Tuesday :: Jan 12, 2010

The American Farm Bureau's War On Americans

by Turkana

The American Farm Bureau has declared war. On you. The AFBF is officially opposed to climate legislation, and is in league with climate deniers. But that's not all. As explained by Grist's Tom Laskawy:

According to (American Farm Bureau President Bob) Stallman [MS Word], the top challenge facing farmers isn’t the rising cost of seed, fertilizer, and pesticides. Or the alarming growth of superweeds (a new report says that over 50 percent of fields in Missouri harbor weeds resistant to the herbicide RoundUp, upon which the entire GMO production style is based). Or the threat posed by climate change, which could reduce U.S. grain yields substantially soon and by 80 percent within decades.

No, the top challenge facing farmers is, and I quote, “the nonstop criticism of contemporary agriculture.”

And Laskawy quotes this, from Stallman's speech:

But a line must be drawn between our polite and respectful engagement with consumers and the way we must aggressively respond to extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule.

Our adversaries are skillful at taking advantage of our politeness. Publicly, they call for friendly dialogue while privately their tactics are far from that.

Who could blame us for thinking that the avalanche of misguided, activist-driven regulation on labor and environment being proposed in Washington is anything but unfriendly.

The time has come to face our opponents with a new attitude. The days of their elitist power grabs are over.

General George Patton was very quotable. He said that in times of war, “Make your plans to fit the circumstances.”

To those who expect to just roll over America’s farm and ranch families, my only message is this: The circumstances have changed.

Patton. In times of war. The war that made Patton famous and infamous being the Second World War. Which, in Stallman's diseased mind, makes those opposed to chemicals in food and in favor of addressing climate change akin to whom, exactly? In the online world, we'd call that going Godwin.


But most of the speech involved an extended, if veiled, suggestion that an attack on conventional agriculture is an attack on abundant, reasonably priced food. This is, of course, demonstrably false. The data shows that non-chemically intensive practices yield almost exactly the same. Yet another inconvenient truth that industry tries to ignore and anyway is sort of beside the point. What Stallman is really doing is setting the stage for the coming battle over agricultural subsidies, set for renewal in 2012. The way things are must not change, suggests Stallman. And lucky for Stallman, they probably won’t.

We received a taste of what’s to come just the other week when the USDA announced minimal changes to an eligibility rule for subsidies. It involved the current loose definition of what it means to be “actively engaged” in farming and was something that Obama had promised to fix during his campaign, even to the point of making it part of his Rural Agenda. What happened? Well, my sources suggest that none other than Senate Ag Chair Blanche Lincoln, she of the sub-40 percent polling numbers, couldn’t stomach the financial loss to her large-scale rice and cotton-growing constituents that tightening eligibility would entail. And so, reform got a sucker punch from bare-knuckled politics, which is pretty typical where ag policy is concerned. Sadly, there remains no political upside to opposing the agricultural status quo.

Her, again.

And the New York Times explains:

The self-described "national voice of agriculture," the Farm Bureau has chapters in every state. Among agriculture groups, the bureau has been one of the most strident critics of cap-and-trade proposals in the House and Senate, arguing that it would cost too much for farmers because of potentially higher fertilizer and fuel prices.

And the Farm Bureau's opposition comes in the form of firm climate denial. The Times:

The Farm Bureau has approved resolutions on climate legislation in the past. Leaders in the organization say they expect more resolutions this year -- including some that may be "more emphatic" in declaiming cap-and-trade legislation.

The conference's one scheduled session on climate change, held last night, was entitled "Global Warming: A Red Hot Lie?" Climate skeptic Christopher Horner, from the fiery libertarian think tank, Competitive Enterprise Institute, told farmers the data behind global warming is weak.

Horner's CEI has received over $2,000,000 from ExxonMobil, in the past twelve years. Among CEI's other stands:

CEI supports eventual elimination of the Superfund and has advocated the complete privatization of the Endangered Species Act, arguing that species protection would meet the level of "demand," based on how much citizens are willing to pay for habitat preservation (CLEAR fact sheet). CEI has a long anti-environmental pedigree. CEI is a member of the State Policy Network and the Cooler Heads Coalition. CEI was a sponsor of the first Wise Use conference in 1988 and has had membership in the Get Government Off Our Backs coalition, the wise use umbrella group. CEI is also a network member of The Heritage Foundation, Alliance for America, and the anti-Endangered Species Act group, Grassroots ESA Coalition. CEI was also a co-sponsor of the 1998 NY State Property Rights Conference.

With more than a $3 million annual budget, CEI is supported by both conservative foundations and corporate funding. Known corporate funders in addition to ExxonMobil include the American Petroleum Institute, Cigna Corporation, Dow Chemical, EBCO Corp, General Motors, and IBM. One of CEI's prominent funders is conservative Richard Scaife who has provided money through the Carthage and Sara Scaife Foundations. CEI is also heavily supported by the various Koch brother foundations.

And the American Farm Bureau's only speaker on climate change comes from this very respectable organization? Meanwhile, actual scientists are trying to talk sense to the Farm Bureau. As reported by Reuters:

Four dozen climate scientists wrote Stallman last week to argue AFBF divorce itself from "climate change deniers."

The Union Of Concerned Scientists helped draft the letter (pdf):

As scientists concerned about the grave risks that climate change poses to the world and U.S. agriculture, we are disappointed that the American Farm Bureau has chosen to officially deny the existence of human-caused climate change when the evidence of it has never been clearer. Because the agriculture community has much to lose and gain based on the actions our nation takes to address climate change, we request an opportunity to meet with you to discuss the latest climate science and your organization’s official climate change position. A few weeks ago, 18 national science organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Meteorological Society, and the Crop Sciences Society of America, sent a letter to the U.S. Senate stating that “human activities are the primary driver” of climate change and that “contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.”

These organizations are the latest to join with nearly every other major scientific institution and professional society around the world, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in concluding that human activity is causing global warming.

Last June, the United States Global Climate Research Project, a collaboration of 13 federal agencies, released a new climate assessment that stated, “global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced. Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years. This observed increase is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.” William Hohenstein, the director of the Global Change Program at the Department of Agriculture, recently stated that climate change “is going to have profound effects on agriculture and forests around the world.”

A key finding from the federal assessment is that the agricultural benefits of a longer growing season and higher carbon dioxide levels will be more than offset by the impacts of unabated climate change. Those impacts include more frequent heat waves that reduce crop yields and stress livestock, more numerous heavy rainfall events that prevent spring planting and flood fields, and more widespread pest and weed infestations that require costly pesticides and herbicides to keep them in check. The report also found that faster evaporation rates and more sustained droughts would reduce water supplies vital to agriculture in the plains states and the west.

It was signed by:

Gabriel Filippelli, Ph.D. Chair, Department of Earth Sciences Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI) Indianapolis, IN

Lee E. Frelich, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Hardwood Ecology
University of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN

Donald J. Wuebbles, Ph.D.
The Harry E. Preble Professor of Atmospheric Sciences
Department of Atmospheric Sciences
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Urbana, IL

And they were joined by:

Jimmy Adegoke, Ph.D. Professor and Chair, Geosciences University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, MO

Walter Auch, Ph.D.
Scientific Consultant, Plant and Soil Science
University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Catherine Badgley, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Michigan, Chelsea, MI

Richard Baker, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, Geosciences
University of Iowa, Atalissa, IA

William Bland, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Soil Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

Jim Bouldin, Ph.D.
Research Ecologist, Plant Sciences
University of California, Davis, Davis, CA

Robert Brecha, Ph.D.
Professor, Physics
University of Dayton, Yellow Springs, OH

Christopher Cole, Ph.D.
Professor, Science and Mathematics
University of Minnesota, Morris, MN

Jeffrey Gaffney, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Chemistry
University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, AR

Paul Gepts, Ph.D.
Professor, Crop and Ecosystem Sciences
University of California, Davis, Davis, CA

Sarah Green, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Chemistry
Michigan Technological University, Calumet, MI

Katherine Gross, Ph.D.
Director, Kellogg Biological Station, Plant Biology
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Kevin Gurney, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Noel Gurwick, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist, Food and Environment Program
Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington, D.C.

Jessica Hellmann, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences
University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN

Pierre-Andre Jacinthe, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Earth Sciences
Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, IN

Laura L. Jackson, Ph.D.
Professor, Biology
University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA

Stephen Jackson, Ph.D.
Professor of Botany, Director of the Program in Ecology
University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY

Wesley Jarrell, Ph.D.
Professor and Interim Director, Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL

Lucinda Johnson, Ph.D.
Interim Center Director, Natural Resources Research Institute
University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN

James Kasting, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor, Geosciences
Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

Kaoru Kitajima, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Biology
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

George Kling, Ph.D.
Robert G. Wetzel Professor of Ecology, Ecology and Evolution
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Richard Lindroth, Ph.D.
Professor, Entomology
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

John Magnuson, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor, Zoology and Limnology
Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

Nathan Mantua, Ph.D.
Research Associate Professor, Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Knute Nadelhoffer, Ph.D.
Director, UM Biological Station, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Raymond Najjar, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Meteorology
Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

Steve O'Kane, Jr., Ph.D.
Professor, Biology
University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA

Michael Palmer, Ph.D.
Regents Professor, Botany
Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK

Peter Raven, Ph.D.
President, Missouri Botanical Gardens
St. Louis, MO

G. Philip Robertson, Ph.D.
University Distinguished Professor, Crop and Soil Sciences
Michigan State University, Plainwell, MI

Donald Ross, Ph.D.
Research Associate Professor, Plant and Soil Science
University of Vermont, Waltham, VT

Dork Sahagian, Ph.D.
Professor, Environmental Initiative
Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA

George Seielstad, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist, Bay Area Environmental Research Institute
Missoula, MT

Rebecca Sherry, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor, Botany and Microbiology
University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK

Gerald Smith, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, Museum of Zoology
University of Michigan, Chelsea, MI

David W. Stahle, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor, Geosciences
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

Hank Stevens, Ph.D.
Professor, Botany
Miami University, Oxford, OH

John Vandermeer, Ph.D.
Asa Gray Distinguished University Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Donald Waller, Ph.D.
Professor, Botany and Environmental Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

Michelle Wander
Associate Professor, Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL

Thomas Yuill, Ph.D.
Director and Professor Emeritus, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
University Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

Donald Zak, Ph.D.
Collegiate Professor, School of Natural Resources and Environment
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Farm subsidies come up for renewal in 2012, and they should be a hot political issue. And much as Stallman wants to believe he is George Patton defending family farmers and ranchers, those subsidies are not equitably distributed, and Jill Richardson has meticulously catalogued where the money goes. She makes this pointed observation:

10 out of 21 members of the Senate Ag Committee comes from the top 10 farm subsidy recipient states. Go figure.

But it's not just corporate welfare. It's about poisoning our food supply. It's about climate change denial. The AFBF's war on us is being financed by us. Let both the White House and your Senators and Congresspeople know that it's time to stop subsidizing our own destruction.

Turkana :: 11:34 AM :: Comments (3) :: Digg It!