Rural America

Friday, Feb 17, 2017, 2:09 pm  ·  By The Cornucopia Institute

Dueling Corporate Interests Await Pending Updates to Organic Animal Welfare Standards

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommendation to the Department of Agriculture, now pending, calls for organically raised chickens to have access to approximately 2 ft² per bird outdoors. For comparison, European Union organic regulations require 43 ft².   (Image: The Cornucopia Institute)

One of the pending regulations released in the final days of the Obama administration, and put on hold by the Trump White House, was an already controversial rule that pits legitimate family-scale organic farmers against the operators of “factory farms”—industrial-scale operations accused of violating existing organic animal welfare standards. A newly released analysis by The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog, explains what is at stake and why economically powerful forces in organics are squawking, principally over new space requirements proposed for chickens.

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Thursday, Feb 16, 2017, 6:00 am  ·  By Robyn Bahr

“Baskets” Portrays Rural, Working Class America Differently and That’s a Good Thing

Now in its second season, Louie Anderson plays Christine Baskets on the FX television series "Baskets."   (Image: FX Networks)

Christine Baskets is unlike any character you’ve seen on television. The heart of FX’s existential comedy Baskets, she is a heavyset, thin-lipped matriarch, simultaneously formidable and endearing. She carries her extra weight like armor, and yet, her body reveals unspoken vulnerability—a lifetime of shame and disappointment. You take one look at her no-nonsense face and immediately want her to like you, to approve of you. A Reagan fangirl, she thinks it’s just as honorable for her child to get a job at Arby’s as it is for him to pursue his art. She’s played by veteran comic Louie Anderson. 

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Wednesday, Feb 15, 2017, 6:00 am  ·  By Jim Hightower

The Next Farm Crisis is Here and Farmers Can No Longer Afford to Be Ignored

February 5, 1979—Thousands of economically struggling farmers arrive in Washington D.C. (many after traveling for days on tractors with top speeds of 15 miles per hour) to draw public attention to rising farm debt and unfair federal ag policies. By the end of the day, 17 tractors had been impounded.   (Photo: USDA / National Archives and Records Administration / Iowa Public Radio)

During the farm crisis of the 1980s, an Iowa farmer asked if I knew the difference between a family farmer and a pigeon. When I said no, he delighted in explaining: "A pigeon can still make a deposit on a new John Deere."

That's funny—except, it really wasn't. Worse, the bitter reality of the tractor joke is still true: The farm crisis has not gone away, though hundreds of thousands of farm families have. The economic devastation in farm country continues unabated as agribusiness profiteers, Wall Street speculators, urban sprawlers and corrupted political elites squeeze the life out of farmers and rural America.

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Monday, Feb 13, 2017, 6:00 am  ·  By John Collins

The Corporate States of America in Graphic Relief

(Image: steve-lovelace.com)

In 2012, Steve Lovelace, an artist, writer and photographer based in Texas, designed the above map to accompany Corporate Feudalism: The End of Nation States—a self-published blog post in which he likens socioeconomic trends in the early 21st century to those in the Middle Ages and Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic, Dune. Lovelace writes, “We are witnessing the end of the nation state and the rise of corporations that control the world’s resources like feudal lords.”

It’s an old idea, but one that’s getting new legs. For starters, though we often differ on who or what to blame, it’s become clear that income inequality isn’t something Bernie Sanders made up for kicks. Millions of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck while Wall Street sets records. The oil, pharmaceutical, agribusiness and telecommunications corporations that already have their respective global sectors cornered are merging and consolidating even further. On the home front, conditions vary but millenials (somehow responsible for most of the planet's problems) are putting forming families on hold, routinely spending 50 percent or more of their stagnant wages on smaller and smaller apartments, defaulting on student loans and sharing each others Netflix accounts—all while getting daily reminders that robots haven’t started replacing the good jobs...yet. (At last count, 44.2 million Americans owe $1.28 trillion in college debt and the deliquency rate stands at 11 percent.) On the other end of the age spectrum, half of American baby boomers have less than $100,000 saved for retirement, and 25 percent have already tapped what little they do have for non-retirement related expenses.

But how bad is it really? How far-fetched is a world in which multinational corporations wield more power than the nation states that cultivated them? How close are we to a new age where a "free" citizen’s access to food, shelter, water or healthcare is influenced less by the policies of an elected government, and more by the whims of a few wealthy, all-powerful oligarchs?

Funny you should ask. 

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Wednesday, Feb 8, 2017, 11:33 pm  ·  By Lorraine Chow

Monsanto Expands Louisiana Herbicide Facility, Some Locals Say “Toxic Company” Isn’t Worth the Jobs

St. Charles Parish, L.A.—Monsanto executives pose with shovels on February 4 after announcing $975 million expansion of Luling herbicide facility.   (Photo: Mike Strain / Facebook)

Monsanto has officially broken ground on a $975 million expansion to its Luling plant in St. Charles Parish, L.A. The facility will manufacture dicamba, a controversial herbicide used in the company's new XtendiMax weedkiller for GMO soybeans and cotton.

Despite the company's promise to bring 120 new full-time jobs to the area, it seems many locals are unhappy with the project.

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Wednesday, Feb 8, 2017, 3:03 am  ·  By Rural America In These Times

Dakota Access Gets Final Approval, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Calls for March in D.C.

(Photo: @jjsnyder76 / Rural America In These Times)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will grant Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, the final easement needed to finish construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has opposed the project from its conception, vows to challenge the decision in court.

“The drinking water of millions of Americans is now at risk,” says Dave Archambault II, tribe chairman, in a statement released late Tuesday. “We are a sovereign nation and we will fight to protect our water and sacred places from the brazen private interests trying to push this pipeline through to benefit a few wealthy Americans with financial ties to the Trump administration.”

But Archambault also urged supporters of the #NoDAPL movement not to return to the camps in Cannon Ball, N.D., where many thousands have travelled since August of last year to protest the pipeline. “Our fight is no longer at the North Dakota site itself,” says Archambault. “Our fight is with Congress and the Trump administration.” The Standing Rock Sioux, Native Nations of the United States and their allies are organizing a demonstration in Washington D.C on March 10.

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Tuesday, Feb 7, 2017, 2:45 am  ·  By Rural America In These Times

USDA Deletes Records of Animal Abuse from Website

(Photo: aphis.usda.gov / Google Images)

On February 3, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) removed thousands of documents pertaining to its enforcement of animal welfare laws from its website. No longer available to the general public, the deleted information includes several years worth of annual inspection reports and agency correspondence that document the mistreatment, abuse and/or death of animals at research facilities, zoos, puppy mills, equestrian exhibitions and other locations.

The USDA released a statement citing privacy concerns as the primary reason for the removal. Animal rights groups, however, say the action purposefully shields from public exposure those profiting from the mistreatment and exploitation of animals. 

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Tuesday, Jan 31, 2017, 4:18 am  ·  By Rob Wallace

Bird Flu Factories: How Industry Backed Science Favors Big Poultry and Ignores Danger

"Intensive husbandry," in this case raising barns of thousands of poultry in packed homogeneous monoculture, is also referred to as "factory farming"—an industrial agribusiness production model that aims to maximize yields through various (often troubling) means.   (Images: Farming Pathogens / Wikimedia Commons)

Multiple outbreaks of deadly H5 bird flu are decimating poultry across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The epidemic, moving across Eurasia in waves, follows an eruption of H5N2 here in the United States in 2015. All the new strains—H5N2, H5N3, H5N5, H5N6, H5N8, and H5N9, together called H5Nx—are descendants of the H5N1 subtype that first emerged in China in 1997 and, since 2003, has killed 452 people.

Big Poultry and its collaborators in government are blaming wild waterfowl, which act as reservoirs for many influenza strains, for the new poultry outbreaks. For instance, research under the aegis of University of Minnesota Professor Carol Cardona, who holds the industry-funded Pomeroy Chair in Avian Health, claims that climate change is driving shifts in wild waterfowl ecology and therefore in the influenza to which industrial poultry here in Minnesota are now exposed.

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Friday, Jan 27, 2017, 4:40 pm  ·  By John Collins

Farm Policy Watchdog Stands by Organic Farmers. Will Secretary of Agriculture Perdue?

A chart depicting recent corporate agribusiness acquisitions in the organic sector. A high resolution version of this image, suitable for printing, can be found on the Cornucopia Institute's website or by clicking the link provided at the bottom of this post.   (Source: Cornucopia Institute)

In the United States, demand for organically produced fruit, vegetables, meat, milk and eggs continues to grow. According to the Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic products are now being sold in three out of four conventional grocery stores. In 2015, organic food sales reached $43.3 billion—a new record, but one that’s expected to be surpassed (again) as soon as 2016 consumer data is tallied and released.

This steady increase in demand for minimally-processed “real food”—pesticide-free greens and meat from livestock who spent at least some of their lives outside eating plants—has not gone unnoticed by the nation’s largest conventional food companies. In order to capitalize on the organic trend without massively restructuring their core enterprises, food and beverage corporations have responded by acquiring dozens of smaller organic brands to market alongside their staples. Naked Juice, Van’s and Annie’s Homegrown, for example, are owned by Pepsi, Tyson and General Mills respectively. Often lost in the ensuing marketing wars are the values that started the local, sustainable food movement in the first place—a widely perceived need for systemic change that includes, but also goes far beyond, the rejection of pesticides. 

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Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017, 3:35 pm  ·  By Rural America In These Times

#NoDAPL: Standing Rock Sioux Respond to Trump’s Executive Action

(Image: indianz.com)

On Tuesday, President Trump signed five executive orders, two of which revive the Dakota Access (DAPL) and Keystone XL pipelines. The other three were drafted to fast track the environmental permitting processes required to complete the controversial projects while directing the Commerce Department to maximize the use of U.S. steel in their construction. A video of Trump briefly commenting as he signs the orders is embedded below. 

Shortly following the announcement, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who view DAPL as a threat to their water, sacred sites and tribal sovereignty, released the following statement:

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