Tuesday Roundup: Monsanto Seed Inquiry Ends

Iowa scientists warn of climate change • Octave Finley dies • Colorado town bars oil trucks • This is the 44th anniversary of the Farmington coal mine disaster

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Another antitrust inquiry bites the dust.

The U.S. Department of Justice has told Monsanto that it has concluded its inquiry into the company’s seed business, the Des Moines Register reports. The DOJ is taking no enforcement action after its investigation into “possible anticompetitive practices in the seed industry.”

The investigation began with complaints by DuPont Pioneer, which said Monsanto was using it dominance in seed genetics to force more sales of Rounup-ready corn and soybean seeds. Also, farmers across the Midwest protested Monsanto’s practices.

The DOJ asked for information about Monsanto’s business practices, especially its Roundup Ready soybeans. The DOJ held a hearing on this issue in Ankeny, Iowa, in 2010. 

This was part of a large antitrust inquiry by the DOJ into possible anticompetitive practices in the agriculture business. The DOJ and the Department of Agriculture held hearings throughout the country on issues ranging from seeds to poultry to beef to the grocery business. As the Wall Street Journal reports, “The highly-publicized workshops did not result in any major regulatory changes, and Christine Varney, who was the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust enforcement at the time, has since left for the private sector.”

Seeds is the latest area where the Obama administration looked at market manipulation in the ag business, but didn’t act. 

Oil Trucks Not Welcome — Hayden, Colorado, in the northwest part of the state, won’t let a Wyoming drilling company use existing roads to reach its well sites. 

The town denied a request from True Oil to bring heavy trucks and oil rig equipment through town. Hayden Mayor Jim Haskins said the town should not let True Oil use local roads and bridges unless the company is willing to pay for repairs. 

Climate Warning From Iowa — Some 138 scientists at 27 Iowa colleges and universities say the state should begin now to enact policies that would mitigate climate change. 

Among suggestions offered by the group are increased production of biofuels from nonfood crops; improved energy efficiency programs; and capturing methane produced at landfills and manure lagoons. They also suggest doubling the share of wind-generated electricity from 20 percent of the state’s total to 40 percent.

The scientists said that last year’s drought was consistent with climate change theory, as was Hurricane Sandy. The scientists said this kind of severe weather would become more frequent.

Sugar Shortage? — Candy makers are saying there’s a sugar shortage in the U.S., and that this is causing prices to rise. They want a repeal of the tariff placed on imported sugar. 

Sugar farmers say there is plenty of sugar — and, in fact, have a truck loaded with 20 tons of sugar that they say they will deliver to top candy lobbyist Larry Graham whenever and wherever he wants it.

Graham declined the offer, saying the price of sugar in the U.S. is still 50 percent above the world price.

Keystone Update — Anti-pipeline demonstrators marched in front of the White House Sunday, continuing protests of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will move tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. So far, the Obama administration has not give the company building the pipeline a permit to cross the U.S.-Canada border. 

Nebraska ranchers initially objected to Keystone because it cross fragile lands and the Ogallala Aquifer. Keystone has since moved the pipeline route and protests in Nebraska have been muted.

Environmental groups have been boisterous, however. “Keystone is the pure test for the president, the first really simple, pure test where we’ll find out whether or not he’s capable of leaving some carbon in the ground,” said Bill McKibben, an author and activist with the climate change awareness organization 350.org.

Octave Finley is Buried — War dance chief Octave Finley, 84, died last Thursday and was buried in the Snyelmn Sntmtmne century in St. Ignatius, Montana, after “an unusual motorcycle escort from the St. Ignatius Catholic Mission,” the Missoulian reports

Farmington — Ken Ward Jr. reminds us that 44 years ago today (Nov. 20), 78 coal miners died in an explosion at Consolidation Coal Company’s No. 9 mine in Farmington, West Virginia. 

As a consequence of the disaster, Congress passed the Coal Mine Safety and Health Act in 1969.

Ward recounts what was said at the time of the disaster:

– West Virginia Gov. Hulett C. Smith: “We must recognize that this is a hazardous business, and what has occurred here is one of the hazards of being a miner.”

– Assistant Interior Secretary Jay Cordell Moore: “The company here has done all in its power to make this a safe mine. Unfortunately, we don’t understand why these things happen, but they do happen.”

– John Roberts, a public relations executive for Consolidation Coal: “This is something we have to live with.”

– United Mine Workers of America President Tony Boyle: “I share the grief. I’ve lost relatives in a mine explosion. But as long as we mine coal, there is always this inherent danger of explosion.”

 

 

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