears are mounting that Ivory Coast will erupt in civil war.

The uncertainty has set off panic among global chocolate power brokers. Their worry is less about this year’s harvest, 70 per cent of which has already been extracted (the season runs from October to February); the concern is over next year’s crop – and the years that follow. Regardless of how much they can pay for increasingly expensive cocoa – futures hit a 30-year price high last month – there will simply not be enough produced.

Both Ivory Coast and neighboring Ghana, the world’s second-largest cocoa producer, are on course for an ecological implosion. Their tree stocks are aging and sick; soils are depleted, temperatures are rising and rainfall is erratic. Young farmers are disinterested in growing cocoa, which is associated with poverty, and they are leaving for low-paying but more predictable jobs in the city. Those who stay in rural farm areas are struggling to keep up with demand and have little to invest in farm rehabilitation.

Few have any idea how to solve this multifaceted crisis. But Mason has a notion. For half a dozen years, he’s been cobbling together a road map to relief that involves overhauling the current cocoa-business model. He outlined this last Thursday in a Ghanaian hotel conference before rapt cocoa power brokers and government officials.

If his plan actually moves forward, the future of chocolate might be saved.

'Food of the Gods'

For most of its history, cocoa has been associated with luxury and elitism. Its botanical name, Theobroma, translates literally as “food of the gods.”

The Mayans in Central America and Southern Mexico pioneered cocoa into its earliest edible form, a frothy, drinkable blend of cocoa, spices and water. The laborious process – beans had to be harvested, soaked, dried, hand-ground and mixed into an elixir that was aerated by hand – gave the drink specialty status. Cocoa beans were more valued than gold; humans were sacrificed ahead of annual harvests for good luck. Even then, cocoa was a form of money growing on trees.

As the global appetite for chocolate has risen, so has West Africa’s share of global production. Diseases and pests wipe out between 30 and 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa crop each year, but, by continually cutting into fresh forests to plant new crops, farmers in Ivory Coast and Ghana manage to consistently supply between half and two-thirds of the global supply, which hit 3.6 million tonnes last year. Of that amount, Ivory Coast pumped out 1.2 million tonnes; Ghana, which has higher quality (from richer soil) and more expensive beans, recorded 632,000 tonnes, according to the International Cocoa Organization. Unlike most global commodities, cocoa is grown entirely by smallholders on plots of three acres or less. Plots are small because producers tend to be subsistence farmers without the discretionary income to expand.

“Cocoa is not a product that can be industrialized. It’s not like corn where you can plant this massive field and mow it down with a combine,” said Frederick Schilling, a chocolatier who launched a niche chocolate operation in Brazil after selling his artisan start-up, Dagoba Organic Chocolate, to Hershey’s Inc. for $17-million (U.S.).

Cocoa’s sensitivity means it requires constant tending and pruning to produce good yields. The farmers who grow it rely on their families to help harvest and ferment the beans; machetes are their only tools. That process – which gives off the stench of rotting fruit baking in the sun – takes place after the cocoa pod is split open and beans are dug out by hand and extracted from the pod’s white pulp. The beans are then spread on trays made of palm leaves and left to dry in the sun in small batches. Only after beans are perfectly fermented in small batches – the process creates flavor – are major chocolate companies interested in buying them. Undertaking this themselves would be too costly.

Without corporate pressure to industrialize, productivity on cocoa farms stays low. Farmers in Ghana produce 300 to 400 kilograms of cocoa for each hectare; some farms linked to research stations have tripled and quadrupled their output by adopting modern farming techniques, such as planting hybrid cocoa seeds bred to thrive in local growing conditions and using improved crop husbandry to control notorious diseases such as black pod and witch’s broom.

“A serious outbreak could change the chocolate industry overnight,” writes Orla Ryan, a former Reuters correspondent in Ghana who this month published the book Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. “There simply would not be enough cocoa in the world. ... There is no producer big enough to fill the gap in supply should the Ghanaian or the Ivorian harvest collapse.”

The question is, who should pay for it? The answer, in John Mason’s view, is everyone.

Plan To Save Cocoa

Mason has a paradoxical plan to save cocoa: cut back operations while expanding them.

To prevent further ecological damage, farmers would be paid not to farm if they are growing on land prone to pestilence, disease or soil depletion. Farms on the most fertile soils, on the other hand, would get incentives to expand.

Old trees would be replaced with young hybrids bred to grow in Ghanaian conditions; fertilizers would be used to restore balance and longevity to the soil; crop-extension agents would train farmers to become stewards of their land while coaxing maximum yields from the cocoa. Fallow lands would be restored to forests or other growth that is environmentally and economically beneficial.

“What we are proposing is to support, financially and technically, the intensification of the growing of cocoa on the ... most appropriate soils,” said Mason.

The optimal pilot ground is Ghana, the politically stable nation where leaders hope to boost production to the one million-tonne mark. If successful, the program could be replicated in other cocoa-bearing countries, many of which are badly in need of help with sustainability.

The matter of who will pay for what has yet to be determined. Mason, first of all, needs the support of the government. The state-run cocoa-marketing board, called Cocobod, controls the sale of every bean. Mason also needs climate-smart funding from the United Nation’s Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. Banks and insurance companies that participated in last week’s sustainability talks will hopefully help the transition to a new model by offering credit to farmers who agree to accept crop insurance and replant old tree stock. There is currently no credit or insurance available to farmers in West Africa (a common problem that plagues agriculture in developing nations).

Mason also needs the chocolate industry to stay on board. Early indications are good that the notoriously competitive companies are preparing to forge a long-term alliance in Ghana.

“Cocoa has never been able to do that,” said Mason. “The private sector is so suspicious of each other.”

Brett, the cocoa buyer, said the magnitude of the situation has created momentum for co-operation. “No one can handle this on their own,” he said. “It’s a case of all coming together and bridging the supply chain. We can do a share,” he said.

There will, of course, be hurdles. If yields increase too much, farmers will want to expand their operations. The only land left where to do this in Ghana is protected forest, which is critical to conserve in order to mitigate the temperature rise caused by climate change. The weather is another wild card: No one knows how cruel climate change will be.

“If temperatures really rise, cocoa won’t be viable,” said Rebecca Asare, a forestry expert working with Mr. Mason. Under that scenario, chocolate prices would inevitably go up.

Some see a silver lining in that.

“There was a time in chocolate history, when chocolate was revered as a luxury item. I think there was a lot more respect for it at that time,” said Schilling, the chocolate maker. “This is going to teach moderation and appreciation on a whole new level.”

Perhaps those who find themselves tearing into Valentine’s chocolates this week would be well advised to savor them.


TOPICS: Agriculture; Business/Economy; Food; Weather
KEYWORDS: africa; candy; chocolate; food
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1 posted on 02/12/2011 6:42:05 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
The list of foods whose price are rising seems to be much longer than the list of foods whose price is stable.

Fortunately, rising food prices are not factored into inflation rates, so the news will stay positive and continue to declare a Recovery.

2 posted on 02/12/2011 6:46:01 PM PST by ClearCase_guy (BO + MB = BOMB -- The One will make sure they get one.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

3 posted on 02/12/2011 6:47:34 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

4 posted on 02/12/2011 6:48:20 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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To: DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis

Got one that says “I NEED my chocolate”??


5 posted on 02/12/2011 6:50:12 PM PST by Bradís Gramma (Where do YOU stand in your relationship with God???)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Start buying cocoa futures instead of gold!


6 posted on 02/12/2011 6:53:42 PM PST by Bloody Sam Roberts (Tyrants flourish only when they achieve a standing army, an enslaved press, and a disarmed populace.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I’m not worried. I don’t tend to fall for media campaigns that focus attention on chocolate or whatever.


7 posted on 02/12/2011 6:53:42 PM PST by Christian Engineer Mass (25ish Cambridge, MA grad student. Any potential conservative Christian FReepmail-FRiends out there?)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Sounds like a great place for some venture capital. With a few Masters Degrees in Agriculture and Botany, and with enough cash to back them up, an ambitious man could make a name and a fortune for himself replenishing that depleted soil and overhauling the Cocoa industry.


8 posted on 02/12/2011 6:55:30 PM PST by Bean Counter (Stout Hearts...)
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To: Brad's Gramma
No, but there is this:

and this:


9 posted on 02/12/2011 6:55:49 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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To: DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis

LOL!!!! Thanks! :)


10 posted on 02/12/2011 6:56:24 PM PST by Bradís Gramma (Where do YOU stand in your relationship with God???)
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To: Brad's Gramma
There's also this, but it's kind of rude:


11 posted on 02/12/2011 6:56:51 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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To: ClearCase_guy
Fortunately, rising food prices are not factored into inflation rates...
Is that freaking amazing?

Orwell predicted it:

Ignorance is Strength

12 posted on 02/12/2011 6:57:53 PM PST by samtheman
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

The fact that they are worried about ‘climate change’ makes me not worry too much. Probably just a ploy to raise the price. American’s are a smart bunch, I wonder if we can make it grow here. I’ll have to research that while eating some chocolate.


13 posted on 02/12/2011 6:58:52 PM PST by snippy_about_it (Looking for our Sam Adams)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
>the cocoa pod is split open and beans are dug out by hand and extracted from the pod’s white pulp

>Wow! I Can't believe no one has invented the Cocoa gin by now yet!

Cerially, our priorities on this earth need to be dealt with!

14 posted on 02/12/2011 6:59:03 PM PST by rawcatslyentist (It is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen; ~Vattel's Law of Nations)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Give me dark chocolate or give me death.

15 posted on 02/12/2011 6:59:11 PM PST by SouthDixie (The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age.)
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To: ClearCase_guy

Say it ain’t so.


16 posted on 02/12/2011 7:00:12 PM PST by lastchance (Hug your babies.)
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To: DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis

LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


17 posted on 02/12/2011 7:02:32 PM PST by Bradís Gramma (Where do YOU stand in your relationship with God???)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Two things that make life more than bearable(to me anyway) and are indispensable are chocolate and cheese. But I couldn’t for the life of me say which one I could ever do without.


18 posted on 02/12/2011 7:09:03 PM PST by jmacusa (Two wrongs don't make a right. But they can make it interesting.)
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To: Bean Counter

Genetic engineering to the rescue!

How about a chocolate bar tree?


19 posted on 02/12/2011 7:09:17 PM PST by MV=PY
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To: Brad's Gramma
We sure are chocoholics...


20 posted on 02/12/2011 7:14:14 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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To: Brad's Gramma

21 posted on 02/12/2011 7:14:46 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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To: Diana in Wisconsin

Your worst nightmare


22 posted on 02/12/2011 7:16:05 PM PST by FreeKeys ("Whoever is praying for snow, please stop." - bulletin sign in front of North End Baptist Church)
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To: MV=PY
How about a chocolate bar tree?


23 posted on 02/12/2011 7:17:04 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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To: SouthDixie

24 posted on 02/12/2011 7:19:19 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Don’t know which is worse...believing someone using the name intellpuke who misspells rarified, or losing my beloved chocolate.


25 posted on 02/12/2011 7:19:44 PM PST by NautiNurse (ObamaCare uses Bernie Madoff theory of economics)
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To: ClearCase_guy

Meanwhile we ants are gardening and storing for a long winter.


26 posted on 02/12/2011 7:20:10 PM PST by cripplecreek (Remember the River Raisin! (look it up))
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Buy dry cocoa you can substitute in most recipes that call for chocolate (except for chips) tastes just as good and last much much longer.Here is the how-to:
http://www.ehow.com/how_4452965_make-chocolate-from-cocoa-powder.html


27 posted on 02/12/2011 7:24:39 PM PST by chris_bdba
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To: 2ndDivisionVet; All

As productivity can be increased dramatically with modern production methods, it seems likely that the market will eventually solve this problem.


28 posted on 02/12/2011 7:27:02 PM PST by marktwain
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To: FreeKeys

Pretty much so! I’d hate to have to go back to alcohol in a big way to curb my carb/sweets cravings, LOL! :)


29 posted on 02/12/2011 7:29:56 PM PST by Diana in Wisconsin (I don't have 'Hobbies.' I'm developing a robust post-Apocalyptic skill set...)
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To: DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis

Sweet! ;)


30 posted on 02/12/2011 7:30:41 PM PST by MV=PY
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Remember that chocolate was bad for you...until someone said it was good for you and started "Medical" advertising campaigns. They even opened a second market by declaring that dark chocolate is even better for you.

It's all about MONEY...not your health.

When are people going to catch on that the "Medicine" advertising is no different than glabal warming...

31 posted on 02/12/2011 7:32:52 PM PST by Sacajaweau
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I had to quit reading before I threw up all over my keyboard.

This article contains every Liberal cliche known to man from sustainable, to global warming, to destruction of the forests, to scare me into nightmares over my chocolate, and not to forget it’s food of the Gods, and only for the rich.

I call bullshit on this one.


32 posted on 02/12/2011 7:33:45 PM PST by rockinqsranch (Dems, Libs, Socialists, call 'em what you will, they ALL have fairies livin' in their trees.)
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To: rockinqsranch

Chocolate grows within 20 degrees of the equator all around the globe. We’d be smarter getting it from central and south America based on the stability of those nations alone. After all, that is where it came from in the first place.

Personally I’m not worried about it because I’m no fan of it anyway and it isn’t an essential part of my diet.


33 posted on 02/12/2011 7:39:41 PM PST by cripplecreek (Remember the River Raisin! (look it up))
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To: SouthDixie

A great RS episode showing the Holt curse involving chocolate. It is one of my favorite episodes:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/12042/remington-steele-steele-sweet-on-you


34 posted on 02/12/2011 7:42:14 PM PST by wally_bert (It's sheer elegance in its simplicity! - The Middleman)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I will NOT do without Reece’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups or Coldstone Creamery Dark Chocolate Cocoa Mix.


35 posted on 02/12/2011 7:45:51 PM PST by SVTCobra03 (You can never have enough friends, horsepower or ammunition.)
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To: marktwain

Let the market work it out, this is the only real answer.

All this meddling by politicians in the various markets in order to save them have only made everything they touch worse.

If chocolate goes to $50 a pound, the problem will solve itself. The industry will attract new blood that will modernize the growing and refining of the product. Prices will then drop to realistic (for consumers) levels.


36 posted on 02/12/2011 8:10:18 PM PST by wrench
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To: rockinqsranch

I think it’s BS also but this article does give me a good excuse for stocking up on Lindt Dark Chocolate With A Touch of Sea Salt.


37 posted on 02/12/2011 8:10:51 PM PST by constitutiongirl ("Nietzsche was stupid and abnormal."---Leo Tolstoy)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
said Mason, executive director of the Nature Conservation Research Center

An influential set of senior industry heavyweights flew to Ghana last week to hear him speak; the talk ended with an unprecedented agreement between industry competitors and the government to establish a working group that will map out a sustainable future.

The last time I read about this they were complaining because there was a shortage of trained "certified" sustainable producers. There may be a chocolate shortage and a problem with disease in the plants, but the guys promoting this crap are ding dings.

38 posted on 02/12/2011 8:15:16 PM PST by Texas Fossil (Government, even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one)
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To: Brad's Gramma; DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis
Claim Jumper's Motherlode cake

Get it while you can.

39 posted on 02/12/2011 8:19:00 PM PST by mountn man (The pleasure you get from life, is equal to the attitude you put into it.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Tonight I made a batch of chocolate truffles for my wife. Valentines is near. I rolled them in coconut.
Baker's Truffles

3 squares Baker's semi-sweet chocolate
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup confectioner's sugar -- sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
nuts, finely chopped or baker's angel flake coconut

Melt chocolate in saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly; cool.

Cream butter with egg yolk. Gradually add sugar, blending well. Stir in chocolate and vanilla. Chill until firm enough to handle.

Shape into balls about 1-inch in diameter. Roll in nuts; chill. Store in refrigerator.

Makes about 30 candies

They were pretty good if I say so myself.

40 posted on 02/12/2011 8:24:46 PM PST by Texas Fossil (Government, even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one)
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To: mountn man; Brad's Gramma
*sees cake*

Oooo! Yum yum!

*devours cake*

*licks plate clean*

*forgets to save some for brad's gramma*

*feels bad*

41 posted on 02/12/2011 8:26:14 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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To: Texas Fossil

mmmm. Those sound good...


42 posted on 02/12/2011 8:27:30 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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To: mountn man; DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis
* plop *

43 posted on 02/12/2011 8:30:05 PM PST by Bradís Gramma (Where do YOU stand in your relationship with God???)
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To: DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis
*forgets to save some for brad's gramma*

WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU????????

44 posted on 02/12/2011 8:31:27 PM PST by Bradís Gramma (Where do YOU stand in your relationship with God???)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Been predicting chocolate will be as expensive as caviar for six years and hasn’t been right yet, huh? Hmmm, doesn’t seem like the dude’s track record is so hot, right? But hey, look on the bright side of things for this fellow: if he keeps prophesying the same thing enough years, eventually he might just be right! After all, even a blind pig does find an acorn once in a while!


45 posted on 02/12/2011 8:35:49 PM PST by catnipman (Cat Nipman: Made from the right stuff!)
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To: Brad's Gramma

Sorry. Please forgive me. I have sinned.


46 posted on 02/12/2011 8:36:31 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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To: DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis

LOL!!!

What do I look like? A priest???

You’re forgiven!!! First one to Claim Jumper wins. Ready? Set? GO!


47 posted on 02/12/2011 8:38:29 PM PST by Bradís Gramma (Where do YOU stand in your relationship with God???)
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To: NautiNurse
This article is pure BS.

They could start producing this in Florida and some other states immediately but it is so much cheaper where they get it now.

Admit, the price would go up.

48 posted on 02/12/2011 8:39:31 PM PST by AGreatPer (Voting for the crazy conservative gave us Ronald Reagan....Ann Coulter)
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To: Brad's Gramma
*sniff sniff* Will you please accept this as a substitute?


49 posted on 02/12/2011 8:39:39 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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To: Brad's Gramma

I claim it!


50 posted on 02/12/2011 8:41:46 PM PST by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR to pimp your blog!!!)
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