The Polar Vortex Could Unleash the Coldest Air of the Season Next Week
Get out your parkas, people!
Most of the country has enjoyed a relatively mild winter so far, but those cozy temperatures won’t last long. AccuWeather reports that the polar vortex could cause a “major shift in the weather pattern” during the second half of the season. In other words, it’s about to get very chilly.
While the phrase “polar vortex” sounds dramatic, it’s actually nothing out of the ordinary. This meteorological term describes the big mass of cold air that constantly hovers around the Arctic, spinning counterclockwise like a hurricane. The polar vortex usually remains above the North Pole, but occasionally it weakens. When that happens, it moves south and circulates above the United States—bringing a whole lot of Arctic air with it.
Meteorologists who have been monitoring the polar vortex predict that’s exactly what’s about to happen over the next few weeks. Oh, and it gets worse: The blast of cold air will pack some extra “shock value” because it’s following several weeks of “well-above-average temperatures” across the northern half of the U.S.
“The anticipated waves of Arctic air will have their cold tasks cut out for them at first, but once the pattern gets rolling, a major surge in heating demand is expected, and winter storms and lake-effect snow that become intertwined in the cold blasts can hit travel and daily activities hard in parts of the Midwest and East,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel.
So, when should you plan to bundle up? The initial rush of freezing air is forecasted to sweep the country before the end of the month.
“An Arctic cold front is expected to move through the northern Rockies and northern Plains on January 18-19 then the eastern and south-central parts of the U.S. between January 20 and 21,” Dave said. “Even though temperatures may remain above average in the wake of the leading edge of the cold air, it will bring a 10- to 20-degree Fahrenheit drop as the front passes through.”
Yes, he really did say an “Arctic cold front” is coming. Happy 2021!
Sen. Jon Tester: Members of Congress who incited Capitol riot must be held accountable
If traitors to our democracy aren’t held accountable, we will fall under siege again.
Jon Tester, Opinion contributor January 12, 2021
Last week, as I worked in my Senate office, I watched in horror as terrorists ransacked our nation’s Capitol, where I represent Montanans in the U.S. Senate.
The Capitol is a beacon of hope, which I share with colleagues, staffers, custodial workers, reporters, woodworkers and law enforcement officials, among thousands of other Americans.
In the aftermath of that armed insurrection, it is our duty to hold everyone involved accountable to our laws and history — not just President Donald Trump and the violent rioters he incited, but also the members of Congress who enabled him.
A few days before the violent insurrection, as the president pressured Georgia’s Secretary of State to find enough votes to overturn his election loss, 13 of my Senate colleagues took the shocking step of announcing plans to challenge the outcome of the election.
Maybe they did it because they believe it will help them in their next election. Maybe they did it to raise money, or because it’s much easier to follow than to lead. Whatever their reasons, blame rests squarely on their shoulders, and history will never forget who they are — no matter how much they try to explain it away now.
If traitors to our democracy aren’t held accountable, we will fall under siege again. And if that happens, it will unfold with better planning and even bloodier results.
Millions of Americans watched as armed terrorists marched from the president’s rally to Capitol Hill, then smashed their way into our nation’s foremost symbol of freedom and democracy.
After officers regained control of the Capitol, some of those 13 senators quickly changed their tune, condemning the outcome they provoked — without taking any responsibility for their role in parroting, protecting and enabling the disaster 16 blocks west of Capitol Hill for years.
Trump mocks our democracy
For the past four years, this president has cheapened the institutions of our country, mocked our democracy, disposed of our allies and embraced dictators. He did it because too many politicians enabled his crusade for unchecked power, found an excuse for every lie, ignored every breathtaking tweet and pretended our fragile democracy wasn’t on the line.
On Wednesday, our democracy was on the line. Up close and on live TV for everyone in the world to see. The insurrection of the U.S. Capitol was domestic terrorism, plain and simple.
The people of Montana got fed up with all this unchecked power. Republicans and Democrats, and even socialists, teamed up to pass powerful reforms to put political power back in the hands of Montana’s people. This is history worth repeating.
Demand truth, accountability
Let’s declare war on unchecked power. Let’s demand courage, accountability and truth from our leaders. Let’s call phonies for what they are, including those who wrap themselves in flags before burning America down.
And to my colleagues who helped set off this tragic set of events: I urge you to take an honest look in the mirror and accept responsibility for the damage you’ve done.
The future of our fragile democracy depends on it.
Trump reportedly wants to ‘inflict as much pain on Congress as possible’
Tim O’Donnell December 27, 2020
President Trump still hasn’t signed Congress’ $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, and the clock is ticking. Indeed, it’s looking more likely that he’ll veto it, or simply sit on it, unless lawmakers find a way to increase direct stimulus payments and cut some other items, like foreign aid, out of the package before a potential government shut down on Tuesday.
While Trump may genuinely want more significant individual payments, he’s faced criticism for waiting until after a bipartisan agreement was reached to make his opinion clear, surprising Congress and his own negotiating team led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in the process. One source briefed by White House officials on the matter told The Washington Post, Trump — who has been frustrated by his election loss and the fallout from the coronavirus during his final year in office — is “just angry at everybody and wants to inflict as much pain on Congress as possible.”
Even Mnuchin, one of the few Cabinet members to make it all four years with Trump, seems to be on the outs with his boss. Per the Post, Mnuchin was excited about the agreement and believed the president would sign it, but was then reportedly blindsided by Trump posting a video last week in which he bashed the deal and its $600 checks.
“Loyalty and assistance to President Trump generally gets rewarded with humiliation,” Brian Reidl, a conservative policy expert at the right-leaning think tank, the Manhattan Institute, told the Post.
The cast of ding-a-ling characters in the state is getting a major infusion of fresh specimens as a result of the 2020 election.
GOP-friendly Florida, the big loser, inherits the Trumps as residents.
The ex-president (feels good to say that, exhaling) will reside in stately Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach and indications are that daughter Ivanka, husband Jared Kushner and their children have plans to head farther south.
It’s supposedly not only a move to be close to daddy.
CNN reported, quoting a source who works with the family, that the first daughter has big political ambitions — like a future run for the governorship of Florida, experience apparently not required although residency is, at least seven years.
Trump show in Florida
So brace yourselves, Floridians: Here comes “The Trumps Take Over Florida,” a new reality show starring the defeated, lying, narcissist ex-president and his entitled children.
We might as well laugh, people.
What’s the alternative?
Besides the sunny weather, the soon-to-be former occupants of the White House are attracted by the friendly accommodations made to conspiracy theorists, coronavirus deniers, and those with a healthy appetite for good old-fashioned corruption.
Your show host: The Republican Party of Florida.
The plot has been laid out well into 2024.
Supporting characters — filming location, Miami — are still auditioning.
But they will surely include, according to Facebook friends in-the-know: Lolita Caravana leading the red car, flag-waving caravan on the Turnpike from Miami to Palm Beach for a weekend bash at Mar-a-Lago and Pepe Ota at Versailles haunting for commie sympathizers, or Democrats, or anyone with a camera willing to turn a clown into an “influencer.”
Democrats laughed at these characters in 2020, but they made Trump’s victory possible, if only in very special Floriduh, which annexed territory in Miami-Dade during the last four years.
They’ll be good for a few more laughs in 2021 and beyond.
Presiding over the made-for-TV show, master of ceremonies of the political revelry: Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has collected an impressive list of nicknames for his disastrous handling of the pandemic, the latest #DeathDeSantis, twice trending on Twitter this week.
He’s not funny at all, really, unless you count his campaign commercial using his small children, playing with toy blocks, to plug Trump’s wall — or his mask-less high-fiving Trump supporters at a Sanford rally then wiping his nose.
Come to think of it, DeSantis has outdone Gaetz, who cinched the No. 1 spot with his bizarre fixation on Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Gaetz made his Bronx colleague a household name in Florida.
Then, he threatened Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who was spilling the beans on the president, and made fun of the coronavirus by wearing a gas mask on Capitol Hill.
Full disclosure: I’m partial to Gaetz’s leading man role as “Florida man” incarnate since he pronounced my name perfectly on Fox News.
But moving forward, between DeSantis, Gaetz, and the ex-president alone, the Trump show scenes will just write themselves.
Last but not least, there’s immigrant “be best” Melania, who will hopefully be happier now that her first lady contract expires. Pandemic or not, with her living in the state, the paparazzi won’t be filing for unemployment in Florida’s tightwad system.
See, the Trumps could even be a boon to Florida, no need to hire expensive Pitbull to do a commercial.
Be positive, Florida
There’s a handy expression in Spanish that comes to mind: “al mal tiempo, buena cara.”
It advises to put on a brave face in stormy weather.
The hurricane looming is that we’re far from done with the Trumps in the Sunshine State — or his influence on the Republican Party, the lasting ill.
The really, really good news is that the rest of the country knew better.
The White House is safe.
Florida, getting its just desserts, inherits the clown.
North American farmers profit as consumers pressure food business to go green.
By Karl Plume and Rod Nickel December 3, 2020
CHICAGO/WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – Beer made from rice grown with less water, rye planted in the off-season and the sale of carbon credits to tech firms are just a few of the changes North American farmers are making as the food industry strives to go green.
The changes are enabling some farmers to earn extra money from industry giants like Cargill, Nutrien and Anheuser-Busch. Consumers are pressuring food producers to support farms that use less water and fertilizer, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use more natural techniques to maintain soil quality.
Investments in sustainability remain a tiny part of overall spending by the agriculture sector, which enjoyed healthy profits in 2020. They may help to head off more costly regulations down the road now that Democratic climate advocate Joe Biden was elected U.S. president.
Some companies, like farm retailer and fertilizer producer Nutrien , are also opening new revenue potential for farmers by monetizing the carbon their fields soak up. The companies say technology is improving measurement and tracking of carbon capture, although some environmental activists question the benefit of such programs and how sequestered greenhouse gas volumes can be verified.
Sustainable techniques farmers are adopting include refraining from tilling soil at times to preserve carbon. Some are adding an off-season cover crop of rye or grass to restore soil nutrients instead of applying heavy fertilizer loads over the winter that can contaminate local water supplies.
A study conducted by agriculture technology company Indigo Ag estimated that if U.S. corn, soy and wheat farmers employed no-till and cover crops on 15% of fields, they would generate an additional $600 million by reducing costs, bolstering soil productivity or selling carbon credits.
Indigo has a partnership with brewer Anheuser-Busch Inbev NV, which plans to buy 2.6 million bushels of rice this year grown with less water and nitrogen fertilizer than conventional rice. Anheuser-Busch said that is up from 2.2 million bushels last year and accounts for 10% of its U.S. rice supplies.
Bill Jones, the brewer’s manager of raw materials, said farmers voluntarily growing rice with a lower environmental impact along the sensitive Mississippi River would be less disruptive to supplies than having local authorities require such practices by legislating changes to water and nitrogen use.
“We look at supply chain security. I see this gaining traction,” he said, noting that Minnesota and other U.S. states and conservation districts worried about polluting the Mississippi are already introducing limits on how much manure farmers can spread on fields. Arkansas farmer Carson Stewart used the program for the first time this year, earmarking his entire 340-acre rice crop to Anheuser-Busch. Depending on milling quality, his rice may earn up to $1.50 a bushel more than conventional rice, a premium of about 27%, he said.
10 MILLION ACRE SHIFT
While companies expect Washington and Ottawa to grow more committed to funding and regulating sustainable farming, industry sources and activists said widespread adoption remains far off.
“They come with high up-front costs,” said Giana Amador, managing director at climate-focused NGO Carbon180. “We’re seeing a huge differentiation in quality among all these corporate commitments. “In September, privately held Cargill Inc. said it would help North American farmers shift 10 million acres to regenerative practices during the next 10 years by offering them financial support and training.
Pushed by demand for greener foods from food companies that buy its products, Cargill has already signed up 750 farmers to green programs, representing 300,000 acres, said Ryan Sirolli, Cargill’s director of row crop sustainability. With projects like one that pays Iowa farmers to leave soils untilled or to create field buffers to prevent fertilizer runoff, Cargill hopes to cut 30% of its supply chain greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade.
“We’ve done a lot to stop soil erosion. And we’ve had a reduction of 538 tons of CO2, which is the equivalent of taking 104 passenger cars off the road,” said Iowa farmer Lance Lillibridge, who estimates he will earn about $37 an acre in a Cargill pilot project this year.
Environmental groups and consumer activists are skeptical about such corporate sustainability pledges, noting that Cargill has not made good on its promise to eliminate deforestation from supply chains by 2020.
As more premium-paying buyers emerge, more farmers will be enticed into sustainable growing, said Devin Lammers, CEO of Gradable. The unit of input dealer Farmers Business Network matches farmers using sustainable practices with buyers such as Unilever, Tyson Foods and ethanol producer POET.
Some farmers are making money by verifying the amount of climate-warming emissions their fields soak up and selling carbon credits to polluting companies seeking to reduce their net emissions. Agribusiness companies call that a double win for farmers as their fields become healthier and they earn extra cash.
This week, Saskatchewan-based Nutrien said it was launching a sustainable agriculture program on 100,000 acres in the United States and Canada, with expansion planned later in South America and Australia.
Nutrien Chief Executive Chuck Magro estimated that farmers will earn an additional $50 per acre in profits under the program – $20 per acre for carbon credits and $30 per acre worth of higher crop yields.
The announcement followed Nutrien’s 2018 purchase of digital farming company Agrible, which helps farmers log reduced emissions and water use. Magro said in an interview that the aim is to enable farmers to use that data to sell carbon credits. He noted that previous efforts produced meagre returns that were not worth the effort for farmers who had to wade through hundreds of pages of documents.
Agriculture accounts for 3% of the global carbon credit market, but that looks to grow to 30% by 2050, Magro said. “We see carbon being the next big agricultural revolution,” he said.
Matt Coutts, chief investment officer of 100,000-acre Coutts Agro in Saskatchewan, plans to sell carbon credits through Nutrien for up to 10,000 acres per year of canola, lentils and spring wheat. He expects they could eventually generate at least C$75,000 in annual additional revenue. Ohio-based start-up Locus Agricultural Solutions helped Iowa farmer Kelly Garrett create 22,400 tonnes in carbon credits by verifying his fields locked in about 1.4 tonnes per acre from 2015 to 2019. Garrett received a check for 5,000 of those credits in November, after e-commerce platform Shopify bought them on the carbon trading marketplace Nori for $75,000.
“The ability to sell our carbon credits through the Nori system and help the rest of the world be more green is a wonderful benefit to our economy and our finances,” Garrett said.
Still, Nori noted that Microsoft Corp passed on a deal to buy most of Garrett’s remaining credits because they were not verified by on-farm soil tests. Nori deems individual soil tests too costly, and instead verifies its credits based on soil type, crops planted and other data, said Alexsandra Guerra, the company’s director of corporate development.
Microsoft declined to comment. Few North American farmers have gone through the vetting process Garrett underwent, which also limits supplies of the high-quality carbon credits that some buyers seek. Some critics say carbon saved from no-till farming can easily escape if the soil is tilled again. “Statements that soils can sequester all of our emissions and more are overstated … There’s no way we could make that shift fast enough to address the climate crisis,” said Tara Ritter, senior program associate with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. PAYING UP FRONT Despite those doubts, food companies are banking more on carbon capture and regenerative agriculture. General Mills offers farmers technical advice while other companies pay growers up front to adopt greener practices. PepsiCo, maker of Quaker Oats and Frito-Lay chips, pays farmers $10 an acre to plant cover crops over winter, which can reduce erosion and control weeds and insects.
This helps PepsiCo meet its sustainability targets and secure its food supply, said director of sustainable agriculture Margaret Henry. PepsiCo subsidized cover crops such as rye and radish last year across 50,000 Midwest acres and plans to grow the program further.
Henry pointed to an added benefit: Cover crops soak up excess moisture, making many fields ready for spring planting two weeks earlier than fields that lay fallow.” We want this to be a win win for the long term,” she said.
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Caroline Stauffer)
Young voters look to play key role in Georgia runoffs, Senate control
“As a voter in Georgia, I never felt more like my vote counted than this past election,” one college student said.
Juliet Eden, the Communications Director for the University of Georgia’s “Fair Fight” chapter volunteered to be a poll worker on Election Day. Courtesy Juliet Eden.
Katarina Flicker, an Emory University junior, took the entire fall semester off to organize for Georgia Democrats, helping register other students to vote.
And even though November’s election is over — with President-elect Joe Biden flipping the state blue for the first time since 1992 — Flicker isn’t finished. She’s now working closely with the Young Democrats of Emory to register even more people ahead of Georgia’s two high-stakes Senate runoff races, the outcome of which will determine which party controls the Senate.
During the general election, voters 18-29 made up 20 percent of the Georgia electorate, according to NBC News exit polls. As the Jan. 5 runoffs draw closer, young Georgians on both sides of the aisle are working to mobilize their peers to vote again — or for the first time in their lives.
“I think that teenage complacency is something that has been trendy,” Flicker, 20, said. “But seeing the way that my generation, in particular, has stood up and fought for what we believe in … that is how you make change.”
Georgia natives Grace Hall, 20, and Juliet Eden, 21, are students at the University of Georgia in Athens. They serve as president and communications director, respectively, for the college’s “Fair Fight” chapter, the political action committee founded by Stacey Abrams aimed at mitigating voter suppression.
The organization’s primary goal ahead of the runoffs, they said, is to educate voters about the steps they must take in order to ensure their votes are counted, such as checking to make sure they have not been purged from voter rolls.
“I think the entire country is looking at Georgia right now,” Hall, a junior, said.
In a tight general election contest, none of the candidates in Georgia’s two Senate races reached the 50 percent threshold to win outright, sending both elections to a runoff in accordance with state law. Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler face Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively.
Eden, a senior, said that she has “never felt more like my vote counted than this past election because of how close things were.”
Madison Potts, a 21-year-old senior at Kennesaw State University and president of the school’s chapter of the NAACP, said she’s been working on helping get fellow students registered and providing them with information on how to acquire their absentee ballots if they are away from home.
Potts said she’s been involved in activism since she was 14, attending protests and encouraging other students to become more politically active. She said she’s noticed that “the energy, amongst young people especially, is bigger and better than ever before.”
“I know young people in Georgia have really decided this past election, and encouraging them to participate in this runoff and be sure to show up in ways we never have, it’s been easier than what it has been in previous years,” she said. “So I’m grateful for the new wave of energy around elections, around voter participation and activism.”
Of Georgia voters who are ages 18-29 in 2020, 56 percent voted for Biden while 43 percent voted for Trump, according to NBC News exit polling. Black voters made up 28 percent of Georgia voters under 30, and they voted 76 percent for Biden and 23 percent for Trump.
The Democratic Senate candidates are making a concerted effort to turn out the youngest voters — those who were not old enough to vote in November but will be eligible come January. According to The Civics Center, an organization dedicated to youth civic engagement, this applies to 23,000 Georgians.
During a virtual rally on Friday, Ossoff said the election is “going to come down to youth turnout, so I am calling on young people to make a plan to vote.”
“Make sure that you vote and make sure that everybody in your circle votes,” Warnock added.
Ossoff held a get-out-the-vote rally aimed at young voters and students in Cobb County on Thursday, not far from Kennesaw State University’s campus. At that event, Jonathan Alvarez, a 20-year-old student at Georgia State University, said in an interview that he “wasn’t really interested in politics” ahead of the 2016 election.
“But over the course of the past four years, I’ve seen the real shift that’s happened in the presidency, obviously in the White House,” he said. “And with how active [President Donald] Trump is on social media and on Twitter and things like that, it brings out more people to see what he’s saying in real time, which made, I feel like, a lot of my generation more interested in politics. Because when you open the front page of Twitter and you see your president talking, you’re always pretty much in the loop.”
But Alvarez has also been intrigued by a changing Georgia, once an afterthought for Democrats that in recent years has become one of the most hotly contested battlegrounds.
“Seeing in 2018 finally with how close Stacey Abrams was to winning, I was like, ‘Oh, wow, things really are changing in Georgia,” he said. “And so, it was just like, I’ve seen the baby steps and I’ve seen the giant leaps we’ve made.”
While some young people are not old enough to vote in the runoffs, they are still working to make a difference, such as co-leader of the “Students for Ossoff and Warnock” organization Ishani Peddi, 17, from Peachtree, Georgia.
“It’s very fulfilling to realize that young people, and me as a young person, I’m able to actually make change and make a difference, and fight for issues that I care about by helping to elect these representatives and these elected officials that are actually going to put forth effective legislation, and bring about change in America,” she said.
This dedication to political activism spans across party lines, with youth activists signing up to volunteer for the upcoming Senate runoffs for both the Republican and Democratic candidates.
Gurtej Narang, 20, a junior at Georgia State University and the treasurer of the Georgia Association of College Republicans, said he believes it is important that the Senate remains in Republican hands now that Democrats will control both the White House and the House of Representatives. His organization is launching “get out the vote” initiatives and encouraging members to help make calls, ring doorbells, and distribute important information about the candidates to voters across the state.
Jaylan Scott, 20, is the executive vice president of the Young Democrats of Georgia, an organization working to register even more young voters in the state ahead of the runoffs.
“We really have to magnify how major this race is to the United States Senate, the weight of balances, they really depend on if we can get young people out to vote in Georgia,” he said.
Georgia State University senior Alexis Lopez, 21, plans to continue to work with campus organizations to encourage young voters to make sure their voices are heard after interning with Congresswoman-elect Nikema Williams’ campaign.
“We feel very passionate about making sure that our justice system is actually just and is making sure that we’re getting rid of the systemic racism that affects that system, and also making sure that we are creating a country that works for us and represents who we are,” she said.
Georgia native Caroline Hakes, a senior at the George Washington University, is volunteering and voting in the upcoming runoff races. Her work with the GW College Republicans has increased her political passion.
“It’s really easy to feel like your voice doesn’t matter when you are so young, there are a lot of people who say to sit back and let the grownups do it … I really think that people need to understand just how important it is to have a say in their government,” she said.
Caitlin Fichtel is a New York-based reporter for NBC News’ Social Newsgathering team.
Emma Diede is an intern with NBC News’ Social Newsgathering team.
Allison Mina Park is an intern with NBC News’ Social Newsgathering team. She previously interned with “Meet the Press.”
Three Billion People Live in Farming Areas With Water Shortages
Megan Durisin November 26, 2020
(Bloomberg) — Roughly 40% of the world’s people live in farming areas facing large water shortages, and scarce supplies pose an increasing risk to food security as populations swell and the climate changes, the United Nations said.
About 3.2 billion people live in agricultural areas with “high to very high” water shortages and competition over resources is rising, the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization said in a report. Many farms that depend on rain are at risk as severe droughts become more common, and bigger global incomes are spurring demand for water-intensive foods like meat and dairy.
Of the total, 1.2 billion people — a sixth of the global population — are in areas with severely constrained water supplies, and the amount of freshwater available per person has dropped 20% in the past two decades, according to the report. Swaths of Asia and North Africa have been most affected, while small amounts of people in Europe and the Americas have seen extreme restrictions.
Agriculture accounts for 70% of the world’s freshwater withdrawals, and the UN called for better management to keep resources in check and boost agricultural yields. Earlier this year, CME Group Inc. announced its first futures contracts on water supplies in California, which has been afflicted by droughts and wildfire.
Almost two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to face water shortages by 2025, according to the bourse.
For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com
Trump Swiftly Blows Up His 1 Decent Conservation Action
Chris D’Angelo, Environment Reporter
The Trump administration wasted no time proving what was clear from the get-go: that its support of a major public lands bill was nothing more than pre-election greenwashing for President Donald Trump and two Senate allies.
In August, Trump signed the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act into law, falsely portraying himself as a conservationist on par with President Theodore Roosevelt. The measure, widely considered the most significant conservation legislation in a generation, allocates $9.5 billion to fix crumbling national park infrastructure and permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million per year. The decades-old LWCF uses offshore fossil fuel revenues to establish and protect parks, wildlife refuges, forests and wildlife habitat.
But Trump and his team are longtime foes of the LWCF. The administration tried repeatedly to gut the program’s funding. And days after the 2020 presidential election, which Trump handily lost, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed an order that kneecaps LWCF and undermines the new law that Bernhardt previously argued would not have passed without Trump’s “strong and bold action.”
The order, dated Nov. 9, gives state governors and local jurisdictions the power to veto federal land acquisitions made through LWCF. “A written expression of support by both the affected Governor and local county or county government-equivalent (e.g. parish, borough) is required for the acquisition of land, water, or an interest in land or water under the Federal LWCF program,” it reads.
Once the election was done, it was open season on land protection.Aaron Weiss, deputy director, Center for Western Priorities
The move is a parting gift to the anti-federal land movement that has enjoyed extraordinary access to top administration officials but that never convinced the administration to embrace wholesale transfer or sale of public lands. In fact, the requirement in Bernhardt’s order mirrors an amendment that Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced when the Great American Outdoors Act was being debated in Congress, as E&E News highlighted.
Lee strongly opposes federal control of public lands in the West. “Our long-term goal must be the transfer of federal lands to the states,” Lee wrote in a 2018 tweet. William Perry Pendley, the highest-ranking official at Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, shares those extreme views, once writing that the “founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold.”
Democratic lawmakers, environmentalists and outdoor sporting groups have slammed Trump’s Interior chief for trying to circumvent Congress and restrict how LWCF funds are allocated.
“I urge you to immediately rescind this anti-public land order,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a longtime champion of LWCF, wrote in a letter last week to Bernhardt. “This undercuts what a landowner can do with their own private property, and creates unnecessary, additional levels of bureaucracy that will hamstring future land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”
In a release announcing Bernhardt’s order, the Interior Department said the action “honors Interior’s commitment to be a good neighbor by giving states and communities a voice in federal land acquisition.”
For those paying attention, Trump’s about-face on LWCF felt like little more than a political favor for two Republican senators facing tough bids for reelection in states where protecting public lands is a key issue among voters. Along with showering praise upon himself, Trump credited Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who both previously voted in favor of slashing LWCF funding and supported Trump’s anti-conservation agenda at nearly every turn.
“This landmark legislation would not have been possible without the incredible leadership and hard work of two outstanding senators, in particular, and two fine people ― Cory Gardner and Steve Daines,” Trump said at a signing ceremony for the Great American Outdoors Act.
On the campaign trail, Daines and Gardner touted their work on the Great American Outdoors Act. Daines ultimately defeated his challenger. Gardner did not.
As soon as the 2020 election was over, Trump’s team took aim at one of its only conservation achievements. First, the departments of Interior and Agriculture missed statutory deadlines for submitting lists of projects to receive LWCF funding. Then came Bernhardt’s order undermining the program altogether.
The Great American Outdoors Act is no doubt a major victory for America’s public lands and for LWCF, which has been plagued by funding shortfalls all of its 50-year history. The administration’s claimed support for it, on the other hand, was “a ruse” and a “bald-faced lie,” Aaron Weiss, deputy director of Colorado-based conservation group Center for Western Priorities, told HuffPost. He expects Bernhardt was always planning to undercut the law, whether or not Trump won a second term.
“Once the election was done, it was open season on land protection,” Weiss said by email, adding that Bernhardt is “going to throw as much sand into the gears as he can on his way out.”
The Interior Department and other federal agencies are rushing to finalize numerous environmental rollbacks before President-elect Joe Biden assumes office. Those include selling oil and gas leases in Alaska’s pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and permanently slashing protections for hundreds of species of migratory birds.
Farmers are depleting the Ogallala Aquifer because the government pays them to do it
Matthew R Sanderson, Professor of Sociology and Professor of Geography and Geospatial Sciences, Kansas State University, Jacob A. Miller, PhD Student in Sociology, Kansas State University, and Burke Griggs, Associate Professor of Law, Washburn University
A center-pivot sprinkler with precision application drop nozzles irrigates cotton in Texas. USDA NRCS/Wipedia
A slow-moving crisis threatens the U.S. Central Plains, which grow a quarter of the nation’s crops. Underground, the region’s lifeblood – water – is disappearing, placing one of the world’s major food-producing regions at risk.
The Ogallala-High Plains Aquifer is one of the world’s largest groundwater sources, extending from South Dakota down through the Texas Panhandle across portions of eight states. Its water supports US$35 billion in crop production each year.
But farmers are pulling water out of the Ogallala faster than rain and snow can recharge it. Between 1900 and 2008 they drained some 89 trillion gallons from the aquifer – equivalent to two-thirds of Lake Erie. Depletion is threatening drinking water supplies and undermining local communities already struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic, the opioid crisis, hospital closures, soaring farm loses and rising suicide rates.
In Kansas, “Day Zero” – the day wells run dry – has arrived for about 30% of the aquifer. Within 50 years, the entire aquifer is expected be 70% depleted.
Some observers blame this situation on periodic drought. Others point to farmers, since irrigation accounts for 90% of Ogallala groundwater withdrawals. But our research, which focuses on social and legal aspects of water use in agricultural communities, shows that farmers are draining the Ogallala because state and federal policies encourage them to do it.
A production treadmill
At first glance, farmers on the Plains appear to be doing well in 2020. Crop production increased this year. Corn, the largest crop in the U.S., had a near-record year, and farm incomes increased by 5.7% over 2019.
Our research finds that subsidies put farmers on a treadmill, working harder to produce more while draining the resource that supports their livelihood. Government payments create a vicious cycle of overproduction that intensifies water use. Subsidies encourage farmers to expand and buy expensive equipment to irrigate larger areas.
With low market prices for many crops, production does not cover expenses on most farms. To stay afloat, many farmers buy or lease more acres. Growing larger amounts floods the market, further reducing crop prices and farm incomes. Subsidies support this cycle.
Nor should Congress propose to eliminate agricultural subsidies, as some environmental organizations and free-market advocates have proposed. Given the thin margins of farming and longstanding political realities, federal support is simply part of modern production agriculture.
With these cautions in mind, three initiatives could help ease pressure on farmers to keep expanding production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program pays farmers to allow environmentally sensitive farmland to lie fallow for at least 10 years. With new provisions, the program could reduce water use by prohibiting expansion of irrigated acreage, permanently retiring marginal lands and linking subsidies to production of less water-intensive crops.
These initiatives could be implemented through the federal farm bill, which also sets funding levels for nonfarm subsidies such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. SNAP payments, which increase needy families’ food budgets, are an important tool for addressing poverty. Increasing these payments and adding financial assistance to local communities could offset lower tax revenues that result from from farming less acreage.
Amending federal farm credit rates could also slow the treadmill. Generous terms promote borrowing for irrigation equipment; to pay that debt, borrowers farm more land. Offering lower rates for equipment that reduces water use and withholding loans for standard, wasteful equipment could nudge farmers toward conservation.
The most powerful tool is the tax code. Currently, farmers receive deductions for declining groundwater levels and can write off depreciation on irrigation equipment. Replacing these perks with a tax credit for stabilizing groundwater and substituting a depreciation schedule favoring more efficient irrigation equipment could provide strong incentives to conserve water.
Using these precedents, state water agencies could designate thirsty crops, such as rice, cotton or corn, as wasteful in certain regions. Regulations preventing unreasonable water use are not unconstitutional.
Allowing farmers some flexibility will maximize profits, as long as they stabilize overall water use. If they irrigate less – or not at all – in years with low market prices, rules could allow more irrigation in better years. Ultimately, many farmers – and their bankers – are willing to exchange lower annual yields for a longer water supply.
As our research has shown, the vast majority of farmers in the region want to save groundwater. They will need help from policymakers to do it. Forty years is long enough to learn that the Ogallala Aquifer’s decline is not driven by weather or by individual farmers’ preferences. Depletion is a structural problem embedded in agricultural policies. Groundwater depletion is a policy choice made by federal, state and local officials.
Stephen Lauer and Vivian Aranda-Hughes, former doctoral students at Kansas State University, contributed to several of the studies cited in this article.
How GDP Growth Under Trump Compares To Clinton, Obama And Other Presidents
Wayne Duggan October 29, 2020
With the presidential election less than a week away, Americans are weighing the two presidential candidates and choosing which is best for the country over the next four years —if they haven’t already voted.
One way they can do that is by looking back on the first term of President Donald Trump and comparing the impact his policies have had on the country to previous administrations.
Trump’s GDP Numbers: Trump has campaigned as the best choice for the U.S. economy. Trump often uses the stock market as a scorecard for his policies, but the best representation of the real U.S. economy is gross domestic product.
Here’s a look at annual U.S. GDP growth during Trump’s presidency. The 2020 estimate comes from the Federal Reserve:
How Trump Compares: Overall, U.S. GDP growth has averaged about 0.95% during Trump’s first term in office. Here’s a look at how that GDP growth stacks up to his predecessor, President Barack Obama:
In his eight years in office, U.S. GDP growth averaged 1.62% under Obama, about 70% higher than Trump’s growth rate.
Here’s a look at average GDP growth rates under the last six U.S. presidents:
Jimmy Carter (D): 3.25%
Ronald Reagan (R): 3.48%
George H.W. Bush (R): 2.25%
Bill Clinton (D): 3.88%
George W. Bush (R): 2.2%
Barack Obama (D): 1.62%
Donald Trump (R): 0.95%
In his first four years in office, Trump has had by far the lowest average U.S. GDP growth rate of any of the last seven U.S. presidents.
Overall, U.S. GDP growth was highest under Clinton and Reagan in this group. GDP growth was lowest under Trump and Obama.