5/14/2008 – Editorials


By Richard Peterson

 

Contrary to what you read on the front page of last week’s Farmers Press, Benson County does not have a ban on burning in effect. I was given bad information on this issue and compounded the error by assuming the governor had ordered the ban. Consequently I put together a completely erroneous news item.

I figured to confirm the accuracy of the news item later. Every weekday we’ve been receiving an updated burn ban map by e-mail from the ND Department of Emergency Services and I figured we’d get a new map last Monday confirming the ban. Wouldn’t you know it that Monday was the only day in the past couple weeks we didn’t receive the map?

In the normal confusion of our most hectic day (Monday) I completely forgot about the article, the burn ban map and confirming the accuracy of the article.

I apologize. But that apology is tempered with the knowledge that maybe someone didn’t burn after reading the article. It is pretty dry and it certainly doesn’t hurt not to burn.

I found out at the commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday that the county emergency manager makes recommendations to the commissioners, who are the final local authority on instituting a burning ban in a county.

The governor can also issue a burn ban for any portion or all of the state.

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Congress finally tacked together a bipartisan farm bill and it will be sent to President Bush, who continues to threaten a veto.

I said in this column several weeks ago that Congress should quit trying to pander to Bush and just pass a farm bill that’s good for farmers and the nation. It appears that’s what Congress has done.

If the president continues his record of incredibly poor judgment, he will veto the bill. Congress should override the veto, but that will be difficult because too many Republicans in Congress are nothing more than rubber stamps for President Bush.

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There are some bad provisions to the farm bill. Too many large farmers are getting too much out of the bill, but it was necessary to include these provisions in order to get southern politicians to support it.

According to Sen. Kent Conrad, 67 percent of the funds in the farm bill go to nutrition programs. Fourteen percent goes to farmers and nine percent goes to conservation programs. The other 10 percent apparently goes to other programs such as Rural Development.

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This letter to the editor by Doug Peterson appeared in the Sunday, May 11 issue of the Grand Forks Herald. Peterson is president of the Minnesota Farmers Union and he provides some information that everyone should consider:

In a world of finger-pointing, farmers have had to shoulder the blame for the increased costs of food — when in reality, the facts point to other influences that contribute to the rising costs.

* The biofuels industry is reducing gas prices by 15 percent per gallon today. So, if the cost of gas is currently $3.39 per gallon, it would be up to $3.89 today without the use of biofuels.

* The average food item travels more than 1,500 miles before reaching the final consumer.

* Gasoline prices have increased 198 percent per gallon; diesel has increased almost 250 percent per gallon and crude oil has increased

453 percent over the past seven years.

* The US has spent more than $130 billion subsidizing the oil industry over the past 32 years, which averages out to almost $4.1 billion per year — and this does not account for the billions spent to protect our military interests in the Middle East.

* On average, farmers get only 20 cents of every dollar that consumers spend on food. The off-farm costs of marketing, processing, wholesaling, distribution and retailing account for 80 cents of every food dollar spent in the US.

* A $1 increase in corn results in a 0.3 percent increase in the consumer price index for food, whereas a $1 increase in gasoline results in a 0.6 percent increase for food.

* Increased production of corn-based biofuels is estimated to account for only 3 percent of the 43 percent increase in global food prices.

* Exxon Mobil reported its 2007 profits were the highest ever recorded. The company earned more than $1,287 of profit for every second of 2007 for a total of $40.6 billion.

* And oil costs more than $120 a barrel.

President Bush himself said that while ethanol has contributed to food costs, it was not the main reason for those costs.

Higher food prices have multiple causes that must be looked into.

These include rising energy prices, reduced global production, a weakened US dollar, international trade policy, distorted commodity markets driven by speculators and increased worldwide food demand.

The reality is that rising food prices impact all Americans and a solution needs to be found.


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