Thursday Roundup: ‘Pink Slime’ Lawsuit

Which is better for local economy, wind or coal? • Farm Bill Now! rally • Winning Colorado • Presidential debate held about agriculture

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Beef Products Inc. is suing ABC News for defamation over its stories about lean, finely textured beef, labeled “pink slime” by some. The company said ABC misled consumers into believing the meat product is unhealthy and unsafe. 

The lawsuit was filed in a South Dakota state court. BPI is based in Dakota Dunes, S.C. The company is seeking $1.2 billion in damages for what BPI said were roughly 200 “false and misleading and defamatory” statements about the product. The suit included ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer and the USDA microbiologist (Gerald Zirnstein) who coined the term “pink slime.”

BPI claims that stories about the treated meat led it to close three of its four U.S. plants and to lay off more than 650 workers.

Who Needs Banks? — 17 million U.S. adults don’t have a checking or savings account, acceding to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Another 51 million adults have bank accounts but primarily use pawnshops, payday lenders or rent-to-own services as their financial institutions. 

Suburbs Rule in Colorado — Democrats win the cities. Republicans win rural. So the battle for Colorado ends up being in the suburbs, according to the Washington Post. 

You Were Right About Computer Games For Kids — Here’s a child development expert who says that children need to live in the three-dimensional world to fully come into their own. 

Guilty Egg — The manager of the Iowa egg farm linked to a 2010 salmonella outbreak pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to bribe a federal inspector. 

Former DeCoster Farms manager Tony Wasmund admitted conspiring to bribe a public official in order to sell unapproved eggs. Bad eggs from DeCoster caused the recall of 550 million eggs and 2,000 cases of salmonella illness.

Court documents say the farm manager used $300 from petty cash to pay the USDA inspector.

Farm Bill as Climate Bill — Mark Hertsgaard writes in the New York Times today that the Farm Bill is a climate disaster waiting to happen: 

The proposed farm bill — Senate- or House-style, take your pick — would make American agriculture’s climate problem worse, in two ways. Not only would the bill accelerate global warming by encouraging more greenhouse gas emissions, it would make the nation’s farms more vulnerable to the impacts of those emissions.

Indeed, instead of helping farmers take common-sense measures to limit their land’s vulnerability to extreme weather, the legislation would simply spend billions more on crop insurance — sticking taxpayers with the bill. “It’s like giving a homeowner cut-rate fire insurance but not requiring fire extinguishers,” Jim Kleinschmit of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy told me in an interview.

Farm Bill Now Rally — AgriPulse puts the number of people at the Farm Bill Now! rally in Washington, D.C., at 500, representing 80 rural and farm groups from across the country.

Lots of people are talking to an apparently deaf Congress about the need for a Farm Bill sooner rather than later. Read quotes here

David Rogers at Politico reports on the rally. He says that Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran stole the show, “exhorting his former House Republican colleagues that it’s 3 a.m. with a storm coming: get off the sidelines, hook up the tractor and let’s go harvest a farm bill.” 

Presidential Debate — Chris Clayton reports from Des Moines, where surrogates for candidates Obama and Romney debated agriculture policy. Clayton writes: 

Democratic President Barack Obama has supported rural America as farmers achieved record income over the past four years — or is “anti-agriculture” and helped induce an unprecedented regulatory burden on rural America.

Republican Mitt Romney will wreck the rural economy and cut meaningful rural programs — or will unleash greater prosperity by stopping new regulations on farmers and businesses while more aggressively championing free-trade deals.

Those were the stark contrasts for farmers as surrogates for both campaigns debated the candidates’ positions on agricultural and rural issues Wednesday before a group largely consisting of members of the National Association of State Directors of Agriculture.

Romney was represented by Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska; Obama by Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge who had served 8 years as the state’s ag secretary.

Wind V. Coal — A new paper is being published comparing the costs and benefits of wind versus mountaintop removal coal mining in Raleigh County, West Virginia. It finds that in the short term, employment and earnings were higher for mountaintop removal mining, but near the end of the study period wind energy (plus underground mining) caught up. 

“When local externality costs (mostly premature mortality in the general population) were subtracted from local earnings, MTM coal production had an overall negative net social impact on the citizens of Raleigh County,” the researchers found. 

 

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