Lede buried in a subsiding aquifer

The lede of the article below was buried in its last graph.

 “Unfortunately, this complex scheme leaves (farmers) with more questions than answers,” Stabenow said. “I have a number of concerns about whether this plan is fair and equitable to all farmers. Government checks are no replacement for lost markets, and this temporary support will only go so far.”

The rest of the vague, contradictory information in the article only makes sense in view of this authoritative doubt. If the Washington-based journalist had been a good reporter, she might have mentioned that US Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, is presently the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and formerly the chair of that committee and primary author of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Instead, the journalist localized the issue by concentrating on Rep. Josh Harder, D-Modesto and Stanford University, who, according to his press release, “led a bipartisan letter” arguing for specialty-crop inclusion in Trump’s subsidies to farmers who export their commodities to China, which has responded to Trump’s tariffs with tariffs of its own on selected goods it imports from the US.

Harder is overjoyed that walnuts were included this year, as almonds were included last year, the first year of the Trump Trade War with China.

Curiously, China produces nearly half the walnuts in the world, while the US, mainly California, produces a quarter. This makes us wonder, along with US Sen. Stabenow, how this is really going to work.

The McClatchy article doesn’t even mention the impact of European Union retaliatory tariffs on California agricultural commodities. Failure to ask that question leads to missing the fact that the EU imports three to five times more California walnuts than China does.

Another theme might have been how the great heroes of market-based, absolute capitalism are destroying the Chinese market for American farmers when China, not America, is the planned economy. Our absolute capitalists in power evidently never listened to a San Joaquin Valley farmer describing how long and hard the path was to get his commodity into the Chinese market and how easy it is to lose that market position. Or, probably, our national plutocrats don’t give a damn about the production and distribution of any actual commodity or anybody dependent on that economy. All they want is the debt.

What we want from the monopoly press of the dominant and arrogant core region of fruit and nut production in the nation are more intelligent questions.

“No more bad news,” they bellow the owners of the media comglomerates from the boardrooms. “Can’t you find a good story? The nation needs to restore its self-confidence and above all, move fo-wud!”

But in our reactionary period, the only thing moving forward is global warming.




Sacramento Bee

More California fruit and nut growers will get help with Trump tariffs in new farm aid deal

By Kate Irby


U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Thursday that grapes, tree nuts and cranberries will be added to the list of crops that are eligible for direct payments from the federal government to compensate for losses in the trade war with China.

The new farm aid package, which will distribute $16 billion to farmers, up from the $12 billion given in aid last year, will distribute the assistance in three payments, with the first in July or August, according to the USDA. The second payment should be made in late fall and the third in early 2020.

“We hope to have a trade agreement before those second and third payments are made,” said USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey in a call to reporters on Thursday.

Farm aid is meant to help the growers who have been affected by retaliatory tariffs implemented by China against U.S. agricultural products. Adding tree nuts and grapes helps many California specialty crop farmers who were left out by a previous package.

The new assistance will also distribute the payments differently. Rather than a payment based on types of crops — like how in the last package USDA paid 6 cents per pound of cotton and $1.65 per bushel of soybeans — the payment this year will be based on county and acreage produced. So farmers within the same county who produce the same amount of acres of crop will get the same payment, regardless of the type of crop they grow.

It still will not compensate farmers who did not plant a crop. USDA officials said more specifics on how officials calculated payments would be released later.

California accounts for 99 percent of U.S. production of walnuts and grapes, and the walnut industry created the equivalent of 85,000 full-time jobs in 2018, according to California Walnuts, a walnut grower advocacy group. California farmers harvested 109 million boxes of table grapes in 2017, valued at $1.8 billion, according to the California Table Grape Commission.

Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, led a bipartisan congressional letter to the USDA last week asking that those products be added to the new farm aid package. He said the tariff relief package is “huge victory” for the Central Valley, though ending Trump’s trade war was the priority.

“After our local walnut growers were left out last year, I knew we had to make sure they were included this time around — and thanks to the help of folks on both sides of the aisle, we were able to get that done,” Harder said.

But some Democrats, such as Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, were less than thrilled.

“Unfortunately, this complex scheme leaves (farmers) with more questions than answers,” Stabenow said. “I have a number of concerns about whether this plan is fair and equitable to all farmers. Government checks are no replacement for lost markets, and this temporary support will only go so far."