Look out America! The President is rolling out Fast Track in September.
He wants the authority to negotiate another political treaty -- short on
facts, long on fiction.
Watch Out for Fast Track
Fast Track is the authority for a treaty to be negotiated with only an up
or down vote by the Senate. No amendments are in order. It's amazing how
the Constitution can be nullified by law.
The problem for the Administration will be that Fast Track and the Global
Warming Treaty will get connected. Both are treaties which will hurt the
Washington usually follows the money. It will be interesting where this
one leads to.
Farmers are watching the Global Warming Treaty. It looks like a bad deal
for the U.S. Developing countries would be exempt from mandates of the Treaty.
Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, China, India and dozens of other countries would
have lax rules while the U.S. and the other developed countries would face
strict mandates. Fuel, fertilizer, equipment and other farm input costs
will be more expensive for U.S. farmers while trying to compete with Mexico
and other food producers.
-- From David Senter's newsletter on agriculture. Contact Senter at 1901
L St. NW, Suite 300, Washington, D.C.; 202-452-9422; email email@example.com.
Alliance Heads for Atchison
The Alliance for Democracy will hold its second annual national convention
Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 at the Mount Conference Center, Atchison, Kansas
The Alliance, seeking to support a national progressive populist movement,
was founded last year in the Texas hill country where the 19th Century American
Populist movement began to grow. This year the Alliance honors Kansas, where
the agrarian Populists organized cooperatives, achieved massive self-education,
and refused to concede to large corporations the economic and political
power to which they had no democratic right and no democratic legitimacy.
Confirmed speakers so far include Alliance founder Ronnie Dugger, co-chair
Ruth Caplan, human rights leader and activist comedian Dick Gregory, and
international organizer against NAFTA and the Multilateral Agreement on
Investment (MAI) Tony Clarke of Canada, with many other guests expected.
For information, call convention registrar, Marie Smith at 816-523-1813,
email firstname.lastname@example.org or write The Alliance for Democracy, P. O. Box 683,
Lincoln, MA 01773.
Corporate Farm Welfare
The new tax bill passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton returns
us to welfare as we used to know it -- for corporate farms.
The provision reducing the tax on capital gains to less than half the rate
for ordinary income creates extraordinary incentives to invest in breeding
and dairy herds found in no other industry. High income taxpayers will deduct
the cost of raising replacement stock against ordinary income -- saving
40 cents of taxes for every dollar they spend. But when they sell those
same animals, they will pay taxes of only 20 cents for every dollar they
Thus, the federal government will pay them net tax savings of 20 percent
of the value of every animal in their herds.
The bill is not nearly so generous to typical family farmers in the 15 percent
bracket. They will receive only one-fourth the benefit per animal. Large
corporate farms owned by high-bracket taxpayers are granted a government-sponsored
competitive advantage over family-size farms, which they will use to expand
production and drive prices down. ...
The Center worked with Senators Tom Daschle, Chuck Grassley and Bob Kerrey
and many citizens to seek a limit on the amount of capital gain any individual
could claim on breeding stock sales, but did not prevail. There was good
news. The legislation repeals so-called "suspense accounts" by
which large corporate farms such as Tyson Foods, Perdue and Murphy Farms
saved millions in taxes under the premise that they were family farms. That
designation enabled them to use cash accounting until the late 1980s. Suspense
accounts allowed them to carry forward some of the benefits of cash accounting
even after they lost the eligibility to use it.
-- Chuck Hassebrook, from the Center for Rural Affairs newsletter, PO
Box 406, Walthill, NE 68067; phone 402-846-5428.
Boston Gets Living Wage
The Boston Jobs and Living Wage Coalition, a consortium of labor, religious
and community leaders led by Boston ACORN (Association of Community Organizations
for Reform Now) and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO scored a huge victory July
30, as the Boston City Council passed the living wage ordinance 11-1.
The new ordinance is arguably the strongest such measure in the country,
requiring companies getting sizable city contracts or subsidies to pay their
employees a wage that is sufficient to keep a family of four above poverty,
currently about $7.70 an hour.
The measure also includes resident hiring provisions, requires companies
seeking city assistance to report on jobs and wages, and creates an advisory
board on city assistance with labor and ACORN seats.
The Boston ordinance is the latest to pass in a slew of such ordinances
being proposed all over the country in what appears to be a growing movement
to hold businesses accountable for the public tax dollars they receive.
The living wage victory came after months of petitioning, street visibility,
demonstrations, public hearings, and intense negotiations.
Similar campaigns are currently under way in Philadelphia, Denver, St. Louis,
Albuquerque, Reading, Pa., and several other cities. Living wage ordinances
are on the books in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Baltimore, New York City, Jersey
City, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Portland, Santa Clara County, CA, and New Haven,
For more information, contact Nathan Henderson-James, Research Coordinator
at ACORN, email email@example.com or phone 202-547-2500.
Family Farmers Need Help, USDA Commission Told
Independent family producers are being squeezed out by vertically integrated
food processors, but American consumers need family farmers, the USDA's
National Commission on Small Farms was told in an Aug. 22 hearing in Sioux
Pete Waletich, a member of the South Dakota Farmers Union, talked about
his family's agricultural heritage, but noted that the economic realities
of production agriculture have discouraged young people from entering the
profession. "Farm families earn about $5,000 annually in farming income.
Very few independent family farms can stay afloat without one or both of
the spouses working off the farm, as is the case in my own family,"
The South Dakotan presented stark statistics: From 1947 until 1997, commodity
prices for spring wheat, corn and barley had increased by 35 percent, 69
percent and 3 percent, respectively. He compared this to a 966-percent increase
in the price of a postage stamp, a 481-percent increase in the price of
a tractor and a whopping 13,500-percent increase in the hospital costs associated
with the birth of a child.
Waletich proposed that the commission consider recommending long-term, low-interest
loans, short-term financing with competitive rates and financial counseling
for beginning farmers. For existing farmers he reintroduced the concept
of a marketing loan program targeted to family-sized production levels.
He also suggested that tax incentives be given to retiring farmers who opt
to sell their land and equipment to beginning farmers at lower interest
"A lack of discipline on the part of large corporations in this country
is allowing greed to spiral out of control," Gary Hoskey, a Montour,
Iowa, producer who serves as vice president of Iowa Farmers Union, told
the commission. "There comes a point where government intervention
is needed. If this attitude of not caring for one's fellow man goes unchecked,
it will destroy our nation."
Debra Lundgren of Kulm, N.D., representing the North Dakota Farmers Union,
proposed USDA study the concept of operational cooperatives, which would
enable farmers to share their abilities, such as management expertise, marketing
knowledge and mechanical skills, with the goal of reducing their input costs.
She punctuated the urgency of the family farm crisis and stressed the need
to target USDA programs to independent family operators.
"Family farmers have three strikes against them from the beginning.
We can't control our income, we can't control our expenses, and we can't
control the weather. If we could gain a small measure of control over income
and expenses, we can live with the weather," said Lundgren.
The commission, which had five other hearings, was scheduled to make its
report to Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman by Sept. 30.
-- From the National Farmers Union, 11900 E. Cornell Ave., Aurora CO
80014; phone 303-337-5500.
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