DSM Water Works Lawsuit

Get your popcorn handy! And prepare for the epic battle between town mouse and country mouse! The water quality problem in Iowa has finally come to a breaking point in the form of a lawsuit to be filed between the Des Moines Water Works and Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista counties in northwest Iowa.

My top things to look for:

1. Farm interests and political allies suddenly disclaim science.

Take this article for example where an ag law specialist from Iowa State University claims the science isn’t settled on how much nitrates can be attributed to farmers. I hope that is just bad editing. That’s a question of accountability not whether the science is sound. How nitrates wash into our groundwater is not a mystery, and data does not trump knowledge. Yes, the nitrates don’t float downstream wearing a nametag, but one can easily measure how much nitrates can be attributed to one tile drainage pipe. By starting to  measure with counties at the top of the Racoon River watershed, that should help to counter the argument that farmers cannot be held accountable for nitrates coming from upstream. These three counties are where the problem starts.

2. “Voluntary reduction efforts need more time to work.”

Everything needs more time to work. Regulatory efforts in the Chesapeake Bay don’t seem to have helped much either, so this claim is a mixed bag. And it betrays the very real urgency that municipalities confront week to week. Voluntary efforts could work – if they were funded at the scale needed to match the problem. And they are not. Last legislative session was probably the closest it was ever going to get with support from the legislature for REAP and a Secretary of Ag that farmers like and trust and our governor dropped the ball pulled the ball on us ala Lucy & Charlie Brown. The only option left is through the courts. And you have to start somewhere because you should have started 10 years ago.

3. Cerebral quotes from Bill Stowe that thinly veil his rage.

He’s a very smart, disciplined guy but every now and then… This time next year he’ll be regarded as the Lorax crossed with Orson Welles.

4. Mother Nature? Never met her…

How could you dare call that drainage pipe a point-source of pollution? They’re only natural! Bears put them there in the Ice Age. They were very territorial so we kept them in place. You can try to regulate them but you’ll have to answer to the bears.

That’s the whole argument so far. Ok, maybe it’s more complicated than that (plus you have to throw in something about “the Iowa way”), but why deny the obvious – that we have altered our natural terrain drastically to make a living farming. And we do not do nearly enough to restore any semblance of balance and everybody pays for that. For the political allies of farmers conservation doesn’t seem to be something they value unless it is for preserving hunting ground. When was the last time you saw a Republican politician enjoying the outdoors hiking and trail riding in a state park? Nope, they are always hunting in some donor’s private grounds.

Yes Iowa would be a lot better if people in urban areas could connect with rural areas through recreation on public ground, but that requires clean safe water. And we’re back full circle.

Wanted: Democrats for Elected Office

Candidate for US Senate, 2020

  • Must be able to raise $15-20 million, in $2600 increments. Enough to counter out not only your opponent’s ads, but your opponent’s outside interest group ads, and possibly your own outside interest group ads since they rarely stay on message.
  • Must be able to not say anything stupid, elitist or offensive, ever.
  • Must be able to express complex policy decisions through inspirational-poster type sound bites.
  • Must be willing to have random billionaires spend millions of dollars calling you names just because they can.
  • Must be able to make Senator Ernst’s extremist views overshadow her chirpy folksiness, and do so without seeming sexist, elitist, or “too negative.”
  • Credible connections to voters in rural areas strongly preferred.
  • Military experience preferred.
  • Must be able to do all this on no sleep, while remaining positive, likable, and preferrably inspirational.

Candidate for US Senate, 2016

  • See above, but replace “Senator Ernst” with “Senator Grassley/Bill Northey/David Young/Steve King/Bill Dix/Kim Reynolds/TBA”

Candidate for Iowa Governor, 2018

  • With no Presidential or US Senate campaign to share the ballot, this candidate will be personally responsible for the entire Iowa Democratic Party’s electoral prospects . . . in a midterm election.
  • Candidate must have or be able to establish immediate statewide name recognition and credibility.
  • Candidate must be able to raise $10-12 million, preferrably closer to $15 million depending on primary.
  • Candidate must not only understand complex issues such as commercial property tax reform, economic development incentives, and quantitative education benchmarks, but also be able to explain them through inspirational-poster type sound bites.
  • Candidate must have full campaign apparatus up and running by September 2017 in order to maintain earned media and public attention in the likely prescence of a contentious airwave and headline-devouring Republican primary.
  • Candidate must be able to convince voters, particularly urban/infrequent voters, that meager job growth is no excuse for cuts to basic services and an administration full of vindicative cronies, and that these are issues they should be fired up about.
  • Yet candidate must also be able to define themselves on their own merits. “At least I’m not Branstad” candidates need not apply.
  • Candidate must realize they are running for Governor of Iowa and not Governor of Polk County.

Candidate for 3rd CD, 2016

  • In addition to an expensive general election against a well-connected incumbent, the possibility for an expensive primary involving multiple Polk County candidates means this candidate must be able to raise at least $5 million, in $2600 increments, without relying on the usual high dollar Democratic donors from central Iowa.

Candidate for 1st CD, 2016

  • Must  be capable of raising $3-5 million, depending on primary.
  • High name recognition in the Cedar Rapids area strongly preferred.

Candidate for Iowa Secretary of State, 2018

  • Must be able to raise $400,000 -$500,000.
  • Must be able to not only convince voters that voter ID is the least effective and most expensive way to protect votes, but also offer an effective yet flashy and simple alternative.

Candidate for Attorney General, 2018

  • Available only if 70-year old incumbent retires.
  • Given the high likelihood of an expensive and bitter primary and an expensive and bitter general election, candidate should have or be able to create instant statewide name recognition, and raise in excess of $1 million.

Thoughts on Minimum Wage

The other day over at The Iowa Republican, Kevin Hall (whose stuff is normally unreadable, but this article isn’t so bad) writes up coverage of a 1st Congressional District Forum. He includes discussion of the proposed minimum wage increase:

All the Democrats advocated for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Republican Gail Boliver said it should be phased in, eventually increasing to $10.10. Walt Rogers was the only one onstage opposing an increase in the minimum wage, citing a small business owner who is a friend.

“If minimum wage goes up to $10.10, my business is done. My business is done because I’ll be priced out of the market,” Rogers recalled his friend saying. “So, what does that do for the economy? What does that do for jobs? It doesn’t help it.”

Leaving aside the fact that Rogers doesn’t say what kind of business this friend is running, or exactly how many employees it has, there is a valid point in hiding behind the shield of small businesses.

Arguments for a minimum wage increase are driven primarily by the fact that with inflation, the average worker has been making steadily less and less money for some time. Meanwhile, corporate profits are hitting record highs. Obviously, workers are getting screwed.

But not all businesses are making out like bandits here. Small businesses are being squeezed by the same rising costs that have wiped out much of the middle class – for a long time, small businesses were the middle class. Many small businesses, especially those in rural areas, also suffer from a decline in demand due partly to an aging population and partly to workers not having money to spend. See the vicious circle that happens when the 1% starts hoarding everything?

So we need a way to make the transition as painless as possible. Without actual numbers I can’t offer anything concrete, but off the top of my head some sort of targeted payroll tax holiday sounds best. Note I said payroll tax holiday – personal or corporate income tax cuts or holidays have little effect on the marginal cost of labor and would obviously only make our problems worse.

In the long term, we have to ask how viable a business is when the only way it can survive now is to pay its employees less than a livable wage. Sooner or later, inflation should require employers paying out $10/hr, at which point this employer will be going under anyway. So this particular business hardly has the government to blame for its unprofitability, though if the market forced him/her under there’s a good chance they would still blame “taxes.”

A more robust economic development effort, partnered with local chambers of commerce to identify and assist  “brink” businesses, could be part of the answer. But that of course costs money too.

Ain’t No Business Like Show Business

Matt Schultz could be our next Congressional Representative, and that should be the scariest thing you read today.

In case you were too busy being shocked by responses to Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl ad, Iowa Secretary of State and Congressional candidate Matt Schultz appeared before the Iowa Senate’s State Government Committee to defend/explain/scapegoat his office’s role in a recent bruhaha about voters mistakenly barred from voting.

That’s the problem! Who uses filing cabinets anymore? Your job is to keep databases updated and coordinated in real time. Databases! You know, on computers? It’s not like he doesn’t know what a database is -

Oh, I see what you did there. You’ve elected a guy who doesn’t use e-mail to one of the most IT intensive positions in state government. There’s nowhere for him to fail but up.

But Schultz says clearly – clearly! – it is anyone else’s fault. Or specifically, everyone else’s.

The judiciary! If only the understaffed and underfunded judiciary (which Schultz’s Tea Party followers seem to want to abolish entirely) would get them the lists on time.

The Governor! If only the Governor bothered to restore voting rights to felons who have served their time, the way Culver and Vilsack did.We wouldn’t have to guess who was eligible and who wasn’t.

The media! If only they would just back off their crucial democratic purpose as citizen’s watchdog and stop questioning whether Schultz’s use of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to pursue a microscopic amount of registration fraud is the most effective use of limited money.

Democrats! Schultz just inherited the problem from previous Democratic Secretaries of State, who somehow had no trouble with it. It’s like Schultz was forced to run for a job he couldn’t handle.

County sheriffs! If only they would take the time to double-check ballots of potential felons. Surely they have nothing better to do. Heck let’s get those prison guards involved too. All they do is stand around, watching. Waiting. They can sort paperwork up in that tower.

County auditors! Actually no wait it seems they are pretty much blameless here.

But Schultz has a plan. An innovative and surefire way to fix the problem quickly . . .

Yes, a task force! It cannot fail!

Translation: He’s not going to have the job much longer, and he doesn’t care if it gets fixed or how. Did he mention everyone else is to blame? Vote Schultz.

But to be honest, I’ve heard worse stump speeches.

Secret Secret I’ve Got a Secret

Politics is a funny thing. Quite often, candidates lose their first election and come back to win something else later. Sometimes, due to the miracles of modern science fundraising, a political career that has been left for dead is returned to life.

And sometimes, sometimes, a person who was recalled from an obscure California sewer board in 2005 ends up as the odds-on favorite to win a seat in the Iowa Legislature. Oh you mean this is the first time that’s happened?

In case you thought the Kent Sorensen fiasco was over, it isn’t. The special election to fill his Senate seat was won by then-Rep Julian Garrett, which means today there is a special election to fill that seat. Yes that is happening today. If you haven’t heard of this, its because the seat covers places you’ve never been, mainly Madison County and mostly rural parts of Warren County, plus Norwalk. Also, given the partisan makeup of the district, it is assumed whoever has the (R) after their name will be the winner. Which not coincidentally, is why you’ve never been there. Because some people there can’t remember if the right to bear arms is from the 2nd Amendment or the 2nd Commandment. Its a gray area.

I digress. In early December, Republicans nominated Stan Gustafson as their candidate. Yes, such is the state of politics in rural Iowa that the most agreeable candidate was the one who might actually be a character from Grumpy Old Men.

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 9.05.09 PM

You decide.

That’s not to discount Gustafson’s experience – he is a Vietnam veteran who has rightly pointed out his volunteer work with many different veterans organizations. What he didn’t point out, however, until the Des Moines Register dug it up last week, is that he previously served as president of the Los Osos Community Service District (LOCSD) in California’s San Luis Obispo County. And by previously I mean less than a decade ago.

His reluctance to bring that up is understandable given that he was voted out in a recall election midway through his second term. Why is this relevant, you may ask. Well, the sewer issue that spawned his recall is actually still going on. In fact, the “Los Osos Sewer Controversy” has its own section on Wikipedia. Voters were so angry with the construction project Gustafson approved that they cancelled it via referendum in the same election where he was recalled. Buuuut the state of California has since ordered a similar (and far more expensive) project to move ahead anyway. Nine years later, this project is actually now so big it has its own website. Yes. The plan to build a sewer for an unincorporated community of just 14,000 people has its own website and Twitter feed. The sewer controversy has become sentient. Pardon my language (and the pun) but that is some crazy shit.

Frankly, “left California before the sewer monster ate the whole town” is a display of more common sense than most political candidates have, so give Gustafson credit there. But since this election is ultimately caused by Kent Sorensen’s trail of sleazery, it would have been nice to be up front about everything from the get-go.

Thursday is the new Black Friday

If you haven’t heard the kerfuffle over stores beginning their Black Fridays in the middle of Thursday (aka Thanksgiving) this year, then:

a) Please tell me which rock you hide under, so I may join you.

b) How are you reading this?

In central Iowa, the charge is led by Jordan Creek Mall, where a long list of stores are opening at 8pm on Thanksgiving Day, and staying open more than 24 hours straight, up to Friday night.



Nothing good happens at Abercrombie & Fitch during daylight hours. Can you imagine what will happen there at 3am? Actually, don’t, I’m pretty sure you can go to jail just for answering that question.

This shines a spotlight on the three states were “Blue Laws” prohibit certain stores from opening on Thanksgiving and Christmas. “Blue Laws,” common in New England, are the ancestor of no-alcohol-sales-on-Sundays laws in places such as Minnesota. Originally put in place to protect the Sabbath, over time the laws have become less “this is God’s day off” and more “this is our goddamn day off.”

In Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, certain stores are banned from opening on certain holidays, under certain conditions.

Read that sentence again. That sentence is a perfect example of what happens when a reasonable complaint from reasonable citizens (Why do people have to work 24 hour shifts at the mall on Thanksgiving!) is handed off to politicians and becomes public policy.

In Maine, for example, the stores exempted from the law include: “movie theaters, restaurants, pharmacies, bowling alleys and gas station convenience stores, retail stores with fewer than five employees and less than 5,000 square feet, and establishments primarily selling boats, boating equipment, sporting equipment, souvenirs and novelties.” So you can’t go to the supermarket to buy a turkey on Thanksgiving, but you can darn sure buy a new fishing boat and go catch yourself some Thanksgiving cod. Just like Grandma used to do.

But the main reason for “brick-and-mortar” stores – what anyone born before 1995 just calls “a store” – to be open is that the Internet is open 24 hours a day. Is it fair that we expect Amazon.com to be 0pen on Thanksgiving Day, but expect Best Buy (or God forbid a local business) not to be? The economy runs on competition, and if there is money to be had on Turkey Day, then businesses will fight each other for it – just like the thousands of crazies trampling each other to get into those businesses at whatever time Black Friday starts.

The Real Dirt on Ethanol

Flashback 1948: Harry Truman stops in Iowa to campaign at the National Plowing Contest in Dexter to a crowd of 100,000 at the beginnings of the soil conservation movement. In 1939 Iowa’s Governor successfully passed model legislation drafted by FDR’s administration to adopt state soil conservation districts. By 1952 all counties had a soil and water conservation district.

Fast Forward to today where this banner greats you on our current Governor’s unofficial campaign site:


Because politics is just a game now. Problems schmoblems.

The Associated Press conducted a five month investigation on how the increased federal mandates for blending ethanol are harming the environment. They made a pretty clear case that corn-based ethanol isn’t a green fuel, which isn’t really news. Academics knew this prior to 2005 and tried to sound the alarm , but the rebuttal was that in time we would transition to cellulosic based ethanol from perennial crops and to newer, cleaner fuels beyond ethanol like biobutanol. The Department of Energy mapped out a vision for land use change in 2005 called the Billion Ton Report where the U.S. would replace 30% of petroleum use with biofuels largely from perennial bioenergy crops. Then the economy tanked.

How realistic was that whole idea? Time will tell, but so far not very. And why was the AP talking to farmers in south central Iowa when most of the CRP ground being plowed is in the Dakotas? That’s what I’d like to know. Local/state reporters could have done a series on this issue in Iowa and presented it just as well. Maybe less conspiracy-ish too!

However, the story didn’t distinguish whether the volume of nitrates flowing through our watersheds has increased or whether the concentration of nitrates has increased. It’s just nitrate “levels”. We’ve made our high nitrate volumes worse but also had serious drought and heat the past three summers, which makes the nitrates more concentrated with less water flow. And not mentioning the effects of drought leaves climate change out of the picture when it’s obviously already here.

But back to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS)! Of course, this is bad news for Iowa farmers because for the first time in a long time they were actually making money. Land prices are rising which means they can upgrade their machinery. But the big goal with the RFS was to lead us into an advanced biofuel economy at least partly based on perennial crops. Scaling up corn-based ethanol is not sustainable. And we’re gambling with our food supply.

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but crop production is becoming more volatile which means food prices are more volatile. (remember this??? Drought in Russia -> wheat crop fails -> riots in the Middle East) Due to the drought of 2012 the US frozen corn storage stocks hit their annual low a full  month earlier than normal. We can’t have multiple seasons of that. Fortunately the decades of research and investment that went into making drought tolerant corn have worked. Not only are drought tolerant lines now available (and for what it’s worth of the three companies with those lines only Monsanto’s is transgenic if that’s your thing) but most commercial hybrids are screened for drought tolerance.

Corn: Cold Storage Stocks by Month and Year, US

Dropping the RFS standard by 1.4 billion gallons amounts to cutting back on 3.5% of our corn acreage in the U.S. (or 4.5% based on 2012′s bad yields). That’s enough to skew corn futures but it’s not a long term crisis. And dare I say, it’s the right thing to do because the AP had a point. It’s not Big Oil. It’s big soil.

Hiding in the Soup – Property Tax Reform

Making legislation is famously compared to making sausage, but in practice it more resembles hobo stew – everyone throws in whatever they’ve got until it looks somewhat edible. And when it comes to legislative soup-making, nobody’s better at the old “stone soup” con than Terry Branstad.

So we get Senate File 295. Everyone “knows” this commercial property tax reform is a huge benefit to out-of-state corporations, which legislators signed on to with the sort of glee that only runaway bipartisanship can create.

In fact, our commercial property tax soup is almost as much a residential property tax reform, and certainly more of a high-rise apartments tax cut windfall.

When you say all that really fast, it sounds a lot like this.

Here are the major parts of Senate File 295:

1) Commercial property will be taxed at 90% of its value. Not a huge cut, actually, but nothing to sneeze at. For years, commercial & industrial property has been taxed at 100% of its value, while residential has been taxed roughly between 50-60%. Fully implemented, it adds up to about $150 million/year, and the Legislature has promised so hard to use money from the state general fund to reimburse local governments for this lost revenue.

2) Taxable value for residential and agricultural can now grow at only 3% per year rather than 4%. You may have heard that the actual value of your home can go up or down quite dramatically, but your taxes can only increase by a steady amount. More about this in our previous post. This is not a direct or immediate tax cut, it just means that the already scheduled tax increase will be less than it would have been. You probably won’t notice, because your taxes will still go up, but compounded over say the next ten years, it is in fact quite a significant savings. The Legislature won’t reimburse local governments for this.

3) A new “multi-residential” class of property. This isn’t just apartments, but anywhere people pay rent to live. Mobile home parks, yes, but most importantly all senior housing such as “retirement communities,” assisted living facilities, etc, which as you can imagine are a growing share of housing in Iowa. Over the next decade, these properties will see their taxes gradually lowered from the current 100% commerical level to the residential level, which at that point will be 63.75%. That is a 36% cut, by far the largest single cut, percentage-wise, in the whole bill. Volume-wise, it works out to about $50 million statewide, and the Legislature will not reimburse local governments for this. Apartment heavy areas such as Iowa City are especially in trouble.

What does it mean for Des Moines?

Well, the best way to grow the property tax base is to grow the city. Surrounded by suburbs as Des Moines is, this means growing up rather than out. A 36% cut in apartment taxes means apartments have to grow way up. You need about 50% more building to get the same amount of revenue – what would have been a 6 story building now has to be 9 stories. Its time to start a conversation about what could be a transformational moment. Should we encourage that sort of growth? Are we ready for it if it happens? Are we ready to be a real city and not just a collection of suburbs?

Top 10 Reasons Senator Charles Grassley Should Retire


You may have missed US Senator Charles Grassley declaring he plans to run for re-election in 2016. Yes, he’s still in office, could be for another 9 years, and you should pay attention to what he says! I guess. So here is our Top 10 Reasons Grassley should not be re-elected:


10. Grassley has been in elected office since 1959, counting back to his time in the Iowa Legislature. That means he has been, in his own words, “living off the public tit” longer than most of the events in John Fogerty’s song “I Saw It On TV.” And for that matter plenty of the events in Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” His political career has been longer – but probably no more accomplished – than Forest Whitaker in that movie “The Butler.”

10(b). He admitted his time in Congress has been “living off the public tit.” I realize you might count that as a repeat, but I felt it was important enough to mention twice.

9. Sur Tax-a-lot.

8. He voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

7. His most recent rating from the Disabled American Veterans was 0%. In fact, his ratings on veterans issues have been mediocre at best for quite a while now, at least partly because as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, he consistently refused to increase spending on veteran’s health carewhile TWO wars were going on. Seriously how do you vote against veterans? More importantly, how do you vote for war and then vote against providing adequate health care to the veterans who were wounded in the wars you just voted for? His only positive ratings on veterans come from the American Legion, mostly because he is in favor of a Constitutional Amendment to ban flag burning. Senator Grassley does know the flag doesn’t actually do the fighting, right?

6. Voted against the Manchin-Toomey background checks amendment. But don’t worry, he’s a “moderate” on guns! His lifetime rating with the firearms promotion group that calls itself the NRA is only 92%!

5. In fact, the only organizations that consistently give Grassley 100% ratings are National Right to Life and various “national security” groups. There’s your campaign slogan: Pro-birth and pro-blowing things up!

4. Other than that, he seems to have a difficult time remembering what he is in favor of and what he isn’t. He voted in favor of end-of-life counseling as recently as 2003, but of course now called it pulling “the plug on Grandma.” He voted in favor of mandatory health insurance coverage in 1993 but of course now its unconstitutional. I could go on. So I will.

3. He co-sponsored the DREAM Act in 2001 but of course in 2011 voted to uphold the “filibuster” of it on the Senate floor. He pulls a full Grassley in his reasoning, here, by combining Tea Party talking points with just enough reasonable objections to the implementation of the bill to give the appearance that he is still thinking for himself.

3b) If you’ve noticed a recurring theme, its because something seems to have happened in Charles Grassley’s mind sometime around 2010, as if he was possessed by some sort of Tea Party body snatcher. The old Grassley still peeks out every now and then to try and reassure you that everything is the way it used to be. Which is even creepier.


Why is he smiling like that? Dear God why?!?

2. He voted against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act. Your guess is as good as mine why the hell anyone would do that. Oh wait, he does have an excuse. It is because he objected to a minor provision which even other Republicans say he didn’t understand anyway.

1. He voted against the Continuing Appropriations Act for 2014. Which means he voted in favor of continuing the shutdown and sending our country into default. His excuse:

America needs the President to roll up his sleeves and work with members of Congress to address the long-term fiscal problems of our country.  Our grandkids depend on it.

Look buddy, if you are so concerned about your grandkids and their fellow Millenials, then stand your ass aside and let one of them run for your seat. Because they are old enough. Three whole generations of people are old enough to take your place. “Our grandkids depend on it” is a reason to do something, not an excuse for obstructing everything. Its a reason to tell Ted Cruz to go to hell or Texas, whichever comes first, not to follow him around like a puppy.

Farm Bill

Chickens on a farm

Now that Congress is back in session discussions around the Farm Bill that failed to pass last year are making the rounds again. And the rhetoric is a bit concerning. The main topic: the House GOP’s plans to dramatically axe money for SNAP, aka food stamps.

“While some GOP lawmakers embrace corporate welfare through tax benefits and subsidies, they think government benefits for low-income people are too generous.”

-Des Moines Register editorial 9/17/13

Last fall the House tried, and failed, to decouple the farming part of the farm bill from the food and nutrition part of the bill by passing two separate bills. The goal was to give support to farmers going bankrupt in a terrible drought and try to screw poor people in a separate fight.

Of course cutting SNAP benefits is an awful, awful immoral idea with terrible timing. But the proposal to de-couple the Farm Bill shows a division not just on partisan lines but urban vs. rural. And that’s where the rhetoric starts to bother me.

It used to be that farm policy would be the domain of the rural, conservative congress members, and they would use parts of the farm bill as bargaining chips with urban legislators that care less about farm policy. So if the rural congress members have gone crazy – who’s left to draft real farm policy?

Framing the farm bill as just a bunch of corporate welfare is insulting to America’s farmers. It lumps vertical integration in agribusiness with a corrupt subsidy system into the same language. Most family farms are corporations (either an LLC or S-Corp) no matter what size they are or what they sell. To lump farmers with real needs in with a system full of fraud under the same umbrella of anti-corporate sentiment is a bad idea.

And farm subsidies are not some corporate conspiracy! They started under Henry Wallace’s time as Ag Secretary in World War II to encourage farmers to over-produce grain. There was never a system in place to phase them out and it should have been updated a long time ago. But it turns out filling barges full of grain is a really powerful thing to have going for you, and an effective way to promote peace and stability around the world.

You know what else the Tea Party is doing to the Farm Bill? Cutting the cap on CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) acres by nearly 20% because it’s too expensive. They’re also revisiting rules on how to inspect catfishwhy are you not paying attention??!

Ok, so it’s not a sexy topic, but I would feel better knowing that people read Wallace’s Farmer as much as Mark Bittman. (Or that people read at all, really.) That the urban mayors with rising national political profiles gave two cents about what a hard time beginning farmers are having. And I’m not convinced that they do. And if you de-couple the farm bill on urban and rural interests, I’m afraid no one will.