Wednesday Roundup: Subsidies and Fat


new paper: 

Without question, the system of farm subsidies needs reform. But crop subsidies – which were instituted after deregulation, sent prices plummeting and drove farmers out of business – are not the culprit behind America’s abundant junk food supply. In fact, eliminating farm subsidies entirely without fixing policies that affect production levels would have a devastating impact on the thousands of small to midsize family farmers who rely on subsidies as a critical safety net, allowing them to keep their land and to support local and regional food systems.

While simply doing away with payments to commodity farmers may help deficit hawks reduce the federal budget, we should not be fooled into thinking that it will magically solve the obesity epidemic or ensure that Americans would have access to healthy foods.

• The company that wants to build a pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast is offering the state of Nebraska a $100 million performance bond in an attempt to soothe those who oppose the $7 billion project.

TransCanada Corp. is building the pipeline to deliver oil sands oil to U.S. refineries. The pipeline would cut across the Ogallala Aquifer, the primary water supply for much of the Great Plains. The governor and legislators in Nebraska are worried that spills from the pipeline could ruin the aquifer and have asked TransCanada to shift the route to avoid the Ogallala.

TransCanada has refused to alter the route, but it is now offering Nebraska the bond, and it has agreed to other safety precautions to minimize damage from spills. Reuters and InsideClimate News have the details here

• In order to generate more revenue, the U.S. Postal Service wants to offer more stuff for sale. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Postal Service is talking up plans to begin issuing driver’s licenses and hunting permits. It may even start selling CDs.

The Journal notes that postal services in other countries have been diversifying for some time — offering banking services, for instance. They are all struggling as the volume of first class mail declines.

Congress would have to authorize the Postal Service to get into other lines of business.

• For the umpteenth time, the Environmental Protection Agency has told Congress that it would not regulate dust stirred up by grain combines or other farm activities.

The EPA said it hoped this official notification to Congress would put “an end to the myth that the agency is planning to tighten” its regulations on that source of air pollution, the Des Moines Register reports. 

Republicans have been claiming that dust rules were another example of over-regulation by the Obama administration. 

• Will the floods come again in 2012? Nobody knows, of course, but there is some confusion about projections.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says there is a “low probability” of another Missouri River flood in 2012. That’s good, since the valley is still under water from the 2011 flood. 

According to another report, in DTN, the Corps is not sounding all that confident about 2012. DTN’s Todd Neeley reports

“The system is more vulnerable than it was last year,” McMahon said. “We have to be careful on how to take advantage of the time until the next runoff.” He said the Corps decided to evacuate 16 million acre feet so far, which did allow river levels downstream to fall enough to make repairs to levies and other river infrastructure.

Elected officials are still pressuring the Corps to alter the way it manages the river, blaming the Corps for the severity of this year’s flooding. They are asking the Corps to increase its upstream storage capacities ahead of next spring’s rains.

Richard Oswald here tells the story of how Missouri River flooding ruined his year in northwest Missouri.