By Carolyn Barbre
A dozen farmers enjoyed a lively discussion about a recent Supreme Court ruling over their eggs and waffles at the June meeting of the Lindsay Lighthouse Farm Network 7 a.m. breakfast meeting last week at the Olive Tree Restaurant.
The topic, which should be of concern to all Valley residents, was the June 7 unanimous ruling by the court to allow trucks and buses from Mexico to deliver goods and passengers throughout the United States. The vehicles had been blocked by an order from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California on the grounds that the older diesel-burning vehicles would further pollute areas of this state and much of the Southwest. But the Supreme Court said the president had the power to enforce the North American Free trade Agreement (NAFTA) which mandated free movement of commercial vehicles across borders.
"As far as I'm concerned, unless they come up to mechanical standards as well as environmental standards, I'm against it," said CAFF member Allen Brewer. "I've been to Mexico and I'm totally amazed at what they're allowed to drive."
U.S. Department of Transportation officials have estimated it will take a few months to establish an inspection program to ensure that vehicles entering the United States meet federal safety standards.
"They should have the same exact standards for drivers and mechanical requirements as California. I mean exact," said Bob Puls, citrus grower and cattle rancher who frequently has columns in "The View From Here" on the Gazette Opinion Page. "The drivers should be just as stringently checked as we are here."
Presently about 4.5 million trucks cross the border from Mexico to the United States each year. But they must stay within a 20-mile limit of the border. Cargo is transferred to U.S. trucks to be shipped to their final destination. The same process happens in reverse for U.S. truckers with shipments for Mexico.
"All [the new ruling] is doing is legitimizing what has been going on for years," said Trudy Wischemann, another View From Here columnist and proponent of the family farmer. "I'd say we need to be against this for traffic, safety and environmental reasons."
Cliff Loeffler, chairperson of the Lighthouse Network chapter, said the other issue is bringing in exotic pests through these shipments, "Unregulated, unmonitored pests which will create who knows what!"
Pulls offered that in another 100 years humanity would be totally integrated. "The same holds true for bugs. If everyone has them, it won't matter," he said.
Grower Michael Noell contributed the information that the Swedish people are disappearing from the gene pool because of their lower birth rates.
"I'm depending on Monsanto and Cargill to keep them in the gene pool," Puls said.
FYI: Between her tenure at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (under George Bush Sr.) and being named head of California's Department of Food and Agriculture in 1995, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman served on the board of directors for Calgene Inc. In 1994, Calgene became the first company to bring genetically-engineered food, the Flavr Savr tomato, to supermarket shelves. Calgene was bought out by Monsanto, the nation's leading biotech company, in 1997. Monsanto, in turn, became part of pharmaceutical company Pharmacia in 2000. Monsanto, which donated more than $12,000 to George Bush's presidential bid, wants two things this year: no mandatory labeling of biotech foods and better access to international markets. Veneman also served on the International Policy Council on Agriculture, Food and Trade, a group funded by Cargill, Nestle, Kraft, and Archer Daniels Midland.
"That's what I say, patent them," Wischemann responded.
Regarding a possible influx of drugs and illegal aliens, the growers said those issues were at such epidemic proportions already, they didn't see it would make much difference.
Puls said $50 would get any applicant a U.N. driver's license.
It's called an International Drivers License or IDL. It is a translation booklet, carried with your actual government issued drivers license when driving outside of your home country enabling foreign officials to comprehend your actual state or nationally issued drivers license. An IDL grants no driving privileges of any kind as they are issued by travel agencies. The cost is $20 for a year up to $50 for a five-year ILD.
This was the second ruling in the last two months that will have a negative impact on California air quality. On April 28, the high court struck down rules that required buyers of new buses, garbage trucks, airport shuttles and other fleet vehicles in the L.A. area to choose clean-burning engines. Meanwhile the federal government sets the clean-air mandates that it simultaneously undermines, then punishes the state by cutting highway revenues.
In the spring of 2002, California voters passed Proposition 40, the California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act. Proposition 40 allocated $50 million to the Air Resources Board (ARB) over two years for distribution to air districts for projects that "affect air quality in state and local parks and recreation areas" in accordance with the Carl Moyer guidelines.
The Carl Moyer Program was to provide incentive grants to reduce emissions from heavy-duty diesel engines, a significant source of smog-forming pollutants.
In addition, the fine particulate matter exhaust from these engines is a toxic air contaminant. The incentive program focused on reducing emissions of smog-forming oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate emissions. It was named after the late Dr. Carl Moyer, in recognition of his work in the air quality field, and his efforts in bringing about the program.
Now the Carl Moyer program is running out of money. Last week Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger proposed increasing the smog check fees and using the money to fund the program. At the same time he would lessen the number of smog checks which could add pollutants. It sounds rather like a dog chasing its tail and getting nowhere.
"Ag is getting hammered over rules on air pollution, on rules on dust, with no control on pollutants from trucks," Puls said. "We say look at the good we do. Our trees give off oxygen. They say our trees give off 'volatile organic compounds.'"
"It's the bureaucracy protecting the bureaucracy," Brewer said.
"They're not interested in curing the problem; they're interested in developing a revenue base - another leech on the back of ag." Puls said.
"We need a leech of our own," Brewer concluded, to everyone's general agreement.
The Lighthouse Farm Network is part of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) out of Davis that provides "technical information and support to all who are interested in biologically based farming practices." Anyone wishing to participate in the monthly breakfast meetings can contact Cliff Loeffler at 568-1525.