Tag Archives: agriculture

Trump’s agriculture advisory panel

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has announced his list of agricultural advisers, drawing mostly from established Republican players.

The New York City real estate mogul’s rural and agriculture advisory committee — comprising 65 people — is a Who’s Who of farm policy, with five members of Congress, including the chairmen of the House and Senate agriculture committees, 10 current and former farm-state governors and two former GOP presidential nomination rivals, former Govs. Rick Perry and Jim Gilmore.

…The list includes some major GOP donors, including Charles Herbster, a Nebraska cattle rancher who’s serving as the council’s chair, and Bruce Rastetter, a wealthy agribusiness leader in Iowa. But it also lists most of the Republican farm policy establishment, including Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Mike Conaway of Texas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who used to lead the House panel, as well as nearly a dozen state agriculture commissioners.

The advisory committee — which is six times larger than Mitt Romney’s 2012 panel — also includes a number of distinctly Trumpian characters, from Red Steagall, Texas’ official cowboy poet, to Sid Miller, the Texas agriculture commissioner who made national headlines for trying to bring deep fryers and sugary drinks back to schools.

Much of this panel appears to be very much mainstream Republican establishment, which has its positives and negatives. On a positive side, the article notes that in the panel’s first discussions about policy there was talk about eliminating or streamlining federal regulation on agriculture. On the negative side, the panel has some important members who favor the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal worked out by the Obama administration.

This information once again suggests that Trump will govern somewhere in the middle. If Congress is controlled by Republicans than there is also a good chance that its policy will lean rightward, though this panel also suggests that policy will continue to favor the crony businesses that the Republican leadership likes.

Vine to Wine

An evening pause: Making wine, the modern way. It is interesting how many steps here are still done by hand when they clearly could be automated. I suspect that it doesn’t pay for this winery to upgrade to more sophisticated equipment because their overall output is relatively small and it is more efficient for these steps to still be done by hand.

Hat tip Phill Oltmann, who tells me he is thinking of planting his own grape vines this year.

Tomato harvesting

An evening pause: Another video suggested by Phill Oltmann illustrating how engineering has revolutionized the agricultural field. In this case its tomatoes, which I think illustrates quite well why mass produced tomatoes are simply not as good as vine grown tomatoes from your garden. Assuming the tomatoes in this video are not intended for canning, they have to be tough to withstand the harvesting process so that they remain whole for the fruit stand.

U.S. Customs destroys a musician’s 11 flutes, declaring them to be agricultural products.

We’re here to help you: U.S. Customs destroys a musician’s 11 flutes, declaring them to be agricultural products.

A Canadian citizen, based in New York and with a green card employment permit, Bouzemaa was flying home from Marrakech, Morocco, when his baggage was opened by Customs at JFK.

‘I told them I had these instruments for many years and flew with them in and out,’ he said. ‘There were 11 instruments in all. They told me they were agricultural products and they had to be destroyed. There was nothing I could do. The ney flute can be made with bamboo. Is that agricultural?’

Ain’t you glad that the healthcare industry is now in the capable hands of this government?

Successfully growing crops in the desert using salt water and solar power.

Successfully growing crops in the desert using salt water and solar power.

The heart of the SFP concept is a specially designed greenhouse. At one end, salt water is trickled over a gridlike curtain so that the prevailing wind blows the resulting cool, moist air over the plants inside. This cooling effect allowed the Qatar facility to grow three crops per year, even in the scorching summer. At the other end of the greenhouse is a network of pipes with cold seawater running through them. Some of the moisture in the air condenses on the pipes and is collected, providing a source of fresh water.

One of the surprising side effects of such a seawater greenhouse, seen during early experiments, is that cool moist air leaking out of it encourages other plants to grow spontaneously outside. The Qatar plant took advantage of that effect to grow crops around the greenhouse, including barley and salad rocket (arugula), as well as useful desert plants. The pilot plant accentuated this exterior cooling with more “evaporative hedges” that reduced air temperatures by up to 10°C. “It was surprising how little encouragement the external crops needed,” says SFP chief Joakim Hauge.

The technology development here is wonderful, but it is unclear from the article whether these crops would be competitive on the open market with ordinary farm crops. The cost for this operation is not outlined.

The battle in Congress of the EPA’s effort to regulate dust

The battle in Congress over the EPA’s effort to regulate dust.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats all support the EPA’s effort, while there are Republicans who oppose. What I consider significant is that more than a hundred agricultural organizations oppose the regulations.

One of the agricultural groups that is supporting the bill [to block the EPA regulations], the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), wrote a letter to the committee last month, saying that a slight raise in overall particulate matter standards would require the EPA to regulate farm dirt under the current standards. “And, for what purpose? Scientific studies have never shown rural dust to be a health concern at ambient levels,” said the NAWG letter. [emphasis mine]

Scientists push for monitoring network to collect environmental and socioeconomic data from around the world

What could go wrong? Scientists push for a monitoring network to collect environmental and socioeconomic data from around the world.

Sandy Andelman, an ecologist with Conservation International in Arlington, Virginia, discussed her work setting up a pilot project that began two years ago in southern Tanzania. In addition to basic environmental data about soils, nutrients and land cover, the project tracks agricultural practices. It also incorporates data about income, health and education that is maintained by the government. Andelman says that all the data she collects can be broken down to the level of individual households, and that initial results from the project have already prompted the Tanzanian government to adjust the way it zones agricultural land in the area. [emphasis mine]

Lord help the farmers whose lives will be tracked by this network.

A reporter finds out the uselessness of Obama’s advice to call the USDA for help

A reporter finds out the naive uselessness of Obama’s advice to “contact the USDA” for help and advice about its new agricultural regulations.

In less than 24 hours, the reporter talked to about a dozen different offices, all of which passed the buck. And here is the final answer the reporter got, from media relations:

Secretary Vilsack continues to work closely with members of the Cabinet to help them engage with the agricultural community to ensure that we are separating fact from fiction on regulations because the administration is committed to providing greater certainty for farmers and ranchers. Because the question that was posed did not fall within USDA jurisdiction, it does not provide a fair representation of USDA’s robust efforts to get the right information to our producers throughout the country.

In other words, PR mumbo-jumbo that says nothing. Read the whole thing, as it is hilarious, tragic, and very very familiar, as we have all had this kind of experience trying to get answers from the government.