Category Archives: Agriculture

Citing ‘Common Good,’ Nearly 1,500 Scientists Demand Congress Shield Endangered Species Act From GOP Attacks

Their call comes on Endangered Species Day and as the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers continuously work to roll back environmental regulations

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-18-2018

“Despite significant recovery successes,” according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the black-footed ferret “remains one of the most endangered mammals in North America.” (Photo: Kimberly Fraser/USFWS Mountain-Prairie/Flickr/cc)

In honor of Endangered Species Day on Friday, 1,452 American scientists sent a letter to Congress demanding that they “protect the scientific foundation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and reject any attempts to weaken or compromise the role of science in protecting species.”

The letter (pdf) comes amid the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers‘ war on science, and particularly in response to their attempts—including through the “disastrous” GOP Farm Bill that was defeated on Friday—to undercut or strip away key elements of the ESA, landmark legislation enacted in 1973 that aims “to conserve to the extent practicable the various species of fish or wildlife and plants facing extinction.” Continue reading

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While Advocates Declare #HandsOffSNAP, Trump Reportedly Wants Even Crueler Requirements for Nation’s Poor and Hungry

“Do you know who the #2018FarmBill would hurt? Well, just on the short list are: Women, veterans, children, people with disabilities, workers, and seniors”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-9-2018

“Right now I need SNAP to get by,” Tina Keys, a mother from Washington, explained at a #HandsOffSnap rally outsite the Captiol on May 8. (Photo: @TalkPoverty/Twitter)

While social welfare advocates have launched a #HandsOffSNAP campaign to protest Republican lawmakers’ latest attempt to make Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—often called food stamps—less accessible, President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to pressure them to include even stricter work requirements in the 2018 Farm Bill.

“Trump is expected to tell senior lawmakers in a meeting this week that he will veto the farm bill if it doesn’t include tighter work requirements for people receiving food stamps,” two people familiar with the president’s deliberations told the Wall Street Journal. Continue reading

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On Earth Day, Trump Gives Giant Pro-Capitalism ‘Middle Finger’ to Entire Planet

And so at least a few people gave it right back.

By Common Dreams. Published 4-22-2018

In Trump’s statement released by White House on Sunday, the president said, “We know that it is impossible for humans to flourish without clean air, land, and water. We also know that a strong, market-driven economy is essential to protecting these resources.” (Photo: Instagram/@jaaawsh)

In a giant “middle finger” to the planet on Earth Day, President Donald Trump on Sunday put out a statement in which he called for an even deeper evisceration of environmental protections as he claimed a “market-based economy” was essential to protecting natural resources and also reaffirmed his commitment to “removing unnecessary and harmful regulations that restrain economic growth.”

As experts and environmentalists have detailed ad nauseam, Trump—with the dedicated help from his EPA administrator Scott Pruitt—has been relentless, if not consistently successful, in destroying environmental protections and undermining any and all quality efforts designed to protect the nation’s air, water, and natural beauty. In addition, the president has become the leader of a Republican Party that continues its cynical denial of the threat posed by global warming and the associated climate crisis.  Continue reading

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With ‘Merger From Hell’ Reportedly Approved by DOJ, Warnings of Agrichemical Chokehold on Food System

Watchdog groups raise concerns after Wall Street Journal reports that Bayer’s bid to acquire Monsanto has been approved.

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 4-9-2018

(L-R) Executive Vice President for the Agriculture Division of the E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Company James Collins, President and CEO of Dow AgroSciences, LLC, Tim Hassinger, CEO of Syngenta International AG Erik Fyrwald, President and CEO of Bayer CropScience North America Jim Blome, and Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of the Monsanto Company Robb Fraley testify during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee September 20, 2016 on Capitol in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on ‘Consolidation and Competition in the U.S. Seed and Agrochemical Industry.’Photo: Zimbio

Watchdog groups sounded alarms on Monday after the Wall Street Journal reported that the proposed mega-merger of Bayer and Monsanto has cleared its final regulatory hurdle in the United States.

The reported approval from the Justice Department came “after the companies pledged to sell off additional assets,” the Journal reported, and despite concerns raised by hundreds of food and farm groups. It also comes weeks after the European Commission gave its thumbs up. Continue reading

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Trump’s $60 billion in China tariffs will create more problems than they solve

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Business such as California winemakers could be hurt by the new tariffs as a result of retaliation. AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

William Hauk, University of South Carolina

After spending seven months investigating whether China is engaged in unfair trade practices, the Trump administration announced March 22 that it will impose tariffs on as much as US$60 billion in Chinese imports.

The tariffs are meant to address two problems: intellectual property theft by China and a steep and persistent trade deficit.

As an economist and expert in international trade, I don’t see how the proposed tariffs will resolve either one. In fact, it’s more likely that they will create two new problems by hurting both consumers and businesses.

IP theft and trade deficits

The administration formally justified its tariffs by invoking Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which allows the president to impose tariffs on countries in violation of international trade deals.

In particular, the Trump administration accused China of engaging in intellectual property theft forbidden by World Trade Organization agreements.

Intellectual property theft has been a major complaint of American companies doing business in China for decades. Sometimes this theft occurs through illicit means, such as industrial espionage. It also occurs through legal channels, such as when U.S. companies are forced to form a joint venture with a Chinese business. In other cases, technology transfers are a precondition of doing business in China.

Altogether, the U.S. trade representative estimates that these policies cost U.S. businesses around $50 billion a year.

The other problem that has long irked the president is the significant trade deficit. Since the U.S. normalized trade relations with China in 2000, the deficit ballooned from less than $84 billion to over $375 billion in 2017.

This “China shock” of cheap goods has caused considerable disruption in the U.S. economy. The labor market has been surprisingly slow to adjust, leading affected workers to earn far less money over a lifetime.

President Trump signs a presidential memorandum imposing tariffs and investment restrictions on China. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The wrong solutions

It remains to be seen, however, whether the tariffs will alleviate either problem.

The administration’s calculation seems to be that China will back down on intellectual property theft if faced with less access to U.S. markets.

But China is less dependent on U.S. trade now than it was a decade ago, making its economy resilient to these sorts of punitive measures. The U.S. accounted for 18.4 percent of Chinese exports in 2016, down from 21 percent in 2006.

The U.S. likely would have better luck resolving this problem at the WTO, which China joined in 2001 and must abide by its rulings. The best part about a WTO ruling is that it would affect all of China’s exports, not just those to the U.S.

Similarly, the trade deficit is unlikely to be resolved through higher tariffs. The primary cause of the persistent trade deficit – $566 billion in 2017 – is an imbalance between savings and investment in the U.S. economy.

The U.S. personal savings rate has fallen steadily since the late 1970s. At the same time, the government has run persistently large budget deficits, both of which have increased the level of borrowing in the U.S. economy.

As a result, foreign investment, particularly from China, has become increasingly critical to financing U.S. economic growth. This is great news in terms of helping Americans buy cheap Chinese goods and the government finance its budget deficit. But all that foreign cash going into the financial market isn’t being used to buy the stuff Americans are producing, like Harley Davidson motorcycles and Iowa corn.

This results in lower exports and a higher trade deficit. Tariffs will not change this reality.

Two new problems

While the full details of the tariffs have yet to be released, it’s clear they’ll cause at least two immediate problems.

One is that U.S. consumers will be hurt. The typical consumer has about $260 in extra purchasing power as a result of trade with China. Those benefits, which disproportionately go toward working-class Americans, will fall due to the U.S. tariffs, as American importers will pass some of their increased costs along to consumers.

Secondly, American companies that export to China will be exposed to retaliation in the form of tariffs on U.S.-made goods. Shortly after Trump’s announcement, China released its own policy statement targeting $3 billion worth of U.S. exports.

Particularly vulnerable to Chinese retaliation are the pork and soybean industries, which are concentrated in the Trump-friendly Midwest. This list could grow if a trade war with China escalates.

A broader concern is that, by acting unilaterally, the Trump administration is undermining the broader system that has facilitated the growth of international trade and adjudicated grievances between countries since World War II.

The ConversationWhile far from perfect, organizations such as the WTO have limited the scope of trade wars since the chaos of the 1930s. Failing to uphold these institutions could have major consequences in the future.

William Hauk, Associate Professor of Economics, University of South Carolina

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Coke, Nestle Near Ownership of World’s Second Largest Aquifer

A concerted push is underway in South America that could see the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water, soon fall into the hands of transnational corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nestle.

By Elliott Gabriel. Published 2-26-2018 by MintPress News

The Guarani Aquifer. Image: Public Domain via Wilimedia Commons

 

A concerted push is underway in South America that could see one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water soon fall into the hands of transnational corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nestle. According to reports, talks to privatize the Guarani Aquifer – a vast subterranean water reserve lying beneath Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay – have already reached an advanced stage. The deal would grant a consortium of U.S. and Europe-based conglomerates exclusive rights to the aquifer that would last over 100 years.

Named after the Guarani indigenous people, the Guarani Aquifer is the world’s second largest underground water reserve and is estimated to be capable of sustainably providing the world’s population with drinking water for up to 200 years. Environmental groups, social movements, and land defenders warn that the exploitation of the freshwater reserve could see the 460,000-square mile (1.2 million sq. km.) reservoir sacrificed for the short-term profits of agribusiness, energy, and food-and-drink giants. Continue reading

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Ignoring Public Opinion and Pentagon, Trump Denies Climate Change Is Threat to National Security

“If we want to keep our country safe, Trump should take military advice from the military, not fossil fuel executives who are pushing to deny climate science and boost their profits at any cost.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-18-2017

Months after Hurricane Harvey caused an estimated $180 billion in damage in Houston, Texas, President Trump declined to include any mention of climate change in his strategy for national security. (Photo: Texoma Classics/Flickr/cc)

While 56 percent of Americans and the Pentagon hold that the deepening climate crisis is a serious threat to the country’s safety, President Donald Trump left the issue out of his speech on his national security strategy on Monday—angering critics and green groups.

“Trump is not just ignoring science and public opinion about the dangers of the climate crisis, he’s ignoring American generals and the Pentagon about what it takes to keep our military and our country safe,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of Sierra Club, in a statement released after the president’s speech. Continue reading

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Over 15,000 Scientists Just Issued a ‘Second Notice’ to Humanity. Can We Listen Now?

Reassessing warning issued 25 years ago, the “second notice” to humanity warns of “widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss” unless business-as-usual is upended

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-13-2017

“Humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperiled biosphere,” over 15,000 scientists warned in a letter published Monday. (Photo: NASA)

Yikes.

Over 15,000 scientists hailing from more than 180 countries just issued a dire warning to humanity:

“Time is running out” to stop business as usual, as threats from rising greenhouse gases to biodiversity loss are pushing the biosphere to the brink. Continue reading

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EU Watchdog Under Fire for Monsanto Analysis Copy/Pasted into Roundup Safety Report

Ahead of vote to determine whether farmers can continue using Monsanto’s popular pesticide, new Guardian report raises concerns that agency failed to fully analyze Roundup’s risks

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-15-2017

Later this year, the European Union will vote on whether to renew the license that allows European farmers to use Monsanto’s popular weed-killer, Roundup. (Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr/cc)

Europe’s food safety agency reportedly relied on a review that lifted language from a Monsanto report when concluding that the possible cancer-causing ingredient in the company’s popular weed-killer Roundup is safe, raising concerns that the agency failed to properly analyze the pesticide’s potential dangers.

“If regulators rely on the industry’s evaluation of the science without doing their own assessment, the decision whether pesticides are deemed safe or not is effectively in the industry’s hands,” said Greenpeace’s European Union (EU) food policy director, Franziska Achterberg, who added that this discovery “calls into question the entire EU pesticide approval process. Continue reading

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Moms’ Group Sounds Alarm Over Worst GOP Bill “You’ve Never Heard Of”

“From car safety to clean air and water, Congress is threatening these lifesaving standards.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-21-2017

The RAA and REINS Act could impact federal agencies’ ability to impose regulations affecting food safety, among other issues that affect Americans. (Photo: Oregon Department of Agriculture/Flickr/cc)

The environmental group Clean Air Moms Action released a new ad campaign Monday urging voters to fight back against two pending  Republican anti-regulation laws.

The ad is being run in five states where Democratic incumbent senators will be up for re-election in highly-anticipated races in 2018. It features car safety advocate Janette Fennell, who shares a personal story of how an automobile regulation saved her life—the kind of regulation that could be at risk if Congress passes the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) and the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. Continue reading

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