A new series of books for young people offers objective and balanced discussions of controversial issues.
Violation of Property Rights at Root Of DDT Disaster, Say PERC Scholars Full Text PDF By Roger E. Meiners and Andrew Morriss
By Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu Executive Summary
The revival of local food and local markets marches under the banner of the left, but its resistance to centralization also appeals to conservatives.
The impact of bee colony collapse on American agriculture
The U.S. Department of Labor proposes sweeping new regulations to limit child labor. Not all agricultural work is inherently dangerous, and sweeping generalizations will do more harm than good.
By Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Simizu
As PERC’s Rick Stroup often says, “Efficiency has no constituency,” and that’s certainly true of environmental policy. The federal government is replete with inefficiencies resulting from overlapping, redundant, and wasteful spending programs.
For more than two decades, special interests have persuaded Congress to mandate Americans buy ethanol whether they want to or not. As a result, 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop is now used for ethanol rather than food.
Widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement when published 50 years ago, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had a profound impact on our society. As an iconic work, the book has often been shielded from critical inquiry, but this landmark anniversary provides an excellent opportunity to reassess its legacy and influence. In Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson a team of national experts explores the book’s historical context, the science it was built on, and the policy consequences of its core ideas. The conclusion makes it abundantly clear that the legacy of Silent Spring is highly problematic. While the book provided some clear benefits, a number of Carson’s major arguments rested on what can only be described as deliberate ignorance. Despite her reputation as a careful writer widely praised for building her arguments on science and facts, Carson’s best-seller contained significant errors and sins of omission. Much of what was presented as certainty then was slanted, and today we know much of it is simply wrong.
After 50 years, Silent Spring is rarely re
Publishers Weekly recommends The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000 Mile Diet, co-authored by former PERC fellows Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu, as a book to watch for in 2012.
by Tate Watkins
This policy series on Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious phenomenon affecting honey bees, shows how real people resolve environmental problems.
Back in 2007, Congress created a biofuels mandate under which oil companies are required to use a minimum amount of cellulosic ethanol each year. The mandate was supposed to encourage the development of a domestic cellulosic ethanol industry. This has not happened.
Grist reports on a class-action suit that is being filed against ConAgra for allegedly deceptive marketing of its various vegetable oils.
There has been plenty of bad news ab
Bjørn Lomborg draws upon the work of Bruce Yandle of PERC to warn against climate solutions touted by emerging green activist/big business alliances:
The debate over ethanol subsidies rages again in the halls of Congress.
What effect do U.S. federal land programs have on private conservation?
The conventional view is that the premium paid for fair trade coffee results in higher wages and better living standards for coffee farmers in the developing world.
In honor of Earth Day, Reason.tv offers this video featuring Ron Bailey (a 2010 PERC Julian Simon fellow):
Arizona grassfed beef rancher and PERC Enviropreneur alum Paul Schwennesen has an essay in The Freeman today addressing Big Meat and the policies that perpetuate it:
Paul Schwennesen recently appeared on Fox Business to discuss food safety. Paul offers more comments on the issue below.We all want safe food. Question is, how do we get it? “There oughta be a law,” seems to be the generally conceived approach, as evidenced by recent passage of the now-famous food safety bill. A tidy and altogether comforting solution: simply slay the beast of dangerous food with the bludgeon of enlightened bureaucracy. But for the food advocates who support this kind of top-down solution, beware. The kind of government meddling that created cheap-at-any-cost is now about to do the same for “safe” food.But isn’t food safety a pressing concern, a public health problem we can’t afford to fool around with? The problem is, the problem isn’t. Emotional rants that “thousands die every year!” do not help us grapple with the scope or magnitude of this alleged threat. Let’s try some perspective: according to the Centers for Disease Control, the estimated number of deaths caused by food borne illness numbers around five thousand a year. Sounds pretty bad, eh? Time to call in the Salmonella SWAT team? Before you do, consider that the same number of people die by intentionally strangling themselves each year. Or that the same number of people die from Alzheimer’s in California alone each year. Or that four times that number die each year accidentally falling off of things. Moreover, 70% of food borne illnesses result from poor food handling procedures during preparation. Unless you’re also on a crusade to flatten everything or cure Alzheimer’s, I’d think twice about ceding greater authority of our food system to centralized management.True to form, Congress has blithely offered its professional problem-solving services to rid us of the menace of deadly food. And, true to form, it’s about to embark on another unarmed expedition into the tortuous territory of unintended consequences.
by P.J. Hill and Shawn Regan
by Sarah SchwennesenAs a small producer who sells beef locally, I am suspicious of the S. 510 Food Safety Modernization Act -- the government’s latest power grab to curtail economic freedom and competition in the food market. If this bill successfully becomes law, consumers will continue to see a decline in the diversity of foods that they can legally purchase because small producers will be smothered by onerous regulations and fees.Those in support of this bill declare that they seek the safest food for all Americans, while the skeptic points out that industrial food producers are feeling the squeeze by farmers markets/Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares and hope to quash this threat through regulation. Direct, local food sales were a fringe of the overall food market just a few years ago, but sales are up, some even say 105% in the past decade – double the rate of growth of overall agricultural sales. So it’s reasonable to contend that the ‘industrialists’ are feeling the squeeze.I believe that S. 510 is simply a turf battle for who gets your food dollars. While small agricultural producers competed with the industrialists through local networks and personal presence (in contrast to shiny wrapping and sterile stores), the industrialists have brought the game back to their turf in order to exploit their home field advantage of capital reserves, lobbyists, established government networks, and economies of scale that will be only slightly impacted by the new regulations of S. 510.To ameliorate these concerns, a proposed Tester-Hagan amendment would exempt small producers (defined as those that make under a certain amount of money, and that earn at least 50 percent of their revenue from direct-to-consumer sales like farmers markets or CSAs) from some of the bill's requirements.However, this amendment has come under attack by the ‘industry lobbyists’ who demand that all food should comply with the same regulations. I tend to agree with this line of thinking, though in a dissimilar manner. All food should be treated the same way; it should be unregulated. People should be free to make their food choices unimpeded by government regulations which are never a one-size-fits-all solution to perceived problems.If people desire sterile food, then they can buy from industrial operations which will devise ways of "third party accreditation for safety and quality." But if people crave ugly tomatoes with out-of-this-world taste, raw milk, eggs directly from the chicken’s nest, and meat from their local butcher, then they ought to have the right to make these purchases with their monies.Yes, I grant that food safety is important, and our nation’s food safety is second to none—but that is in spite of limiting the food choices that people have, not because of it.
by Holly Fretwell
Paul Schwennesen appeared on the Fox Business Network yesterday to discuss how food regulations harm local producers and favor large conglomerates.
In the fall edition of PERC Reports out this week, James Salzman, professor of law and environmental policy at Duke University, provides an overview of ecosys
by Reed Watson
Using a market based approach, urban areas in Colorado can buy water consumption rights from ranchers. This water banking approach is a cost-effective means to water conservation.
In drought plagued southwestern Georgia, conservation groups paid farmers to save water for streams by employing more efficient irrigation and wireless technology to measure soil moisture.
The Habitat Farming Enterprise Program may be able to restore three endangered and threatened fish species to the Columbia River where millions of dollars from government agencies and conservation groups have failed.
Kansas farmers have adopted land management practices that improve water quality for residents of Wichita and protect fish and wildlife habitat without harming agricultural production.
by Paul SchwennesenI squandered a beautiful Colorado morning in CSU's ballroom yesterday. Around 2,000 of us were there to provide first-hand testimony to Attorney General Holder and USDA Secretary Vilsack about the growing concerns over consolidation in the meat-packing industry.While most of us were wearing hats, I noticed an awful lot of them were in hands, not on heads. Appealing for help to the 'Suits on the Podium,' about a third of the audience was unashamedly suggesting that the Government come in and rescue the small family rancher.Look, I'm as concerned about the demise of a way of life as the next man. I'm as disgusted with the decrease in cattle prices as anyone else. I too wish ranchers could make the same returns as thirty years ago. I don't like that 80% of the meat-packing industry is in the hands of four conglomerates. But where I part ways with some of the crowd is in my view of the solutions to these issues.Asking government to break the back of "Big Meat" is like asking your hangman to pull the next guy's lever first.There seems to be an increasingly prevalent view that "something is going on" in the cattle market, that "Big Meat" is brandishing unfair market leverage which screws the little guy. And don't get me wrong: I'd be the first to rally if a Federal probe unearthed findings that Cargill, Tyson, National or JBS was engaged in price-fixing, collusion, or fraud. But I'm afraid that after 6 hours of public testimony, I got no inkling of such manipulations. What I got was an inkling that some of us would rather see higher prices for our cattle (no kidding?), that ranchers get a "fair shake" (whatever that means), and that the big guys open their books to their private transactions to let the rest of us see what's going on. These might sound good, but will they really solve the problem?
Pigs stink. That fact of life is accepted by all of us who grew up on farms. So imagine the smells around a concentration of nearly 6,000 sows and tens of thousands of baby pigs.
By Matt Ridley | Paradoxically, economics has done more for nature than ecology has.
How the large-scale food system can be a midsized farmer's best hope
In a world where only a quarter of all arable land remains viable for agriculture, where population is predicted to increase to nine billion by 2050, and where people are concerned with food safety, new methods of agricultural production are increasingly sought-after. At Verdant Earth Technologies, we are developing agricultural systems to address future challenges and to provide a growing population with fresh produce.
In a 100-acre Iowa farm field, hemmed in by electrical fencing, 2,000 pigs are contentedly doing whatever pigs do. The farmer who owns them, Paul Willis, refers to them as his "free-range" pigs.
Watch your step, Starbucks. Indigenous farmers from Chiapas, Mexico, are opening cafes in Europe, the United States, and Mexico.
A great meal for many Americans is a Butterball turkey. A great deal for ConAgra, the company producing Butterballs, is to turn all its turkey waste into marketable products.
Federal land management agencies are increasingly receptive to innovative partnerships that can help share the burden of managing millions of acres of public land.
The transition from muck farm to nature-based resort has been a rocky road for Florida's St. Johns River Water Management District.