Access to food will soon be controlled by a global triopoly

pivot irrigation
The real crop circles = pivot irrigation – click to enlarge

…Most of the productivity gains in the last decades have come from making existing land more efficient, through genetics that increase the number of crops per year, and from fertilizers and pesticides that increase the yield per acre. That push for efficiency has given rise to the modern agricultural industry, dominated by food giants like Cargill and Archer-Daniels-Midland, and crop science companies like Monsanto and Bayer. Monsanto, a $42 billion seed producer, acknowledged today (May 19) it received a takeover offer bid from Bayer.

As agricultural productivity increases, efficiency grows and, as in all mature industries, margins contract. (Cargill, for example, reported profits of just $1.6 billion on sales of $120 billion last year). With gains from technology diminishing, consolidation is one of the few area left for the ag industry to wring future growth. Just as family concerns have been snapped up to form mega farms, the crop science business is ripe for mergers.

Along with Bayer’s proposed acquisition of Monsanto, Dow and DuPont are in discussions to merge and spin out a new agricultural company and China National Chemical Corp. is attempting to buy Switzerland’s Syngenta. If the deals all proceed, it would leave 75% of the global crop market in the hands of three companies, according to Bloomberg.

Agricultural growth may be slowing, but it’s one industry guaranteed to have a future. With the earth’s population expected to reach almost 10 billion by 2050, there will be a lot of mouths to feed.

On one hand, I think the numbers predicting 8-10 billion world population by whatever mid-century date aren’t taking into account combination of advancing 3rd world education and sustainable standards of living. Which should serve to reduce a “normal” birthrate founded in scarcity and lifespan. OTOH, Industrialized Western nations continue to follow 19th Century ideology justifying pretty much any oligopoly.

Any formation of Green/Progressive activism which ignores this is seriously short-sighted.

Prize-winning tornado photo

Jim Smart, Simla tornado
Click to enlarge

James Smart’s storm-chasing has seen him photograph across America – in states such as Colorado, Texas and South Dakota – as well as his native Australia.

Mr Smart plans to return to the United States at the end of May to shoot more gems for his portfolio.

Last year he won the $10,000USD Grand Prize at the National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest for a powerful swirling tornado that he photographed ripping through Simla, Colorado…

I have been this close to tornados. I did not enjoy being this close to any tornado. I have no interest in repeating the experience. Good Luck, Mr.Smart. 🙂

Modern-day debtor prisons in El Paso challenged in federal court


Levi Lanephoto/Lorne Matalon

El Paso has a policy on its books that allows the city to jail people who cannot pay their traffic fines. Now a lawsuit filed in federal court is challenging that policy, saying it violates citizens’ constitutional right of equal protection under the law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Levi Lane was stopped by El Paso coppers driving home from the night shift at a dog food factory. He let them search his car. Nothing wrong.

…The story changed immediately when the officers ran Lane’s license. “They found out that I had, like,13 traffic warrants,” he recounted. That translated to approximately $3,400 in unpaid fines…

“From there on out, story over,” he said. “My registration was expired and I didn’t have any insurance. And I couldn’t update my registration because of the lack of insurance prior to that.” Lane had decided decided to roll the dice — and drive to his overnight work shift — because buses in El Paso don’t operate around the clock. He lived across town and needed the work…

…Lane was brought into court later that morning. He pleaded guilty to his previous offenses. He could’ve gone home then and there if he could pay a portion of the outstanding fines. He couldn’t.

And here’s the issue: both federal and state law say you can’t jail someone for non-payment unless you first have a hearing to see if that person is really unable to pay. If they can’t, the Supreme Court, Texas law, and the Justice Department all say alternatives like a payment plan, reduced fines or community service must be considered. Lane never had that hearing…

Citing Lane’s case, a state-funded legal aid program has launched a federal lawsuit against the City of El Paso…”The basis of the case is that the City of El Paso has an unconstitutional debt collection process,” said Brian Jacobi, an attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project. He is part of the team representing Levi Lane in this case.

Jacobi showed me a city memo dated 2006 which states that people with outstanding tickets who are caught must pay one quarter of their debt-right away. “They’re told, pay 25 percent, maybe qualify for a payment plan. Can’t do that? Pay in full. Can’t do that? Go to jail…

This not an abstract legal debate limited to El Paso. Since September, similar lawsuits have been filed in Washington state, Mississippi and Louisiana.

RTFA for details on this case and others. No shortage of municipalities where conservative beancounters come up with ideas befitting a novel by Charles Dickens – instead of a United States of America governed by constitutional law that decided centuries ago that laws and judicial systems can’t be used to punish people for their poverty.

D-646 Latouche-Treville in rough seas

D-646 Latouche-Treville, Fregate Francaise de lutte anti sous-marine classe F-70 Georges Leygues. 139 m de long, deplacement 4910 tonnes, equipage 240.

Une partie de ce film est aussi visible dans le film “Oceans” de Jacques Perrin & Jacques Cluzaud.

Constructed of steel, D-646 is almost exactly six times larger than Magellan’s first flagship, Trinidad. Setting off to be the first to circumnavigate Earth – in a wooden vessel driven by wind and sails. And, guaranteed, surviving seas like these.

Phew!