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The AgriTalk broadcast is done for today, but the conversation continues. AgriTalk host Mike Adams shares his thoughts and opinions on the news of the week and invites your feedback.
The addition of cellulosic production at an ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa is another example of the evolution taking place in biofuels production. Traditional corn to ethanol plants serve as bridges to second generation ethanol production that will use multiple raw materials and help diversify our fuel supply. While critics try to dismantle and discredit the Renewable Fuels Standard, the evidence supporting its success continues to mount. Not only is our dependence on foreign oil being reduced but so too is our dependence on corn alone to make ethanol. Along with corn stalks we are also seeing development of fuel production from wood chips to garbage. No wonder Big Oil is fighting so hard to stop E 15 and the RFS. They can see the threat to their monopoly and are trying to cut it off before the public realizes what's possible. Without the threat of a reduced food supply the oil industry will have trouble convincing people to buy only their products. Already seeing corn prices drop with the RFS still in place, no wonder Big Oil and Big Food are getting desperate. Their cries of wolf and the sky is falling are starting to sound more and more hollow. Gas and food prices continue to rise regardless of corn prices or ethanol. While trying to protect an empire we are starting to see the emperor has no clothes!
The wheels of the legal process grind slowly on the issue of resumption of horse processing. Meanwhile thousands of unwanted horses are either being abandoned and left to starve to death or shipped to Mexico or Canada for slaughter under less than humane conditions. HSUS continues to throw up legal roadblocks to keep horse processing plants in the U.S. from opening. State and federal agencies seem to look for ways to delay the process while hoping Congress will change its mind again and prohibit horse processing. It seems even when the government says yes it means no. While lawyers argue, activists propagandize and politicians do nothing, horses continue to suffer and die. Last year more than 166,000 U.S. horses were trucked to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. More are slowly starving to death. Now the Yakama Indian nation has intervened in the lawsuit because of the negative consequences of an overpopulation of horses. Ironically they are supporting a reluctant USDA in this suit. Secretary Vilsack has expressed his displeasure with the resumption of horse processing and hopes Congress will move to keep it shut down. Supposedly those opposing horse processing want what's best for horses. Based on the results so far, they have a strange way of showing it. The money spent on legal fees would be much better spent on feed and shelters. As that seems unlikely, regulated processing provides a much better end of life option than what currently exists.
I had hoped that the passage of a separated farm bill by the House would move the stalled process forward and get a bill to committee where it could be put back together. While that could still happen it still looks like we are a long ways from getting a new five year bill done. It remains to be seen if and when House leadership will name conference conferees. They may first try to pass a separate nutrition bill that would probably not be acceptable to Democrats. Even if a farm bill got to and out of committee it would probably have a hard time getting final passage. After all these months of debate the same issue remains unresolved. How much will be cut from nutrition spending? A conference bill would likely lean towards the smaller cut proposed in the Senate bill making it unlikely to pass in the House. Bigger cuts won't likely pass the Senate or get by the White House. Of course Congress could take the path of least resistance and do nothing. Nutrition programs could continue through the appropriations process and some type of extension of the commodity title could be passed. Those wanting reform may have missed their chance with an all or nothing approach. While we wait for a bill that helps feed us we continue to starve for political leadership.
Passage of the House Farm Bill minus a nutrition title was both historic and controversial. While an important step the process of course is far from complete. While some choose to criticize the move others see it as a necessary means to a hoped for end. Count me in the latter category. I know I've been in the minority on this (although I seem to have more company now) but after two failures it seemed like a chance worth taking. At least now there is a bill to send to conference committee where hopefully improvements will be made. Despite conventional thinking to the contrary, the nutrition title was not the ticket to passage it had been in the past. Also the threat of returning to so called permanent law has proven to be no deterrent at all to inaction. Some are already saying this bill is not really a farm bill. I disagree! The bill that passed the Senate was not really a farm bill but rather a nutrition bill with agriculture's 20% attached. Ironically those in the House who wanted bigger cuts in nutrition spending should have voted for the bill that came out of the House ag committee. The Senate's 4 billion in nutrition cuts would seem closer now to reality than the House ag committee's 20 billion. Of course that has been a big part of the problem in this whole process. Too many parties (agriculture included) took an all or nothing position. It's time for people to stop working on defeating the bill and work to get it passed. The House, though not in a conventional manner, took a step in that direction. Hopefully others will now do something unconventional. Work together to get a final bill passed!
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack once created a stir by talking about agriculture's loss of influence in Washington D.C. While some disagree with that assessment, the current farm bill impasse seems to support his position. Even though the nutrition program has twice helped keep this farm bill from passing most ag groups feel a farm bill can't stand on its own. 352 groups recently sent a letter to House Speaker Boehner urging him to bring a unified bill back for a vote. Conventional wisdom seems to call for this all or nothing approach. Obviously the ag community doesn't believe it has the influence to get a bill passed on its own. Unfortunately that is the political reality of our times as politicians see where the most votes are. We can't trust our elected officials or the public to support producers who provide the commodities used in the nutrition programs. While passing a stand alone farm bill would go a long ways to proving agriculture's influence, the risk of failure may be too great. Agriculture's best chance of success now seems as part of a nutrition bill and the influence of others.
For those who have been anxiously awaiting the return of horse processing in this country the announcement last week of government approval was long overdue. For those opposed to resumption of horse processing the news was alarming. In reality, nothing much has changed as the plant in New Mexico is still not open and it’s unclear when or if it will be. USDA says it could take up to three weeks to send inspectors to New Mexico. That’s a long time even with flight delays! Obviously USDA isn’t in any hurry to resume horse processing. They’ve known this was coming and have had plenty of time to train and prepare inspectors and budgets. Litigation, real and threatened, continues to slow the process and even plant representatives seem less than optimistic they will be open for business very soon. I recently heard a representative of PETA complain this would cause horses to be trucked hundreds of miles in poor conditions to destinations where they would be inhumanely treated. Actually that sounds like a description of what is happening now as unwanted horses are shipped to Mexico or Canada for slaughter without USDA inspectors or regulations. I can understand people not wanting to eat horse meat or that can’t bear the thought of horses being slaughtered but to allow these animals to starve to death seems much worse. It’s bad enough that our government won’t do its job and pass needed legislation now they seem unwilling to enforce the ones they already have.