Tag Archives: environment

Here’s Why Trump Is Having a Cow Over Canadian Milk

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Donald Trump hasn’t done much in his young presidency to delight high-powered Democratic lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). But last week, Trump did just that when he picked a fight with Canada’s dairy farmers, after receiving a letter urging him to do so from Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

Trump’s beef with Canadian dairy played well with Republicans, too. At a speech in dairy-heavy Wisconsin last week (video here), Trump fulminated against our northern neighbor’s milk policy and vowed to organize what sounds like a dramatically awkward group phone call involving the state’s most prominent politicians: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). “We’re going to get together and we’re going to call Canada, and we’re going to say, ‘What happened?'” he thundered. “And they might give us an answer, but we’re going to get the solution, not just the answer, okay?”

Okay!

If you’re wondering what the hell Trump is babbling about—and why Canadian milk generates such strange, and angry, bedfellows south of its border—here’s a primer.

• US dairy producers are churning out way too much milk, and they have been for a while. “Farmers in the U.S. are pouring out tens of millions of gallons of excess milk, amid a massive glut that has slashed prices and has filled warehouses with cheese,” the Wall Street Journal reported last October. In the first eight months of 2016, the paper added, US dairy farmers dumped out 66 Olympic swimming pools worth of milk, the “most wasted in at least 16 years.” In 2015, too, there was “so much milk flowing out of US cows…that some is ending up in dirt pits because dairies can’t find buyers,” Bloomberg reported at the time.

The backstory: Goaded by rising demand for dairy products from Asia and low prices for feed, US farmers scaled up in 2014, increasing their herds and squeezing out more milk per cow. Trouble is, farmers in other big milk-producing regions like New Zealand made the same bet, and now there’s a global milk glut. The practice of dumping surplus milk has continued into this spring, the US Department of Agriculture recently reported.

US agriculture programs give dairy farmers incentive to produce as much as possible, embroiling them in boom-and-bust cycles like the current one, driving small farms out of business and forcing survivors to scale up. As recently as 1950, around 3.5 million US farms kept dairy cows; by 2012, that number had dwindled to 58,000, even as overall production surged. The shakeout continues. “In 2010, Vermont had more than 1,000 dairy farms, but by the end of last year there were just over than 800,” NPR recently reported.

Meanwhile, the massive overproduction persists amid heroic, government-led efforts to prod Americans to consume more dairy. As Josh Harkinson reported in 2015, USDA dietary guidelines urge everyone nine years old or older to drink three cups of milk per day, a recommendation that owes much more to industry lobbying than it does to sound nutrition science. Then there’s Dairy Management, a group overseen by the USDA that works with “influential and globally recognized companies such as McDonald’s, Domino’s, Quaker, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut” to work more dairy into fast food. Oy.

• Canada’s dairy farmers are largely insulated from these cycles. That’s because, in sharp contrast to the US government, Canada’s dairy policy is based on production quotas that prevent farmers from either under- or overproducing. The program guarantees farmers get a price that covers their production costs, and slaps a high tariff on dairy imports, protecting them from foreign competition. Canadian consumers tend to pay more for milk than their peers, but not prohibitively so. Overall, Canadians devote just 9.7 percent of their overall expenditures to groceries, one of the lowest rates in the world. (US consumers have the lowest rate of all: 6.4 percent.)

Canada’s dairy program, known as “supply management,” might sound crazy to US ears, but it has advantages. In an excellent 2010 Gastronomica article, Barry Estabrook noted that, while decades of booms and busts had hollowed out dairy farming in New England and upstate New York, small and mid-sized dairy farms just over the border in Ontario—farming the “same gently rolling tapestry of field and forest”—are thriving.

• But there’s a hole in Canada’s dairy-tariff wall. So-called ultra-filtered milk—made with a process that concentrates milk proteins, separating out the fat—is a relatively new invention, designed to make dairy products that are highly concentrated and shelf-stable, and thus easy to export. Because of a loophole in trade law, Canada’s dairy tariffs don’t apply to it, and so the US dairy industry has been exporting ultra-filtered milk into Canada for years, where it competes with less processed domestic skim milk in cheese making. Major production plants have “been built in recent years along the Canada-US border in states like New York and Wisconsin to service Canadian demand,” reports the Canadian news site iPolitics.com; and it has grown into a $150 million market for US producers.

• Canada just slammed shut that loophole—enraging the US industry and capturing Trump’s attention. In a policy change announced in February and put into effect recently, Canada dropped the price for processed dairy products, essentially pricing US ultra-filtered milk out of its market. Two US dairy companies geared to the Canadian market—one in Wisconsin, one in New York—immediately complained of lost sales; the Wisconsin one, Grassland Dairy products, delivered bad news to 75 farms: It would no longer buy their milk. The development inflamed politicians in Democratic Party-dominated New York and and GOP-heavy Wisconsin, and eventually in the White House.

• But the US dairy industry has been itching for years to break down Canada’s tariff wall and undercut its dairy program—as have Democratic politicians. Under Barack Obama, US negotiators pushed hard to fully pry open the Canadian market to US dairy under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal championed by Obama and ultimately killed by Trump. And Tom Vilsack, who served as Obama’s secretary of agriculture for the entire eight-year term, now leads the US Dairy Export Council, a Big Dairy group that for years has pushed against Canada’s program. Vilsack recently signed a letter to Trump demanding “immediate action” against Canada for icing out US ultra-filtered milk.

• Canada aside, though, US dairy farmers clearly can’t export their way out of the dairy glut. As Chris Holman, a Wisconsin farmer who is active in the Wisconsin Farmers Union, noted in a recent blog post, the underlying problem is a “vicious cycle” that leads to oversupply: “When markets are up, farms often expand and production increases to take advantage of better prices. When the milk supply goes up and markets are down, farms often expand and production increases as they try to keep their heads above water.” Holman recently told me that “if every dairy farm in Wisconsin culled one cow out of production, it would more than make up for the milk lost to Canada, and everyone can keep farming.”

But organizing such a move would essentially require supply management—something anathema to big US dairy processors, which enjoy all the cheap milk encouraged by a lack of production controls. Ferd Hoefner, former policy director and current senior strategic adviser for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, told me that the 2014 farm bill included a supply management program for dairy, but it was struck down at the last minute.

• Wisconsin is a dairy-heavy state—and one that Trump barely won. And also the home of Ryan, with whom Trump needs to be friendly if he is going to get anything done in Congress. Moreover, his anti-trade tirades have not been popular with US Big Ag interests, which rely heavily on exports. Applying his fierce trade rhetoric to pry open Canada’s domestic dairy market may be a way for him to appease those interests.

Meanwhile, this week, Trump added more fuel to his trade war with Canada, imposing hefty duties on lumber imports from there. As the Los Angeles Times noted, “Dairy and lumber are sensitive industries in the heartland and rural parts of America, and any moves to strengthen those domestic constituents could help the administration garner congressional support for its broader trade policy objectives.” And picking on Canada is less risky than picking on his usual targets, China and Mexico. “It’s not like Canada is going to open up the border and let a whole bunch of Central Americans into the United States. So Canada is a pretty safe target,” Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, told Politico.

Continue reading here – 

Here’s Why Trump Is Having a Cow Over Canadian Milk

Posted in alo, Everyone, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Radius, Ultima, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump Has Okayed a Pesticide That Terrifies These Families

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

A white cloud of pesticides had drifted into Fidelia Morales’s back yard, coating her children’s swing set.

The 40-year-old mother of five gestured toward the citrus groves that surround her house in California’s Central Valley as she recounted when an air blast sprayer sent chemicals floating onto her property last year – landing on her family’s red and blue jungle gym.

“We know this is dangerous for the kids, but what are we supposed to do?” she said on a recent afternoon, speaking in Spanish through a translator. Morales said she fears that these kinds of drifts, as well as long-term exposure to a variety of chemicals in the air, have hurt her children, ages 9 to 20, who have struggled to focus in school and have suffered from bronchitis, asthma and other chronic illnesses.

Under Barack Obama, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed an agricultural ban on chlorpyrifos, one pesticide widely used in her region, based on the growing body of research documenting the risks for farm workers and communities, including links to brain damage in children.

Donald Trump’s administration, however, has rejected the science, announcing a reversal of the ban. That means that despite recent victories for families and environmentalists who have fought for more than a decade for protections from the insecticide, widespread use will continue in California, where a majority of the fruits and nuts in the US are grown.

“There’s a sense of helplessness,” said Luis Medellin, a 30-year-old dairy worker, sitting with his three younger sisters at his family’s home in the small agricultural town of Lindsay. “I’m being poisoned and I can’t do anything about it. It’s like a slow death.”

More than a dozen Latino residents in Tulare County, a rural farming community three hours north of Los Angeles, shared stories with the Guardian of direct pesticide poisonings from drifts and the long-term health challenges that they believe are linked to chronic exposure. They described children vomiting, suffering painful skin irritations, debilitating headaches and dizziness, as well as developing autism, learning problems, attention deficit disorders and respiratory ailments.

It’s difficult to conclusively determine how chlorpyrifos may have contributed to individual children’s conditions, but epidemiological studies have found links between the pesticide and a number of health conditions – research that led EPA officials to recommend the ban in 2015. Manufacturers and growers continue to assert that the chemical is safe and say that the studies are flawed.

Pregnant women who lived near fields and farms that use chlorpyrifos experienced an increased risk of having a child with autism, according to a University of California at Davis study. Low to moderate levels of chlorpyrifos exposure during pregnancy were also linked to lower IQs and memory problems, according to researchers at Columbia and UC Berkeley. Studies have further raised concerns about decreased lung function and reduced fertility.

Chlorpyrifos – a neurotoxic pesticide widely used to kill insects in almond, walnut, orange, grape, broccoli and other crop farming – was banned for residential use in 2000 because of environmental and health concerns.

The EPA’s prior move to prohibit the pesticide in agriculture stemmed from a decade-long legal fight with environmental groups, which are continuing to push for the ban in court. Under the new policy, the EPA won’t have to re-evaluate health risks of the chemical for another five years and its use will continue.

In California, Latino children are 91% more likely than white students to attend schools near heavy pesticide use, according to state data. Tulare County is also located in a region considered to have the highest poverty rate in the state and the worst air pollution in the US.

“We are very sick,” said Irma Medellin, community organizer with El Quinto Sol de America, a Lindsay-based advocacy group that has studied chlorpyrifos exposure and advocated for the ban. “Everyone who lives in this community is affected.”

In Tulare County, growers applied more than 1m pounds of chlorpyrifos in a five-year period, according to state data. A 2014 state report found that in one year, farmers applied more than 750 pounds of the pesticide within one-quarter of a mile of four different public schools.

Zenaida Muñoz, a 32-year-old mother of three, said she used to walk through the orange groves on a daily basis for exercise when she was pregnant with one of her sons, who is now nine years old. After he was born, he struggled to speak for several years and he had behavioral problems at home and in school. He was later diagnosed with autism.

Chlorpyrifos is frequently used on oranges.

“I never realized these chemicals could potentially cause harm,” she said, seated in her house in a small town called Cutler, as she clutched her newborn baby. Her son, now in the third grade, ran up to her with a squirt gun, begging to go play outside.

Muñoz said she now avoids the local orchards, especially when she can smell recently sprayed pesticide – a stench that makes her want to throw up.

Families that live across from the crops should consider moving, she added: “Even if it seems like they’re not impacted, they are.”

Domitila Lemus, 68, recalled an episode when a pesticide spray drifted toward a group of students on a school playground, including her eight-year-old granddaughter.

“They were out of breath. Some were throwing up,” Lemus recalled. “The children had teary eyes … It’s a strong smell that gets into your head and hurts your brain.”

Jannet Rodriguez, whose husband works in citrus, said workers were afraid to speak up: “They feel they’ll lose their jobs.” When she worked in agriculture, she said posted warning signs about the dangers of pesticides were never clear to her and other Mexican immigrants, many of whom don’t speak English. “They never told us what these signs meant.”

When Trump’s EPA head, Scott Pruitt, undid activists’ efforts one month after his confirmation – with a statement praising a return to “using sound science in decision-making” – families in Tulare County were devastated.

“It was pain in my heart,” said Amy Huerta, a 20-year-old college student who grew up in a trailer park in Lindsay where pesticides would often drift into their home. “Now we have to start all over again.”

One study detected chlorpyrifos in three-quarters of air samples in Lindsay – 11% above levels deemed “acceptable” by the EPA for 24-hour exposure by children.

Huerta recalled sharing a bed with her younger sister who would scratch herself bloody. Huerta said it was because of pesticides irritating her skin.

Morales said her nine-year-old son has trouble concentrating in school and staying seated in class—and that she suspects chlorpyrifos is likely to blame given the family’s proximity to citrus fields. Marianna Santos, pesticide supervisor in the Tulare County agricultural commissioner’s office, said the drift incident Morales described was under investigation, but that it did not appear chlorpyrifos was involved in that spray.

Bob Blakely, vice-president of California Citrus Mutual, a Tulare County industry group that supports chlorpyrifos, said growers were dependent on the chemical and claimed that its application is highly controlled in the state. “We’re very heavily regulated. I’d be more concerned about children not eating fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures the pesticide under the name Lorsban, has consistently argued that studies raising concerns are flawed and that Carol Burns, a Dow epidemiology consultant, criticized the UC and Columbia studies in an email, claiming that other research suggests there are “no significant associations between possible exposure to chlorpyrifos and any health effects in the children”.

The EPA did not respond to requests for comment.

Angel Garcia, El Quinto Sol community organizer and founder of the Coalition for Advocating for Pesticide Safety, said organizing against powerful agricultural interests was difficult in California and particularly in Tulare County.

“Money is the law here,” the Lindsay native said as he drove past a row of citrus groves. He and other activists are pushing California to be a leader in the resistance to Trump and ban chlorpyrifos in the absence of EPA’s inaction.

But it’s unclear if the state will take on that role. Asked about the calls for state prohibition, Charlotte Fadipe, a spokeswoman for the California department of pesticide regulation (DPR), said the agency was “looking at how this pesticide is used and if further restrictions on its use are warranted”.

“But,” she added, “that is not the same as an all-out ban.”

Original post – 

Trump Has Okayed a Pesticide That Terrifies These Families

Posted in Citizen, Everyone, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, PUR, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

4 in 10 Americans Live in Places Where It Is Unhealthy for Them to Breathe

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

In his America First Energy Plan, President Donald Trump boasts that “protecting clean air” will “remain a high priority” during his presidency. But just a few months into his term, Trump proposed cutting funding to the Environmental Protection Agency and signed an executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation central to the enforcement of the Clean Air Act. Bad timing. According to a new report published today by the American Lung Association, nearly 4 in 10 Americans live in places where it is unhealthy for them to breathe.

The ALA’s “State of the Air 2017” report analyzed air pollution data collected by the EPA from 2013 to 2015 and found that 125 million people live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone (smog) or particle pollution. Though this represents a “major improvement” from the 2016 report, which placed the number at 166 million, or more than half of all Americans, the ALA is concerned that the recent progress could reverse. “Implementing and enforcing the Clean Air Act is responsible for the progress that we’ve seen so far, and it’s the tool to continue progress,” says Paul Billings, ALA’s national senior vice president.

The installation of modern pollution controls on power plants and retirement of old plants, the increasing reliance on renewable energy sources and natural gas over coal, and the creation of more stringent fuel emission standards have all contributed to the pollution declines, he says. Trump’s proposed cuts “would not only eviscerate programs at the EPA and at regional offices, but also dramatically cut the grants that pass through EPA to state and local environmental agencies”—a big chunk of which is used for air pollution control work.

The report also found an increase in dangerous short-term spikes in particle pollution, or the tiny solid and liquid particles mixed into the air we breathe. Breathing in smog and particle pollution can cause serious health problems, increasing the risk of asthma and infections and cancers of the lungs, and also possibly contributing to heart disease, obesity, and more terrifyingly, degenerative brain diseases.

Many of the cities that reported the worst number of unhealthy days are concentrated in the Western states, including California, Oregon, and Nevada, and experienced wildfire smoke. Given the strong link between climate change and the increasing frequency and intensity of droughts and wildfires, the report concluded that the data “adds to the evidence that a changing climate is making it harder to protect human health.”

Air pollution control is “a multifaceted problem, and it requires a comprehensive solution with many different strategies,” says Billings. “So we need to make sure things like the Clean Power Plan are implemented. If you don’t have strict enforcement, companies cheat and the consequences are dire.”

Look up the air quality of your city and county here.

Read this article:  

4 in 10 Americans Live in Places Where It Is Unhealthy for Them to Breathe

Posted in FF, GE, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scott Pruitt’s New Plan for the EPA Will Destroy Towns Like This One

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

The Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator has found a slogan for his embattled agency’s new direction. Last week, Scott Pruitt announced a #Back2Basics campaign that proposes returning the EPA to its supposed roots: protecting the environment, spurring job growth, and not burdening industry with rules and regulations. Pruitt might see firsthand the problems with this vision on Wednesday when he visits East Chicago, Indiana, a mostly black and Latino city of 29,000 that is home to a Superfund site and a host of other environmental problems.

Local officials, including Indiana’s Republican governor, Eric Holcomb, urged Pruitt to visit the site and address the issues surrounding the cleanup process, which has been lagging for several years. The site is known as USS Lead, referring to the smelting facility that operated there between 1906 and 1985, turning refined copper and lead into batteries and other products and, in the process, contaminating the soil in the area with lead and arsenic. The site was added to the National Priorities list in 2009, which means it’s one of the most polluted sites in the country.

The EPA began conducting soil tests at the site in late 2009 and finally reached a consent decree with the liable companies in 2014. The White House has proposed a cut to funding for the Superfund program, but Pruitt told the U.S. Conference of Mayors in March that he believes it’s vital. But his #Back2Basics plans for the EPA, which includes rolling back regulations for companies, would lead to additional problems in East Chicago. Abigail Dillen of Earthjustice.org said the plan is simply getting rid of “the health and environmental protections we all rely on—protections only the government can provide.”

The pollution from the Superfund site is not the only issue facing the city. In March, the residents of East Chicago signed a petition, urging the agency to address an urgent crisis of lead in the water supply. The EPA sent officials to the city to test the water of the homes near the Superfund site and found that not only were there high levels of lead in the tested homes, but that the contamination was likely city-wide problem; lead pipes and water that had been improperly treated for decades were the culprits. The EPA expressed concern about corrosion control chemicals in the city’s drinking water. During the water tests, the agency asked city officials which chemicals they were using for water treatment and sent emails to city officials with links to a report about why the chemical the city was using was insufficient to protect the water.

“There are a lot of issues,” says Anjali Waikar, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “but we’re also hoping for clear affirmative action from the EPA with respect to the drinking water.”

Marc Edwards, one of the Virginia Tech scientists who researched the water system in Flint, Michigan, said the corrosion control chemical the city began using in 1992 was not effective for preventing lead leaching. He also said the chemical the city began using in 2015 could be worse than having no corrosion control at all. East Chicago Utilities Director Greg Crowley told the Times of Northwest Indiana that it would have been “helpful if the EPA had been more hands-on” in helping the city make the switch to different chemicals.

But federal oversight is not on the EPA’s new agenda. Pruitt criticized the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan as “federal overreach” during his Senate confirmation hearing. In his many lawsuits filed against the EPA when he served as attorney general of Oklahoma, he alleged that the EPA “had acted in excess of the authority granted to it by Congress.”

One of the specific priorities in #Back2Basics is “clearing the backlog of new chemicals” waiting approval from the agency so companies can “innovate and create jobs.” After the White House solicited policy advice from industry leaders on which regulations were impeding their businesses and which should get the ax, nearly half of the 168 submitted comments targeted the EPA. A typical example is from a chemical manufacturing company in Newark, New Jersey, which claims it is being hamstrung by the EPA’s Superfund program. Forty-eight of those comments related to the Clean Air Act and 29 to the Clean Water Act. Before environmental laws, no legal avenue existed to stop companies from polluting the land and water.

Then there are concerns about administration plans to shrink the agency. According to Politico, budget director Mick Mulvaney wanted the EPA to identify two regional offices for closure on June 15. This week, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that one of those could be EPA Region 5, which has been plagued with problems, but is the office responsible for flagging improper water treatment in East Chicago.

“Pruitt wants to take the EPA out of the mix and put power back into state and city regulators’ hands,” says Waikar. “But East Chicago is a clear example of how that’s not working.”

Visit source:

Scott Pruitt’s New Plan for the EPA Will Destroy Towns Like This One

Posted in FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, PUR, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Want to fight for a future that doesn’t suck? Try Grist’s 21-Day Apathy Detox.

In a meeting reportedly scheduled for Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s team will debate whether to abandon the historic climate pact.

It might seem surprising that this is even up for debate. During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to “cancel” the agreement, which many consider necessary to keep the planet from overheating. But before making a move, it appears he’ll let his advisers fight it out.

Two members of Trump’s inner circle, Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, want the administration to stick with the agreement. Reports say the meeting will pit those two against Steve Bannon, the climate-denying former chief of Breitbart News, and Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, who want out. Reports say Kushner and Tillerson argue that remaining in the Paris accord gives the administration diplomatic leverage in other matters.

If the opening skit on Saturday Night Live is any sign, the outlook for Kushner’s faction is good.

Of course, President Trump’s moves to trash the environment since taking office suggest that, whatever happens, the administration has no plans to meet the the carbon-cutting pledge the U.S. made under the Paris Agreement.

UPDATE, 18 Apr 2017: The meeting has been postponed. No word yet on rescheduling, but the White House is expected to announce its decision on whether to stay in the agreement in late May.

Originally posted here: 

Want to fight for a future that doesn’t suck? Try Grist’s 21-Day Apathy Detox.

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, G & F, GE, Knopf, LAI, LG, ONA, Ringer, solar, Uncategorized, wind energy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment