Wednesday, July 25, 2007

You are what eats you.......

Seriously now.


The Farm Bill is being debated in the House even as you read this.

Oh no! Oh, shit! No one told me….The Farm what?

This bill only comes up every five years, so this is just the second time it has come around under the Bush Corruption Juggernaut. As opposed to the military appropriations bills and so on which comes around all the time. The Bushies have been so focused on stealing all the money in Iraq that the Farm Bill has been a relative snoozer.

Not that it matters much who is in charge of the wheels of government….the levers that control the wheels stay pretty much the same, Democrat or Republican. The Farm Bill is a boring backwater compared to guns and bombs and crazy Arabs. Not to mention Lindsay Lohan.

Bear with me a minute

Let us start with Peter Python…to distinguish him from his more amusing cousin, Monty.

It turns out that hundreds of thousands of pythons slither into the country each year. When small, they are cute and sexy….well, they are sexy if you have a tiny little dick and vote for Bush and you live in Florida or Georgia and can’t meet chicks….Maybe a baby python is better than for dating prospects. (Don’t click on that link….I just made it up).

When Peter Python gets past a certain size, and starts munching the neighborhood cats….or Joe Dumbfuck actually meets a real woman with a functioning anatomy….he dumps the snake. This is not a big problem in Michigan, but in Florida…..they move right in. The Everglades now has about 5,000 loose pythons.

Don’t feel too left out. This happens all over. Apparently, American bullfrogs have invaded France. Brett Harte and Mark Twain would be proud. Don’t think more than a few seconds on why French men are importing hopping amphibians with giant tongues while American men are bringing in giant slithering….. well….No wonder the dollar is in the toilet compared to the euro).

Pythons are not the only endangered species that have invaded us. There is kudzu, super-kudzu, Asian carp, crazy zebra mussels, foxtails…all that. The Bushies spend about a billion dollars a year in fighting these things. Typically, they only fight them after they are already here….unlike Muslim terrorists….when it is hopeless to eradicate them. Cost to business in America of these critters? About $100 billion dollars a year…..Zebra mussels are more of a threat to nuclear power plants than Ralph Nader and Cindy Sheehan combined).

So… costs us $100 billion….and we are spending ONE billion to patheticially do nothing. One percent. Hold that thought, Flip Romney.

Oh, and the pythons are not even on the list.

Oh….and how many wildlife biologists are there to track all these critters?

One. Erin Williams. And she is backed up years evaluating new invaders. Her counterparts in say….Australia? One week.

And…..she has to fight for funding for her job every year. The Bushies have this rule that any regulation of business has to justify any new government rules in terms of cost to small business. In other words, if actual laws interfere with immediate profits….a bad thing. The social cost to the country and society as a whole? Not allowed. Call Flip Romney.

So, back to the Farm Bill.

Michael Pollan (author of Omnivore’s Dilemma…the best book about food I have read since Harold McGee and Like Water For Chocolate) has some thoughts. Here is my paraphrase.

No….screw it. You have to read his article. He is Michael Pollan…a journalism professor at Berkeley….and I am some putz in Cachagua.

“Right now, the Farm Bill encourages American farmers to grow as much corn and soy as they possibly can, and then sell it for less than it costs them to grow it. The result? The best calorie deals in the American supermarket are added fat and added sugar—precisely the sort of calories that are making us overweight and diabetic. Few pieces of legislation have as profound an impact on the public health.

But to speak of the bill’s impact on the American food system does not begin to get at its full impact, which is global. The Farm Bill helps determine the price of corn in Mexico, the price of cotton in Nigeria, and whether small farmers in those places will prosper or fail—stay on the land or migrate to the cities or to the United States. You can’t comprehend the pressures driving immigration without comprehending what U.S. agricultural policy is doing to rural agriculture in Mexico. Or Haiti. Or Senegal.

The bill determines, to a considerable extent, what happens on nearly half of the private land in the United States. We tell ourselves that we don’t have a national land-use policy, that the market decides what happens on private property in America, but that’s not exactly true: The Farm Bill helps decide what land is farmed and how, as well as what land is restored to grass- or wetland. Few pieces of legislation have as profound an impact on the environment.”

We won’t even talk about the impact of bio-diesel and corn-based ethanol production. Or cane-based ethanol production. Get back, Halliburton! The battle between ArcherDanielsMidland and Halliburton for corn fuel should be like Mothra vs. Godzilla.....

When Flip Romney blathers on about the independent American spirit and the threat of Marxism… about this:

Your tax dollars support….and have supported for years….a clique of Republican sugar growers in Florida whose resulting financial power distorts our agricultural policy, our foreign policy, our labor policy, and our immigration policy….for starters.

I have to quote Earl Blumenauer, Food Warrior from Oregon:

Sugar is perhaps the most protected item in American agriculture. There's an elaborate system that keeps the prices that are paid by American consumers and sugar-using industries artificially high - two to three times the world price. If the price ever drops below a fixed level, imports from countries that can produce sugar more efficiently and more cheaply are severely restricted. Anything above a tiny amount of sugar entering the country is subjected to a 100% tax.

This system translates into very substantial costs to the consumer and businesses - nearly $2 billion, according to one study by the nonpartisan General Accounting Office. This suggests that the American economy as a whole would be significantly better off if the whole program were scrapped, just wiping out all the winners and losers and special benefits.

The impact on the economy extends far beyond subsidies. We lost thousands of sugar-using jobs, for instance, when candy manufacturers left New England and Chicago for Canada because the cost of the basic sugar their industry needs was so much cheaper north of the border. If we're concerned about overall employment in the American economy, there are about 10 times as many jobs in the sugar-using industry as there are in this artificially protected industry growing both cane and beet sugar.

There are other costs as well. As cane sugar production skyrocketed in Florida near the Everglades , from less than 70,000 acres in the early 1960s to over 450,000 today, there have been severe environmental consequences. The encroachment of cane sugar production and the runoff into the Everglades is one of the reasons that the federal government is spending $8 billion cleaning up and trying to restore the ecological damage to this national treasure.

Other agricultural industries have also paid a price for our protecting sugar in each of our trade agreements. Because it's the most protected trade item, the United States, in negotiating trade agreements, has made exceptions for the sugar industry that have harmed other industries and consumers. To protect sugar interests, the US allowed Australia to protect its cattle industry, which has hurt American cattlemen.

It also hurts poor countries. Most of the other countries in the world that are natural producers of sugar are much poorer than the United States . So we are discriminating against some of the poorest in an industry that could help countries raise their citizens out of poverty - all while we protect a few and penalize many in the United States.

The fundamental question is why? If it costs money, if it costs jobs, if we're worse off as an economy, why does United States continue to pursue a policy that creates problems for us with the environment, international trade, and the sugar using industry? The answer is politics. The people involved with the sugar growing industry invest a small percentage but a significant amount of dollars of their sugar profits in keeping things just the way they are. Even though sugar represents perhaps 1 percent of the agriculture production, it makes 17 percent of agriculture's political contributions.

And it goes far beyond campaign cash - although don't underestimate that impact - that flows to both parties as well as individual candidates. This sugar "lobby" is a vast array of trade associations on the regional, state, and national level. They employ an army of sophisticated public relations people, trade association executives and lobbyists. I have often thought that if we could mobilize the support that the sugar lobby has to nourish poor children rather than the sugar industry, no kid would ever go to school hungry in this country again.

See that One Per Cent figure pop in there again. And the campaign donations to the Republican Party from the Sugar Kings? Less than that same One Per Cent of their gross.

These guys are whores, we all knew that. Who knew that they sold themselves and us so cheaply? Waitresses make fifteen Denny's. Less than twenty at The Cachagua Store and Rachelle will set your hair on fire.....

Oh, and the Sugar Kings fund the opposition to any rapprochement with Cuba. Don’t even talk about the foreign aid we have to send to sugar-growing countries whose markets we have gutted….and don’t even TALK about how many of them are Muslim….with George Bush’s hand in their pocket. No worries there about National Security.

Beyond Sugar…..seventy percent of the Bush Administration’s price supports for agriculture go to ten percent of our nation’s farmers. Ninety percent of these large growers vote Republican. Virtually none of these are small family farms, and virtually none of those have anything to do with organic, sustainable life-styles. If Flip Romney actually wanted to see Americans succeeding without government help, it would be at his local farmer’s market…..but none of those guys have federally supported rice farms with elegant gun clubs and air-conditioned duck blinds. What fun is that?

Also part of the Farm Bill is COOL: country of origin labeling. Do you want to know where your food or your puppy’s food is manufactured? Remember that One Per Cent: only One Per Cent of our food imports are inspected by the USDA or FDA…..including the deals they have with foreign countries where they trust foreign governments to inspect food to our “standards”.

Please call your Congressman. Our guy is Sam Farr, and he is basically on the side of the angels….but “spare the rod and spoil the Congressman”.

Call someone today. If One Per Cent of you call……


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