Tuesday, July 10, 2012

City kid, Country kid and Real Maple Syrup

Someone asked recently what could be done about Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision in 2010 that allows unlimited money to be spent on presidential campaigns – as long as the donors don’t actually talk with the candidate about where and how to spend it.

Last week SCOTUS affirmed that decision with an addition: the same rule – there is only the one – applies now to state campaigns.

The answer to the writer’s query is simple. About the decision, nothing. Contrary to the opinion of at least one politician, the Supreme Court, by definition, has the last word. Until a new Supreme Court changes it. Those who say they want to follow the U.S. Constitution need to read that part; it’s in there.

The way to change the decision is to get the grass roots companies to become uncomfortable giving millions of dollars to guide candidates’ legislative hands.

In 2010, the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania gave gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett $1.6 million dollars; he promised there would be no new taxes on the industry. So far, he’s done well on his promise.

So far, the $1.6 million given to his campaign has been well spent.

Last year, his party being in control of the state legislature, he got to sign into law a very nominal “impact fee” on the drillers, name a coal baron to the Department of Community and Economic Development with the power to “streamline” the Department of Environmental Protection permitting process, and remove authority for municipalities to zone or prohibit natural gas drilling.

Early this year, the legislature passed and Corbett signed a law giving Shell Oil Co. a 15-year free ride on state income and property taxes if the company builds a new ethane “cracker” plant in western Pa. The plant will create about 400 new jobs.

A couple weeks ago, Corbett got to sign another law, this time guaranteeing Shell, which only made about $6 billion profit during the Spring quarter of 2011, another $1.65 billion in taxpayer-funded credits over 25 years.

Monsanto has become the poster child for genetic engineering of the food supply, largely with its “Roundup Ready” system of pesticide to kill weeds and pesticide-resistant seed. Each year, weeds develop resistance to the herbicide, and a new batch of Roundup is concocted. The desired crop seeds, e.g. corn or soy beans, are reengineered to make them immune to the latest Roundup genetics, and farmers buy the herbicide and seed from Monsanto, which calls it the Roundup Ready System.

The world’s largest seed company spends millions trying to convince us its genetically crafted produce is making agriculture better as it traps farmers worldwide into a cycle of annually purchasing seed only from Monsanto. In October last year, the company reported a 16 percent profit growth. Noting the price of corn had increased 25 percent – meaning more money for farmers – Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant said he would raise seed prices 10 percent in 2012.

Meanwhile, innumerable organizations are attempting to establish urban and suburban gardens intended to provide fresh produce for low income residents. Programs are spreading to allow the same recipients to use their benefits to purchase fresh produce at farmers markets.

This week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a program to makes that happen in the Big Apple. The city’s Health Bucks coupons will for the first time be accepted at all 138 farmers markets, resulting in more than $350,000 in free fruits and vegetables for low-income New Yorkers this season.

But even those efforts are under constant attack from agribusiness attempting to quash competition. In Maine, a farmer with one cow has been sued by the state – many observers think at the behest of major producers – for selling raw milk at farm market stands. No one has been sickened by his milk, but the hype is that it could happen (as it has with strawberries, meat and other products from large, USDA-approved providers).

I am a Country Kid, raised milking cows and slaughtering hogs. We grew most of what we ate from a garden that fed six of us. I drank “raw” milk with breakfast, lunch and dinner, tapped sugar maple trees to boil the sap into maple syrup to pour over waffles and pancakes.

When my granddaughter was about three, I offered her some maple syrup a friend had brought down from New Hampshire.

“I want the real kind,” said The Girl.

By “real kind” she meant the stuff in the plastic bottle shaped like a grandma. She had not yet seen a cow or picked an apple from a tree. She was a City Kid. (She’s older now, and still mostly a City Kid, but when she asks for “real” maple syrup, she means the kind from Sugar Maple trees.)
I've earned some reputation as a rebel, so maybe my desire for farm fresh, non-processed food and rare hamburger – and my suspicion of huge companies that claim to have only my best interest at their heart – can be thus at least partially attributed, but I will be 65 in October and I'm still here.
© 2012 by John Messeder. Readers may contact  john@JohnMesseder.com

John Messeder is an award winning environmental journalist based in Gettysburg, Pa., with more than 35 years experience writing about education, environment and local government issues.  He may be contacted via his blog at http://johnmesseder.com


  1. We just had a chance to visit my hubby's sister and her family in Wisconsin. They have a hobby farm with chickens and horses and they have a garden (intentional plantings and volunteers from last year). They have no Wii and watch very little TV. It was so nice to be there, playing with toads and chickens and horses, watching the kids play spy games in "the forest" (which was really just an overgrown patch of weeds) while my sister-in-law and I concocted home-grown goodness in the kitchen. Getting back to basics is always good!

    (My daughter and I have been reading the Little House books and a series of books about a fictional Amish girl. These books are great for inspiring a more "back to the basics" lifestyle.)

    1. I love that, Wanda! Oh, how I miss the simplicity of my childhood in a small town in Lancaster County where we were outside more than we were in.


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