Feeling Betrayed America’s Small Farmers Are Suing Trump

Over the course of the past few months there have been an increasing number of complaints from Trump supporters that they are feeling betrayed by both Trump and Republicans. But Trump, in particular, is the target of what has been up until now slowly simmering outrage.

Even before the dirty crook was installed in the White House, people with cognitive abilities higher than fungi knew that Trump’s supporters would be the first to feel the effects of “making America great” for corporations and the filthy rich.  Although they are a fairly small demographic, American farmers have been the primary recipients of Trump’s trade, immigration, and deregulatory policies that are threatening their livelihoods and in many cases their family farms existence.

This past week, a small “farmers think tank” in Nebraska actually did what other Trump supporters have been unable to do and filed a lawsuit against Trump’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its leader Sonny Perdue.

Like much of the despair among Trump supporters, the farmers are livid that two “Obama-era” rules specifically designed to protect the nation’s small farmers from giant corporations were eliminated to benefit four or five giant companies. It is no surprise that the farmers are now complaining that without the two “Obama-era” rules in place “we are [again] being exploited by giant corporate agriculture processing companies.”

The lawsuit was filed by the legal watchdog  Democracy Forward on behalf of the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) charging the USDA Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue “with arbitrary and capricious behavior” in rolling back the two rules. One of the rules would have made it easier for individual farmers to sue corporate giants for anti-competitive behavior. That particular rule was implemented after an eight-year “exhaustive investigation and negotiation” process by the Obama Administration specifically to aid tens-of-thousands of small family farms that were being systematically “ripped off” by big corporate agriculture.

The rules’ enactment took an eight year effort because of  “fierce resistance from big agriculture and its congressional allies that reject any kind of reform” that doesn’t enrich corporations. The main rule the corporations wanted eliminated simply made it easier for small farmers to sue for anti-competitive behavior that controlled prices and punished small farmers that dared complain they were being cheated.

In a move that shouldn’t surprise anyone, on same the day of Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration the White House announced it postponed the effective date of the new ag-rules by 60 days. Then it issued several other delays until October when USDA chief Perdue said there would be no more postponements because he just “arbitrarily” eliminated the rules. The USDA issued a statement saying “the agency’s action was consistent with President Trump’s Executive Order to reduce regulations.”

Instead of rules protecting about 200,000 small family farms, any legal disputes between the farmers and corporate agriculture will be adjudicated by an agency that works for large corporate agricultural processors to negotiate with brokers, fast-food and grocery chains. As noted by one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, what Trump’s USDA is doing is allowing corporations to police themselves; what poultry farmer Mike Weaver called “having the fox guard the henhouse.”

Another rule that defined which corporate actions are considered unfair, discriminatory or deceptive was also eliminated. Under the Trump USDA those disputes will be settled by the agency that works for the corporate agricultural processing operations. Obviously, the corporate-friendly agency will not find anything the corporate giants do to be “unfair, discriminatory or deceptive.”

Abolishing the rules to benefit 4 giant agricultural companies will have an adverse impact on “40,000 contract poultry farmers, 900,000 cattle ranchers, and 70,000 hog farmers in America’s heartland.” The group bringing the lawsuit said the current litigation “represents the tip of an iceberg of financial and emotional despair” being felt by America’s farmers. It is noteworthy that these are all “small, family-owned” farms who were fierce Trump supporters that are now so disillusioned that they had to file a lawsuit against their champion saying:

Where’s the support that you promised us? We voted for you because you were going to make things right, and it’s not happening.”

The despair among yet another segment of the agricultural community is a common refrain in Trump’s America. The ag community not only have not seen any support from their hero, they’ve seen only the negative consequences of electing a know-nothing imbecile who pandered to racists and nativists. Farmers across the nation  were already in dire straits due to Trump’s immigration policies that left many of their crops rotting in the fields because experienced field workers were too terrified of Trump’s immigration police to show up and harvest their crops.

An entirely different group of agricultural producers were sent into a panic when Trump pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that gave American farmers an advantage over every country’s agricultural producers on the planet. Now those farmers are left out of other “agreements” between America’s former trading partners and will be at a distinct global disadvantage because of Trump.

American farmers are also left out of trade deals with NAFTA-affiliated nations; especially Mexico. Just Trump’s talk of “renegotiating NAFTA” sent Mexico to implement its  “Plan B” and rapidly negotiate much better trade agreements with several other nations. American farmers were not included in any of the trade agreements and like pulling out of the TPP, many farmers who were anticipating growth are now in distress and wonder if they can even survive in Trump’s America.

Joe Maxwell is the executive director of OCM and he says this revocation of the rules has “threatened America’s family farmer’s livelihood.” And a representative of the National Farmers’ Union concurred saying, “The fear in the countryside on this is palpable.”

The poultry farmer who serves as president of the Contract Poultry Growers of the Virginias, Mike Weaver, says he is one of the “very lucky few” who came to poultry farming after a career as a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; he is not dependent on his farm income to survive. However, Weaver pointed out that less than a quarter of his fellow small farmers enjoy the luxury of not depending on their farm income to survive.

Mr. Weaver said:

71 percent of small poultry farmers live beneath the poverty level. I’ve had guys in tears on the phone, telling me, ‘My farm has been in the family for five generations, and I’m about to lose it.’”

Look, it is a struggle to feel much empathy for the small farmers because they supported Trump despite his campaign pledge to erase regulations to set corporations free, change immigration policy to keep Mexicans out, and abandon the trade agreements that benefitted American farmers. Farmers knew that implementing any one of those policies would be devastating to their livelihoods and yet they voted for him enthusiastically. Now they are attempting to sue Trump’s USDA with a brand new crop of Trump judges ready to repay their lifetime appointments with dismissals of any lawsuit against Trump with prejudice.

It seems like every week there is a new group of Trump supporters complaining that they were betrayed and lied to by their hero in spite of being warned that Trump was lying and would betray them. Now they are getting exactly what they deserve. The rest of the population knew Trump was a corporate-friendly Republican and he did tell the gullible exactly how he was going to rape and pillage them while he lied that he was looking out for their best interests. It is a travesty that all Americans have to suffer the stupidity that drove Trump’s ascendancy to the White House and it is impossible to have any compassion whatsoever for his supporters’ woes. Maybe if it is painful enough they will wise up, but no American should hold their breath; the stupid is just too powerful in America.

Trump Hurts Farmers with Inexperienced Campaign Workers At USDA

 

As if the struggling agriculture sector wasn’t already suffering enough incompetence and damage from Trump, there was a report late last week with some more bad news for farmers courtesy of more Trump incompetence, disregard for expertise, and remuneration to his campaign’s supporters. It didn’t take long for a fair number of Americans to realize that Trump’s definition of highly-qualified government officials is how much money and support they delivered to Republicans and his campaign;  his cabinet appointees and White House staff bear out that assertion. So the news that he appointed a truck driver, a cabana attendant, a lawn mowing service owner, and a scented candle-maker to high-level positions at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), although appalling, shouldn’t shock anyone.

Now first it is important to note there is nothing wrong with truck drivers, cabana attendants or scented candle makers; they all provide important services to the public. However, since those people have no experience or expertise in the agriculture sector or international trade, it is abominable that they are now in government jobs crucial to a successful agriculture industry that Trump has personally impacted negatively and possibly permanently. If his intent was to do as much damage in as short a time as humanly possible to a crucial American industry, this is the one area where Trump is winning; and winning big.

A couple of days ago Politico published the results of its review of “dozens” of Trump’s political appointees’ résumés to work at USDA headquarters. What the résumés revealed was that the federal agency overseeing agriculture in America was staffed with campaign workers and volunteers who not only have no experience in federal policy, they are bereft of any experience, let alone “deep roots,” in agriculture.

According to Politico’s review of 42 appointees’ résumés, 22 of them cited “Trump campaign experience” as the reason they deserve important positions and “higher” government salaries. As Politico reported, a fair number of those appointees may have volunteered for Trump’s campaign, but that doesn’t make up for the lack of “required” credentials, such as a college degree, the federal government requires to qualify for significant government salaries.

Sources who are familiar with the USDA’s inner workings say what is different about Trump’s appointees compared to other presidents is that there is an inordinate number of former campaign staffers and volunteers who were “rewarded” with high-level positions and salaries with no experience in agriculture. It isn’t abnormal to reward loyalty and service, but it is extraordinary to appoint “loyalists” or “funders” with no experience. Those USDA  sources say, as any half-wit understands,   “inexperience will lead to mistakes” and “sidetrack a president’s agenda.” Trump’s agenda thus far appears to be damaging the agriculture industry, so it is possible his appointing know-nothing sycophants is part of his agenda of further damaging American farmers.

The Executive Director of American Oversight, Austin Evers, provided the résumés to Politico for their review after filing a Freedom of Information Act request. Mr. Evers said his organization sought out résumés for Trump’s political appointees across the federal government and discovered “an abundance of former campaign workers” in jobs they have no qualifications for. He said:

The theme that emerges is pretty clear: What do you have to do to get an administration job? Work on the campaign. There is a clear prioritization of one attribute, and that is loyalty.

Of course Trump Agriculture Department issued a statement defending the highly paid former campaign workers saying:

All of the appointees have skills that are applicable to the roles they fill at USDA.

It isn’t exactly clear what role at the USDA requires cabana attendant or scented candle maker skills, or long-haul truck drivers for that matter, but as a third generation member of a farm family, it doesn’t seem reasonable that those jobs will be beneficial to helping farmers succeed; especially after Trump has damaged the industry with his ineptitude on international trade, immigration, and denying climate change.

One of those appointees, the long haul truck driver, will be at the USDA Foreign Agriculture service to assist the agency’s all important task of “developing overseas markets for U.S. Agricultural trade goods.” He was hired on at one of the highest levels on the federal government’s pay scale and besides citing his “campaign field representative” credentials on his résumé, he boasted his experience at “hauling agricultural commodities” with a truck; something that should impress overseas markets to no end.

The cabana attendant earned a job with the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service that aids “producers of food, fiber and specialty crop growers market their goods.” Politico noted that the “attendant’s only example of work experience prior to joining Trump’s campaign was a short stint as a country club cabana attendant in New York while he was in school earning a degree in history from the University of Scranton in 2016.

One might think that foreknowledge of an industry struggling would prompt Trump to appoint experts in the field, but this is Trump. His incompetence informs why he is appointing inexperienced “loyalists” whose jobs it is to aid farmers that Trump has already caused more grief than they deserve; even though they almost certainly helped put him in the White House. Those farmers are just as responsible for their own woes.

After damaging the industry with his anti-immigration policies that have left farmers crying over their rotting crops due to difficulty finding experienced field workers, Trump exited a trade agreement that favored American farmers. His threats to leave another trade agreement sent America’s agricultural trading partners to seek more amenable trade agreements has already cost the agriculture sector dearly. And his denial that farmers suffering drought conditions are being affected by global climate change portends more long-term damage to farmers.

Now the federal agency tasked with aiding farmers is staffed with people with no experience in agriculture or international trade. It is beginning to appear that Trump is purposely doing everything in his power to decimate the agriculture sector in the same manner he is harming the rest of the federal government; appointing inexperienced people to important federal government positions because they worked on his campaign.

 

 

 

Trump Taps Science Skeptic to Oversee Scientific Integrity at USDA

Most human beings in a technologically advanced nation would expect the people in charge of specific agencies to have an extraordinarily high level of expertise related to the job they hold.  No-one in their right mind would expect an expert grave digger to be chosen to lead the Centers for Disease Control, or an avowed pacifist picked to run the Department of Defense, but these are strange times in America and “right minded” does not apply to anyone running the government.

In keeping with his practice of appointing people with no expertise whatsoever in the departments and agencies they intend to lead, Trump picked an avowed science skeptic, Sam Clovis, for the number two position at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). According to the 2008 farm bill, the USDA undersecretary serves as the agency’s “chief scientist” and it specifies that any appointee to the post should be chosen “from among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.” That 2008 farm bill also makes special note that the undersecretary is “responsible for the coordination of the scientific research, education, and extension activities of the Department.”

In past administrations, going back long before the 2008 farm bill’s specifications, the undersecretary post has been occupied by a “string of individuals with advanced degrees in science or medicine.” Obviously, Trump choosing a science skeptic to oversee and coordinate scientific research is his idea of what it takes to “make America great.”

Naturally, Trump taps a science skeptic who was an ultra right-wing teabagger talk show host and worked as an “advisor to Trump on all things Russia during the presidential campaign.” Sam Clovis, the science-skeptic is the Trump advisor who brought Carter Page into the Trump campaign after a typical Trump-approved vetting; a quick Google search. Page is just one of Trump’s cohorts under investigation by the FBI. But that’s another story unrelated to Clovis’ gross lack of qualifications to pick fruit, much less be undersecretary and “chief scientist” at the USDA responsible for ensuring there is “scientific integrity” at the agency.

The former USDA undersecretary, Catherine Woteki, an acclaimed nutrition scientist explained why the 2008 farm bill required a “distinguished scientist with specialized training” to fill the USDA undersecretary position. Ms. Woteki said:

There’s a huge amount of science that goes into the setting up of the programs, implementation of various policies, and the chief scientist role is to coordinate those policies across the entire department and to represent agricultural science in the decision making that goes on with other departments and is coordinated with the White House science office.”

Clovis should fit right in with Trump’s administration and especially with the Agriculture Department Secretary, Sonny Perdue, who labeled mainstream climate science “so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality.” Not far from Perdue’s appraisal of climate science, Clovis just doesn’t accept climate science as “a thing” and considers himself to be “extremely skeptical.”

Clovis’ qualifications to be the USDA’s chief scientist and ensure scientific integrity at the agency is serving 25 years in the Air Force, teaching college economics for ten years, and running a right-wing talk show. He has “no background in any hard science or in agriculture” and has not “published any work in peer-reviewed scientific or agricultural journals.” But he did work for Trump’s campaign advising him on all things Russia, including the aforementioned recruiting Carter Page.

It is easy to imagine what Clovis will bring to the position when, not if, he is confirmed by the anti-science Republican Senate, but an informed voice, Jessica Huseman at ProPublica, provided a fair estimation of what Clovis will do as “chief scientist” at the USDA.

Ms. Huseman reported that last October when Clovis represented the Trump campaign at the Farm Foundation Forum he told E&E News that the Trump administration is not interested in the impact of climate change on American agriculture. Instead, they will be focusing all their energies on eliminating regulations and boosting trade. As an aside, the American agriculture industry is already suffering trade losses due to the Trump administration’s so-called trade expertise and no amount of deregulation will convince our foreign trading partners to engage with America again; especially with agricultural products.

Trump is bound and determined to put the least qualified human beings in charge of the most important federal agencies whether it was an anti-public school evangelical to run the Department of Education or an anti-environmental protection champion to run the Environmental Protection Agency or an anti-civil rights advocate to run the Department of Justice. Trump seeks out the least qualified people in America to lead important departments and it is just another sign that he has no kind of business acumen. No accomplished and successful business man would ever hire unqualified people to perform even menial tasks, much less to lead a department.

More than incompetence, Trump’s choice of Clovis, like Perdue, is another signal that this administration is Hell bent on attacking science reminiscent of the Dark Age Catholic Church. With Trump in the White House and Republicans controlling all three branches of government, these are the dark ages for America, and dark times for science and research.