Think Forward blog

Andrew Puzder: the narrowly avoided threat to food system workers

Posted February 15, 2017 by Ben Lilliston   

Used under creative commons license from gageskidmore.

Just before this posting, Andrew Puzder withdrew from consideration for Secretary of Labor. We welcome this development for the reasons stated below.


If one believes, as we do at IATP, that the public sector has a role in ensuring the safety, prosperity, and dignity of work, then Puzder's nomination must be opposed strongly and without reserve.

Until last week, it was still unclear whether Andrew Puzder still wanted the position in the Trump administration for which he has been nominated, Secretary of Labor. Late to file his paperwork, Puzder was on the verge of going the way of other of Trump's nominees who could not untangle their personal fortune from themselves in order to enter public service. Of course, even with all the i's dotted and t's crossed to get to the hearing that is scheduled for February 16th, Puzder's professional history and apparent worldview make him a unique threat to the very department he's been nominated to run.

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Eight Questions for Trump’s Department of Agriculture pick

Posted February 5, 2017 by Ben Lilliston   Dr. Steve Suppan   

Used under creative commons license from usembassy_montevideo.

The next Secretary of Agriculture will have to hit the ground running, because the manure is hitting the fan. Farm income has fallen for three straight years. The farm income to debt ratio is the highest since 1985. President Trump’s decision to tear up the Trans Pacific Partnership, pick a fight with Mexico and threaten other key trading partners limits the potential for expanded exports. Trump’s executive order to crackdown on new immigrants will likely disrupt dairy, fruit and vegetable production and meat processing in the U.S. A series of proposed seed/chemical company mergers threatens to greatly reduce farmers’ seed choices. And extreme weather events linked to climate change continue to disrupt agricultural production around the country.

For his part, President Trump seems to have put farmers and the rural economy on the back burner. Trump’s pick for Agriculture Secretary, former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, was the last of his cabinet selections. Perdue is embedded in industrialized agriculture. He grew up on a farm, and has run businesses selling fertilizer, grain and a broad array of agricultural exports. But nothing in his background indicates he has the vision and leadership to address the big and increasingly complex challenges facing farmers today.

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Mulvaney as Budget Director: destructive for nutrition, agriculture and the environment

Posted February 1, 2017 by Dr. Steve Suppan   

Used under creative commons license from gageskidmore.

Next week, the U.S. Senate will consider President Donald Trump’s nominee to direct the presidential Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC). Mulvaney will propose huge spending cuts to compensate in part for the $10 trillion deficit that will be triggered by Trump’s promised tax cuts and infrastructure spending over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Part of those cuts will almost certainly hit federal child nutrition, agricultural research and conservation programs.

OMB is not only responsible for proposing the President’s budget to Congress, but also evaluates the costs and benefits of each and every federal regulatory action. In a press statement for the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS), IATP wrote, “Mulvaney would have approval and veto power over budgets to implement and enforce—or not—federal regulations. Under Republican deregulatory bills, only a rule’s costs, as claimed by industry, are evaluated, while its social, public health and environmental health benefits are ignored. Senate approval of Mulvaney would unleash a budgetary assault on agricultural conservation, food safety, nutrition programs and food assistance, farmer and food worker safety, food labeling, and other farm to fork rules.”

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Components of a larger system

Posted January 31, 2017 by Juliette Majot   

From the Executive Director

In his first week in office U.S. President Donald Trump has thrown his presidential weight behind executive orders, which if implemented, will have disastrous short- and long-term impacts on farmers, farm and food system workers, and ecosystems. He has signaled that his approach to renegotiating trade agreements will be autocratic and without regard for the rest of the world, further destabilizing an already quaking geopolitical reality. He has made clear his plans to unravel America’s history as a country of immigrants and religious tolerance, threatening to lock U.S. citizens into a future of isolationism as he locks out refugees and heightens racism and xenophobia.

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Principles of a new U.S. trade policy for North American agriculture

Posted January 27, 2017 by IATP   

Endorsed by

Food & Water Watch
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
National Family Farm Coalition
National Farmers Union
R-CALF
Rural Coalition

Current U.S. trade policy is designed to promote the interests of agribusinesses and other multinational corporations over those of family farmers. The resulting agreements have contributed to the economic and social erosion of rural communities in the U.S. and oftentimes devastation of its trading partners and fail to address very real problems of price volatility and environmental sustainability. These problems will not be solved simply by increasing exports.

We support the demands of many civil society organizations who reject NAFTA and similar free-trade agreements. NAFTA should be replaced with a different agreement with the goal of increasing living standards in all three countries. This should start from a thorough, open and democratic assessment of those agreements that involves both rural and urban communities. The trade negotiation process itself must be made more transparent to include the participation of all affected sectors, including independent farmers. If trade agreements include provisions related to agriculture, the overall goal should be to achieve balanced trade that supports fair and sustainable rural economies and food supplies. We call for the following priorities:

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La producción industrial de aves de corral y las cepas mortales de la gripe aviar H5Nx

Posted January 25, 2017 by Robert G. Wallace   

Image used under creative commons license via Wikipedia from Naim Alel.

Published with the kind permission of Noticias de Abajo.


Varios brotes mortales de gripe aviar H5 están diezmando las aves de corral de Europa, Asia y Oriente Medio.

La epidemia, que se extiende a través de Eurasia en oleadas sucesivas, es continuación de una erupción de gripe aviar H5N2 en los Estados Unidos, durante 2015. Todas las nuevas cepas, H5N2, H5N3, H5N5, H5N6, H5N8 y H5N9, denominadas en conjunto H5Nx, descienden del subtipo H5N1, que apareció por primera vez en China en 1997 y desde 2003 ha provocado la muerte de 452 personas.

Big Poultry y sus colaboradores del Gobierno están culpando de estos brotes a las aves acuáticas salvajes, que actuarían como reservorios de muchas cepas de virus de la gripe, y que infectarían a las aves de corral.

Por ejemplo, la investigación dirigida por Carol Cardona, profesora de la Universidad de Minnesota, que ocupa la Cátedra Pomeroy financiada por la Industria, afirma que el cambio climático está impulsando cambios en la ecología de las aves acuáticas salvajes y por lo tanto las aves de corral estarían más expuestas a los virus de la gripe, en Minnesota.

Contrariamente a lo que afirma la Industria, un muestreo exhaustivo realizado por ornitólogos del Estado de Minnesota no encontraron el virus de la gripe H5N2 en las aves acuáticas salvajes. Sin embargo, el equipo de Cardona sigue buscando el virus H5N2 en las muestras recogidas en la primavera de 2015 ¿Por qué? Simplemente porque afirma que el virus debe estar allí. La ausencia de pruebas supone un impedimento frente a la conveniencia en favor de la Industria sobre la naturaleza de los brotes de gripe aviar.

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Industrial production of poultry gives rise to deadly strains of bird flu H5Nx

Posted January 24, 2017 by Robert G. Wallace   

Image used under creative commons license via Wikipedia from Naim Alel.

Multiple outbreaks of deadly H5 bird flu are decimating poultry across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

The epidemic, moving across Eurasia in wave after wave, follows an eruption of H5N2 here in the U.S. in 2015. All the new strains—H5N2, H5N3, H5N5, H5N6, H5N8, and H5N9, together called H5Nx—are descendants of the H5N1 subtype that first emerged in China in 1997 and since 2003 has killed 452 people. 

Big Poultry and its collaborators in government are blaming wild waterfowl, which act as reservoirs for many influenza strains, for the new poultry outbreaks.

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Tillerson’s damaging record of extraction and opposing climate action

Posted January 23, 2017 by Ben Lilliston   

 Tar Sands processing facility

Rural communities in the U.S. and around the world are vulnerable to industries, often with headquarters elsewhere, who view local natural resources simply as an asset to be extracted. No global corporation better exemplifies this approach than the oil giant ExxonMobil. Now, President Donald Trump has nominated the company’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, to run the U.S. State Department. Tillerson’s damaging record at ExxonMobil, often at the expense of the public good and even U.S. security interests, should disqualify him from managing U.S. policy around the world.

Tillerson is deeply infused with ExxonMobil DNA, having spent his entire professional career of 41 years working at the company and serving as CEO since 2008. ExxonMobil operates in more than 100 countries. During Tillerson’s time at ExxonMobil the company has: aggressively advocated for corporate-friendly free trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); used past free trade deals to sue governments who try to regulate it; done deals with dictators and human rights violators; and all the while leading a multi-decade disinformation campaign to oppose action on climate change.

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Call to the World Bank: Enable farmers, not agribusiness

Posted January 19, 2017 by Shiney Varghese   

Ahead World Bank’s release of the 2017 “Enabling the Business of Agriculture” (EBA) project report this month, 156 organizations (including IATP) and academics from around the world, denounced the Bank’s scheme to undermine farmers’ rights to seeds and destroy their food sovereignty and the environment. In letters to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and EBA’s five Western donors, the group has demanded the immediate end of the project, as a key step to stop the corporatization of global agricultural development.

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Private or Public Interest: What can we tell from Trump’s Cabinet appointees?

Posted January 11, 2017 by Ben Lilliston   

Used under creative commons license from william-munoz.

 Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump's pick to be Secretary of State, is one in a group of the president-elect's Cabinet nomiees with corporate ties and possible conflicts of interest.

This week, Congress begins the first round of confirmation hearings for President-elect Trump’s Cabinet. After a bombastic Presidential campaign that was often short on policy specifics, the Cabinet selections provide an initial glimpse into how first-time public officeholder Trump will actually govern. While the role of rural America in electing Trump has been well documented, the first impression from the proposed Cabinet is troubling and is raising red flags for how the Trump Administration will respond to key rural issues. It is notable that a position very important to rural America, the Secretary of Agriculture, remains vacant and appears at the bottom of the list of priority positions.

In too many rural communities, natural resources and profits are extracted for the gain of outside—often multinational—investors at the expense of the people that live there. The Rural Compact, an effort we contributed to in 2008 as part of the National Rural Assembly, outlines a set of values and priorities for rural America and continues to be relevant today in assessing Trump’s appointees. The Compact states:
Rural America is more than the land…When rural communities succeed, the nation does better, and cities and suburbs have more resources on which to build. Conversely, when rural communities falter, it drains the nation’s prosperity and limits what we can accomplish together.

As Trump’s appointees make their way through the confirmation process, we’ll be looking at how the proposed Cabinet addresses four key challenges particularly relevant to rural communities:

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