Farming On Either Side of Pond

The theme this season on the blog continues to be food; the cost, growing, and politics of food.  Recently, while preparing for my journey to Thailand (next week), I’ve noticed 2 big changes coming to the agricultural policies of both the US government and the European Union.  Which could spell a change in how our food is raised and from who and how we get that food.

On the US side there’s the Farm Bill, which was vetoed by GWBush but that veto was overturned by congress. An imperfect text which, as EWG analyists explain it:

throws a couple of small bones to a few grassroots causes but mainly ensures that the big dogs will continue to run agriculture – courtesy of the U.S. Treasury.

chartThe only potentially positive development with this farm bill is that meat will have to be labelled for orgin in the US. Otherwise as indicated by the quote above, the bill will continue to pour money on big agribusinesses who, unfortunately, also play a roll in the nation’s obescity epidemic (through pushing big products like high fructose corn syrup).

Meanwhile in the EU, new policies are being rolled out in relation to farming.  Among their decisions, they’ve increased the size of what kind of farm qualifies as small and therefore deserving of EU funds to protect and preserve such farms.  They also reduced the amount of subsidies to be paid to large farms.

For all the buzz about food prices, it is of interest to see what these two governments decide when it comes to agriculture. Especially in a situation where so many farmers on both sides are paid to NOT farm, despite a global food shortage.

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Corporate Influence in EU Governments

It is that feeling that never really goes away. No matter how often you might look around at how things work in Europe and admire things, there is the ever present feeling that politics, business, and everything in between is heading in the same direction as the United States.

Yet another piece of evidence to that effect appeared in the Financial Times recently, in an article about the intricate role of business executives within the German government.  In a story that sounds identical to what has been going on in the US for decades, one German executive from a hedge fund was said to be working in the ministry of justice in the area of hedge fund policy. Another classic example, reminiscant of the Reagan years, executives from BASF (the chemical company) are working in the ministry of environmental protection, also in the area of policies – of course.

But the infiltration of government by business experts from large corporations goes beyond the national level. As the article points out in its conclusion, within the European Commission there is also a strong presence of corporate experts working in the area of policy and regulation.

Just as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, for all the reasons we might admire Europe, there are plenty of reasons to worry about a continent whose governments are allowed to repeat the kind of dysfunctional corporatist capitulation that we saw in the United States over the last 30 years or more.

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bmtv63 Kosovo, the Month Ahead

Been reading about the next month and what it holds in store for Kosovo and the entire Balkan region. Would have made for an interesting time to be back in Belgrade around this time.

The following video is just a montage of images, texts, and audio that I’ve been taking in and evaluating. My g4 powerbook, after 3 years of service, is struggling with exporting video… It is time for a new computer and as always.. I appreciate tips in the tip jar.. and your moral support is nice too.

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Update, EU Xenophobes

Well, they lasted a year, and at last the far-right racist and xenophobic block of the European Parliament fell apart last week.  Known by their ironic title “Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty Group”, the block dissolved after the Romanian far-right members were offended by derogatory comments by Mussolini’s granddaughter. In practice it means they will get less speaking time in parliament, and perhaps more importantly, no more EU funds for their professional hatred activities.   They say when the announcement was made the parliament broke into applause and cheering.  I’ll save my applause and cheering for when the mainstream parties stop pushing xenophobic and corporatist policies on European citizens. 

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