“Cheaper sugar sends candy makers abroad” says a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal (gated). The article noted that increasingly U.S. candy makers are moving their production to other countries because federal price supports keep domestic sugar prices way above the world market price.
Candy companies, such as Atkinson Candy Co., said it moved 80 percent of its production to Guatemala. “It wasn’t like we did it for profit reasons. We did it for survival reasons,” said the president of the family-owned Texas company. And confectioners aren’t the only ones affected by high sugar prices. Besides candy makers, general food producers feel the crunch of high sugar prices, as sugar is an ingredient in breads and baked goods, many canned and preserved fruits and vegetables, and other canned goods. The U.S. Commerce Department found that for every one job saved in the sugar industry because of the U.S. sugar program about three jobs were lost in the candy-making industry.
These food producers blame U.S. sugar policy for keeping the prices high through a system of domestic supply and import restrictions and price support programs that historically have kept U.S. sugar prices double or triple the world price.
And that’s not likely to end soon. The current agriculture bills in the House and the Senate both maintain the costly sugar program, and earlier proposals to reform the system were narrowly defeated.
CEI has long been involved in attempts to reform the sugar program. See here and here and here for more background on the issue.
Have a listen here.
General Counsel Sam Kazman explains why, in his view, the Clean Air Act does not give the EPA authority to regulate carbon emissions. CEI is a co-petitioner in a lawsuit over those regulations that the Supreme Court has announced it will review during its current term.
October is “breast cancer awareness month” thanks to a collaborative campaign arranged by public and private groups united in the mission to fight breast cancer. Their educational efforts can save lives by promoting early detection and healthy lifestyle choices. Yet environmental activists and media are using this campaign as an excuse to scare women about chemicals, and unintentionally, divert their attention from truly useful information, such as the importance of regular breast exams and a healthy diet.
For example, USA Today recently produced a story and video designed to scare women about the chemical bisphenol A, which is used in food packaging and plastics. It cites a meaningless statistical study that makes claims the data don’t support. The study reads: “Our findings suggest that developmental exposure to environmentally relevant levels of BPA during gestation and lactation induces mammary gland neoplasms in the absence of any additional carcinogenic treatment. Thus, BPA may act as a complete mammary gland carcinogen.”
But the reason these authors use the word “suggests” is because the data didn’t actually show anything, although they want you to think they did! In fact, the authors wanted to make an even bolder statement, which they did in an advance publication of the report online prior to the print publication. But the journal forced the authors to revise the study claims after Forbes journalist Trevor Butterworth pointed out that the data did not support any conclusion. You can see Butterworth’s recent article documenting the changes that downgraded the researchers’ claims to nothing more than “suggestive.” Yet the study is still making headlines even though the “findings” are not compelling and they contradict other more robust research on the topic, as Butterworth points out.
There’s a bigger lesson here: Beware of studies about chemical risks that are merely “suggestive.” Basically, when researchers say the data “suggest” something, it means they failed to demonstrate anything. Yet researchers use the term all the time to hype risks and capture headlines. Unfortunately, not only does that scare people, it can divert us from the real issues that affect our health.
Supporters of big government are taking advantage of a Salmonella outbreak linked to raw chicken to condemn Republican lawmakers and scare consumers about the government shutdown. But, despite the outcries from the media, Americans shouldn’t be overly concerned with the shutdown’s effect on food safety. In fact, the shutdown notwithstanding, our food is as well monitored as ever.
How could that be, you might ask? Isn’t this Salmonella outbreak proof that the shutdown has caused things to slip through the cracks? Well, actually, no.
Meat and poultry slaughterhouses are inspected by USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, a division essentially unaffected by the shutdown. Federal law requires slaughterhouses to have an inspector on-site at all times in order to conduct business, so those inspectors were on the job and functioning normally when the tainted chicken made it to market. So, the underlying cause of the Salmonella outbreak has nothing to do with the shutdown, it has everything to do with the long-ago outdated way the FSIS performs its job.
FSIS inspectors mainly rely on a “poke and sniff” test to inspect facilities and products. Although testing for the presence of bacteria and other contaminants is done, it is generally performed by slaughterhouse employees and inspectors look at the result. The primary job of an inspector is to conduct a visual inspection of every single animal carcass and guess as to how clean it is. But, while some impurities can be seen, bacteria and viruses cannot. So, visual inspections can lead to misperceptions about how sanitary a facility really is. That’s why this outbreak could occur even with FSIS on the job.
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A ongoing battle in court and public opinion rages in California over the environmental status of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (both rivers meet, and flow into San Francisco Bay; a rather rare type of system seen in only a handful of places around the world, like the Ganges–Brahmaputra).
The status of a small fish called the Delta Smelt, as well as salmon, have led to less water allowance for Central Valley agriculture via California’s great waterworks infrastructure, an ongoing shock to the most productive agricultural region in the world.
There’s little free market in water anywhere, but we can reconcile that over time via a tad more “separation of water and state.” I testified in the Water and Power Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Water and Power Subcommittee this week on these concerns. The specific vehicle was H.R. 3176, the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act.
My written testimony is linked here (prepared in just a couple days so please excuse typos!); and oral remarks appear below.
I am Wayne Crews, VP for Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and I thank the committee for the invitation to address federal drought relief funding and planning.
I come at this issue from the perspective of one who spends most time on tech and frontier industry policy issues, including compiling an annual federal regulation report called Ten Thousand Commandments.
Given environmental barriers to urgently needed water in the West, I completely understand the desire for the funding in H.R. 3176; and granted, the dollars sought are trivial in context of current budget battles.
But I caution against fostering any further “Declaration of Dependence” on federal dollars in any sector.
The regulatory reforms and infrastructure liberalization actually needed for plentiful, adaptable, environmentally conscious western water should dominate attention.
The good news is, water is not getting more scarce overall; it’s an earthly constant.
The bad news is, we artificially interrupt access to water. So management and allocation of that constant supply does matter.
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The Washington Times story on the attempted forced shut down of the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina may provide some insight into the attitudes of the National Park Service in shutting down private concessionaires on federal lands that still have open access for the public.
NPS chief spokesman said: “NPS [is]a single entity….We do not believe it is appropriate or feasible to have some parts of the system open while other parts are closed to the public.”
If other words, if we suffer, you suffer. Appears to be some genuine vindictiveness there.
Perhaps NPS is worried that if the public sees how well the private concessionaires are running campgrounds, picnic areas, hotels, stores, bookshops and properties such as the Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean, Va., which was closed even though it takes no federal money and has no federal employees — they might begin to wonder why we don’t simply privatize all the National Parks and National Forests. Where is the constitutional authority for the Feds to raise trees and own campgrounds anyway? And there is certainly nothing inherently unique or difficult about these things that make it so the private sector cannot do them. Indeed, the private sector does them much better. Ask your local timber company when was the last time it let forests die from insects, beetles or disease or burn down in catastrophic wildfires.
And perhaps instead of Republicans introducing bills to provide lost pay to furloughed non-essential Federal employees, they should provide for reimbursement for forcibly closed private concessionaires. With the money to come form budgets of NPS and USFS.
Thanks to misguided bureaucracy and fear mongering from environmental activists, myriad valuable products are disappearing from the marketplace. Walmart, Proctor & Gamble, and Johnson and Johnson are leading the way by following green advice to phase out a host of valuable chemical technologies because of misinformed green hype.
Pesticides—which are needed to feed a growing world population and fight vector-borne diseases—are often found on the regulatory chopping block, thanks to environmentalist scare campaigns related to both food safety and wildlife protection.
In Europe, as in the United States, pesticide regulations are driving a host of products off the market and will surely raise prices and reduce the ability of European farmers to produce food. While green groups suggest that we should fear these chemicals, what we really need to fear is their crazy policies.
A recent article in a European farmer’s publication explains how nonsensical European pesticide regulations will likely affect food production there:
“We are essentially moving towards a European regulatory system more driven by ideology than science, and that is more than a little concerning,” says John Peck, BASF’s technical lead for the UK and Northern Europe. …This new wave of legislative pressure could leave farmers with a very depleted chemistry set (see Table 1). In some cases entire crops could become uneconomic to produce; in others the use of certain pesticides may only be permitted in certain parts of the country, at certain times of the year, or on certain parts of the farm.
The article points out that such policies will reduce crop yield, dropping wheat yields by an estimated 12 percent, for example. Reduced yield creates adverse environmental impacts by demanding that more land be farmed, leaving less land for wildlife.
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I had the privilege of meeting with Charlie Drevna, President of American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers this week. He had some extremely interesting things to say about the way mounting environmental regulations are threatening jobs in the refining sector that he represents.
A particularly compelling insight he provided was that many of the Obama administration’s environmental regulations actually contradict each other. For instance, CAFE regulations require higher fuel efficiency from automobiles. Yet the Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates the use of less efficient ethanol, reduces fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, the Tier III rules from EPA contradict the rulemaking on greenhouse gas emissions: refineries need to do more processing to reduce sulfur in gasoline, which increases emissions at a refinery by up to 2.3 percent, while at the same time they are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Two more examples: to reduce ozone in the atmosphere under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) requires more energy. More energy requires more greenhouse gas emissions, so there is another clear contradiction. Finally, state sulfur regulations contradict federal greenhouse gas regulations — if you use energy to reduce the sulfur in heating oil, you will increase your greenhouse gas emissions.
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Have a listen here.
A proposed rule issued today by the EPA would effectively ban new coal-fired power plants from being built. According to William Yeatman, Assistant Director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment, the consequences would be disastrous.
H.R. 3102, the “Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013’’ will be considered on the House floor later today. The 109-page bill, which would take steps to reform the $80 billion per year food stamp and nutrition programs, is being considered on its own, separate from agricultural titles.
Recent background for this story is necessary. Food stamp programs have traditionally been included in farm bills – those omnibus bills that every five years hand out the largess that every farm product receives from taxpayers’ funds. This year’s farm bill was no different. Both the Senate and the House voted on farm bills that included both elements. The Senate passed its legislation on June 10, 2013. But the outcome in the House was a lot different: On June 20, 2013, the $940 billion farm bill was killed on a 195-234 vote, mainly because Democrats were opposed to an included amendment that would have given states the option of running pilot programs for instituting work requirements for food stamp recipients.
Some principled Republicans also voted against the bloated bill because few agricultural reforms were included and few amendments were allowed to be considered. CEI and other free-market groups called for the bills to be split in two, so that the agriculture programs would be considered separately from the nutrition and food stamp program and could be considered on their own merits. A split would also drive a wedge into the unholy alliance and deal-making between rural farmers and urban food stamp proponents.
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