An Executive Order issued by President Trump today begins the process of dismantling the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan is the first regulation in the U.S. to limit carbon emissions from existing power plants, but the rule has been stalled in the courts since February 2016. The Executive Order also revokes a requirement to factor climate change into environmental reviews, rescinds the Department of the Interior’s moratorium on new coal mining leases on federal lands, and tosses out the social cost of carbon in evaluating regulations. This is a disastrous setback for addressing climate change and for rural communities across the country that stand to benefit from the rapidly developing clean energy economy.
Climate change is already disproportionately impacting rural communities, which are often economically dependent on agriculture, forestry, fisheries, or other natural resource-based industries. These industries are dependent on the weather, and will become increasingly volatile and risky as climate change worsens. Furthermore, rural communities have higher average poverty rates—18.1 percent compared to the urban poverty rate of 15.1 percent. Lower average incomes in rural areas mean that residents spend a larger percentage of their income on energy costs, which will be exacerbated as climate change leads to more extreme temperatures throughout the year. At the same time, much of the production in the new climate friendly economy will occur in rural areas through renewable energy deployment, reinvigorated local food economies, and other food and fuel production. Rural communities will play an integral role in responding to climate change, and stand to benefit from a climate policy that includes their concerns.
The assessments of the new healthcare proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from House Republicans and the Trump Administration are rolling in. And they are not good, particularly for farmers and rural Americans. After a firestorm of criticism, Republican lawmakers have made some minor revisions to the initial proposal, but none address the plans’ core weaknesses. The bill is slated to be voted on by the House of Representatives on Thursday.
Health care has long been a major challenge for farm families, with many spouses forced to get off-farm jobs largely to gain access to health care. In an article on the Daily Yonder, Missouri farmer Darvin Bentlage described a common situation for farm families after he suffered a series of health problems without health insurance. “I had to go back and refinance the farm,” he said. “By the time the two years was up, I had run up between $70,000 and $100,000 in hospital bills.”
President Trump’s proposed budget, released last week, includes massive cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a series of other programs important to rural communities. The budget sets benchmarks for major cuts across the board, while increasing defense spending and allocating $1.5 billion to start work on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. It is ultimately Congress’ responsibility to write and appropriate money for the nation’s budget, but President Trump’s budget proposal reflects a troubling development of not prioritizing or even understanding farmers and rural communities.
The proposed cuts to the USDA concern discretionary spending and are among the highest of any agency – a 21 percent proposed cut ($4.7 billion). The proposed cuts do not impact mandatory spending programs like farm commodity programs or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); details on mandatory programs will come in May. But the budget does hit programs with discretionary funding like rural development, research and international food aid. The agency heads will have some discretion to determine how the cuts will take place, but because Trump has been so slow to select a USDA Secretary (the last of his cabinet picks), and to get the required information to the Senate Agriculture Committee needed for confirmation hearings to proceed, there was no voice representing farmers or rural communities, many of whom supported Trump, in the writing of his budget.
As representatives from the Pacific Rim gathered in Vina Del Mar, Chile, this week, the United States was on the sidelines. The death of the US-driven Trans-Pacific Partnership should be a wakeup call that we are paying attention to globalization and demanding a trade regime that works for all people, not just multi-national corporations. Over two hundred of our organizations in 15 countries sent a letter to the negotiators in Chile, telling them that a way forward on trade must reject the principles on which TPP was based. Countries should look to Fair Trade for guidance, and even further to their own domestic policies, for a sustainable way to build the global economy.
The stakes could not be higher. The backlash to corporate led globalization has been sharply felt around the world as Nationalist leaders from Donald Trump to Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, and Narendra Modi in India have risen to power, while others in the EU and around the world are gaining prominence. In this era of growing nationalism, it is time for government trade officials to get back to basics. Instead of first asking how trade agreements can increase trade volumes, lower non-tariff barriers, or harmonize regulations, they should start with the question, “Will a trade agreement improve the quality of life for the people in my country?”
A few years ago, IATP published four reports on the Global Meat Complex: The China Series. Today, we are pleased to launch the Chinese translation of these reports to contribute to the ongoing debate within China about meat consumption. These reports illustrate China’s path to becoming one of the biggest producers of pork, poultry and dairy and the biggest importer of soy, which is critical for the mass production of food animals. These reports provide an overview of China’s production and trade of meat and feed grains and what these trends mean for China’s food security, its environmental quality and its agriculture. They address the emergence of transnational corporations and how this has dramatically changed the fundamental nature of meat production and trade. The series highlights the consequences of these changes on China’s environment and rural makeup as well as impacts on other parts of the world.
In introducing the series, we write:
Aside from operating in the U.S., the global meat industry is increasingly interlinked with emerging economies. China and Brazil are now not only big agricultural producers and consumers but they have spawned a new set of agribusinesses that is shaping the global meat complex.
Last week we highlighted the contradictions in the Trump administration’s stance on trade in our blog on Robert Lighthizer. The contradictions have only increased this week with the announcement that Andrew Quinn will be joining the National Economic Council. Quinn is a former Deputy US Trade Representative, and was a lead negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) since 2012. Trump bashed the TPP throughout the campaign and withdrew from the trade deal in his first week.
Quinn is a career civil servant, having worked primarily in Southeast Asia, and was also instrumental in the passage and implementation of the Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). How this appointment will gel with other members of the President’s administration, such as open China and free trade critic, Peter Navarro, remains to be seen, but the lack of a coherent trade ideology within the administration only makes the future more unpredictable for anyone looking for answers on trade, including the base who voted Trump in. Re-negotiating NAFTA within his first hundred days appears to be the first campaign promise Trump has broken – he has yet to notify Congress to trigger the 90-day period prior to re-negotiation.
Earlier last week it was reported that President Donald Trump is about to issue the next set of executive orders, this time targeting environmental safeguards for water and climate put in place in 2015. The water rule — formally titled the Clean Water Rule, but commonly known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS)—and the Clean Power Plan are two of the most comprehensive environmental rules issued by the Obama administration. The Clean Water Rule stipulates which water bodies are automatically covered under the Clean Water Act. Similarly, the Clean Power Plan was developed under the authorization of the Clean Air Act, which requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take steps to reduce air pollution that harms the public's health. The Plan, for the very first time, provides carbon emission guidelines to existing power plants.
Trump’s trade policy is a series of contradictions wrapped in a mystery. While advancing a boldfaced pro-business agenda, promising to gut regulations and reduce public spending on healthcare and other social programs, he has also claimed to care about American workers and jobs losses caused by trade agreements like NAFTA that were specifically designed to reduce regulations. While his own businesses have included licensing deals for goods produced in developing countries known for poor labor standards, publicly he attacked U.S. companies that offshored jobs to lower costs and promised to rewrite the rules to somehow bring those vanished jobs back. He promises to negotiate better trade deals but is poisoning the political atmosphere for negotiations with xenophobic proposals such as building a wall and ordering to ban migrants. Exactly how his administration will reconcile all of those contradictions is a mystery, and there are real reasons for alarm over his lack of commitment to international human rights standards.
In theory at least, federal nanotechnology programs during the first three years of the Trump administration will be guided by the “National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan,” (NNI) released on October 31, 2016. The 26 agencies coordinated under the NNI have spent at least $25 billion since 2001 in basic and applied research, in diagnostic and testing infrastructure and in prototype manufacturing to enable start-up firms—often originating in university research—to find investors for their products. The current applications of the atomic to molecular scale nanomaterials are expanding beyond cell phones, semi-conductors and other electronic equipment to nano-encapsulation and more targeted release of medicines and agricultural chemicals, to name just two classes of applications.
In the preface to the NNI Strategic Plan, Dr. John Holdren, President Obama’s chief science advisor wrote, “During this administration, nanotechnology research and development has evolved from a focus on foundational discoveries aimed at understanding and exploiting nanoscale phenomena, to an enabling technology. Revenue from the sale of nanotechnology-enabled products in the United States has grown more than six-fold from 2009 through 2016 and is projected to exceed $500 billion in 2016.” Such sales projections are likely to bedazzle the Trump administration. Regulation of these products on the basis of validated exposure data in humans and the environment was not accomplished during the Obama administration, notwithstanding the recognition of at least one NNI workshop that such data was necessary to ensure the safety of and sustainable markets for nanotechnology enabled products.
Rural communities vary greatly in their geographies, economies, and politics, but one similarity is that they will all be impacted by climate change, and the people that live there have an important story to tell. The Rural Climate Dialogues (RCDs), co-hosted by IATP and the Jefferson Center, sought to explore how climate change is manifesting in rural communities across Minnesota. A newly-released set of 8 video interviews with RCD participants tells the stories of how climate change has impacted them and their communities.
Many of the stories convey a stark contrast between rural life as a child and present day conditions. Troy Goodnough from Morris said, “I love my state, I love Minnesota, I love being Minnesotan, and I love winter. But I’m not really sure that I’m going to get cross country skis for my son, because the winter’s not really there… The way that my son will experience Minnesota isn’t going to be the same way I experienced it as a kid.”