Friday, September 28, 2012

Harvest Of The Grapes Of Wrath

The Working Poor build castles in the sand. The Middle Class live in them. The Power Elite collect the rent. This is what happened during the drought of 2011-2013.(CBS Evening News, Sept 27, 2012)

"Turns out the U.S.’s GDP is already suffering. The Commerce Department on Thursday said the economy grew at an annualized rate of 1.3% in the second quarter, a steep drop from the first quarter’s 2% and the fourth quarter’s 4.1% — and significantly lower than the government’s earlier estimates of 1.7% and 1.5%. (This is the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s third and final take on second-quarter GDP — the one that usually doesn’t yield big revisions.)" (Shah 2012) (CBS Evening News 2012)

"The worst drought in more than half a century baked more than two thirds of the continental United States this summer and its harsh effects continue to plague the parched cities and towns of the Great Plains. More than half of Texas is having a drought that is rated severe or worse, and more than 95 per cent of Oklahoma is rated as experiencing the more serious category of extreme drought.The entire state of Kansas is rated in severe drought, with 88 per cent of the state falling into the more serious "extreme" drought category. The designation comes as farmers struggle to plant winter wheat." ((Gillam, Reuters September 27, 2012)

"The portion of the United States under 'exceptional' drought - the most dire classification - rose to 6.12 percent from 5.96 percent a week earlier. Conditions were most severe in the High Plains, with severe or worse drought levels covering 83.80 percent of the region, up from 82.81 percent the prior week, according data gathered by federal and academic climatologists that was released on Thursday. More than 24 percent of the region, which includes Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado, was in the worst level of drought, dubbed 'exceptional." (Reuters September 27, 2012)

"Because the old kind of laborers, Mexicans and Filipinos, are being deported and repatriated very rapidly, while on the other hand the river of dust bowl refugees increases all the time, it is this new kind of migrant that we shall largely consider. The earlier foreign migrants have invariably been drawn from a peon class. This is not the case with the new migrants." (Thomas 2011)

 (Thomas 2011) "They are small farmers who have lost their farms, or farm hands who have lived with the family in the old American way. They are men who have worked hard on their own farms and have felt the pride of possessing and living in close touch with the land." 

 (Thomas 2011) "They are resourceful and intelligent Americans who have gone through the hell of the drought, have seen their lands wither and die and the top soil blow away; and this, to a man who has owned his land, is a curious and terrible pain."

 (Thomas 2011) "They are descendants of men who crossed into the middle west, who won their lands by fighting, who cultivated the prairies and stayed with them until they went back to desert.  And because of their tradition and their training, they are not migrants by nature. They are gypsies by force of circumstances."

 (Thomas 2011) "from John Steinbeck. Grapes of Wrath. New York: Knopf, 1993, pp 264 and The Harvest Gypsies, Article I published in the San Francisco News, October 5, 1936 as found at The New Deal Network, The Harvest Gypsies."

"Texas has endured its worst one-year drought in recorded history." (Gailbraith, August 2011) 

Drought is hindering agricultural production across the Midwest and has driven up corn and soy prices. Ethanol production is down, but has already taken 40% of the corn crop. Only about a quarter of national corn and soy crops are reported to be in good condition.

Fires have burned in parts of the drought afflicted Southwest, affecting millions of acres. In Missouri, as in other sections of the country, hay production has fallen precipitating livestock sales as producers are unable to feed them.

"Get used to fires -- bigger, hotter, longer fires. As William DeBuys recently wrote for TomDispatch, 'A lethal combination of drought, insect plagues, windstorms, and legions of dead, dying, or stressed-out trees constitute what some pundits are calling wildfire's 'perfect storm.' But DeBuys cautions that it's not really a 'storm' in the sense that it's not 'sudden, violent, and temporary.' No, the conditions that are feeding fire seasons are really what many scientists think will be the 'new normal." (Lohan 2012)

"If you surf the blogosphere looking for fire information, pretty quickly you’ll notice a dust devil of “facts” blowing back and forth: big fires are four times more common than they used to be; the biggest fires are six-and-a-half times larger than the monster fires of yesteryear; and owing to a warmer climate, fires are erupting earlier in the spring and subsiding later in the fall. Nowadays, the fire season is two and a half months longer than it was 30 years ago." (deBuys 2012)

Scenarios for higher heat-trapping gas emissions producing climate changes affecting national ability to produce food, feed, and livestock products have already come to be seen this year. "Increased heat, disease, and weather extremes are likely to reduce livestock productivity...{and} swine, beef, and milk production are all projected to decline in a warmer world". The foraging availability has already been seen to decline because of the effect of increasing carbon dioxide on plant nitrogen and protein content, whereas weeds and pests benefit. "Fruits, vegetables, and grains can suffer even under well-watered conditions if temperatures exceed the maximum level for pollen viability in a particular plant; if temperatures exceed the threshold for that plant, it won't produce seed....and....reproduce."  (US Global Change Research Program Impacts 2011)

A clear parallel may be drawn that the current severe drought has much in common with the 1930s “Dust Bowl” drought as does the recent recession did with the Great Depression, and the common denominator being the present regressive congressional and election year political situation. And across the U.S., climate predictions show an ever increasing decrease in summer precip as global temps increase. Therefore, the 2012 U.S. drought has implications for weakening the current recovery while contributing to famine in the developing world. And food prices are expected to rise aproximately 5% across the board according to Dept of Agricultural estimates. But I suspect even higher price hikes. 

The sunshine patriot himself R-money will be playing the crowd at the upcoming debates, while America's heartland withers away with no relief from what a Farm Bill may have provided this unusual drought and wildfire season. Some areas have been going on two years of the same oppressive conditions.

"Call it Jurassic Park or Dinosaur Train: Mitt Romney’s team of energy and economic advisers, like his energy plan, is dominated by fossil fuels. Romney’s energy team relies on the expertise of lobbyists, coal and oil industry insiders, several of whom crafted the polluter agenda of the George W. Bush administration, a trend Politico described as, “Bush-era energy policy wonks … finding a new home with Mitt Romney.” (Leber, 2012) 

With more than half of United State's counties declared disaster areas as of the first of August (Muskal 2012), Congress went home on the sixth of August for an entire month, also leaving millions of people in need of food stamps in the lurch when the present Farm Bill expires (Abrams 2012). The House Teapublicans are obstructing again by inaction, in favor of deep cuts to those that need the help the most in the SNAP progam, as well as leaving be the necessary negotiations to reconcile the House farm aid version with the Senate version of the bill. If they were firefighters, this would be the equivalent of returning to the station and shutting the door to have dinner while the bells are going off.

With a quarter of the country experiencing an exceptionally severe drought that is expected only to deepen, with the government projecting that much of the spring’s record corn planting will wither away, with significant damage to soybean and wheat crops and with prices for feed at record levels, farmers and ranchers are increasingly anxious about the gridlock in Washington.” (Steinhauer 2012)

( Leonard2012) "The dysfunction doesn’t end there. Conservative activist groups also opposed the House bill, on the grounds that 'farmers and livestock owners should have known better'{ Wasson 2012}"

“The food stamp program would take a $16.5 billion cut over the next 10 years. The bill also makes changes to eligibility requirements, and the Congressional Budget Office said two million to three million people would lose their food stamp benefits. Nearly 300,000 children would also be ineligible for the free lunch program under the new bill, the budget office found. Farm programs are not spared. If Congress does not pass a farm bill by Sept. 30, more than 100 farm programs would expire.”( Nixon 2012)

"In the midst of a severe drought, the House Republican leaders are proposing to walk away from farm states and decades of precedent by not calling up the new five-year plan before the current law expires Sept. 30. (Rogers 2012)

(Rogers 2012)"Whatever its flaws, the bill promises $35 billion in 10-year savings from exactly the type of mandatory spending that Congress promised to tackle in last summer’s debt accord. But rather than disrupt its political messaging, the GOP would put it all at risk by delaying action until after the November elections."

(Rogers 2012)"No, the real reason for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to delay the farm bill is not because there will be better answers after the election. It’s because he doesn’t like the answers he sees before."

"Democrats in the House have pledged to use every tool at their disposal to stop House Republicans from slashing $16.1 billion from food assistance programs over the next 10 years in their version of the 2012 Farm Bill (...) "These proposed cuts show a total disregard for the real impact they would have on hungry kids and families across the country," Connecticut Democrat Rep. Rosa DeLauro said at a press conference Tuesday."(US News, Wire Services, July 11, 2012)

(US News 2012)"DeLauro says between two to three million people would completely lose their benefits and about 300,000 kids would not be able to receive free school lunches. "These cuts are a slap in the face to millions of people trying to make ends meet," says California Democrat Rep. Lynn Woolsey."

 (US News 2012)"Forty-five million Americans rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) every year. And that number has grown exponentially since late 2007 when the country dipped into a recession. The Center on Budget Policy Priorities estimates about three-quarters of SNAP participants are families with children, and more than 25 percent of homes on SNAP have a senior citizen or a disabled person under their roof."

"We actually have until about Jan. 1 before we run into a lot of administrative problems with this bill reverting to some very high prices," says Mary Kay Thatcher, director of congressional affairs for the American Farm Bureau Federation.".(Rovner 2012)

(Rovner 2012)"That's because while the date on the law matches the federal fiscal year, the 2008 measure covers all of 2012's crops. So even if they haven't been harvested yet, things growing now are covered by the 2008 legislation. The first crop that would be affected by the new price supports 'would be next spring when we harvest winter wheat,' Thatcher says."

"Bain Capital is an investment partnership which was formed to invest in startup companies and ongoing companies, then to take an active hand in managing them and hopefully, five to eight years later, to harvest them at a significant profit.." (Corn 2012)

The point is, R-money and friends have been reaping the wrong harvest. Instead of culling voters from swing and other states that may be inclined to vote for their own preservation, the Teapublican's power elite need to be helping to mitigate the biggest agricultural disaster since the Dustbowl of the 1930s. In these times, the Teabillies are just going to reap what they DIDN'T sow, and that's the support of the American people who can still see through the dust kicked up by the Teapublican masters' TV propaganda machine. 

"Extreme weather jeopardizes farmers and our food supply. Rural economies that are the backbone of the country are fragile. Our health is being threatened by a food system driven by corporate interests. We don't have a lot of time," said executive director Carolyn Mugar. "Now, more than ever before, we must grow a better food and farming system."  (PRNewswire-USNewswire, Yahoo News, Sept 22, 2012)

"Right now, family farmers all across the country are facing extreme drought conditions that have devastated their crops and dried up their pastures. Many farmers have lost their crops, and with them their income for the year. For livestock and dairy farmers, the cost to keep their animals fed will obliterate their earnings. These farmers who are most at risk are the farmers who are building the local food systems that are so crucial for thriving local economies and emerging food systems." ( 2012)

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