A musing and a warning this week, unrelated to one another, but still important.
Sometimes a friend can make your life difficult. Such is the case with Rep. Paul Ryan (R, WI), unsuccessful vice presidential candidate, a talked-about 2016 GOP presidential hopeful, and the outgoing chair of the House Budget Committee. Ryan is the man both sides of the aisle credit with being budget thoughtful, and certainly he does not lack the fortitude to put forward strong budget resolutions, then sit at a table with his Senate counterpart, Sen. Patty Murray (D, WA), and hammer out what at least looks like a compromise.
So when Ryan this week unveiled his plan to take most federal welfare programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (SNAP) – you remember it as the food stamp program, proposed cuts to which almost killed the 2014 Farm Bill – and roll them into a new state block grant program, it was less the concept than the details that made me nervous.
Capitol Hill reaction to the plan was as expected; Dems generally scoffed, mid-range Dems and GOPers scratched their heads, and the Tea Party folks did a serious happy dance. I looked to see how Ryan proposed pay for the cost of this grand transition.
As he did three and four years ago, Ryan looked to the ag budget as one of the deep wells of “unnecessary or outmoded” federal spending into which he could dip to find the money to pay for his scheme. He would rejigger a number of authorized unrelated as well as ag programs, kill off the Market Access Program (MAP) – a major success story, a program that returns $35 in export sales for every $1 invested by the federal government – and not look back.
I do not pretend to understand the ins and outs of the various federal welfare, food assistance and similar programs, nor do I know what the impact on the states would be, so I can’t comment on the specifics or wisdom of Ryan’s proposal. But as a Wisconsin Representative with at least a few of rural communities in his district, Ryan would do well to better understand ag spending, and do whatever Treasury raid he contemplates surgically, as with a scalpel, and not ham-handedly, as with a hatchet.
Most of you likely aren’t aware that in the state of Washington over the last few months, there have been four reported cases of vandalism to mobile slaughter trucks. Not just silly spray-painted slogans, but the addition of bleach and acid to the vehicles’ fuel tanks with all of the expected results those “fuel additives” bring.
These vehicle attacks are part of the self-proclaimed “Freedom Summer 2014,” a strategy of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). It is the ALF which ignores both law and human safety in pursuit of “liberating animals,” seeking to end all animal use in all endeavors. The group has sent emails taking credit for the temporary out-of-commission status of the trucks, the property of two different companies. One anonymous grasp at headlines said, “Until the last slaughterhouse truck is idled and the last butcher’s blade is snapped.” The ALF has always enjoyed drama.
Both the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are involved as these acts are violations of the federal criminal code under both agencies’ domestic terrorism law enforcement authority. This is thanks to the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AETA) enacted in 2003, and its precursor, the Animal Facility Protection Act (AFPA) signed into law in 1991. Both sets of protection were developed, lobbied and pushed over the finish line by a coalition of animal interests led by the Farm Animal Welfare Coalition, and the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR). Attacks on food and medicine may have been the impetus for the law, but the federal protections extend to all legitimate users of animals.
Most importantly, these attacks give lie to the belief by many in production ag that if you live in or around a small town – “in the middle of nowhere,” as one farmer described his location to me this week – you’re magically protected or immune from such attacks. The trucks in question are owned by companies in Castle Rock and Battle Ground, Washington. Castle Rock is about half way between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle. Battle Ground is a small town a far bit north of Seattle.
All operations which make money off the raising, slaughtering, processing and retailing of meat, dairy and poultry should be vigilant. Walk your operation or review your corporate security plans to ensure you know where the weaknesses are and how to strengthen them. Talk to your employees, families and local law enforcement about the threat, no matter how remote, so vigilance is high. Take note of strangers around your facilities. At the very least, install fencing, lights and other security measures. Make sure your hiring practices include thorough and deep background checks on every single employee you hire no matter the status or whether they’re permanent or day labor.
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and you likely won’t become a victim.