Another C-SPAN Morning, and a very unhappy vote…

I’m watching the vote as the Republican majority votes on debate rules to defund National Public Radio. So far all Republicans are voting to cut the funds and all Democrats are voting to save the funding. If it keeps up like this, NPR has no chance.

C-SPAN is taking in phone calls during the vote, alternating between Democrats and Republicans, and the trend among callers of both parties is that NPR should keep its funding. Oh, there are a few who are supporting it because they claim it’s the government telling people what to watch (where they get that from, I don’t know.)

There's more...

Vote No on Proposition 21: State Parks

This is the second part of a series of posts giving recommendations on California’s propositions. This post recommends a “no” vote on Proposition 21, which establishes a vehicle license fee in order to fund state parks.

Proposition 22 will be the subject of the next post in this series.

California’s Broken Proposition System

One of the great flaws in California’s proposition system is the way in which it creates ballot-box budgeting. Voters are always willing to spend more money on more goodies: ten million here to fund K-12 education, ten million there to fight crime, ten million to construct hospitals, ten million to protect the environment.

Five hundred million, in this latest example of ballot-box budgeting, for state parks.

But voters also don’t like high taxes. They are always willing to vote for propositions to cut taxes: tax cuts for businesses, tax cuts on mortgages, tax cuts on sales taxes, a two-thirds legislative requirement to raise taxes.

If voters want to spend money on more goodies, but also want to cut taxes for themselves, the natural result is a budget deficit. And this has been exactly the result for the past several years in California.

The power of the budget ought to lie with the elected officials that compose the legislature. That is one of the main reasons why a legislature exists: to make the tough budget decisions that will inevitably hurt somebody and be unpopular. The proposition system cripples the legislature’s ability to do this.

And Proposition 21

Proposition 21 is the latest example of ballot-box budgeting. Let’s spend five hundred million to improve California’s state parks! Who isn’t for state parks?

It will probably pass. The proposition sounds good on the surface, and nobody has a vested interest to oppose it. Donations in favor of the proposition are in the millions, while only one organization has donated more than $5,000 to campaign against the proposition.

Money, however, is not free. Five hundred million raised from vehicle taxes and spent on state parks is five hundred million that will not be used elsewhere. There are many other just as worthy causes with which that money can be spent: on social welfare or roads and infrastructure, to give just two examples. I, personally, would love to use five hundred million to reduce student tuition at the University of California system rather than to improve state parks.

In the end, Proposition 21 is a prime example of the detailed, in-the-weeds budgetary matters which too often come up in propositions. These things should not be decided at the ballot box, but by the legislature. That is its job.

That is why I recommend a “no” vote on Proposition 21.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Halving Hunger Through "Business as Unusual"

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet

By Alex Tung

This interview with Shenggen Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is part of a regular interview series with agriculture and food security experts.

Name: Shenggen Fan

Affiliation : Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Location : Washington, DC

Bio: Shenggen Fan is Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). He has over 20 years of experience in the field of Agricultural Economics. He is currently an Executive Committee member of the International Association of Agricultural Economists. He has worked in academic and independent research institutions, including Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology at the University of Arkansas and the National Agricultural Research in the Netherlands. Fan received his Ph.D. in applied economics from the University of Minnesota and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Nanjing Agricultural University in China.

Fan’s work in pro-poor development strategies in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East has helped identify how to effectively allocate public spending in reducing poverty and generating agricultural growth.

About “Halving Hunger:”

Currently, 16 percent of the world is undernourished. In his recently published report, Halving Hunger: Meeting the First Millennium Development Goal through “Business as Unusual”, Fan voiced his concern that efforts to meet the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of undernourished people by 2015 are “moving in the wrong direction.” Taking projected population growth into account, the number of undernourished needs to fall by an average of 73 million per year in the next five years. Continuing to conduct “business as usual” will clearly not suffice in meeting this goal. As such, Fan outlined five innovative approaches to go about “business as unusual:”

  1. Investing in two core pillars: Agriculture and social protection
  2. Bring in new players
  3. Adopt a country-led and bottom-up approach
  4. Design policies using evidence and experiments
  5. “Walk the Walk”

According to Fan, these “unusual” approaches are already showing success. The next step is to apply them on a larger scale in new locations to have a real impact on reducing global hunger.

In your report, you called for countries to “Walk the walk.” What are key factors hindering countries’ progress in fulfilling their commitments? What could be done to encourage them to do so?

Failure to summon political will and resources is one of the key factors that hinders countries from fulfilling their commitments. To ensure the commitment of policymakers, the general media and popular communication sources should provide the public with evidence-based information and knowledge. In addition, strong institutions and governance should be promoted to support the implementation of commitments both by governments and donors. To add accountability and keep progress on track, timely and transparent monitoring of implementation is required.

Regarding “new players in the global food system” or emerging donors – What are essential elements of a fair, “mutually beneficial” relationship? Is there any danger of partnership become exploitation, and where do you draw the line? What measures can be taken to ensure foreign investment generate real results that benefit the local community?

A mutually beneficial relationship between emerging donors and recipient countries needs to enhance long-term benefits and minimize any potential harm, particularly to vulnerable groups. The essential elements of such a relationship include: fair competition with local enterprises; strong linkages of investments with domestic markets; engagement of the local workforce; and the adoption of higher environmental and labor standards.

Many emerging donors, such as China, place the bulk of their investment in areas like infrastructure or construction. Considering the goal of eradicating hunger, do you believe aid should continue in this direction? How can emerging donors synchronize their work with providers of more traditional or “mainstream” development aid?

Indeed, emerging donors need to diversify their investments into other areas such as agriculture and rural areas to have an impact on decreasing hunger. Emerging donors should increase transparency and cooperation in aid delivery. Through dialogue with traditional donors, common standards in the aid system should be set. This will help to avoid duplication and create synergies with other donors.

These emerging donors should also ensure that their trade with and investments in developing countries will benefit other developing countries and bring win-win opportunities.

Many of the hungry are located in countries with unstable political environment, where a country-led approach may be difficult to achieve. What is the best course of action for those providing aid to these countries?

Fan: While humanitarian aid is important for countries with unstable political environment, aid for long-term country-led development is also needed. Aid donors should support the building up of country capacity for setting investment priorities and designing investment plans. Increased investment is needed for domestic institutions such as universities and think tanks that can provide evidence-based research for policymaking and strategy formulation.

In your report, you mentioned the success of “positive deviance” in designing sound policy solutions – why do you think this approach works compared with traditional approaches?

Positive deviance in policy making can be achieved through experimentation. This approach increases the success rate of reforms since only successful pilot projects that have been tried, tested, and adjusted are scaled up.

Finally, let’s talk about IFPRI’s work; What role does IFPRI currently play or plan to play in the future in helping donors (countries, private, multilateral agencies) effectively direct their aid and shaping programmatic response in developing countries to meet MDG1?

IFPRI will continue to provide evidence-based policy research as an international public good which is relevant for decision makers at all levels. Our research on public spending, for example, has been and will be guiding investment priorities and strategy formulation for effective poverty and hunger reduction in developing countries. Through its country support strategy programs which are located countries, IFPRI will also continue to help to build their own capacity to drive their own investment plans and strategies.

Alex Tung is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

Thank you for reading! As you may already know, Danielle Nierenberg is traveling across sub-Saharan Africa visiting organizations and projects that provide environmentally sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty. She has already traveled to over 19 countries and visited 130 projects highlighting stories of hope and success in the region. She will be in Gabon next, so stay tuned for more writing, photos and video from her travels. If you enjoy reading this diary, we blog daily on Nourishing the Planet, where you can also sign up for our newsletter to receive weekly blog and travel updates. Please don’t hesitate to comment on our posts, we check them daily and look forward to an ongoing discussion with you. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

A Conversation With Dave Andrews

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

In this regular series, we profile advisors to the Nourishing the Planet project. This week, we feature Dave Andrews, Senior Representative for Food & Water Watch.

 

Name: Dave Andrews

Affiliation: Food & Water Watch

Location: Washington, D.C., United States

Bio: Dave Andrews is Senior Representative for Food & Water Watch and a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, an international Catholic religious order of men. Dave has over 30 years of work on sustainable development, food and water issues, and public policy both nationally and internationally. He was the Executive Director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference for 13 years. He has served on many Boards of Directors including the Organization for Competitive Markets, Heifer International, the Community Food Security Coalition, the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture. He has attended the last three World Trade Organization meetings, World Food Summits and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Can you describe your recent work and how it relates to Nourishing the Planet?: There are two major issues that have been the focus of my recent work. The first is the Global Food Security and Nutrition programs and the second is anti-trust efforts in agriculture. The global food security issue is one that has arisen from the recent food crisis and serving as I do on the steering committee for a Food Crisis Working Group as well as an Interfaith Working Group on the Food Crisis, two different efforts with a small amount of overlapping organizations, I am watching and writing regularly as these programs develop in Congress and in the State Department. Soon, I think the results will be announced but it has been a yearlong effort. My concern has been to try and influence the debate on behalf of Food & Water Watch, to keep the solutions proposed as sustainable as possible and to emphasize decision making power at the grass-roots level throughout the developing world. At the global level there is similar policy being articulated by the World Bank and by the United Nations. The World Bank has organized a trust fund for development, our work is to keep civil society in the process of decision-making, especially a farmer from the south. At the global level too, there is now a process for revising the Comprehensive Framework for Action (on the food crisis) with significant inclusion of civil society. My work has been to communicate and link US civil society efforts with global civil society. These are significant because the newly organized Committee on Food Security will be the major global actor dealing with the food crisis. These activities are time consuming, intense and involve detailed attentiveness. They are probably the most significant food and agriculture activities nationally and globally for the past 50 years and are meant to go into effect in the next 50 years.

Another serious effort at present is my involvement with the anti-trust work of the federal government. There is a historic effort by the Justice Department and the Department of Agriculture to explore anti-trust in agriculture. The series of workshops around the country are a first. I organized a reception to follow up the workshop held in Iowa and Food & Water Watch helped organize a highly attended pre-meeting which  educated the public about anti-trust in agriculture. I am currently helping to organize an independent effort in New York City soon as a teach-in on anti-trust. Soon there will be meetings on poultry in Alabama, beef in Colorado, and retail spread in Washington, DC. One issue I’m researching is the relevance of US anti-trust efforts in agriculture to European and other efforts and the relevance of anti-trust to development. Does the power of a few big companies and their influence impact development? That is a question that I’m currently exploring.

 

Can you describe the relationship between global agriculture policies and small-scale farmers? We have a global economy and in many ways are a global society. Most of the world’s work is agriculture and most of that is done by women. The small holder farmer is the focus of much of development work today, having been ignored by governments and foundations in development work for the past 30 years. In the light of climate change, gender considerations, and effective pro-poor policies there have developed several policy preferences, one I call productivist and the other I call holist. One focuses mainly on increasing production, the other looks at the ecology, economy and social concerns of agriculture in development. My emphasis has been on the latter sustainable approach, whether focused on anti-trust or global food security, it fully appears to me that an appreciation of complexity calls for a long-term, nuanced approach. That approach has been articulated in the 2008 International Assessment of Science and Technology in Development (IAASTD) report of the United Nations and funding through the World Bank. It fully appears to me that the way forward requires action at every level: global, national, and grassroots. It is a time of challenge and it is a time that requires us to be nimble in our policy advocacy.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:

1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.

2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

A Conversation With Dave Andrews

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

In this regular series, we profile advisors to the Nourishing the Planet project. This week, we feature Dave Andrews, Senior Representative for Food & Water Watch.

 

Name: Dave Andrews

Affiliation: Food & Water Watch

Location: Washington, D.C., United States

Bio: Dave Andrews is Senior Representative for Food & Water Watch and a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, an international Catholic religious order of men. Dave has over 30 years of work on sustainable development, food and water issues, and public policy both nationally and internationally. He was the Executive Director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference for 13 years. He has served on many Boards of Directors including the Organization for Competitive Markets, Heifer International, the Community Food Security Coalition, the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture. He has attended the last three World Trade Organization meetings, World Food Summits and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Can you describe your recent work and how it relates to Nourishing the Planet?: There are two major issues that have been the focus of my recent work. The first is the Global Food Security and Nutrition programs and the second is anti-trust efforts in agriculture. The global food security issue is one that has arisen from the recent food crisis and serving as I do on the steering committee for a Food Crisis Working Group as well as an Interfaith Working Group on the Food Crisis, two different efforts with a small amount of overlapping organizations, I am watching and writing regularly as these programs develop in Congress and in the State Department. Soon, I think the results will be announced but it has been a yearlong effort. My concern has been to try and influence the debate on behalf of Food & Water Watch, to keep the solutions proposed as sustainable as possible and to emphasize decision making power at the grass-roots level throughout the developing world. At the global level there is similar policy being articulated by the World Bank and by the United Nations. The World Bank has organized a trust fund for development, our work is to keep civil society in the process of decision-making, especially a farmer from the south. At the global level too, there is now a process for revising the Comprehensive Framework for Action (on the food crisis) with significant inclusion of civil society. My work has been to communicate and link US civil society efforts with global civil society. These are significant because the newly organized Committee on Food Security will be the major global actor dealing with the food crisis. These activities are time consuming, intense and involve detailed attentiveness. They are probably the most significant food and agriculture activities nationally and globally for the past 50 years and are meant to go into effect in the next 50 years.

Another serious effort at present is my involvement with the anti-trust work of the federal government. There is a historic effort by the Justice Department and the Department of Agriculture to explore anti-trust in agriculture. The series of workshops around the country are a first. I organized a reception to follow up the workshop held in Iowa and Food & Water Watch helped organize a highly attended pre-meeting which  educated the public about anti-trust in agriculture. I am currently helping to organize an independent effort in New York City soon as a teach-in on anti-trust. Soon there will be meetings on poultry in Alabama, beef in Colorado, and retail spread in Washington, DC. One issue I’m researching is the relevance of US anti-trust efforts in agriculture to European and other efforts and the relevance of anti-trust to development. Does the power of a few big companies and their influence impact development? That is a question that I’m currently exploring.

 

Can you describe the relationship between global agriculture policies and small-scale farmers? We have a global economy and in many ways are a global society. Most of the world’s work is agriculture and most of that is done by women. The small holder farmer is the focus of much of development work today, having been ignored by governments and foundations in development work for the past 30 years. In the light of climate change, gender considerations, and effective pro-poor policies there have developed several policy preferences, one I call productivist and the other I call holist. One focuses mainly on increasing production, the other looks at the ecology, economy and social concerns of agriculture in development. My emphasis has been on the latter sustainable approach, whether focused on anti-trust or global food security, it fully appears to me that an appreciation of complexity calls for a long-term, nuanced approach. That approach has been articulated in the 2008 International Assessment of Science and Technology in Development (IAASTD) report of the United Nations and funding through the World Bank. It fully appears to me that the way forward requires action at every level: global, national, and grassroots. It is a time of challenge and it is a time that requires us to be nimble in our policy advocacy.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:

1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.

2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

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