Posts Tagged ‘agriculture and farming’

NYC mulls tax dollars for farmland preservation

Even as absurd NYC policy ideas go, this one’s a doozy [Seth Barron, City Journal]:

To encourage a “sustainable, resilient food system,” New York’s city council has proposed a $5 million municipal farm-subsidy program, under which the city would buy development easements in the Hudson Valley. In this way, the council plans to help feed “3 million New Yorkers liv[ing] in neighborhoods without adequate supermarkets.” It’s alarming to consider that New York could suffer food shortages so acute that the city government must establish its own agricultural supply chain.

EDITED, see comments: Correspondent Carl Edman shares an anecdote on Twitter of a Soviet dignitary visiting London who asked about the bureau in charge of food supply to the city “and was shocked when told that there was no such thing and nobody in charge. At least that won’t happen in future NYC!”

Food roundup

  • Almond growing in California is not all that water-intensive compared with other crops. So why does it gets demonized in the name of social justice? [Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover]
  • Had unexpected findings of a study on dietary fat and health 40 years ago been fully aired, nutrition policy might have taken different turn [Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post] “Today’s scientific hypotheses may be wrong. Better, then, not to make them law.” [David Boaz, Cato]
  • Royal Crown Cola was on its way to becoming one of the great soda companies, then came the cyclamate scare compounded by the irrational Delaney Clause [Mental Floss]
  • Jayson Lusk on the economics of food waste;
  • “Menu Mandates and Obesity: A Futile Effort” [Aaron Yelowitz, new Cato Policy Analysis, earlier]
  • “When an industry demands that the government regulate it more strictly, you usually don’t have to look very far to find a barely-hidden agenda.” [Jesse Walker, Reason on catfish makers]

Government buys billboards urging more power for government

Billboards in Washington state urging tougher environmental regulations on farmers were funded by (if this still comes as any shock) the federal taxpayers, through a grant program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And that wasn’t disclosed, although by agency rule it was supposed to be. [Don Jenkins, Capital Press] A few months ago EPA got caught illegally expending tax money to stir up pressure on Congress to support a wider interpretation of its own powers on the “Waters of the United States” rule. More on advocacy funding here.

Related, from way back in 1999, “Smart Growth at the Federal Trough: EPA’s Financing of the Anti-Sprawl Movement” by Peter Samuel and Randal O’Toole, Cato Policy Analysis #361:

The federal government should not subsidize one side of a public policy debate; doing so undermines the very essence of democracy. Nor should government agencies fund nonprofit organizations that exist primarily to lobby other government agencies. Congress should shut down the federal government’s anti-sprawl lobbying activities and resist the temptation to engage in centralized social engineering.

Labor roundup

SCOTUS: raisin seizure requires compensation

It’s raining raisin rights! The Supreme Court has ruled 8-1, as a Cato amicus brief had urged, that the Horne family of California have a Fifth Amendment right to compensation for the government’s seizure of half their raisin crop as part of an agricultural marketing order program. Only Justice Sotomayor dissented. There was also a 5-3 split on the question of how compensation should be calculated, with the majority joining Chief Justice Roberts in holding that the Department of Agriculture was bound by its own estimate of the value of the raisins taken. Earlier on Horne v. USDA here.

Robert Thomas at Inverse Condemnation rounds up reactions. Commentary: Ilya Shapiro, Roger Pilon (and earlier on the Magna Carta angle), and Trevor Burrus/Forbes (good news: Court strikes down really awful New Deal farm program. Bad news: it took 80 years), all from Cato; Iain Murray, Ilya Somin. And thanks to Instapundit guestblogger Virginia Postrel for linking to our past coverage.

Supreme Court hears raisin case again

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Horne v. USDA, with many Justices skeptical of the government’s position that it can seize nearly half of a family’s raisin crop under a USDA program without creating a “taking” for which it would owe just compensation under the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Cato filed an amicus brief on behalf of the raisin-farming Horne family, as it had also done at earlier stages of the protracted case [our earlier coverage; my colleague Trevor Burrus’s write-up from March; Damon Root, Reason] And The Daily Show (“raisin outlaw”).

U.S. Department of Labor’s blueberry squeeze goes wrong

I’ve got a new piece at Reason on how the U.S. Department of Labor stepped over the line when — relying on an obscure “hot goods” provision of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act — it slapped an order on two Oregon blueberry growers forbidding them from selling their crop until they settled a (dubious) DoL demand for back pay for workers. Having no choice in this forfeiture-like situation, the growers went along, but when things were brought to a federal court’s attention, the Obama administration got slapped down hard. Further observations at Cato at Liberty.

We mentioned the case in October, and developments last year drew coverage critical of the Administration’s tactics from a Wall Street Journal editorial, Jared Meyer at Economics 21, and George Leef at Forbes. For contrary views, see Catherine Ruckelshaus of the National Employment Law Project in Salon, with typical let-us-reason-together Salon framing (“lies… disingenuous… lost its mind”); Fair Warning; and Sachin Pandya, Workplace Prof. More coverage of the recent settlement and dropping of charges: AP, Oregonian, Fair Warning, and Trey Kovacs/WorkplaceChoice.org. More: Daniel Schwartz noting October 2014 DoL fact sheet.